Saturday, May 5, 2012

Progressives and Progressivism

I have been off reading about the Progressives, as promised in an earlier post - studying about those of the Liberal (Liberal Democrat) persuasion, as well as the early beginnings of the actual Progressive Party. Not exactly the same thing, by the way: the early movement was an actual political party known as the (wait for it) Progressive Party. Today, "progressive" is a mind-set; a political philosophy. Mainly of Liberal Democrats, I hastily add.

The Progressive Party started off in the early 20th century and gained a large following of citizens who felt the government had lost touch with the people and had become irrelevant to their desires and needs. This feeling is still with us today, this disconnect from our government, so, apparently, the early Progressives were not super successful in reconnecting citizens to their beloved government. But, hey, they agitated until women got the vote, 8-year-old children didn't work in coal mines and textile factories anymore, and banned (legal) alcohol consumption for 15 years or so. I'm glad the alcohol thing didn't last, and I'm glad they were not able to legislate their list of Moral Initiatives (as God wanted them to do) and I'm glad they stopped pushing that eugenics thing.

The Progressives had a long list of social ills that they felt their government wasn't addressing. I mean a LO-O-O-NG list. Most of the items on that long list sounded pretty good to me when I first read it. You can read it here if you want to be amazed. I know I was ready to sign up after I read their platform. Then I thought, "Wait. You mean the GOVERNMENT is going to be in charge of all this??" Well, it turns out they wanted sort of a 4th branch of government, populated by lifelong career bureaucrats rather than elected temporary amateurs. These folks would decide what was best for the rest of us and we would all be happy. Not quite like Sir Thomas More's 1516 book "Utopia", but close. This was the same Thomas More that Henry VIII had beheaded, but not for his book.

The Progressive Party reached it's peak in the election of 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt, who had already served almost 2 terms as a Republican president, became their standard-bearer, breaking from the Republican Party when he became pissed at his former minion-now-Republican-president, William Howard Taft. The fix was in and Taft got the Republican nod for running for reelection and Teddy took his ball and went home and ran as the candidate for the new Progressive party. As I say, it was the high point for that party, as Roosevelt took a lot more votes in the general election  than Taft did. So Taft wasn't reelected. If you are an historian, you'll know that Roosevelt wasn't elected either. The infighting gave the election to the Democrats, represented by one Woodrow Wilson, pictured above with hardly any sideburns to speak of. Incidentally, when Woody got back from Europe after WWI closing negotiations, he got very ill and his wife Edith became our first woman president while he lay comatose for quite some time. She claimed she was only relaying his instructions through her. Right. He didn't even know what month it was. It was right about then that women got the vote, come to think of it. Anyway, Mr. Wilson "progressed" back to semi-lucidity until Harding became president, then he died. Wilson, I mean. Well, Harding too.

Also incidentally, you may have thought Theodore Roosevelt ran in 1912 as the Bull Moose party candidate.  Actually, the Bull Moose was not a party, but the emblem (we would call it a logo today) of the Progressive Party. It came into being just before the 1912 election when Roosevelt was making a speech in Wisconsin and somebody shot him in the chest. Not much blood was drawn, the bullet having struck the metal spectacles case in his breast pocket, and this dick who thought it was cool to go on safari and shoot elephants proclaimed, "I'm as fit as a bull moose!" Right.

It always happens that way, though, it seems, whenever a viable third party candidate runs for president, it merely screws the incumbent out of reelection. I guess that's why we only have just the two main parties, mostly. We don't have to compromise and make watered-down political alliances like a parliament does. I think. (We just have "big tents.") Screwed-over examples follow:

 The Progressive Party under Theodore Roosevelt screwed the Republican incumbent, Taft, out of a second term and got Woodrow Wilson elected. It doesn't always work against the Republicans, though mostly it seems to since they are a minority party that need disgruntled Democrat votes to be elected anyway. For example Jimmy Carter got screwed out of a second term, thank God, by John-boy Anderson, and the Republicans benefited (Reagan won that one.) But others I can think of have busted the incumbent Republican: Bill Clinton became president when Jug Ears Ross Perot took enough Republicans away from Bush the elder; Ralph Nader busted the Algore's chances much more than either George W. Bush or the dimwitted Florida Democrat voters. Ralph is probably running again this year as a write-in or as a Green. But the brash consumer activist of the 1960s is now an old man. My bet for this election is that Ron Paul will ditch the Republicans and go independent and take his 12% away from Romney and elect Obama for a second term. But I digress.

Today, the Progressives are more a philosophy than an actual political party. Everyone in and around the current White House is proud to proclaim themselves a progressive, in that sense. Pelosi. Biden. Hillary. Obama. All of them.

The basic premise of the Progressives, as a political philosophy, is sort of like the Borg on Star Trek where the value of the individual is subjugated for the survival and growth and benefit of the whole. Cynics (not me) call this by its other names such as Socialism or Marxism or Communism, but don't dare accuse these current progressive folks of that. In other words, the government is big. BIG. B.I.G. And, like Mandy called Bluto in Animal House just before the food fight scene, also a pig. PIG. P.I.G.

Big government. Small individuals. Miniscule personal liberties. Or, conversely, big liberties, small government. Or so the theory goes (we've never actually tried small government.) However, I will admit the progressives' list of Social Justice items is admirable. (That's the truth - I really believe the list of things on their list are admirable.) And they intend, over time, step-by-step, PROGRESSIVELY (get it?) to attain that kind of big daddy government who takes care of its serfs. I mean people. Worse things could happen. It might work in America. After all, look how well it is working in Europe right now.

The Progressives may be right and it might be right to just let the government run everything. No need to feel sad: the old America had a good run.


  1. " And they intend, over time, step-by-step, PROGRESSIVELY (get it?) to attain that kind of big daddy government who takes care of its serfs. I mean people. Worse things could happen. It might work in America. After all, look how well it is working in Europe right now."

    Sadly it is not seen in Europe right now. After the Thatcher debacle we have had Blair, and he was a Tory in Socialist clothing. False, far removed from daily life, and now rich Eton educated millionaires further away run the nation.
    That is why Thursdays local elections had such a poor turnout. People feel the government is to distant, not interested in them, and voting changes nothing.
    Social democrats who have beliefs and concern for the people, not the rich tax dodgers, would be better than what we now have. It is like the US today here. (except in Scotland of course. The Scots parliament is socially concerned.)

    1. There are many good points in the original Progressive's vision. Many organizations, like the NAACP are in existence today because they believed in personal action. And the list of names who called themselves Progressives is long and famous. So I take them seriously. I fear I am beginning to mellow.



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