What’s Progressive About Progressivism?

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by Brendan Jennings

You might note, if you have not been to these pages in a while, that we have updated our “About” page recently. For example, we added a Values Statement or list of values we seek to promote, which were adapted from the original Mission Statement Mark West developed in the opening months of our first year of operation.

Beneath that Values Statement is a new, brief Mission Statement – basically a 15-second elevator speech – that reads: The Chattanooga Tea Party is the preeminent conservative grassroots organization in the Chattanooga area. We will promote traditional, Constitutional American values – representing the true, historical counterculture – through education and civic engagement.

I ask you to ponder that segment in italics above for a moment. America is a unique nation in world history. It is the first nation to be founded on a series of key principles, as originally outlined in the Declaration of Independence and subsequently clarified in the U.S. Constitution. Our founding ideals are revolutionary in world history. The Founding Fathers sought to put the ways of the Old World behind us for a New World based on individual freedom, opportunity and the idea that all men are created equal. And these ideals built the strongest, most dynamic nation the world has ever seen, responsible largely for the modern age the world finds itself in. This brings me to a quote I am particularly fond of, by Robert Heinlein:

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded – here and there, now and then – are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of society, the people slip back into abject poverty. This is known as bad luck.”

Certainly, our nation’s founding principles built upon ideas developed during the European Enlightenment, with an emphasis on the inherent rights of each individual (with the obvious glaring exception of slavery, whose original sin was largely atoned for by the loss of more than 600,000 lives in the Civil War). We are the first nation in world history that exclaims that our “inalienable” individual rights are not granted by government, but by God, and therefore cannot justly be taken away by government without due process. Likewise, our founders stated that governments exist to protect the rights of the people, and that they derive their powers from the consent of the governed. And …

“That 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 new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

That was a bold, radical statement in the history of the world at that time. Indeed, it was countercultural. Our founders knew their history and didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. And that countercultural founding led to the development of the largest economy, the most powerful military and most influential nation in the history of the world.

Our form of government diffuses power throughout four levels of government: city, county, state and federal. It further balances powers between three branches of government on each level – legislative, executive and judicial. It was deliberately designed to apportion government powers out to many people, making government more directly accountable to the people throughout the country. Our government was designed to be unwieldy to make it more difficult for power to devolve into fewer hands, leading to tyranny. That was countercultural.

Which brings us to Progressivism. Progressivism is different today than it was at the turn of the 20th Century, when Theodore Roosevelt busted monopolies and standards were instituted for safer working conditions in factories and farms, among other reform efforts that were broadly supported. Wikipedia partly defines it “as a philosophy based on the idea of progress, which asserts that advancements in science, technology, economic development and social organization are vital to the improvement of the human condition.”

Except today, Progressives aren’t so much interested in reform as they are in acquiring more power, and putting those powers into fewer, less accountable hands. As an example, let’s compare the priorities of the current U.S. House of Representatives leadership to those of the previous congress. Two years ago, the top priority of the House in the 115th Congress, as expressed in HR1 (House Resolution One) was tax reform for individuals and businesses, which was passed in December of 2017. In other words, the top priority of the Republican-led House was to change tax rates to allow individuals and businesses to keep more of what they earned. Largely as a result, our economy is now booming and consistently growing by more than 3 percent.

By comparison, HR1 in today’s Democrat-led House aims to federalize elections at all levels, usurping the constitutional authority of states to oversee their own elections, virtually removing state ID requirements and making it more difficult for states to keep voter rolls current. Who knew voting was that difficult? In simple terms, a naked power grab designed to further centralize governmental powers – at all levels – in Washington, D.C. while making it less accountable at the state and local level.

So, looking at the great sweep of history, so-called “Progressives” are leading the charge to put more power into fewer hands, thereby leading our nation to regress back to the tyranny of a virtual monarchy operating out of a slice of land off the former swamps of the Potomac River. That’s not progress, by any stretch of the imagination. And you thought “The Hunger Games” was fiction?

Citizens need to stop asking government to “do something!” without considering exactly what or how something is to be done. Whenever politicians seek to do something, it invariably takes money and other property and, as a result, powers from the people to determine what’s best for themselves. We need to do a better job of understanding what we’re giving up in the process or at some point there will be nothing more to give up. The Left has gotten very good at destroying the Middle Class in socialist countries. Just ask the people in Venezuela, which was the richest country in South America until Hugo Chavez and his socialist thugs came along. Now, its people are fighting to overthrow their tyrants while dumpster diving for sustenance.

As the song says, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

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