What Happened?

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

Like many other Americans, Becky and I celebrated the birthday of our country last Tuesday. Unfortunately, a lot did not, if you believe the latest Fox News poll which found that 45% of Americans are not proud of our country. And not surprisingly, this fell along political lines.

Perhaps, because I live in a conservative state like Tennessee, I don’t see riots as in Berkeley, California, or anti-police marches as in New York. East Tennessee is arguably the most conservative area of our state, and I don’t know anyone who has a negative attitude towards our country like ex-football player turned activist, Colin Kaepernick, who refused to celebrate this Fourth of July. Our country is not perfect. And for that matter neither am I. However, America is still a great force for good in the world.

A “modern liberal” friend recently asked for my definition of a liberal, Progressive and a Democrat. I told her it was a bit complicated and the definitions had important historical backgrounds, a subject too many ignore. The Founders of our country studied the lessons of the past. And so should we.

“Classical liberalism” of the Founders era championed the notion of an individual’s right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the republic they fashioned. There was no mention of an individual’s right to health care, a living wage or even the security net of Social Security. Classical liberalism of the 18th century favored free markets, civil liberties, private property, limited government and equality under law. Ben Franklin was famously asked by a woman after the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, what type of government he and the Founders had fashioned. Franklin retorted, “A republic, madam. See if you can keep it.”

A republic is a form of government predicated on the rule of law. The Founders were fearful of democracy which began in the ancient Greek city states, where tyranny of the majority often brutalized the minority. If you question the Founders’ fears, consider the example of two wolves and a sheep voting on what they will have for supper. The rule of law protects us all.

The Democrat party was founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the 1790s and was originally called the Democratic Republican party, recognizing the republican movement of the French revolution in the late 1700s. Jefferson and Madison later dropped the Republican moniker when the French revolution went awry. Bernie Sanders should be outraged because the modern Democratic Party is anything but.

The latter part of the 19th century saw the rise of the industrial revolution and the so called robber barons like Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Rockefeller. For decades after the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s Republican party came to be identified with these rich industrialists who cared little for their workers. Democrats in the defeated south became the opposition party and became the champion of the working man and disadvantaged immigrants, though Democrats remained staunchly pro-slavery.

In the late 1800s another political and social movement known as progressivism arose to oppose the industrialist’s unbridled capitalism and radical forms of socialism such as communism. Progressives support government interventional policies, income redistribution, universal healthcare and promotion of the living wage. Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican progressive. Woodrow Wilson was a Democrat  progressive. By the 1920s progressive policies such as the graduated income tax and prohibition had become increasingly unpopular, and so they changed their name to “modern liberals.” And when liberalism became unpopular in the modern era, these same philosophs again changed their name – but not their stripes – to “modern progressives.” Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama identify themselves as “modern progressives.”

I told my friend that I don’t see a lot of difference between elected Republicans and Democrats. Both are just members of the ruling class who only consider We The People as a means to an end. Democrats like Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Zell Miller no longer exist. Similarly, Republicans such as Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan no longer exist among Republicans in our postmodern era.

So, we know what happened: liberalism became progressivism and is changing America. But how did this happen? I was born in 1951 and grew up in a different world. Racism was terrible, but we finally got rid of the institutional racism of Jim Crow laws, largely operative in the Democrat controlled southern states. The American conscience recoiled at the brutality of water canons and dogs loosed on civil rights marchers. Gandhi’s non-violent resistance appealed to the conscience of the British empire just as Martin Luther King changed America.

Perhaps the most influential movement to define American culture began in the 1960s. It came to be known as the counter culture revolution, and truly it was counter to the cultural norms of America. But radicals of that movement such as Abbie Hoffman did not go away; they just went into professions such as teaching and academia, journalism and politics. We see the results on college campuses and in the media today, where there is a genuine antipathy for traditional American values such as personal responsibility, work ethic or even belief in God. The radicals sought to redefine the cultural norms of western civilization. And they have been successful. Who could have imagined we would be arguing over which bathroom to use or whether there is an absolute standard for what is right or wrong?

My generation of baby boomers is largely responsible for today’s intolerance of thought and speech. We tolerated or self righteously embraced the injustice of the countercultural revolution, an incarnation of the anarchists of the late 19th century. And these radicals still strive to redefine the cultural norms, even as they disrespect, denigrate and shout down those with opposing views.

The acme of the countercultural-liberal- progressive movement was Barack Obama and his 5th column modern media, exemplified by CNN and the New York Times. Why was Donald Trump elected? It is because We The People have awakened.

Proper therapy requires a proper diagnosis. We have the diagnosis. And we have the cure, which will be painful. It is time to sound a clarion call and return to America’s roots again. Lord forgive us, and God bless the USA!

“Recognition of the supreme being is the first, the most basic, expression of Americanism. Without God, there could be no American form of government nor American way of life.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

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