Jonah Goldberg writes in his book Liberal Fascism that there is a well-defined distinction between the left and right of the political spectrum. “Broadly speaking,” he writes, “the left is the party of change, the right the party of the status quo.” (59)
This is a perfectly acceptable observation, insofar as a broad, global history is concerned. But when it comes to America today, how well does it fit?
It is certain that the left fancies itself as Goldberg describes it. There can be no greater sense of self-satisfaction for the American leftist than to believe he is aligned with a vehicle of “change.” The raw power of that belief is what drives humanitarian leftists to revere such conduits of “change” as Mao Zedong and Che Guevara- despite the inhuman mass-murder of their political opposition. And in 2008, we witnessed the practical manipulation of that desire when an inexperienced Barack Obama coupled the idea of “change” with the substantively meaningless abstraction of “hope” to orchestrate an emotional and successful campaign.
You see, for Obama’s constituents, “revolution is always good” because it “moves the Hegelian wheel of history forward.” (59) So the left has a vested interest in presenting its policy as a new and profound direction to “move America forward”- and its mantra of “change” clearly suggests the revolutionary innovation necessary to reach desired Utopian ends.
But the truth is, any honest spectator must recognize that in America today, the left does not really offer anything new or profound. They, like conservatives, are simply “trying to “conserve” the values of a previous revolution.” (59) On the right, there are those who wish to conserve the values of the late 18th century revolution that severely limited the federal government’s power. On the left, there are those who wish to conserve the values of the socialistic revolution of the 20th century that expanded the federal government’s power.
In his book, Jonah Goldberg refers to Woodrow Wilson as the “George Washington of modern liberalism.” (81) His success could be attributed to the “activist ideological movement” supporting him, as could be said of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler’s later success. “In Italy,” he says, “they were called Fascists. In Germany, they were called National Socialists. In America, we called them progressives.” (81) These progressives were “openly and proudly opposed to individualism. Religion was a political tool, while politics was the true religion. [They] viewed the traditional system of constitutional checks and balances as an impediment to progress because such horse-and-buggy institutions were a barrier to their own ambitions.” (81) During his presidency, Woodrow Wilson jailed thousands upon thousands of political dissidents and compromised a multitude of civil liberties. He launched an assault upon the press that “would have made Mussolini envious.” (Goldberg 80) And as Hitler would later do, Wilson granted badges to over a hundred thousand thugs to enforce his bidding.
This heinous abuse of power (largely edited out of popular history by modern progressives) began the progressive reformation of the 20th century. This restructuring of American government included such statist and redistributive agendas as the heavily progressive income tax, the mandatory purchase of an ill-devised communal annuity called Social Security, and the increasingly prevalent role of our central government in all manner of industry, trade, banking- and even an absolute role in suppressing the individual’s right to religious expression.
While these ideals might all be found conducive to the planks of Marx’s manifesto, it is inarguable that they are wholly antithetical to the philosophy of Paine. And yet since Wilson’s presidency, these progressive ideals became part and parcel of the broad American status quo, becoming completely recognizable as “American” for many- and to some, more recognizable as “American” than the notions of individual liberty and limited government.
The left is not the “party of change” in America- it simply represents a different element of the status quo than the right. As progressive values have become as much a part of the status quo as conservative values, neither party clearly represents “change.”
But as we anticipate that Barack Obama will continue touting himself as an instrument of “change” in the run-up to 2012, here’s an interesting question to consider: If we must assign the label of “change” to one of these factions, which of them would you say truly offers to “change” the contemporary political landscape of America? The one that suggests that we continue on our established path of perpetually granting federal authority to administrate our lives and our wealth? Or the one that suggests that we cease marching on the path that we have tread for a hundred years- by stripping the federal government of its established mandate to administrate our lives and our wealth?
It seems to me that not only does Barack Obama not represent change- he is even less representative of change than his opposition.
William Sullivan commonly contributes to American Thinker and has been featured on WorldNetDaily. He blogs at: http://politicalpalaverblog.blogspot.com
Goldberg, Jonah. Liberal Fascism. New York: Doubleday, 2008.