The Great Rediscovery of American Values - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Great Rediscovery of American Values

August, 2012.

The Great Rediscovery is in the headlines:

Senate Candidate in Texas is Known as an Intellectual Force The New York Times

Romney: Media trying to ‘divert’ from real issues with focus on foreign gaffes.”

Romney praises Poland as model of economic liberty

To borrow from Bob Dylan: “The times, they are ‘a changin'”

There is no accident in all the headlines cited above, you know.

America is in the midst of the next chapter in what Ronald Reagan called “the great rediscovery” of American values.

And the Other Side knows it. Which is why the aroma of desperation that emanates ever more distinctly from Team Obama and its media allies.

Let’s take the eagle eye view here, shall we? From about, oh, September 14th of 1901 until today, August 2nd of 2012.

On September 14, 1901, William McKinley’s popular Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became president with McKinley’s sudden death at the hands of, ironically, a leftist man of anarchy named Leon Czolgosz.

With that accident of history, the first of America’s “progressive” presidents moved into the White House. A century-plus of “progressivism” was launched, its political tide ebbing on occasion (the Harding-Coolidge years) but increasingly flowing with all the force of the Atlantic in the grip of an endless series of hurricanes. From TR to Woodrow Wilson to Herbert Hoover (yes, myths aside, Hoover was a “progressive Republican”) and on to FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society, the color of America’s political waters ran from blue to bluer to bluest. Whether elected or appointed Republicans (the moderately blue Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford), there was, seemingly, no way to stop the whirlwind.

The first effort to seriously put a halt to all of this was, of course, Barry Goldwater’s 1964 nomination. Goldwater’s loss became the ultimate victory — the first serious step forward for the conservative resistance. It was here to stay. By 1980, the Reagan Revolution had begun.

The mistake made by some was to think the Reagan Revolution was somehow over. It wasn’t. As Ronald Reagan was the first to say, Reagan himself was not a “Great Communicator” because of his personal skills. He won the affectionate nickname because, as he said, he “communicated great things.”

Those “great things” are at their core utterly American. Said Reagan in his Farewell Address:

They called it the “Reagan Revolution.” Well, I’ll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense. 

The great rediscovery of our values — American values — and common sense. American common sense.

It is precisely this “great rediscovery” that finally is beginning to give conservatives the edge over progressives. Why?

Because the progressive movement is at base a foreign — which is to say “non-American” — idea that had zero to do with America’s founding principles based on English liberty.

Our friends at National Review devoted the considerable part of an issue back in December of 2009 to “The Four Horsemen of Progressivism: The Men Who Created Our World.”

In four articles by NR‘s Jonah Goldberg, the University of Dallas’s associate professor of politics Tiffany Jones Miller, Bradley C.S. Watson (of, respectively, St. Vincent College, the Claremont Institute and the Ashbrook Center), and the Manhattan Institute’s Fred Siegel — the political creation of progressivism was put under the microscope.

Using four men the group collectively considered as what we might call progressivism’s “founding fathers” — exploring how America got here from there. “There” being late 19th and early 20th century America.

Their careful analysis can provide for a considerable understanding of today’s political headlines from the Ted Cruz victory in Texas to the Romney remarks on Palestine and Poland. Not to mention the polls showing Romney on the verge of upending Obama’s progressive presidency.

First, the “Four Horsemen of Progressivism.”

  • · Richard Ely — A professor at both the John Hopkins University and the University of Wisconsin from the 1890s forward.
  • · John Dewey — A graduate of John Hopkins who taught at both the University of Chicago and Columbia University.
  • · Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. — Holmes was, famously, a Theodore Roosevelt appointee as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • · Herbert Croly — A progressive activist who founded the New Republic magazine.

Ely, wrote Goldberg, laid the foundation on which is built today’s “house of contemporary liberalism.” Ely “wrote dozens of books, on monopoly, taxation, land use and urban reform, and several standard texts on general economics.”

But politically speaking in today’s climate, a fact of progressive history that would doubtless pack political punch if better understood, Ely was a “leader of the new generation of German-trained or-inspired Ph.D.s” — who began his teaching career at John Hopkins. That would be the John Hopkins that was, in Goldberg’s words, “conceived as a German-style institution in 1881.”

Which is to say, Ely was what we might call today a Europhile. A political trait vastly popular still today among American progressives (does the name Barack Obama ring a bell?) who are correctly accused of wanting to turn the U.S. into a European-style socialist state. Without doubt Ely’s most famous student when teaching at Johns Hopkins was a young Woodrow Wilson, while he counted among his ardent fans others such as Teddy Roosevelt and Wisconsin’s Governor Robert La Follette Sr.

John Dewey spent a half-century in American academia after leaving what Jones calls “the seedbed of progressive academia” that was Johns Hopkins. Dewey’s entire career was devoted to progressive principles that were obtained from a school of thought that was, says Jones, “an academic phenomenon far removed from American politics.” Jones cites the progressive Charles Merriam as approvingly citing the “intoxicating effect of the undiluted Hegelian philosophy upon the American mind” or, back to Jones, progressivism “articulated a critique of America that was as deep as it was wide. It began with a conscious rejection of the American founding and the promotion of a new understanding of freedom, history, and the state in their stead.”

Meanwhile, over on the Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Holmes was deeply taken with all of this. Says Watson: “Holmes set forth the essence of progressivism as a legal theory…”. And did it using his power as a Justice. Which meant a member of the Court was using his constitutional perch to lead “the charge to eradicate judicial reasoning that was based on principles of natural law or natural rights” that were central to the founding of America.

Last but not least in all this was Herbert Croly. Writer Siegel calls Croly and his fellow progressives “America’s Bismarcks.” “To achieve a better future,” said Croly, Americans had to be “emancipate[d] from their past.” Which is to say the American founding principles as put forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution should be jettisoned in favor of a Bismarckian-style nation “placed under skilled professional leadership” with other “special lines of work… subordinated to its particular place in a comprehensive scheme of national economy.”

The latter, of course, is precisely the thinking behind both Obamacare and the Obama stimulus.

The shorthand here, politically speaking?

Progressivism now stands in the historical dock as a foreign faith — a decidedly non-American (or, if you like, un-American) belief system. After 111 years of progressivism, with America now awash in the inevitable results of massive debt and obsessive government interference in every crack and crevice of American life — with Obamacare looming — the country is in open rebellion. A rebellion that is specifically about the “great rediscovery” of American values — precisely as Ronald Reagan suggested.

The political impact of this is easy to see — and the Obamaites see it all too clearly. Hence the ferocity and or impulsive stupidity of their attacks on Romney for Bain or his dog or his wife’s horse and so on.

Ted Cruz won the Republican nomination for Senator in Texas because Texas Republicans have had it with a GOP Establishment that was acceding to what they understand instinctively are the decidedly foreign values of the progressive movement. Values that have no relationship to the founding principles of America.

The Obama media is trying to make Mitt Romney into a gaffe-prone idiot because they understand in spades that his message on the culture of free markets in Israel is in fact a threat to the socialist culture that has combined with a messianic violence in not only Palestine but throughout the Arab world. Mr. Romney has wisely and bluntly spoken the truth about Palestine’s real culture and it has nothing to do with being Palestinian. (He also correctly called Jerusalem the capital of Israel — a decidedly unpopular truth with progressives.)

And American progressives certainly have no tolerance for former Polish President Lech Walesa — a onetime union leader who was famously a Reagan ally — giving Polish kudos to Romney. Kudos? Walesa, who invited Romney to Poland, essentially endorsed the Republican. Running as far away from the American progressive values that for decades acquiesced in his country’s submission to the Soviet Union.

Said Lech to Mitt:

I wish you to be successful because the success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe as well and to the rest of the world, too. So, Gov. Romney, get your success, be successful.

Catch that?

Again: “I wish you to be successful because the success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe as well and to the rest of the world….”

Which is to say, Lech Walesa believes American values…..the values Ronald Reagan hailed when he spoke of his time in office as a “great rediscovery” of American values….are necessary for the success of Europe and the rest of the world.

What’s happening in America — whether in 2012 in Texas with Ted Cruz, Wisconsin with Scott Walker, Israel and Poland with Mitt Romney, or 2010 in the GOP landslide — is an open rebellion against 111 years of progressive politics. A furious revolt against the deliberate injection of decidedly non-American values into the body politic.

Americans are insisting on the “great rediscovery” of American values that were central to the success of the Reagan presidency. Not to mention the values that were at the core of America’s founding itself.

They are voting for everybody from Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio (Latinos both, it should be added) to Mitt Romney and on and on because they understand instinctively that the great foreign experiment with their lives that was and is the progressive movement has failed.

From the staggering debt to the massive size of the federal behemoth that sits astride the Potomac to the vast governmental intrusions into their personal lives — they have had enough.

Halting and overturning all of this is a long term proposition.

But as the results of the latest election in Texas show quite clearly — the times they are a’changin’.

The great rediscovery of American values and common sense that Ronald Reagan spoke about continues.

Can you say Senator Ted Cruz?

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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