Political Editors / July 14, 2021

In Brief: Defounding America

Myron Magnet traces the leftist movement’s takeover of the American government.

In a timely exposé, Myron Magnet follows the origins of the Left’s so-called progressive movement in America and how it has led directly to the massive ideology divide the nation is now experiencing. Magnet writes:

To gauge how unbridgeable the gulf is that divides the American Left from the Right, rewind to February 19, 2009, when those who eventually elected Donald Trump first made their voices heard. As Washington jury-rigged fixes for the Great Financial Crisis, the cnbc broadcaster Rick Santelli shouted across the Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor, “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?” The Merc traders roared their televised veto across the land.

Their cry was more visceral than a policy disagreement. The traders, self-made men, had worked hard for what they had and scorned having their taxes hiked to save homebuyers with imprudently high mortgages from foreclosure. “This is America!” Santelli urged, and what the new Obama administration was doing was un-American. Didn’t the Founding Fathers establish the federal government to guarantee one’s freedom to better one’s condition, and to protect the property one industriously earns — not to redistribute it?

Magnet traces the beginning of the transition away from originalism to Woodrow Wilson and his doctrine of a “living constitution.” This was the key concept that essentially served to free the federal government and specifically the Supreme Court from the constraints of the Constitution.

The Framers’ Constitution was body-snatched by the doctrine of the “living constitution,” which — as Woodrow Wilson first formulated it — saw the Supreme Court sitting as a permanent Constitutional Convention, making up laws as it went along, heedless of the 1787 scheme’s checks. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal used Wilson’s doctrine as a license to remake America’s economy and society. Once the Supreme Court buckled to FDR’s threat to pack it and started voting his way, the justices allowed an utterly foreign governmental structure to devour the Framers’ republic from within, until it broke out of the shell as something altogether different.

Under FDR and his New Deal framework, the federal government effectively took regulatory control of the American economy, which of course included the authority to redistribute wealth.

Roosevelt had at least paid lip-service to the blessings of liberty, and he recognized that “[c]ontinued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber.” It is “a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.” That’s why he structured such relief programs as the Works Progress Administration as workfare systems — simulacra of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wages.

With Wilson and Roosevelt came the first stage of the transformation of America into a redistributionist welfare state. Lyndon B. Johnson brought about the second stage with his War on Poverty.

The War on Poverty’s centerpiece, aimed to forge what LBJ dubbed the “Great Society,” was the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That law took up the work of Reconstruction, aborted by two bizarre 1870s Supreme Court decisions that shredded the protections of the Bill of Rights against state-government infringement with which the Fourteenth Amendment had aimed to protect freed blacks, protection further shredded by the Court’s 1892 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that separate public facilities for the races were constitutional, if of equal quality. Thereafter, black Southerners had no legal shield against a century’s worth of Jim Crow oppression, or against state literacy tests that nullified the Fifteenth Amendment’s grant of black voting rights. Nearly 400,000 Union soldiers had died to fulfill the Founders’ promise of equality before the law for all Americans — and this was the result?

The third stage of the progressive revolution began with the culture war in the 1960s — a war on America’s founding values and identity. Today it continues with the “anti-racism” movement via Critical Race Theory and its “systemic racism” lie.

The lie of systemic racism will become the official government line for the next four years. In the same Executive Order, Biden abolished Trump’s 1776 Commission of distinguished scholars, whose report politely trashed the 1619 Project and reminded Americans that our nation, unlike others, began by reflection and choice rather than by accident or force, as Alexander Hamilton wrote, and that it began with a magnificent assertion that all men are equal before the law and equally endowed with rights that government exists to protect and can’t infringe. But Biden’s executive order, “Advancing Racial Equity,” replaces the luminous truth that the American Founding was a signal triumph of the Western Enlightenment with the claptrap that our country was conceived in slavery and dedicated to the principle of systemic racism.

So, what are conservatives to do? Magnet answers:

Today’s conservatives should start with Stop! Stop the lies about the Founding, which — with the Civil War, the Reconstruction Amendments, and the Nineteenth Amendment to complete the Founders’ vision — is the most luminously perfect governmental contrivance in imperfect human history. Stop the lies about systemic racism. There is no plot to keep blacks poor, no police pogrom against blacks. Black progress now depends on blacks, though the idea that it rests on continued government manipulation of the economy, society, and culture is the creed that legitimates Democratic Party power and keeps the salaries flowing for the mansion-dwelling congressfolk and the critical race theory trainers, ethnic-studies professors, diversity deans, human-resources apparatchiks, media scolds, social-justice bureaucrats, and business people ready to take any line that pleases — all of whom profit from intentions rather than results. The Trump administration never managed to drain this swamp, which the Biden administration adds to daily. Conservatism’s crucial first labor of the Herculean cleansing that lies ahead is to finish this task, mindful always of the grievance that sparked the Boston Tea Party, the American Revolution, and the modern Tea Party: the power to tax is the power to steal.

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