Progressive politics have not led to the breakdown of society
Peter Lawler, writing at Postmodern Conservative, has a great piece on the recent Rand Paul affair. If you recall, after Paul’s Kentucky primary victory, the son of the much more famous Ron Paul went on the Rachel Maddow show, where she questioned him about his statements on NPR regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which Paul said at the time he would not have supported (though he has since changed his position on that).
4. In general, tutored by TV’s Professor Beck, we’re hearing that true conservatives should regard the New Deal etc. as unconstitutional too. It’s become fashionable to harp on the Progressive narrative from Woodrow Wilson to Lyndon Johnson as the key to what has derailed our country. The implication is that our Court abdicated its responsibility by not declaring the regulatory administrative state unconstitutional.
5. Maybe we should remember, to begin with, that THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 was a legislative accomplishment. And its intention was to extend the colorblind spirit of the original Constitution to areas that could reasonably be regulated by government. It was the one time our national government interpreted the Constitution correctly with respect to race.
6. The “Progressive erosion of our freedom” narrative oddly seems to jump these days from LBJ to Obama. None of the presidents in between those two very liberal Democrats fit the Progressive mold, and their successes and failures have to be viewed according to a different model. And when I think about the Sixties, I can’t help but remember that devotion to Civil Rights was one thing really good about LBJ, and someone might say that he played a significant part in creating a country that elected an African American president.
The ‘Old Right’ especially falls prey to this anti-New Dealism*, though the modern conservative movement is increasingly moving in that direction, especially with new mouthpieces like Glenn Beck paving the way. As Peter notes, “The real debate is over how to make them demographically sustainable, and even on that score it’ll be really hard to tell the truth.” Actually repealing our system of entitlements would be not only an impossible task but not necessarily a very wise one either. Social Security is not an unsustainable wreck and can be helped greatly by bringing in new workers through increased immigration. Medicare itself would not be unsustainable if it weren’t for the overall unsustainable costs in the healthcare industry, which are largely due to the system we have created around employer-based health insurance.
Either way, blaming all our country’s ills on the progressive takeover of society is not only wrong, it’s lazy analysis and fear-mongering. I think Rand Paul is probably just too principled, too much of an ideologue to have thought through his positions on this. Glenn Beck, on the other hand, is not principled enough. His libertarianism ends where the ratings dip.
* I should note that I actually have a great deal more sympathy for the Old Right than the New Right – at least in the paleo-reformist camp you find at The American Conservative. Not in the white nationalist camp you’d find at The Alternative Right.
See also: Noah Millman on paleos and compromise.