The Roots of Modern Liberalism - It's Not Pretty
America's True Foundation vs. The Foundation of Modern Liberalism
Our Foundational beliefs are vital because of their influence in forming opinions and making decisions. This is the reason that faced with similar facts; individuals that have opposing worldviews will reach vastly different opinions. The worldview of the Founders was Christian, whereas the world view of progressives and liberals lean towards secular humanism.
The philosophy of the political left draws many of its assumptions from Progressive Era thinking. The Progressive movement in the United States came about from about 1880-1920; its influence included the educational philosophy of John Dewey, the writings of Upton Sinclair, the governmental philosophies of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and many others.
The Founders believed in inalienable (God given) rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Progressives reject the Founders notion of God given rights in favor of the view that rights are a gift of the state. Unlike the Founders, progressives contend that men are not free by nature but freedom is a goal that requires the active participation of an enlightened government to achieve. Thus progressives reject the Founder’s belief that natural law or inalienable rights as the underlying basis for legitimate government and law. Although the Founders acknowledged that changes in methods would be necessary in government, they held that the underlying standards of morality to be unchanging. George Washington said his first this at his first Inaugural Address:
“The propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”
Ironically President Barack Obama contends the opposite in his book, “The Audacity of Hope”, that the Founders believed that there was no absolute truth:
“It's not just absolute power that the Founders sought to prevent. Implicit in its structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or "ism," any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course, or drive both majorities and minorities into the cruelties of the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, or the jihad. The Founders may have trusted in God, but true to the Enlightenment spirit, they also trusted in the minds and senses that God had given them. They were suspicious of abstraction and liked asking questions, which is why at every turn in our early history theory yielded to fact and necessity."
But how can there be inalienable rights without absolute truth? How can you belief in the God of the Bible and contend there to be no absolute truth? God said in the Bible that “He is the God who changes not” and the Jesus said that “He is the truth”. Progressives saw morality in constant flux as society evolved, in other words, there are no absolute or timeless standards of morality. This is why liberals tend to support judicial philosophies such as viewing the Constitution as a living documentand their seeming lack of interest in enforcing the rule of law.
Vision Revealed in Patriotic Songs
American Patriotic Songs
Patriotic songs tend to reflect the deep held beliefs of a nation during the time they we’re written. The song “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, served as America’s national anthem before the Star-Spangled-Banner. Here is the songs 4th refrain:
Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.
The final refrain in The Star-Spangled-Banner is this:
Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand,
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that has made and preserved us as a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust";
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Both these songs reflect the common deeply held belief that God was the author of our liberty and the source of the blessings of our nation.
The Soviet National Anthem
The patriotic song of the former Soviet Union also reflected that countries deep held beliefs. Here is a refrain from their national anthem:
Long live our Soviet motherland
Built by the people's mighty hand
Long live our people, united and free
Strong in our friendship, tried by fire
Long may our crimson flag inspire
Shining in glory, for all men to see
Through days dark and stormy, while great Lenin led us
Our eyes saw the bright sun of freedom of all
And Stalin, our leader, with faith in the people
Inspired us to build up a land that we love
This anthem expressed a belief similar to the progressive movement’s belief that the freedom and blessings enjoyed as a nation originated as a work of man through the vehicle of the state.
The Founders viewed the role of government as to protect the inalienable or natural rights of the citizens against those who would violate those rights including the government itself. The Founders believed that God had provided men with the most important things of life including freedom and who they are as persons. Progressives reject this notion and contend that it is the role of the government to shape society and its citizens to meet their greatest potential. In order to do this, progressives also had to reject the Founders idea of limited government in favor of an active and nearly limitless government.
Woodrow Wilson wrote,
"All that progressives ask or desire,"is permission -- in an era when development, evolution, is a scientific word -- to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine."
The Founders maintained a Christian worldview that saw God as the author of liberty. Many Progressives held to a secular and humanistic view that liberty is man-made and a product of an evolving society led by a group of enlightened individuals. To a Humanist the only measure of man is man; man is his own God and saw the state as a god of sorts and a vehicle for man’s advancement. To the Founders the government was to be merely a servant to the people. To progressives the government takes on an almost godlike role of developing and educating its citizens to reach their full potential according to the values of the state.
John Dewey wrote that freedom is not "something that individuals have as a ready-made possession." It is "something to be achieved." He also wrote "Natural rights and natural liberties exist only in the kingdom of mythological social zoology."
The Founders felt that laws should be made by moral and wise men in their local communities who were closer and accountable to the people they represent. They saw common sense in avoiding the past errors of an overreaching government to be their guiding principle. Progressives envisioned an elite group of scientifically trained and enlightened experts were essential to manage the all-important government they envisioned.
It is time for America to decide which vision; we as a nation are going follow? Is it a man-made vision of a new world advancing to new heights with the state leading the way or is it a nation of self-rule of “we the people”, serving as a beacon of hope to the world with God’s guidance and blessings.
The source for this article is “The Progressive Movement and the Transformation of American Politics Thomas West and William Schambra, Published in Heritage.Org, 2007”