Tom Schaller Lets the Progressive Cat Out Of The Bag

Tom Schaller’s Baltimore Sun columns are usually full of the latest and greatest progressive fallacies. However, his latest column “Policies favoring conservatism built into the system” contains both a “well duh” moment and a stunning admission.

The “well duh moment” is Schaller’s revelation that our constitutional order has built-in conservative features. Yes, that’s true because conservatism is rooted in the classical liberal ideals of the American founding. Thank you captain obvious!

The president and his partisans overlook the Massachusetts result at their peril. But the big news – frustrating as it should be for Democrats and liberals – is hardly news at all, for the asymmetries that favor conservatism as an ideological orientation, and the status quo in American politics more generally, are an old and familiar story for which last week was merely the newest chapter.Let me preface the following analogy by clarifying that I am not equating conservatives or Republicans to terrorists. But enacting progressive change is akin to defending against terror in one important way: Progressives must win repeatedly and at every stage, whereas those opposed to change typically need to win but once, at any stage. Power is as power resists.

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The tacit admission there, which I find stunning, is that Schaller damn near openly admits what progressives have long sought to hide: their hostility to the Constitution specifically the checks and balances that diffuse power, which in turn prohibit a majority faction from running roughshod over the nation.

Of course, anyone who knows anything about history knows that from it’s inception the progressive movement sought to overturn the old classically liberal constitutional order of the founders. Progressive dashboard saints Thomas Dewey, Herbert Croly, and Woodrow Wilson especially viewed the constitution and it’s negative liberty as a bloated corpse standing in the way of realizing their vision of the modern god-state. The intellectual roots of American progressivism (and European fascism) are found in the works of German philosopher Friedrich Hegel, who in his book, The Philosophy of History, wrote “the state is the actually existing, realized moral life… It must further be understood that all the worth which the human being possesses — all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the state. For Hegel and his progressive progeny the state is “the divine idea as it exists on earth.”

After all it was early progressives, who labeled classical liberalism as “conservative,” and themselves as liberals. Indeed Hillary Clinton in a 2007 presidential primary debate admitted more than she probably cared to when she said “I prefer the word ‘progressive,’ which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century.”
The same is true to the man who defeated her in the primary. When President Obama said he wanted to “fundamentally transform the United States of America,” he meant it. He is merely the most recent in a long line of progressives whacking away at our constitutional order for the last 100 years. Don’t believe me? Then read Obama’s own words on the subject.

Schaller’s admission aside he still propagates old myths, which amount to an intellectual stolen base.

When conservative commentators grumble that “America is a center-right nation,” they are right in one, undeniable sense: The institutional dynamics of American politics favor doing less in general, and yet more in the pursuit and preservation of powerful, monied interests. Nobody familiar with the long, slow, costly political battles for abolition, labor equality, consumer protection, civil rights and women’s rights would dare argue otherwise.

While it is true that progressives championed these causes they were not central to the progressive project. Schaller’s rhetoric merely repeats the old Orwellian myth the progressivism is merely a synonym for “all good things.” It isn’t. Progressivism has some ugly skeletons in it’s closet. It’s pre-war admiration for it’s sister fascistic movements in Europe, it’s racism and eugenics, and it’s corporatist embrace of those “monied interests” Schaller so decries.

In fact, it was those retrograde checks and balances that thwarted the darker angels of progressivism. And that’s the point. The ordered liberty of the American founding, exemplified by modern conservatism isn’t opposed to change rather it is opposed to radical change that will throw out the baby with the bathwater as progressivism does.

Perhaps midway through the piece Schaller realizing he let the proverbial cat out of the bag, so he shifts gears to hide the fact by doubling down on progressive fallacies.

…yet just a year earlier, when in September 2008 major investment firms faced their possible demise, financial titans and their Washington supplicants joined in an eight-day emergency session to move the government levers needed to bail out the very institutions that caused the economic crisis. And now those same titans can funnel even more money to those same supplicants, thanks to the decision by the conservative activists controlling the Supreme Court. This merry band, who cherish “precedent” right up until the moment their nominations are confirmed, essentially ruled that a corporation has the same rights as a citizen. Let’s end our self-delusions about popular rule and just re-write the Constitution’s preamble to read, “We the corporations, in order to form a more perfect balance sheet …”

As GK Chesteron said, “fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions,” and here’s why.

Many of those “Washington supplicants” are progressives, namely president Obama who supported TARP I and continued the abomination with TARP II. Let’s also remember that corporate donors gave more to the progressive Obama by order of magnitude than to the ostensible conservative McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign. Obama the progressive received $20 million from the healthcare industry—three times more than McCain.

It isn’t those greedy free market conservatives who favor big business rather it is progressive corporatists who like their government and their corporations big. As Jonah Goldberg notes for progressives it’s easier to herd a few corporatist oxen than a thousand free market cats toward their Hegleian ends. What was true in the early progressive era and the New Deal holds in the era of Obamanomics. It is the monied interests, who want a return on their investment, lining up get their handouts from the Obama administration. Whether it is General Electric on cap and trade or the insurance industry and Big Pharma on health care reform, the game is an inherently progressive construct.

It’s an amazing thing watching progressives come undone by the inherent contradictions between their rhetoric and their reality.

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