Try to define progressivism. In fact, ask progressives to try to define
progressivism. All we really know is that they're, well, progressing. They and
their ideas and their politics are always changing, evolving. This means that
what they believe and hold fast and dear today may not be what they believe and
hold fast and dear tomorrow, or decades or a century from now.
For instance, when progressive heroine Margaret Sanger started her American
Birth Control League a century ago, she was seeking birth control for, among
other purposes, what she and fellow progressives termed "race improvement." She
hoped to expunge the gene pool of what she termed "human weeds," "morons,"
and "imbeciles." She repudiated abortion, calling it "an alternative that I
cannot too strongly condemn … the practice of it merely for limitation of
offspring is dangerous and vicious." She clarified in no uncertain terms: "some
ill-informed persons have the notion that when we speak of birth control we
include abortion as a method. We certainly do not."
Today, Sanger's American Birth Control League is Planned Parenthood, America's
largest abortion provider. Progressives have not only progressed to that level
but also to the point where they demand full taxpayer funding of Planned
Parenthood and birth control and abortion drugs. Most amazing, those who
disagree are castigated as Neanderthals favoring a "war on women."
How did we suddenly progress to this latest stage?
That's a long answer with a lot of factors, but we cannot disregard the huge
impact of the latest influence: President Obama. If you would have told me five
years ago that the president of the United States, by executive fiat, would
force all Americans–including all religious organizations–to fund sterilization
services and abortion drugs, I would have at least taken solace in one thing: my
liberal friends would surely respect my religious beliefs and insist their
president was crossing the line.
Sorry, the opposite is true. With President Obama leading, millions of Democrats
have willfully fallen in line. He is not bending, and neither are they. If we
disagree with what they're compelling us to do … that's our fault. We have
failed to progress to their understanding.
My pro-choice friends always promised they'd never force me to pay for their
abortions. With Obama out front, that has changed. They simply hadn't progressed
The same is true for gay marriage, where liberals–immediately after Obama's
statement on gay marriage to ABC a few months ago–are suddenly on fire for the
cause, from blasting Chick-fil-A to, according to The New York Times,
considering the unprecedented step of placing gay marriage in the Democratic
Party platform. Consider liberals' progression on this issue:
A half century ago, the concept of "gay marriage" would have been unthinkable to
any Democrat. Currently, I'm being frequently asked about parallels in thinking
between Obama and his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. There are striking
similarities when it comes to their words on Wall Street, the rich, tax cuts,
wealth redistribution, universal healthcare. I'm often asked if Davis' writings
indicated support for gay marriage and abortion. Are you kidding? Anyone who
might have voiced public support for those things back then, Democrat or
Republican or radical, would have been hauled off to an asylum as a public
Just 20 years ago, the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton, supported
the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as strictly between a man
and a woman.
While support for gay marriage has increased since then, what the progressive
movement needed was a front man to light the fuse and take the lead. They got it
big-time from President Obama. Just like that, the entire public debate has
changed, with gay-marriage advocates on the offensive and opponents on the
defensive. Those opposing the unwavering norm since the dawn of humanity,
following the billions before us–what Chesterton called the "Democracy of
the Dead"–are suddenly framed as extremists who must explain ourselves. And CEOs
of companies who voice a mere opinion to the contrary–e.g., Chick-fil-A–are
picketed, protested, banned, and attacked by the nation's mayors for
manufacturing everything from "hate thoughts" to "hate chicken."
Progressivism. No one can see where it will end up, but we can see how it
unfolds. In this latest manifestation–call it President Obama's progress–it
compels all of us to acquiesce on gay marriage and abortion. Obama didn't begin
the push, but, in only four years, he has advanced the progressive project by
leaps and bounds, a stunning surge that doesn't happen without him.
In 2008, Barack Obama promised fundamental, transformational change–and now,
thanks to the American electorate, we're getting it.
– Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College,
executive director of The Center for Vision Values, and author of the
book, "The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack
Obama's Mentor." His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and
the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have
Manipulated Progressives for a Century."
© 2012 by The Center for Vision Values at Grove City College. The views &
expressed herein may, but do not necessarily, reflect the views of Grove City
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