The View From 1776

Syria In Historical Perspective

Robert Curry looks at what Walter Lippmann called the acids of modernity, the corrosive effect of liberal-progressivism on our national ethos.

It Took A Century To Get America To The Syria Mess
By Robert Curry
1912 was the turning point.
That year the race for President was a 4-way contest—Taft the Republican, Teddy Roosevelt the candidate of the Progressive Party, Wilson the Democrat, and Eugene Debs the Socialist. 
The previous 4-way was 1860, the year Lincoln was elected.  (Lincoln, Douglas, Bell, Breckinridge.)  That was a turning point too.  The election of 1860 settled the slavery question, the challenge that was beyond the reach of the Founders when they crafted the Constitution.  The southerners of the Confederacy rejected the Declaration’s self-evident truths (especially “Jefferson’s folly” that all men are created equal) and made war on the Constitution.  Lincoln, elected by less than a majority, saved the Union and preserved the Constitution.
In 1912 the Confederacy got its revenge.  The rebel Southerners, essentially all Democrats, had failed to overturn the Constitution by force of arms.  But Woodrow Wilson was a southerner and a segregationist who also rejected the principles of the Declaration and who was also an avowed foe of the Constitution, this time in the name of Progressivism.   Wilson’s election put a Progressive in the Oval Office for the first time.  It was not to be the last time.
Here is what Wilson had to say about the Constitution:

“Justly revered as our great Constitution is, it could be stripped off and thrown aside like a garment, and the nation would still stand forth in the living vestment of flesh and sinew, warm with the heart-blood of one people, ready to recreate constitutions and laws.”         
Justly revered, but not by Wilson who was keen to throw it aside and start over.
And here he is on the philosophy of the Founders, as expressed in the Declaration:

“No doubt a great deal of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle…”
1912 began the century-long march by the Progressive Democrats to re-write the Constitution (often by simply ignoring it) and to fundamentally transform America.  Today the once-limited federal government is in charge of nearly everything—health care, mortgages, a mandatory and bankrupt retirement system for the citizenry, student loans, even street signs in New York City.  (Yes, the feds forced N.Y. to spend badly-needed millions to replace all the street signs to meet new “federal standards.”)
Exactly one-half way through the century the Democrats added another de-stabilizing precedent to the mix.  In 1960, America elected a charming, handsome playboy.   Ike in the Oval Office was by his mere presence a powerful deterrent of America’s foes. Suddenly, that changed.  Krushchev knew Kennedy was a playboy and believed Kennedy was a cream-puff.  Kennedy felt the need to convince Krushchev that he was tough.  That got us Vietnam.
In 2012, America re-elected another handsome celebrity President whose presence in the Oval Office does not deter America’s foes.  Instead, it actually appears to embolden them.  And thanks to Progressive policies, America is broke.
America has made some unwise choices in the past century. The only question—one which time will surely answer—is how great the cost is going to be.