THE PROGRESSIVES’ REPUBLIC OF VIRTUE
Attacking America’s bedrock institutions to advance “social justice”.
Progressives want to radically transform America’s noble experiment in self-government, the securing of inalienable rights of the individual, and the rule of law within the structure of a constitutional republic. They prefer a model of an all-powerful government expanding its reach as necessary to bring about their evolving conception of a virtuous society. They use epithets such as “racist” and “bigot” to silence opposition to their leftist agenda and try to ruin the livelihoods of those who won't be silenced. When that does not work, progressives resort to “hate speech” codes enforced by sympathetic social media and college campus censors.
The liberal media’s darling and possible candidate for the presidency, former Democrat Representative Beto O'Rourke, questioned whether the United States can “still be managed by the same principles that were set down 230-plus years ago.” That’s nothing new for progressives. They have been mouthing much the same thing for over a century, from Woodrow Wilson through Barack Obama and beyond. They believe that the Constitution is nothing more than an outdated document written by dead white males to protect their property interests.
President Woodrow Wilson, the progressives’ hero who was a blatant racist himself, urged that the Constitution be treated as a living document and that its core principle of checks and balances be discarded. “No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live,” he wrote.
Barack Obama criticized the Constitution’s focus on “negative liberties” rather than saying “what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.” Obama had in mind “the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.”
In an op-ed column for the New York Times entitled “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution,” a progressive law professor, Louis Michael Seidman, wrote that “our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions” is to blame for “a dysfunctional political system.” In a law review article that he wrote in 2018, the professor defined progressivism today as “a modern political stance favoring an activist government that strives to achieve the public good, including the correction of unjust distributions produced by the market and the dismantling of power hierarchies based on traits like race, nationality, gender, class, and sexual orientation.”
Progressives are not content with tearing down the U.S. Constitution’s pillars of liberty to advance their idea of “the public good.” They also believe it necessary to delegitimize traditional Western religious beliefs and their adherents as evil vestiges of racism, sexism, and homophobia.
“Christians became moral renegades,” wrote Rachel Lu, a contributor at The Federalist, “because the mainstream culture shifted, leaving our beliefs ‘on the wrong side of history’ as progressives have envisioned it. We’re vilified for maintaining positions that have been embedded in the Christian tradition for centuries. If the dominant culture can change enough to permit this level of kulturkampf against an ancient Western faith, who can say how much further it might go?”
Totalitarian purges and persecutions in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries demonstrate how much further such enforced cultural transformation can go. Progressives like to think of themselves as too enlightened to go down such a destructive path. However, they mimic the dogma of the French Revolution’s Republic of Virtue that perverted the reasoned enlightened thought and political philosophy upon which the Founding Fathers had drawn for their own inspiration.
The Founding Fathers sought to preserve individual freedom of worship and practice while eschewing the establishment of any official state religion. French revolutionary zealots, on the other hand, sought to de-Christianize France as much as possible. Their secular belief, based on the slogan "Liberté, égalité, fraternité," was intended to replace religious beliefs. Temples of Reason took the place of churches, which were treated as the enemies of the Republic of Virtue.
Progressives today target traditional religious beliefs to make way for the dominance of secularism in all realms of American society. Moral absolutes of good and evil based on religious truths get in the way of progressives’ application of evolving cultural norms to define morality. In arguing for their belief in moral relativism, they seek to marginalize people of faith and interfere with their freedom of religion. Progressives use all instruments available to them to enforce their code of secular virtues.
For example, progressives are using activist courts to force Christian photographers and bakers to employ their expressive skills to celebrate same-sex weddings. An activist federal judge in Pennsylvania just blocked the Trump administration from implementing a rule that would have allowed employers to decline to offer contraceptive coverage in their health insurance policies on moral or religious grounds.
Progressives troll and slander people of faith on social media. A recent example is the vicious onslaught against Second Lady Karen Pence for daring to decide to teach art at a traditional Christian school in Virginia. One anti-religion progressive tweeted that “Karen Pence is an extremist bigot” and “a dangerous monster” who is “unfit to even be around kids, let alone teach them.” A fellow hater of religion replied that “exposing children to the toxic virus of religion before they are 21 should be considered child abuse.”
This anti-religion attitude has moved from social media to the halls of Congress. Nominees for federal judgeships have been lambasted for their personal religious views during Senate confirmation hearings. For example, Senator Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, quizzed Brian Buescher, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, over his membership in the Catholic charity organization known as the Knights of Columbus. The senators were uncomfortable with some of the religious-based stances the Knights of Columbus organization has taken on such issues as same-sex marriage and abortion. They wanted to know if Mr. Buescher would resign from the Knights of Columbus once he is confirmed. Last year, Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., went after another Trump nominee for the federal bench, Amy Coney Barrett, for her Catholic beliefs. “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern,” Senator Feinstein said. Evidently, these senators have forgotten that Article VI of the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
The zealots of the French Revolution went after people who, in their minds, had strayed from the path of virtue and expressed impure thoughts favoring the interests of the rich and powerful propertied classes. The progressives of today likewise believe, in the words of Professor Seidman, that free speech “favors status quo distributions and, so, the rich and powerful.” He added that “the free speech right tends to obstruct the realization of progressive objectives.”
It follows, therefore, that progressives must seek to enforce their own code of acceptable speech. Words deemed offensive to certain “oppressed” identity groups would themselves be considered acts of violence that must be suppressed. Anyone who crosses the line is subject to boycott, ostracism, vitriolic personal attacks online, firing and even physical assault.
Of course, progressives can hurl pretty much any epithet at Christians and Jews they want and get away with it. They hide behind the First Amendment. But, for example, when a public high school teacher simply declined, out of religious conviction, to use the politically correct pronoun for a self-identified transgender student, the teacher was fired. “I am being punished for what I haven’t said,” the fired teacher told a Virginia newspaper. After all, once you know the gender that someone identifies with, “if you continue to misgender them, that’s when you get into violent territory,” wrote a transgender activist.
During the French Revolution, the Enragés were a direct action group who advocated radical measures including violence to achieve social and economic transformation on behalf of the poor who constituted the bottom 90 percent of the population.
Today’s progressives are the 21st century’s version of the Enragés, without there being anything remotely close in the United States to the horrendous conditions that inflamed the rage of the French masses. Progressives wear their rage on their sleeves. Just recall those who disrupted the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, hounded senators at their homes, issued death threats, and then clawed at the Supreme Court doors when they did not get their way. Protesters in the third anti-Trump Women’s March this weekend held up signs with radical slogans such as “White Old Men…Extinction Nearing!” and “Pussy is God.”
There is little difference between today’s version of progressivism and democratic socialism. Both call for radical change in America’s government, economy and society in the service of “social justice” for the “oppressed.”
The New York Democratic Socialists of America tweeted last year their core demands: "Abolish profit, abolish prisons, abolish cash bail, abolish borders." Its platform has moved to the House of Representatives in the person of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America who was recently elected as a progressive Democrat congresswoman from New York. She is leading the charge for such radical ideas as confiscatory taxes, a rapid change-over to a fossil fuel free economy, government-run health care for all, and open borders. “I do think we are in a crisis of late-stage capitalism,” she claimed. Evidently, historically low unemployment, including for African-Americans and Hispanics, is a “crisis” according to the self-described radical Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.
We are at the crossroads that Ronald Reagan foresaw nearly fifty-five years ago in his 1964 speech entitled “A Time for Choosing.” He observed that “the full power of centralized government was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. Either we accept the responsibility for our own destiny, or we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual belief in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
The progressives want our country to abandon the American Revolution and its legacy of constrained governmental power and the protection of individuals’ inalienable rights. In the progressives’ version of the French Revolution’s Republic of Virtue, border barriers are “immoral,” masculinity is “toxic,” all white persons in America are born “privileged,” due process depends on the racial or sexual identity of the accused and accuser, and biological sex is no more than an “oppressive” social construct. Equality of outcome must be enforced through massive government action to redistribute wealth and control major sectors of the economy. All this does not represent the land of the free that many of us grew up in. Rather, we would be taking what Ronald Reagan described as “the first step into a thousand years of darkness.”