Beyond Politics: Removing the Progressive Drag on America

Fighting the soul-killing, wealth-destroying acts of progressives over the long term is going to take much more than winning an election or two. It will require neutralizing their influence throughout the culture. That's much harder, of course, but essential if we're to have to a country that does more than seesaw between two power-hungry parties while spiraling ever downward.

The reasons that wider change is a must are not hard to find. Even where their relative numbers are low, progressives have come to dominate much more than just the Democratic Party and the major news outlets.

They control curricula for public K-12 education almost everywhere, despite the presence of a great many teachers who disagree with their views. Progressive educators' numbers are bolstered by the roughly 70-85% of college educators and administrators who identify as liberals. They dominate credential-required education courses, and strongly influence textbook selection.

Clearly, postmoderns have long been the decision-makers and creators for most mainstream film and television, even while they make up a minority of total participants. Major films and television programs are made by many thousands of writers, actors, technicians, and so forth, who line the bell curve of viewpoints. Yet it's a rare movie that doesn't blithely depict entrepreneurs as rapacious, or anti-pharmaceutical crusaders as saintly.

Even TV advertising often shows the influence of John Muir's grandchildren. One Ad Council commercial asks: "What do forests mean to you?" The question spurs absurd answers like "sparkling clean water" and Native American tree worship. Fairy-tale "green" commercials extend even to truck ads these days, as if a half-ton Dodge Ram pickup could -- or should -- be "eco-friendly."

Magazines like Scientific American, once upon a time offering real science for the layman, have become organs for anthropogenic global warming propaganda. Smithsonian runs features on the alleged superiority of primitive cultures. National Geographic touts how negligibly modern humans are in advance of apes. That would've been unthinkable as recently as three generations ago, yet for today's followers of Rousseau, it's so obvious as to be beyond debate.

As these examples show, the influence on American culture of progressive ideas goes far beyond and far beneath politics. They represent a full-scale assault on all classical liberal values: reason, objective ethics, natural rights, capitalism, and their products -- freedom and industrial production. Cleaning up Washington will be the barest beginning to reversing a century-long slide in America, one that has accelerated in the last four decades.

Ending bailouts, lowering federal spending, and tinkering with Social Security will give everyone some economic breathing room. But these actions won't right a country that's been increasingly tilting left for the past 40 years. And without fundamental change even those victories will be too small, and woefully short-lived.

What to Do, and How?

It goes without saying that changing the culture wholesale is a tall order, given the ubiquitous and deeply entrenched nature of progressive ideas in modern life. And, with the real and significant differences between factions in the pro-freedom, pro-America camp, it's an even taller order.

Cooperation between the very different types of people that make it up was always dicey and will remain so. No one will ever convince an Objectivist that the Christian deity exists or that Jesus' Gospels are the proper guide to living or basis for society. Likewise, no libertarian will ever persuade an Evangelical Christian that abortion is not murder.

But there was a time in American history when such things, as important as they were in personal terms, were not make-or-break issues on a social level, much less in politics. A hundred years ago progressives were a tiny minority, and their views very sparsely infected the law. As a result, most Americans of very different viewpoints could live and let live, disapproving as they may have been of those who thought and chose differently.

But with the intrusion of the federal government into every aspect of life, everything has become political. Amit Ghate made the point well in a recent PJM article, "Ideas and the State." Getting the government out of those thousands of intimate personal decisions, and limiting it to constitutionally enumerated powers, will create a large penumbra around the individual.