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The Roots of Modern Liberalism - It's Not Pretty


America's True Foundation vs. The Foundation of Modern Liberalism

Our Foundational beliefs are vital because of their influence in forming opinions and making decisions. This is the reason that faced with similar facts; individuals that have opposing worldviews will reach vastly different opinions. The worldview of the Founders was Christian, whereas the world view of progressives and liberals lean towards secular humanism.

The philosophy of the political left draws many of its assumptions from Progressive Era thinking. The Progressive movement in the United States came about from about 1880-1920; its influence included the educational philosophy of John Dewey, the writings of Upton Sinclair, the governmental philosophies of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and many others.

 Progressive Era Leaders

Progressive Era Leaders

The First Continental Congress

The First Continental Congress

Eugene Debs, one of the many early Progressives who identified themselves as socialists

Eugene Debs, one of the many early Progressives who identified themselves as socialists

Conflicting Visions

The Founders believed in inalienable (God given) rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Progressives reject the Founders notion of God given rights in favor of the view that rights are a gift of the state. Unlike the Founders, progressives contend that men are not free by nature but freedom is a goal that requires the active participation of an enlightened government to achieve. Thus progressives reject the Founder’s belief that natural law or inalienable rights as the underlying basis for legitimate government and law. Although the Founders acknowledged that changes in methods would be necessary in government, they held that the underlying standards of morality to be unchanging. George Washington said his first this at his first Inaugural Address:

The propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”

Ironically President Barack Obama contends the opposite in his book, “The Audacity of Hope”, that the Founders believed that there was no absolute truth:

It's not just absolute power that the Founders sought to prevent. Implicit in its structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or "ism," any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course, or drive both majorities and minorities into the cruelties of the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, or the jihad. The Founders may have trusted in God, but true to the Enlightenment spirit, they also trusted in the minds and senses that God had given them. They were suspicious of abstraction and liked asking questions, which is why at every turn in our early history theory yielded to fact and necessity."

But how can there be inalienable rights without absolute truth? How can you belief in the God of the Bible and contend there to be no absolute truth? God said in the Bible that “He is the God who changes not” and the Jesus said that “He is the truth”. Progressives saw morality in constant flux as society evolved, in other words, there are no absolute or timeless standards of morality. This is why liberals tend to support judicial philosophies such as viewing the Constitution as a living documentand their seeming lack of interest in enforcing the rule of law.

A moment of silence for firefighters at the World Trade Center

A moment of silence for firefighters at the World Trade Center

Lenin and The October  Revolution

Lenin and The October Revolution

When God is eliminated from the public square, the government takes His place.

When God is eliminated from the public square, the government takes His place.

Justice in socialist Russia

Justice in socialist Russia

Washington was under not illusions about the dangers of an empowered government. The left never learns from the past and is destined for tyranny.

Washington was under not illusions about the dangers of an empowered government. The left never learns from the past and is destined for tyranny.

Vision Revealed in Patriotic Songs

American Patriotic Songs

Patriotic songs tend to reflect the deep held beliefs of a nation during the time they we’re written. The song “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, served as America’s national anthem before the Star-Spangled-Banner. Here is the songs 4th refrain:

Our fathers' God to Thee,

Author of liberty,

To Thee we sing.

Long may our land be bright,

With freedom's holy light,

Protect us by Thy might,

Great God our King.

The final refrain in The Star-Spangled-Banner is this:

Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand,
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power
that has made and preserved us as a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust";
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Both these songs reflect the common deeply held belief that God was the author of our liberty and the source of the blessings of our nation.

The Soviet National Anthem

The patriotic song of the former Soviet Union also reflected that countries deep held beliefs. Here is a refrain from their national anthem:

Long live our Soviet motherland

Built by the people's mighty hand

Long live our people, united and free

Strong in our friendship, tried by fire

Long may our crimson flag inspire

Shining in glory, for all men to see

Through days dark and stormy, while great Lenin led us

Our eyes saw the bright sun of freedom of all

And Stalin, our leader, with faith in the people

Inspired us to build up a land that we love

This anthem expressed a belief similar to the progressive movement’s belief that the freedom and blessings enjoyed as a nation originated as a work of man through the vehicle of the state.

The Founders viewed the role of government as to protect the inalienable or natural rights of the citizens against those who would violate those rights including the government itself. The Founders believed that God had provided men with the most important things of life including freedom and who they are as persons. Progressives reject this notion and contend that it is the role of the government to shape society and its citizens to meet their greatest potential. In order to do this, progressives also had to reject the Founders idea of limited government in favor of an active and nearly limitless government.

Woodrow Wilson wrote,

"All that progressives ask or desire,"is permission -- in an era when development, evolution, is a scientific word -- to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine."

The Founders maintained a Christian worldview that saw God as the author of liberty. Many Progressives held to a secular and humanistic view that liberty is man-made and a product of an evolving society led by a group of enlightened individuals. To a Humanist the only measure of man is man; man is his own God and saw the state as a god of sorts and a vehicle for man’s advancement. To the Founders the government was to be merely a servant to the people. To progressives the government takes on an almost godlike role of developing and educating its citizens to reach their full potential according to the values of the state.

John Dewey wrote that freedom is not "something that individuals have as a ready-made possession." It is "something to be achieved." He also wrote "Natural rights and natural liberties exist only in the kingdom of mythological social zoology."

The Founders felt that laws should be made by moral and wise men in their local communities who were closer and accountable to the people they represent. They saw common sense in avoiding the past errors of an overreaching government to be their guiding principle. Progressives envisioned an elite group of scientifically trained and enlightened experts were essential to manage the all-important government they envisioned.

It is time for America to decide which vision; we as a nation are going follow? Is it a man-made vision of a new world advancing to new heights with the state leading the way or is it a nation of self-rule of “we the people”, serving as a beacon of hope to the world with God’s guidance and blessings.

The source for this article is “The Progressive Movement and the Transformation of American Politics Thomas West and William Schambra, Published in Heritage.Org, 2007”

Comments (author) from upstate, NY on January 13, 2020:

Yves - Thank you so much for your gracious comments! Great insights into the former president, he was perhaps the first radical leftist US president to be elected. As you mentioned, he operated in stealth (aided and abetted by a fawning media), careful to conceal his true beliefs.

Surely the damage he and political left have done could take generations to undo but I'm believing with God's help that this won't be the case.

Isn't it typical that the leftists in the former Soviet Union would count some of the world's most oppressive tyrants (Lenin and Stalin) as leaders of freedom? This seems to be a common thread for leftists the world over to call evil good and good evil.

Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

Yves on January 12, 2020:

Hello wba…..So well written. Your writing is clear and concise. I also appreciate your references. I was foolishly surprised to discover that Russia's National anthem named Lenin and Stalin, two mass murderers, as their "leaders of freedom."

As for Obama, everything he says or writes is shielded in stealth. Thus, he was elected. He did so much damage to our country and he continues today, in his typical stealthy way. Netflix anyone?

I fear that a progressive will win the presidency in time. (Hopefully, not in 2020) That next time will be even worse, however, as the stage has been set. (author) from upstate, NY on September 07, 2011:

Mickey- I myself am woefully ignorant about the significance of the actions of George Washington. I’m going to look into this and thank you for bring it to my attention. This country has a shameful lack of gratefulness for the sacrifices of those that won our freedom and blazed the trail to make freedom a reality in this nation! I’ll even go a step farther and say that the vision George Washington had for America's freedom was also God’s vision.

It truly was miraculous that America was able to win its independence from the world’s superpower at that time (Great Britain). These miraculous events were chronicled in the book, “the Light and the glory”, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your valuable insights.-WBA

MickeySr from Hershey, Pa. on September 06, 2011:

It is ludicrous beyond imagination that so many today think of George Washington as nothing but the guy who just happened to be the first president - could have anyone, happened he was the first. It could not have been anyone but could only have been George Washington. George Washington won this country with farmers and the 20 year old Lafayette from the greatest military power in the world, and gave it to us . . . "and gave it to us" simply does not have the impact on us it ought to exactly because George Washington gave it to us - he changed everything and we now see things and think differently than before Washington.

America would not be as it is were it not for George Washington, he was the necessary first president and the only one ever to be unanimously elected, and then unanimously reelected, the nation wanted to make him king - he coined 'Mr. President', he could have been president for life - he voluntarily handed power over to another . . . that had never happened before and still is not happening in many nations all over the earth.

George Washington is not The Father Of Our Country because he just happened to be the first president - Washington is The Father Of Our Country because this country is his vision . . . he miraculously won it in an astounding victory over a vastly superior foe, put his own stamp of boldness and humility on it, set it on it's course of liberty, and gave it to us.

Shame on us that so many school children do not even learn this and that as a nation we do not celebrate this every February 22. (author) from upstate, NY on September 01, 2011:

Ms Dee- So glad you stopped by and great to hear from you! Your so right, wanting to be "God" very accurately describes the self righteous and snooty left. They believe they're the enlightened ones, called to lead the pathetic masses out of ignorance. There is another very familiar character in the Bible who also wanted to be God and I think you know who that was!-- Thanx again for stopping by!- WBA

Deidre Shelden from Texas, USA on August 31, 2011:

Great hub article! Reading it makes me feel like progressives want to be God and rule as an elite over the rest. A search for power over others. Yuck! (author) from upstate, NY on April 09, 2011:

drpastorcarlotta -

Thank you for your comments! There are forces stronger than any man at work here. Behind the scene is a spiritual battle between the forces of darkness and light, battling for the hearts and minds of Americans.

Pastor Dr Carlotta Boles from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC on April 09, 2011:

GREAT HUB!!! I am not surprise of nothing the government does or this world. What is to be is to be, IT IS WRITTEN. Voted-up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (author) from upstate, NY on March 24, 2011:

James A Watkins-

Thank you so much for your compliments!

James A Watkins from Chicago on March 24, 2011:

Brilliant analysis. I very much enjoyed your fine work with this piece. All of your Hubs have been great. Keep up the good work. (author) from upstate, NY on March 22, 2011:

Chris Armstrong--

You are so right the government feels that its job is to make decisions for our supposed best interest. This is no small matter, because this is the beginning of tyranny.

I agree with you that the more government has gotten its hands on ours lives the worse things have become. Limited government is the key to the Constitution.

And last but not least is the foundation of timeless truth. If we move away from this, no form of government will work because the people will have become corrupted. You are so right that without absolute truth men become like animals without boundaries.

Chris Armstrong on March 22, 2011:

Government's duty according to the Declaration of Independence,is to protect the rights of the people,not take away the rights of the people as the Progressives contend. The liberal/progressive mindset is that the government needs to step in and make decisions for the people, because they are incapable of thinking for themselves, nor can they care for themselves. Henceforth, the government needs to enlarge itself in order to help society cope with the demands of life. The Founders realized that Government left to itself would corrupt utterly, therefore they spelled out the role of government to be as limited as possible. Note that when the country had less government control,we flourished economically,socially, and spiritually. If we have no absolute truths that we stand on, we are no better than the common animal For animals are only led by their instincts, and man is reduced to the same without a faith or belief in a moral standard that is incorruptible. (author) from upstate, NY on March 21, 2011:

thomasjhs-- Thank you for your insights. Its absolutely unacceptable that we allow our children to be exposed to the falsehoods taught in our schools. At this tender age our foundations are formed which effect our opinions throughout our lifetimes.

If there are no absolutes you would have to reject Christianity in its true sense and thus reject the foundation for America.

I needed to quote the heritage foundation because I borrowed alot from their article but other views in this article come from a wide range of sources that I have drawn from over the past few months.

Thanx again for taking the time to make a thoughtful comment.

thomasjhs on March 21, 2011:

This article reflects how the liberal education system has blinded the view Americans have of American History. Unfortunately, over 75 % of school age children are being subjected to the same truth. They are being taught that truth is subjective, and there are no absolutes clearly contrary to the founding of America. However, I would use some sources that are considered more "neutral" in order to sway the thinkers on the fence. The Heritage Foundation is known for being strongly conservative. All in all very good article, great use of sources, and comparison of country's national songs.

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