Thomas Jefferson outlined the philosophy of our nation’s government in the Declaration of Independence with the words, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Make no mistake; this is the philosophy on which our fundamental law is based. The goals for our government, which are listed in the preamble to our constitution, are intended to secure these unalienable rights.
“In Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,...”
If the electors and elected officials of our country do not honor our covenant “We the People...[who] do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America...”
And if they choose not to uphold the blessings of liberty, then “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government.”
What happens if the electorate and elected officials of our country do not understand the covenant, or what if they choose not to subscribe to the mission? What if the goals of our electorate are not aligned with the fundamental law set down by the Founders and Framers? What if the policy on which our representatives vote and implement is at odds with the philosophy on which our government was founded?
The sad truth is that not all those who (would) hold public office or vote for elected officials understand or respect the covenant that is made between the people and written into our nation’s Constitution. The average citizen, when not provided a thorough education in the philosophy and history that led to this country’s founding documents, may not recognize when the goals of a candidate for elected office are inconsistent with the covenant. On the other hand, a citizen well educated in this country’s fundamental law may very well comprehend that because this is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, it is not to be changed lightly by those elected to power just because they believe they know better than the Founders and Framers and consider our fundamental law antiquated. However, the seemingly educated person may still advocate this idea of a living constitution. Why?
At the very least, the citizenry of this country should understand the framework of our government before playing a role in voting into office those who may be inadvertently or actively trying to dismantle it. Voters should recognize the opposing goals of the progressive movement, which advocate that our government should take on any and all social and economic ills and that our Constitution is a living document with no permanent guiding principles, malleable in order to change with the times.
Jonathan O'Neill, Associate Professor of History at Georgia Southern University and the author of Originalism in American Law and Politics: A Constitutional History, writes, “Progressives typically rejected the foundational American principles of natural rights and limited government for their own understanding of “progress,” defined as governmental experts’ management of social change toward an ever more just and essentially socialist future.”
Three well known progressives, John Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Woodrow Wilson exemplify the progressive agenda.
John Dewey, the patriarch of education in this country, declared, “Schools had a duty to condition children for life in the desired ‘social order.’ Teachers, said Dewey, must stress ‘mutually helpful living’ in order to indoctrinate youngsters in the philosophy of collectivism. Dewey called for a diminished emphasis on facts, knowledge, and real-world skills—and for replacing the ‘Whole conception of school discipline” with “a spirit of social cooperation and community life.’”
According to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for the crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind...Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
President Woodrow Wilson believed,
“Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and practice, ‘meaning that they, like society itself, must develop’ over time. ‘[A]ll that progressives ask or desire,’ said Wilson ‘is permission’ – in an era when ‘development,’ ‘evolution’ is the scientific word – to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle.’ To guide society along this path, said Wilson, society need a ‘true leader’ who could stir the passions of the masses and use them like ‘tools.’ ‘Men are as clay in the hand of the consummate leader,’ he said.”
President Obama is a Progressive, Hillary Clinton is a Progressive, and there is a Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives which... “Abjures ‘economic inequality,’ ‘income and wealth disparities,’ and ‘the concentration of wealth.’ Conversely, it advocates socialized medicine, radical environmentalism, the redistribution of wealth, and higher rates of taxation to be borne chiefly by middle- to high- income households. Historically, the Progressive Caucus has had ties to the Democratic Socialists of America.”
Progressive ideals are manifested in direct primaries, initiative and referendum, the redistribution of “private property under the banner of social justice,” and evolution toward statism through the infiltration of “society’s power structure and its key institutions – the schools, the media, the churches, the entertainment industry, the labor unions, and the three branches of government.” (Progressivism)
Again, citing Jonathan O’Neill, “Progressives may be contrasted with Constitutional Conservatives, those who advocate natural rights, limited government, equal rights for all and special privileges for none, and republicanism, not democracy.”
What is lost when progressives implement their agenda? The notion that “all men are created equal” is now missing, replaced with a class system that divides the public into “the best and brightest” vs. “retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained.”
Angelo M. Codevilla, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University, writes, “After Barack Obama described his opponents’ clinging to “God and guns” as a characteristic of inferior Americans, he justified himself by pointing out he had said “what everybody knows is true.”
Progressives do not align themselves with any one political party.
At the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference, the Keynote Speaker, Glenn Beck explained, “Progressivism is the cancer in America and it is eating our Constitution. And it was designed to eat the Constitution. To progress past the Constitution. It is in the Republicans and the Democrats.”
Clarifying the difference between a Progressive and a Communist, Beck states, “Revolution or evolution, that’s the difference. Revolution or evolution. Well, there’s no difference except one requires a gun and the other does it slowly, piece by piece, eating away at it.”
Founded in 1958 by Robert Welch, The John Birch Society, one of the decade’s most controversial right-wing organizations (perhaps as controversial as Glenn Beck has been painted) charged,
“The Progressive era, which expanded the federal government’s role in curbing social and economic ills, was a dire period in our history, and Woodrow Wilson “more than any other one man started this nation on its present road to totalitarianism.”
Glenn Beck and the John Birch Society, both painted as extreme right wing, have influenced the Tea Party movement which is now being demonized as the same. But is this hyperbole or is there any legitimacy to the criticism and mudslinging they have had to endure?
Are “the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communication Commission’s fairness doctrine in editorial broadcasting, the federal government’s change of the gold standard in currency, all subsidies to farmers, all federal aid to education, all federal social welfare, foreign aid, social security, elimination of public school prayer and Bible reading, and (that familiar right-wing nemesis) the United Nations,” (IBID) legitimate targets of Constitutional Conservative criticism? If so, then is the word extreme an adjective that aptly describes the subjects of this accusation? Or is it easier to delegitimize the messenger than the message?
Political parties have come, evolved or gone in these United States, i.e., Federalist Party, Anti-Federalist Party, Democratic-Republican Party, Whig Party, and the list goes on. No longer can one accurately describe his or herself as a Republican or a Democrat. Both electors and elected officials must be defined as adhering more closely to constitutional conservative principles or progressive ideology. Candidates for office must be individually vetted for adherence to fundamental law or the progressive belief that ours is a “living constitution.” However, most important is that electors must understand what being a Constitutional Conservative or Progressive means and what it means for our country in the long term. Without this understanding, we may vote into the annals of history our republican form of government without truly understanding what we had or what there is to lose.
Nancy Salvato is the President and Director of Education and the Constitutional Literacy Program for Basics Project.