If we are going to make progress we first must be honest about the situation and our responsibility for its existence.
The situation is that, despite our occasional winning of elections, the Progressive program has been inexorably advancing for over a century. Yes, Ronald Reagan won two landslide elections in 1980 and 1984. However, when he left office in January 1989 his Republican successor, George H. W. Bush, reasserted the primacy of our governing Progressive elite and crushed credibility of the Conservative movement. What followed was twenty-eight years of Progressive advance (at varying scope and speed) under both Democrat and Republican administrations.
Thus, we should have no illusions about the permanence of the current opposition to Progressivism under the Trump administration. Even if President Trump wins reelection his policies could be nothing other than a transitory pause on the way to a proto-totalitarian regime. Make no mistake. The establishment wing of the Republican Party will move heaven and earth to reestablish the status quo that existed prior to the Trump insurgency (just as did George H. W. Bush after President Reagan). Thus, after Trump, be the next President Republican or Democrat, we could find ourselves back on the Road to Serfdom.
This all brings us back to the issue of our (i.e., opposers of Progressivism) responsibility. We have been living under the illusion that the United States’ founding principles and institutions are so stable that they will endure with minimal attention by the populace. Our Republic has weathered civil war, economic depression, world and cold wars, civil unrest, major reforms and cultural revolutions while maintaining a recognizable connection to our founding. We therefore imagine that there is an inherent permanence undergirding this experiment in liberty. We couldn’t be more wrong.
The brutal truth is that within two months of the U.S. Constitution becoming effective (March 4, 1789) its opposing ideology of genocidal utopian totalitarianism emerged in the French Revolution (May 5, 1789). While the founding mottos of the United States (“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”) and the French Revolution (“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”) seemed to share a superficial similarity the actual results were shockingly different. For whereas the United States experienced relative peace and prosperity France experienced a proto-genocidal reign of terror.
While both mottos include “liberty,” the Americans combine this concept with “life” and “pursuit of happiness” (all endowed by our Creator) the French include “equality” and “fraternity” (to be delivered by the secular state). Thus while the American conception of “liberty” is focused on individual God-given lives who can pursue but are not guaranteed happiness, the French conception of “liberty” is centered on an atheistic collectivist vision of equality of outcome and values.
Lest you think that the French Revolution is too far removed from our contemporary situation to be relevant, consider this excerpt from a very recent article on the decline of Christianity in the United States.
In his farewell address in September 1796, George Washington offered a warning to his fellow countrymen:
“And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Washington was not simply playing to the masses by tossing them this morsel of religious rhetoric. He was referring to a dangerous European experiment named the French Revolution, which sought the destruction of the Church and the institutionalization of atheism. The experiment was a failure. What followed was regicide, civil war, and the Reign of Terror. Deciding that belief in something beyond oneself might, after all, be a good idea, the clever social engineers of France’s Committee of Public Safety (a misnomer if ever there was one) responded with a half-measure, creating the ridiculous “Cult of Supreme Being” in 1794. It, too, was a failure. Washington recognized the pitiless nature of a godless society.
The naïveté of our modern social engineers is no less profound. On the one hand, they want to kick out the Christian underpinnings of Western civilization; on the other, they think they can maintain all that Christianity has given us: science, art, law, literature.
The following excerpt discussing the differences between an individualistic (i.e., classical liberal) and collectivist (i.e., Marxist) understanding of liberty well highlights the direct connection between what started at the French Revolution and has evolved to Marxism.
Most significantly, it created societies in which families and churches are free to live within the boundaries of the rule of law. Classical liberalism means maximum, law-based liberty for citizens.
For Marxists like Marcuse, that’s the problem. When you have that kind of liberty, some people and groups flourish and some do not. Some are rich, others poor, and most somewhere in between. Churches and families can reward and punish members. Businesses can establish policies preferring one kind of individual over another. Classically liberal society creates equality under the law. But equality under the law does not lead to equal results. It brings out the latent inequalities in humans. Some are wiser or smarter. Others are lazy and procrastinating. Some are intelligent and some are not. Some are born into wealthy families and some are born into poor families. It is this latent inequality of the human condition permitted by classical liberalism that Marxists simply cannot abide. For classical Marxists, the issue is economic inequality. But for the Libertarian Marxists like Marcuse, it is inequality across the board.
The historic record unmistakably demonstrates that while the classical liberal conception of “liberty” leads to tolerant, productive and flexible societies, the collectivist conception leads to genocidal, impoverished and brittle societies.
This collectivist vision of “liberty” has been actively seeking to destroy the individualistic vision since it emerged in the United States. It is this collectivist vision that has for the past sixty years grown in power and now dominates the Progressive movement as instantiated in the Democrat Party. It seeks not coexistence but rather complete dominance. Unless we set aside our illusions of unity we will never be able to effectively oppose this wicked ideology.