The progressive remake of the United States is now a work that is just over a century in progress. One can argue that its political debut dates to 1900 – the year that Teddy Roosevelt entered the White House; or perhaps 1912 – when Wilson became president; but certainly no later than 1913 – upon the establishment of the Federal Reserve and the passage of the 16thand 17th amendments to the Constitution [income tax and direct election of senators]. As I said, a little more than a century.It's true that activist presidents, particularly of the self-styled progressive type, and with the cheerleading of the academy, can advance the centralization of government power. The core challenge, however, is one the cannot be met by vanguardism.
I shan’t review in detail the myriad ways that the progressive putsch has changed America from a free market, limited government, bourgeois culture, constitutional republic that maximized individual freedom into a big government, crony capitalistic, libertine cultural mess that emphasizes group rights and government dependency. Let me just say that the march from the former to the latter has been relatively steady – under both Democrat and Republican administrations – with major lurches to the left under Roosevelt and Johnson.
Classic American culture celebrated individual liberty, limited government, free market capitalism, strong morals grounded in religion, intact traditional families and vibrant cohesive communities, individual responsibility and the meritocracy, and American Exceptionalism – in particular, the idea that America is a model and force for good in the world. That culture has been supplanted by one that values: group rights, big government and crony capitalism, loose morals and banishment of religion from the public square, global American weakness and disengagement, and an obscene focus on the warts in American history. It is little wonder that in such a culture, the least experienced, most anti-American, anti-Constitutional, radically left, lawless president in American history could be elected and re-elected.First the horse: emergence of a popular rejection of the trashy, splintery common culture, and the trash-enabling self-despising multiculturalism. Then the cart: traditionalist-libertarian majorities in legislatures and traditionalist-libertarian governors, and a sequence of presidents.
We must recapture the culture. It took the left a century to overthrow America’s classic culture. It may take us a century to win it back. A program for doing so is for another essay. What we need now is not just another Reagan, but a succession of triple C presidents who understand the cultural issue, as well as the foreign and economic policy issues, and who have the requisite ideas, understanding and political skills to bring about a conservative renaissance. Through their leadership we can take back our country.