Manny Montes: Contemplating the word ‘progressive’
I was pleased to see Mike Brazil’s response to my article, “The Elephant in The Room”, published June 27. However, I was stunned by the vitriolic ad hominem nature of his response. I must have hit a nerve.
Mr. Brazil begins by correcting me on the date of the start of the French Revolution, citing 1788 as the start year. Many historians place the date at the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. This date is now commemorated in France as a national holiday, and as the start of the French Revolution.
Mr. Brazil cites the French Declaration of The Rights of Man, and the National Assembly as the most notable events of 1789, and then states, “The French emphasis on these rights was an emulation of the basis the American colonists put forth for our revolution of 1776…” The French declaration turned out to be vacuous words on paper; “notable” is a misused term in this instance.
Our Founders revered reason, Jean-Jacques Rousseau dismissed reason, and elevates feelings as the proper motive force, he states, “instinct and feeling are more trustworthy than reason.” What is notable are the events which characterized the revolution as whole. Robespierre, a central figure in the Jacobin Club, took up Rousseau’s clarion call, “Each of us places his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will…”, and those who refuse to conform to the general will would have to be “forced to be free.” The chaotic bloodbath known as the Reign of Terror ensued. What could be more striking between Rousseau’s program and the practical ideas that guided our American Founders? Similarities between the American and French revolutions begin and end with the word “Revolution.”
The Rousseauian vision is the idea that the state can and should bend the people to its will. Hegel, Marx, and early progressives embraced this vision as well. Mr. Brazil contends my ascribing this to today’s progressives is a “definite misconception.” I would have liked him to articulate the correct conception. Well don’t take my word for it.
On February 12, 2008, Obama held a rally at the University of Wisconsin, and stated “Where better,” Obama asked, “to affirm our ideals than here in Wisconsin, where a century ago the Progressive movement was born?”
Hillary Clinton, in a Democratic primary debate in 2007, was asked if she was a liberal. She responded, “I prefer the word ‘progressive,’ which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century. I consider myself a modern progressive.” I don’t understand why current day progressives add the qualifier “today” or “modern” in describing their progressive stance. If there’s a difference in their thinking vs their early brethren, I’ve not heard anyone state it. Early progressive, as “today’s” progressives, believe in a strong and ever growing central government, regulatory agencies, more regulations, higher taxes, State given, not God given rights, and that the Constitution and Bill of Rights have timed out. I would ask Mr. Brazil to review the works of Woodrow Wilson, Frank Goodnow, John Dewey, Herbert Croly, John Rawls, et al. for the kind of thinking that pervades the thoughts of “today’s” progressives.
Mr. Brazil accuses me of lying because I highlighted Obama’s use of the phrase, “collective action”, and construed this to mean coercive government action. Lying? I expressed an informed opinion based on what I know of Obama’s background. I wrote a piece on this on July 5, 2014, “Restore the America of Our Founders” detailing Obama’s mentors and associates. Based on this, one can reasonably construe as I did.
Mr. Brazil accuses me of “misinterpretations of history and of the speeches of various American historical figures.” Mr. Brazil missed the opportunity to be more persuasive if he had cited where I misrepresented history; he couldn’t have, as I didn’t. Or where I misquoted Rousseau or FDR, (the only historical American cited verbatim); he couldn’t have, as I didn’t.
Only a progressive, like Mr. Brazil, can blame our disastrous welfare state on income inequality. This deserves a column in itself. And only a progressive can have cognitive dissonance when it comes to our government education system. Indoctrination coupled with protecting teacher’s union support, vs. educating our young are irreconcilable. I provided an excellent example of this with the Washington D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Regarding education in general, I wrote a piece on this, “Free Market Education System the Only Answer,” on Jan. 9, 2014.
Manny Montes lives in Lake of the Pines.
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