Woodrow Wilson and the Advent of Liberal Fascism

It Can Happen Here, Even Today!

By Steven Barto, B.S., Psy.

Fascism. There’s a word that can damper a party or tear a friendship apart real fast. I have tried many times over the last few years to hold rational conversations with friends and family about the dangers of Liberalism and Fascism. I’ve tried to open their minds to the current leftist ideology that is actually fascist in nature—it is not the conservative party! In fact, it never was. There is a very loud and powerful propaganda effort running rampant in America. The players in this deception include a few giants that would have given David and his sling and rock a run for his money. They include liberal television anchors, reporters, editors, and writers; Hollywood moguls and many of our favorite actors; novelists and magazine writers; publishers of today’s public school textbooks and educational aids; high school teachers and administrators; college professors, deans, and presidents of most secular universities. How’s that for a tough band of opponents?

Any discussion of American Fascism typically gets log-jammed. Liberals are growing in numbers in all walks of life. The vitriol that poisons most of their discussions cause those of us on the conservative right to be rather reluctant to engage them despite the serious fallout from allowing America to slide down the slippery slope to progressive politics. There is an interesting correlation between rhetoric from the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and the hyperbole of today’s militant atheists during debates with Christian apologists like Ravi Zacharias, Dinesh D’Souza, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, John Lennox, Ken Ham, J.P. Moreland, and others. Invariably—in both of these arenas—the liberal, progressive, atheist side resorts to bad information, propaganda, name-calling, and smoke-and-mirrors.

 The phrase, “It can’t happen here” comes from Sinclair Lewis’s novel of the same name (1953). It tells the story of a fascist takeover of America. Although it’s been called a “terrible reading experience,” it remains one of the most important books ever published in this country. The irony, of course, is that when we take a hard, honest, non-partisan look at America’s recent past, it did happen here. Our tale of woe begins with the administration of our twenty-eighth president, Woodrow Wilson. Although we’ve seen attacks on the administrations of George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump, a close look at America’s political past shows that state-sanctioned brutality, the stifling of dissent, loyalty oaths, and enemies lists happened at the hands of liberals. Self-described progressives (and American socialists) led the pack in the push for a truly totalitarian state. They shouted accolades from the rooftops, questioning the patriotism, intelligence, and decency of every opponent of Liberalism and Socialism.

Fascism “Over There” and “Over Here!”

Fascism is essentially the view that every nook and cranny of society should work together in spiritual union toward the same goals overseen by the state. Mussolini put it this way: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State” (italics mine). In fact, Mussolini coined the phrase “totalitarian,” which he intended to be not tyrannical in nature, but humane, focusing on assuring every citizen is “taken care of,” especially through equal “contributions” to everyone. He wanted every class and individual to be folded in to the larger whole. No individualism whatsoever. Closer to home, the first true nationwide operation of this kind was not in Russia or Italy or Germany. It was in the U.S. under what some historians call the twentieth century’s first dictator: Woodrow Wilson.

When presented with this charge, liberals claim it is preposterous and outrageous. Then they change the subject. Well, let’s look at the evidence. More dissidents were arrested and jailed in a few years under Wilson than under Mussolini during the entire 1920s. Wilson resorted to more violence in pursuit of civil liberties in his last three years in office than Mussolini did in his first twelve. He established a more effective propaganda ministry than did Mussolini. Wilson unleashed hundreds of thousands of badge-carrying goons on the American people and prosecuted a vicious campaign against the press. He did not act alone. Wilson’s “fascists” were called “progressives.”

These progressives were the real social Darwinists as most understand the term. They believed in “eugenics,” and thought the state, through a “brave new world” philosophy, could create a pure race—a society of “new men,” who were far superior to the ordinary Joe. They were publicly hostile to individualism. They began using religion as a political tool, but the true “religion” was politics. They believed America’s checks-and-balances was antiquated. This was the underlying mechanism by which Wilson attempted to drag America toward a social Utopia. Progressives were quite angered by the various amendments to the Constitution that established individual rights for Blacks and other minorities. The obvious double-edged sword of this ideology is (i) African Americans and other minorities would likely suffer further losses under disenfranchising public policies; and (ii) the rights of every American citizen would be subrogated to the state in pursuit of fairness.

What About this Man Named Wilson?

It’s been claimed that part of Woodrow Wilson’s national appeal is his being the first American president to have earned a Ph.D. Surely, that’s what the U.S. needed—a brilliant, well-educated man in the Oval Office. He earned an undergraduate degree in politics and history at Princeton University. After graduating, he enrolled at the University of Virginia to study law, intending to one day enter the arena of politics. He dropped out after becoming desperately homesick, and enrolled at Johns Hopkins University where he earned a Ph.D. in political science and history. He penned The State, an 800-page volume on the theory of government, wherein he refers to social contract theory.

He wrote,

This begins always with the assumption that there exists, outside of and above the laws of men, a Law of Nature. Hobbes conceived this Law to include “justice,” “equity,” “modesty,” “mercy.” All [of] its chief commentators considered it the abstract standard to which human law should conform. Into this Law primitive men were born. It was binding upon their individual consciences; but their consciences were overwhelmed by individual pride, ambition, desire, and passion, which were strong enough to abrogate Nature’s Law. That Law, besides, did not bind men together.

With the above “undercurrent” in mind, Wilson began moving beyond narrow academic writing in favor of more popular commentary, generally geared toward enhancing his political profile. High among his political philosophy was support of progressive imperialism, with subjugation of the “lesser” races. He boldly stated that lesser members of the state should be brought under domination or control—in Wilson’s mind this was to be accomplished by conquest. It is said that Wilson was infatuated with political power during his undergraduate years at Princeton. Wilson’s worldview reminds me of Lord Acton’s famous observation: power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Wilson later stated in Congressional Government, “I cannot imagine power as a thing negative and not positive.”

While president, Wilson argued that he was the right hand of God and that to oppose his policies was to thwart divine will. He seemed to take the side of power (for power’s sake), believing that power was bestowed upon whoever was truly on God’s side. He bought into this concept so staunchly that during his senior year at Princeton, in the first of his many published articles, he strongly advocated for America changing its government to a parliamentary system. He was clearly looking for a way to cut down on the means by which the will of political rulers could be monitored and held in check. In fact, Wilson wrote, “The President is at liberty, both in law and in conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit; and if Congress be overborne by him, it will be no fault of the makers of the Constitution, but only because the President has the nation behind him and Congress has not.”[1]

Remarkably, the likes of Wilson thought the ever-expanding power of state leaders was natural and inevitable; the increase in state power could be likened to an unavoidable evolutionary process. No doubt, Wilson and the others had Rousseau and Hobbes in mind regarding human pride, ambition, desire, and passion, and how such attitudes and obsessions were a detriment to state’s rights. Wilson felt it was now time for the state to ascend to the next level. He wrote, “Government does now whatever experience permits or the times demand” (italics mine). Certainly, we see here the concrete evidence that Wilson believed the U.S. Constitution should be an evolving document. In fact, he said the Constitution must evolve as needed or be tossed into the trash can. Essentially, progressives wanted the freedom to interpret the Constitution according to Darwinian principles, but they’d never admit that in public. There is an obvious deference to relativism in such a viewpoint.

The so-called “social gospel” promoted the idea that the state was God’s right arm, and was the means by which the entire nation and world would be redeemed. This approach to governance would, by default, cause one’s home, private thoughts, public opinions, indeed everything, to belong to the organic body politic. The home could no longer be seen as a private island, separate and sovereign unto its owner. Such wild governmental overreach is at great odds with Thomas Jefferson’s axiom that the best government is that which does as little governing as possible. Wilson’s conclusion was also diametrically opposed to Jefferson—America, in Wilson’s mind, “is not now and cannot in the future be a place for unrestricted individual enterprise.”

How Did it Happen Here?

The consensus today is that the rise of Fascism in Europe transpired on a completely independent track. The going wisdom was America’s multicultural melting-pot national and cultural differences were too great; that America was not like Europe, so Fascism simply could not develop in the United States. But wait! Progressivism and Fascism have always been international movements that drew participants and supporters from the same intellectual wellspring regardless of nationality. Many Americans attended pro-socialist universities in Europe, then returned to American business and industry, government and academia, with a loaded agenda. From the 1890s to World War I, it was believed that Progressivism was fighting for dominance in America.

Otto von Bismarck, one of the first progressives to step into the limelight in America, proposed “top-down socialism.” He said, “Give the working-man the right to work as long as he is healthy; assure him care when he is sick; assure him maintenance when he is old.” It was twenty-five years later when Woodrow Wilson, the political scientist turned politician, said Bismarck’s “welfare state was an admirable system; the most studied and most nearly perfected in the world.” Wilson’s idea that society could be molded and shaped to the will of social planners and politicians was formed during his studies at Johns Hopkins. The method used by Bismarck to assure eventual establishment of a nanny-state was to give the massed what they wanted (well, sort of). In effect, the intention was to make the lower- and middle-class dependent on the state. Wilson said the core of Progressivism involved convincing the citizens to marry their interests to the state.

It should be mentioned that some of America’s key economists made a pilgrimage to Moscow in search of a workable socioeconomic plan to cure America’s ills and make society fair for everyone. Two New Deal economists, Rex Tugwell and Paul Douglas, began to publicly praise the Soviet “experiment.” Tugwell said, “There is a new life beginning there.” Jane Addams believed the Bolshevik movement in Russia was quite impressive, calling it “the greatest social experiment in history.” W.E.B DuBois wrote home to America in Russian while in Revolution Square, stating, “I stand in astonishment and wonder at the revelation of Russia that has come to me. I may be partially deceived and half-informed. But if what I have seen with my eyes and heard with my ears in Russia is Bolshevism, I am a Bolshevik!”[2] He later said the Nazis had a lot of good ideas and that the United States had much to learn from Germany’s program of National Socialism. He did, however, later condemn Nazi anti-Semitism.

A Police State in America

It is easy to deny the presence of Fascism in America today because we don’t see overt militarism in the streets. (The exception is the occasional armed soldiers at some of our airports at critical moments or following a terror attack, or at mass events at risk for an eminent threat.) America’s initial reaction to the First World War was mixed. Most supported America’s involvement, and those on the fence at least saw what they called the “social possibilities of war.” Wilson agreed that war typically brings new economic growth as factories back home ramp up to produce supplies, vehicles, weapons, and ammunition. Wilson said, “I am an advocate for peace, but there are some splendid things that come to a nation through the discipline of war.” Frighteningly, Hitler also held this view, saying, “The war made possible for us the solution of a whole series of problems that could never have been solved in normal times.”

Back in the U.S., the likes of John Dewey thought a world war might force American citizens to give up individual and economic freedoms and “march in step.” In fact, Dewey thought if the war went well (whatever that means), it would likely put the brakes on the prevalence of individualism in favor of state’s rights as the great equalizer. But how much freedom would Americans give up in order to be safe in their homes? (This question has become part of America’s everyday dialog since 9/11. Increased surveillance on U.S. citizens without cause or warrant was revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.) War, Dewey believed, could be the catalyst for convincing Americans of the supremacy of public need over private possessions. I was a fan of Spock’s mantra on Star Trek: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” That actually sounds like a socially responsible attitude. But Spock was willing to die in order to contain a radioactive leak on a space ship and preserve the lives of thousands of crew members. When the “many” refers to government and its millions of subjects as a “collective”, and the one is “individualism,” well, that’s an entirely different matter.

Wilson hired Progressive journalist George Creel to head his Committee on Public Information (CPI). This is essentially America’s first true ministry for propaganda. Creel came from a failed career as police commissioner in Denver, Colorado. Quite the pacifist at heart, he had forbidden his cops from carrying night sticks or guns! Creel helped Wilson institute instant public messaging—comprised of about 1,000 so-called Four Minute Men, each equipped and trained by Creel’s CPI to do pop-up four-minute speeches in the streets, the marketplace, at town meetings, in restaurants and theaters. These speeches were aimed at propping up Wilson’s socialist message and tipping the scale toward a collective national conscience. Arthur Bullard (an acquaintance of Lenin’s) came to work at the Wilson White House. He is quoted as saying, “Any citizen who did not put the needs of the state ahead of his own was merely “dead weight.”

In order to oppress the masses, Wilson passed the Sedition Act, which criminalized any public utterances against the U.S. government or its military. This included uttering, printing, writing, or publishing any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive comments. The U.S. Postmaster General was “deputized” to deny mailing privileges to any publication he thought was violating the Act. At least seventy-five periodicals were banned. Foreign publications were subject to review before distribution. Unacceptable articles included any discussion that disparaged the draft or the impropriety of America’s involvement in World War I. Many of the journals and magazines that were shut down had a very small circulation, but the point was to dispense fear to other larger publications so they would to tow the line or suffer the same fate. Over four hundred publications had been denied privileges by May 1918.

Inevitably, Wilson and his CPI cracked down on individual liberties through the Espionage Act of June 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. Under these restrictions, no one was permitted to criticize the government, even in their own homes—violations could earn a prison sentence. In Wisconsin a state official received two and a half years in jail for criticizing a Red Cross fund-raising  drive. A Hollywood movie producer was jailed for ten years for his film depicting British troops committing atrocities during the American Revolution (which took place over 100 years prior). The U.S. Department of Justice arrested tens of thousands of citizens without just cause. The Department established the American Protective League (APL). They were given “secret service” badges and tasked with spying on their neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Members of the APL “intelligence division” were bound by oath to never reveal they were secret police. These operatives read their neighbor’s mail and tapped their phone lines (with government approval). In addition, their “vigilante patrol” cracked down on “seditious street oratory.” America was beginning to resemble a police state.

Vigilantism was encouraged and rarely dissuaded under Woodrow Wilson’s “100-percent Americanism” philosophy. How could it be otherwise, given Wilson’s own warnings about the enemy within?

It is difficult to come up with hard numbers, but it is estimated that over 175,000 American citizens were arrested during this period for failing to show patriotism in some outwardly observable manner. All were punished to some degree, with many of them receiving prison sentences. Wilson was imitating Europe—striking down individualism and building up collectivism. The war effort was the mechanism through which a hundred million combatively individualistic people could be forced into a “collective” mentality in which the good of the one was sacrificed for the good of the many. Regarding this policy, the Washington Post stated, “In spite of excesses such as lynching, it is a healthful and wholesome awakening in the interior of the country.”[3] This was occurring in the midst of talk about the “moral tonic” the war would provide and how it was the best and most effective cause for all people dedicated to liberal, progressive values. Benito Mussolini was making nearly the same argument. Amazingly, Mussolini had been inspired by many of the same philosophers that helped prop up Wilson’s political ideology—Marx, Nietzsche, Hegel, James.

Smoke and Mirrors

When liberals speak of these past events, there are two categories of evildoers: conservatives and “America” writ large. Progressives are never depicted as bigots or tyrants, but conservatives are. As an example, consider that the Palmer Raids, Prohibition, and American eugenics, which were thoroughly progressive concepts intended to curb individualism and tailor the citizenry to some left-wing Utopian ideal. Liberals point the finger to the right, stating that America must atone for her sins of the past (reparations for slavery and the like), then set about to establish social justice reform to achieve that end. The Palmer Raids were conducted during the first “red scare” (1919-20) wherein the Justice Department captured and arrested suspected radicals and anarchists.

It’s very difficult to understand why the Progressive Era was not also the Fascist Era.

Progressives were determined to change the very fabric of America through what Richard Ely called the “golden mean” between laissez-faire individualism and Marxist Socialism. They wanted to impose a unifying moral order which regulated individual citizens inside their homes and in the open marketplace. They had a burning desire to blur the lines of class in America at whatever the cost. Utopian ideals would simply have to surmount personal rights. The left-wingers were more than happy to pay the price in pursuit of the perfect society. Individualism was considered a form of barbarism. Progressives were known to refer to the Nazi concept of a “people’s community,” which essentially put the nation’s needs in front of individual citizens. To me, this is nowhere near what can be considered a perfect nation. Moreover, this stance flies in the face of the Bill of Rights contained in the U.S. Constitution, and is against everything our forefathers fought for and established.

Remarkably, and tragically, the greatest shock is that according to a majority of political scientists Wilson’s progressive ideology (with its social biases, demographics, economic policies, and social welfare provisions) fell rather close to Adolf Hitler’s leftist policies on the liberal/conservative continuum. This is the “elephant in the room” that American liberals refuse to acknowledge or discuss. The result is a distorted understanding of political ideology and history in America. This is similar to the “wizard” in The Wizard of Oz who, when Dorothy pulls a giant tapestry aside, says, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” and goes back to manipulating society. Progressivism’s fascist schemes are being flaunted during this year’s run-up to the 2020 primaries.

Bernie Sanders is unabashedly stating he’s for a moratorium on deportation of illegal aliens, welcoming all refugees and those seeking asylum without concern for their background, establishing a “Medicare for All” system through a single-payer national health insurance program, and raising $4.35 trillion over the next decade by cutting the wealth of billionaires in half. Like many liberal Democrats, Warren’s political focus is on consumers rather than the business community. She is a self-appointed overseer determined to destroy any remnant of traditional American small-town values of individual liberty and free enterprise. The result is a pandering and increasingly unreasonable approach to any issue that touches consumers, which inevitably would add friction and cost to the economy. This rhetoric is frighteningly similar to the policies of Woodrow Wilson, and grounded in the European model of progressive socialism.

What happens over the next four to eight years is critical to the future of our beloved country. It’s time to have an honest and respectful debate about how government should address the myriad social problems hanging on the under-body of our nation. God bless the United States of America and her 329 million citizens!

Please feel free to comment in the dialog box below and, more importantly, share a link to this post. I welcome feedback and discussion on the topics I’ve raised. I am presently working on a blog article on Franklin Roosevelt’s “fascist new deal.” I will say this: regardless of whether we all agree on these critical matters at least we can presently discuss them without fear of being arrested and jailed for “seditious oratory.”

Footnotes

[1] Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the United States (New York, NY: Columbia University Press), 1908, 1961.

[2] Lewis S. Feuer, “American Travelers to the Soviet Union, 1917-32: The Formation of a Component of New Deal Ideology,” in American Quarterly 14, no. 2, pt. 1 (Summer 1962).

[3] McGeer, Fierce Discontent, p. 299; “Stamping Out Treason,” editorial, Washington Post, April 12, 1918.

 

Liberal Fascism

Dinesh D’Souza, in his seminal book Death of  a Nation, wrote, “Progressive Democrats are in fact the inventors of racism and white supremacy, and the Republican Party fought them all the way. Progressives and Democrats were also the groups that were in bed with fascism and Nazism in the 1920s and 1930s, while Republicans opposed this cozy alliance.” D’Souza notes that all the villains of the civil rights movement—Birmingham sheriff Bull Connor, Selma (AL) sheriff Jim Clark, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, Georgia governor Lester Maddox, Mississippi governor Ross Barnett, Alabama governor and presidential candidate George Wallace—were Democrats. Every one of them.

D’Souza adds, “So we have the remarkable spectacle today of the party of racism, fascism and white supremacy blaming the party of anti-racism and resistance to fascism and white supremacy for being racist, fascist and white supremacist.” It is quite sad to me that middle class Americans, people of color, and those of alternative lifestyle, are buying into the fiction of GOP racism and white supremacy; additionally, they are convinced the Democrats have their best interests at heart; that a “blue wave” in America means a kinder, loving, supportive, understanding, equal-rights, open-minded government.

I must admit that President Trump’s claim “I’m a nationalist” has done more to poison America’s opinion of him than is warranted. I’m convinced that Trump means exactly what nationalism is: “…a political, social, and economic system characterized by the promotion of the interests of a particular nation, especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining sovereignty over the homeland.” Trump proposes true, effective border security and enforcement of immigration laws for the sole purpose of maintaining the sovereignty and security of America.

WHAT IS LIBERAL FASCISM?

Ask the average, reasonably-educated person what comes to mind when he or she hears the word “fascism” and the immediate responses are “dictatorship,” “genocide,” “anti-Semitism,” “racism,” and (unfortunately) “right-wing.” The Urban Dictionary—at urbandictionary.comdefines liberal fascism as …a term to describe the alt-Left political movement… a group of liberals who believe that any free speech that opposes their views should not be allowed… who oppose and try to quiet any person or group who does not follow or believe their set of values and beliefs. Liberal fascists also believe that every American should follow and adhere to the liberal Democratic views and policies regardless of their political background or system.

There is no word in the English language that gets thrown around more freely by people who don’t know what it means than “fascism.” Roger Griffin, in his book The Nature of Fascism, defines fascism as “a genus of political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism.” Roger Eatwell, author of Fascism: A History, says that fascism’s essence is “a form of thought that preaches the need for social rebirth in order to forge a holistic-national radical Third Way.” It is a mass movement that combines different classes but is prevalently of the middle class, which sees itself as having a mission of national regeneration. Interestingly, fascism is both “anti-liberalism” and “anti-conservatism.”

Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, believes that fascism is primarily a secular religion. Goldberg writes, “…many modern liberals and leftists act as if they know exactly what fascism is. What’s more, they see it everywhere—except when they look in the mirror.” George Orwell, in his infamous 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” said the word fascism has no meaning except insofar as it signifies something not desirable. The New York Times is noted for promoting modern intellectuals who  raise the possibility that the GOP is a fascist party, and that Christian conservatives are the new Nazis.

Goldberg asks, “…why aren’t we hearing similar denunciations of groups ranging from the National Council of La Raza—that is, ‘The Race’—to the radical Hispanic group MEchA, whose motto—‘Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada’—means ‘Everything for the race, nothing outside the race?’ Why is it that when a white man spouts such sentiments it’s ‘objectively’ fascist, but when a person of color says the same thing it’s merely an expression of fashionable multiculturalism?” Progressives and liberals today offer no answer at all to such questions. They would much rather maintain George Orwell’s  definition of fascism as anything not desirable, thus excluding their own fascist hate mongering.

I believe the major pitfall in all this is that fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, as Goldberg states, it is and always has been a phenomenon of the left. Let’s remember that fascism and communism are not polar opposites—schools of thought from across the gulf between left and right—but are closely related, historical competitors for the same constituents, seeking to dominate and control the same sociopolitical space. Goldberg writes, “American Progressivism—the moralistic social crusade from which modern liberals proudly claim descent—is in some respects the major source of the fascist ideas applied in Europe by Mussolini and Hitler. Unfortunately, even those well-read Americans who understand this comparison simply smile and say, “Yeah, but it can’t happen here. Not in America. Not in the 21st century.”

Angry left-wingers shout that all those to their right, particularly corporate fat cats and the politicians who love them, are fascists. America is experiencing “nice fascism.” In many respects, fascism not only is here in America, but has been here for nearly a century. What we call liberalism—the refurbished edifice of American Progressivism—is in fact a descendant and manifestation of fascism. The main objectives of the Progressive Era—widespread social activism and political reform that swept across America from the 1890s to the 1920s—were eliminating problems caused by industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and corruption in government.

A NEW PROGRESSIVE ERA

Today there is a growing constellation of voices and organizations trying to build a new progressive reform movement. It’s no accident that liberals now call themselves progressives and that the main Democratic Party-oriented think tank in Washington is named the Center for American Progress. Obviously there are differences between the Progressive Era of the early nineteenth century and today’s progressive movement. But take a look at the following list of factors:

  • a conservative president who is deeply unpopular
  • a country facing profound economic and security challenges
  • new technologies upending traditional media
  • a cohort of new immigrants
  • a bulging generation of young people ready to transform the political landscape

Is this a description of 2018 America? Surprisingly, no. This is a list of factors present in America in 1932 at the tail-end of the Hoover administration. We know how that turned out for our beloved country. FDR and his fellow progressives built social programs and international institutions that ushered in an era of unrivaled dependency on the “nanny state” for prosperity and stability. They used a fresh, new medium—commercial broadcast radio—to reach citizens, and built a new “majority coalition” from the emerging demographics of that time period. As in FDR’s day, the new medium of the Internet has all but replaced commercial broadcast radio. In 2017 alone, smartphone shipments in North America amounted to more than 200 million units. Sales of these devices exceeded $50 billion. Imagine the opportunity this presents for progressives to saturate the marketplace with propaganda touting the supposed benefits of a social rebirth in America.

IS PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP A FASCIST?

The United States’ supposed lurch toward authoritarianism—or maybe full-on fascism—has become an obsession among progressives and even a few centrists and conservatives. The word fascism has recently reemerged as a key piece of political terminology in our country. The headlines immediately after Donald Trump’s election as president in November 2017 read like a disturbing question and answer session. I remember the textbook definition from my Political Science class at Penn State, and it does not ring true with what progressives want us to believe about America today: 

Fascism is a political ideology that seeks to organize the government and economy under one centralized authority, with strict social controls and suppression of all opposition. It advocates a single-party rule, and rejects the autonomy of any ethnic group that it does not consider to be part of the nation. Typically, this ideology supports policies of nationalism and racism and solidifies power through terror and censorship. 

Frankly, I don’t see any indication that Donald Trump seeks to create a centralized “big government” in America; that is the design of liberals. Nor do I see any tendency for him to push for a single-party system, or the rejection of individual rights based on race or socioeconomic class. Trump is not a racist, and has no designs to solidify power through terror; nor does he want to repeal the First Amendment. Whenever President Trump has to address issues relative to illegals pouring into America unfettered, he looks at the safety and security, indeed, the economy, of the United States. There is no “smoking gun” of Trump claiming (publicly or privately) that Hispanics are sub-human; that legal immigration to our great country (especially from war-torn, despotic, dehumanizing, poverty-stricken nations) is evil and must be stopped at all costs, in any form (legal or undocumented), with no exceptions. I just don’t see it.

I am grateful, however, that he insists on immigrants coming into our country through established, legal channels, and that he stands firm against undocumented aliens entering America. How many of us truly understand the tremendous threat of allowing anyone to simply walk across the border without knowing who they are, where they’re coming from, why they’re emigrating, and where  they go once they’re here. Recently, intelligence sources have determined that Islamic extremists bent on attacking America from within have allied with Mexican drug cartels. They’re being aided and abetted by drug lords (indeed, narco terrorists). Allowing illegal aliens into this country unconstrained represents a clear and present danger to the sovereignty and security of the United States.

President Trump’s concern over massive illegal immigration is at the root of his claim to be a nationalist. He intends to put America first.

Bizarre claims that President Barack Obama was a Kenyan Muslim spy weren’t meant to be taken at face value; rather, they were designed to undermine trust in anything Obama said. “Donald Trump is a fascist” sounds more like a campaign slogan spouted by the opposition than a statement of fact. Bill Maher recently stated on his show, “If liberals believe President Trump is a fascist or an authoritarian leader capable of using force to suppress the opposition they should rethink their beliefs about guns.” This is a solid example of rhetoric spouted by pundits that tends to incite concern and panic. What evidence does anyone have that President Trump has designs on elevating his presidency to a dictatorship?

Key Trump administration officials have been confronted at restaurants. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) urged protestors to hound Trump officials at restaurants, gas stations or department stores. Progressive pundits and the liberal media almost daily think up new ways of characterizing President Trump as a Nazi, fascist, tyrant or buffoon. Celebrities openly fantasize about doing harm to Trump. Just as Barack Obama was not a centrist, neither is Trump. Obama promised to fundamentally transform the United States. Trump pledged to do the same and more—but in the exact opposite direction. Democratic Party leaders are obviously not in agreement with the direction—right of center—Trump’s policies are taking. I believe the current Progressive meltdown is about more than just political differences; it is mostly about power—or rather, the utter and unexpected loss of it.

Donald Trump is not a fascist. Fascism has been an all-purpose insult for many years, but it has a real definition, and according to scholars of historical fascism, Trump doesn’t qualify. Rather, he’s a right-wing populist. He doesn’t want to overthrow the existing democratic system; nor does he want to scrap the Constitution. He doesn’t romanticize violence itself as a vital cleansing agent of society. But if this populist upheaval isn’t fascism or anything close to it, what is it?

The Trump phenomenon is a distinctly American upheaval: admittedly ugly in its overtones at times (which tends to rub people the wrong way), and occasionally disruptive of valuable traditions and institutions, but basically a necessary remedy to the centralizing dynamic of consensus liberalism. “It is certainly true,” said neoconservative intellectual Irving Kristol, “that any kind of populism can be a danger to our democratic orders. But it is also true that populism can be a corrective to the defects of democratic orders—defects often arising from the intellectual influence, and the skillful entrepreneurial politics, of our democratic elites.”

Today’s Democrat elites—the liberals and progressives who run our institutions—have become too complacent in their dominance and too conformist in their opinions. The populist movement that’s turning our politics upside down won’t win them over, but it will weaken their influence and rattle their piety. When the dust settles and the United States is still the free and vibrant place it was before—when the nation hasn’t metamorphosed into some fascist dystopia—they just might engage in a little honest, candid, self-criticism. In the meantime, I suggest taking any accusation that Trump is a fascist with caution.

Principles of a Modern Progressive Movement

Bernie Sanders at Lecture

“I’m not a liberal, I’m a progressive,” Bernie Sanders told a high school student in 2003 as he spoke to an assembly about the importance of civic engagement. He added, “There’s a difference.” Twelve years later, he was gearing up to run for president of the United States. He told progressive Democrats, “I have never accepted this nonsense about red states and blue states—in every state of the country there are people who are struggling, and they are on our side. Don’t accept that division. We are the vast majority of people.” Progressives say they might not agree on every subject, but they cite many common interests as human beings and Americans. “Most people want big money out of politics,” Sanders said. “Most Americans do believe that healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and want a national healthcare program.” Sanders also said the majority of Americans believe the current minimum wage is not enough.

Progressives, Sanders included, say the American government has, over the decades, failed to represent the American people. Zachary Boren of The Telegraph wrote an article in 2014 in which he claims the U.S. government does not represent the interests of the majority of American citizens. Instead, says Boren, our country is ruled by the powerful and the wealthy. He believes the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite. Boren cites a peer-reviewed study that is presently being taught at our universities. The study, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, says in part, “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Sanders is concerned. He said, “I am worried that we are moving toward an oligarchic form of society in which a handful of people are not satisfied with controlling most of the wealth. They want to control the government too.” The concentration of immense political power in the hands of a wealthy few is not new in American history.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK Speech

Martin Luther King, Jr. also wanted to fight inequality. He said, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” He added, “Since the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.” It would seem King’s concern was not limited to blacks. He said, “We need an economic bill of rights. This would guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work. It would also guarantee an income for all who are not able to work. Some people are too young, some are too old, some are physically disabled, and yet in order to live, they need income.” He said America’s obsession with the Vietnam War overshadowed the nation’s numerous domestic problems. King added, “We need to put pressure on Congress to get things done. We will do this with first amendment activity. If Congress is unresponsive, we’ll have to escalate in order to keep the issue alive and before it. This action may take on disruptive dimensions, but not violent in the sense of destroying life or property: it will be militant non-violence.”

King said he was frank enough to admit that if the non-violent campaign he put forth did not generate some progress, people would likely engage in more violent activity, including possible guerrilla warfare in the streets of America. He said, “In any event, we will not have been the ones who will have failed. We will place the problems of the poor at the seat of government of the wealthiest nation in the history of mankind. If that power refuses to acknowledge its debt to the poor, it will have failed to live up to its promise to insure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to its citizens. If this society fails, I fear that we will learn very shortly that racism is a sickness unto death.”

King quoted Scripture, noting that the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the third and fourth generations. He said, “Nothing could be more applicable to our situation. America is reaping the harvest of hate and shame planted through generations of educational denial, political disenfranchisement and economic exploitation of its black population… We have, through massive non-violent action, an opportunity to avoid a national disaster and create a new spirit of class and racial harmony. We can write another luminous moral chapter in American history. All of us are on trial in this troubled hour, but time still permits us to meet the future with a clear conscience.”

Progressive Principles

The period of U.S. history from the 1890s to the 1920s is usually referred to as the Progressive Era, which was a period of intense social and political reform aimed at making progress toward a better society. Progressive Era reformers sought to harness the power of the federal government to eliminate unethical and unfair business practices, reduce corruption, and counteract the negative social effects of industrialization. During the Progressive Era, protections for workers and consumers were strengthened, and women finally achieved the right to vote.

The worldview of Progressive reformers was based on certain key assumptions. The first was that human nature could be improved through the enlightened application of regulations, incentives, and punishments. The second key assumption was that the power of the federal government could be harnessed to improve the individual and transform society. These two assumptions were not shared by political conservatives, who tended to believe that human nature was unchanging, and that the federal government should remain limited in size and scope. Interestingly, this mirrors the fight we’re seeing today progressives/liberals and conservatives, especially during the mid-term elections.

Today’s Progressive Agenda

What many of us now consider dangerous and stupid ideas of the past, progressives see as useful in the present. Even liberal historians usually label as disastrous two major decisions made by Franklin D. Roosevelt: the forced internment of Japanese-American citizens following Japan’s attack on U.S. Naval Forces at Pearl Harbor; and the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937—better known as FDR’s “court-packing scheme.” In the latter, FDR wanted desperately to put shackles on the U.S. Supreme Court in order to stave off its interference in FDR’s implementation of the New Deal. He was bothered by the thought of “waiting around” until a justice or two died or retired, so he dreamed up the idea of a new (additional) justice for every sitting judge who had reached the age of 70 years, 6 months, and had not yet retired. In theory, he could pack the court by bringing the total number of justices to fifteen.

Progressives also wish to nullify federal laws by carving out spaces exempt from federal protection. Democrats tried it and failed in the South Carolina nullification crisis of 1832-33 when they sought to render void federal tariff laws. Of course, the soon-to-be Confederate States were more serious, and in 1861 Southern Democrats said federal laws no longer applied to them. Accordingly, this idea of nullification helped spark the Civil War. Governor George Wallace is infamous for his blocking entrance to the University of Alabama in defiance of court-ordered integration. Why am I bringing this up now? That’s because 19th century nullification is at work in the nearly 500 cities that have declared themselves “sanctuaries,” saying they will not comply with federal immigration laws. How do you suppose these city governments would react if conservative cities were to declare federally-protected abortion rights, gun laws, or the endangered species act null and void within their city limits?

Help Wanted White Only

Another dark tradition from America’s past was the institutionalization of segregated spaces on the logic that the victims of discrimination did not deserve the protection of their freedoms under the Constitution simply because of the color of their skin. Yet once again the progressive Left has returned to its roots for inspiration and implemented an entire array of discriminatory practices. Special landscapes on campuses where particular races cannot enter are called “safe” rather than “segregated” spaces. Entry is entirely predicated on outward appearance—although how one’s genealogy is assessed ad hoc poses the same challenges as it once did for the racists of the Old South who came up with the ‘one-drop’ rule (i.e., even one drop of African blood means you are black).

The First Amendment

Freedom to Speak Freely

The Left has resurrected an entire host of once discredited ideas from the nation’s past that reveal the new progressive ethos and remind us why those practices were odious in the first place. A new drive to limit free speech is underway, not just on campuses but also on social media. The effort is almost entirely progressive-driven. We’re told that Christians cannot speak in public about Jesus Christ, or say “Merry Christmas” to patrons of their businesses. We cannot place nativity scenes on courthouse lawns. Someone living on a hillside above town who wishes to display a lighted cross for the Christmas Season is forced to take it down. Further, progressives are trying to steal our right to speak out against the dangers of Islamic extremism, claiming it amounts to hate speech.

Hate itself is not a crime. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” Hate crimes, which can also encompass color, or national origin, are overt acts that can include violence against persons or property, violation of civil rights, conspiracy, or certain “true threats,” or acts of intimidation. The Supreme Court has upheld laws that either criminalize these acts or impose a harsher punishment when it can be proven that the defendant targeted the victim because of the victim’s race, ethnicity, identity, or beliefs.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, however, protects speech no matter how offensive its content. To be clear, the First Amendment does not protect behavior that crosses the line into targeted harassment or threats, or that creates a pervasively hostile environment. But merely offensive or bigoted speech does not rise to that level, and determining when conduct crosses that line is a legal question that requires examination on a case-by-case basis. We cannot necessarily legislate hate out of our lives, especially in a free democratic republic. Politicians cannot fix this country. Only its citizens can figure out what went wrong and do something about it.

A recent federal court case, Matal vs. Tam (2017), heralded the following opinion:

“Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.”

America is not America if we allow the progressive agenda to gag our opinions. Again, merely offensive or bigoted speech is protected speech. It has to be. What we cannot allow is targeted harassment or threats. Maxine Waters (D., 43rd District of California) has taken to the streets inciting progressives and liberals to seek out and harass any Republican leaders or cabinet members who are shopping or dining in public places. She said, “Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Did you get that? They’re not welcome anymore in America where they are free to vote how they see fit, work for whomever they wish, and say what they believe to be true.

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Democrats, both in the North and the South, had been the party of the old plantation. They had fought hard to protect the plantation through the Civil War and had largely successfully blocked Republican Reconstruction. Far from repenting of their long legacy of bigotry and enslavement, the Democrats—especially in the South—were scheming for ways to restore and reinvent the plantation in the twentieth century. Wilson was part of this scheme—a Virginia Democrat who as a young boy had watched in horror as Union armies occupied the South. This had a deep impact on his worldview. American Democracy, in Wilson’s eyes, was not an American creation; rather, it was a racial legacy dating back to the ancient German Teutonic tribes, whom Wilson dubbed the “Aryans.” Wilson credited most achievements in the area of government and social development for democratic self-government, which was essentially an Anglo-Saxon product. Wilson, in short, was an early apostle of the nineteenth century movement to invoke science on behalf of white supremacy.

In 1901, Wilson published an article in the Atlantic Monthly in which he made the case for the segregation laws that the Democratic Party was at the time enacting throughout the South. Free blacks, Wilson argued, were “unpracticed in liberty, unschooled in self-control; never sobered by the discipline of self-support, never established in any habit of prudence… insolent and aggressive; sick of work, covetous of pleasure.” Obviously they needed segregation, Wilson concluded, because otherwise they would be “a danger to themselves as well as to those whom they had once served.”

Wilson was almost single-handedly responsible for the national revival of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that had been defunct since the 1870s. Wilson also segregated the federal government and promoted vicious schemes of forced sterilization of racial minorities. These schemes later surfaced during the reign of Hitler and the Nazis. Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, said that Wilson was “the most racist president of the twentieth century.” He notes the following regarding modern usage of the term fascist:

“In short, ‘fascist’ is a modern word for ‘heretic,’ branding an individual worthy of excommunication from the body politic. The left uses other words—’racist,’ ‘sexist,’ ‘homophobe,’ ‘christianist’—for similar purposes, but these words have less elastic meanings. Fascism, however, is the gift that keeps on giving. George Orwell noted this tendency as early as 1946 in his famous essay ‘Politics and the English Language.’ The word fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies something not desirable.”

Concluding Remarks

Progressivism is inherently hostile to moderation because, in the eyes of a progressive, progress is an unmitigated good. There cannot be too much of it. Progressivism contributes to the polarization and paralysis of government because it makes compromise, which entails accepting less progress, not merely inadvisable but irrational. Even when progressives choose their targets strategically—Hillary Clinton, for example, called herself “a progressive who likes to get things done”—the implication is that progress is the fundamental goal and that its opponents are antagonistic to social progress. Progressives believe because progress is an unadulterated good, it supersedes the rights of its opponents. This is evident in progressive indifference to the rights of those who oppose progressive policies in areas like sexual liberation, same-sex marriage, and abortion. Who hasn’t heard it said that conservatives are stuck in the past?

Where liberalism seeks to reduce economic injustice, progressivism’s goal is to eradicate it. Daniel Patrick Moynihan recognized this difference between Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which he always supported—as exemplified by his opposition to Clinton-era welfare reform—and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which he sympathetically criticized. The New Deal alleviated poverty by cutting checks, something the government loves to do, although liberals and conservatives typically argue over the size of the checks. The Great Society partook more of a progressive effort to remake society by eradicating poverty’s causes. The result, which most progressives are unwilling to admit, was the diversion of resources from welfare and jobs to “community action” programs that financed political activism.