Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mike Lux is light on history

by Smitty

I was at the Woodbridge, VA Tea Party today. Surrounded by conservatives, in fact. So I peeked at the Google Reader during a lull on my cell phone. Here is a Huffington Post article by Mike Lux, pushing his book "The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be".
His bio on the HuffComPost, empahsis mine:
Michael Lux is the co-founder and CEO of Progressive Strategies, L.L.C., a political consulting firm founded in 1999, focused on strategic political consulting for non-profits, labor unions, PACs and progressive donors. Previously, he was Senior Vice President for Political Action at People For the American Way (PFAW), and the PFAW Foundation, and served at the White House from January 1993 to mid-1995 as a Special Assistant to the President for Public Liaison. While at Progressive Strategies, Lux has founded, and currently chairs a number of new organizations and projects, including American Family Voices, the Progressive Donor Network, and Lux serves on the boards of several other organizations including the Arca Foundation, Americans United for Change, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, Center for Progressive Leadership, Democratic Strategist, Grassroots Democrats, Progressive Majority and Women’s Voices/Women Vote.
In November of 2008, Mike was named to the Obama-Biden Transition Team. In that role, he served as an advisor to the Public Liaison on dealings with the progressive community and has helped shape the office of Public Liaison based on his past experience working on the Clinton-Gore Transition, as well as in the White House.

I, for one, am blown away by the authors chops as an historian. Back to his attempt to peddle his book:
progressives should take special pride in this holiday, for it was the ultimate achievement of progressive values that brought us this day.

Right. From Wikipedia, emphasis mine:
Progressivism is a political and social term that refers to ideologies and movements favoring or advocating changes or reform, usually in a statist or egalitarian direction for economic policies (government management) and liberal direction for social policies (personal choice). Progressivism is often viewed in opposition to conservative ideologies.
In the United States, the term progressive emerged in the late 19th century into the 20th century in reference to a more general response to the vast changes brought by industrialization.

As you watch the Obama Administration trainwreck pile up, the term "egalitarian" seems a jape, and "statist" seems to mean something akin to "banal Chicago thugocracy", as Scare Force One is followed by the IG-Gate is followed by the Imaginary Legislation (HR-2454), etc.
Interestingly, the Revolutionary War began in the 1770's, about 100 years ahead of the chronological birth of Progressivism.
Wikipedia also has a page specifically on Progressivism in the US. Let's peek at that, to guage what affinity the Declaration of Independence, American Revolution, and Constitution may have with Progressivism:
1 Tenets of early United States progressivism
  • 1.1 Democracy--"Progressives such as William U'Ren and Robert La Follette argued that the average person should have more control over their government."
  • 1.2 Municipal Administration--"There were many changes introduced into municipal administration during the Progressive Era in the 1880s and 1890's. These changes led to a more structured system, power that the centralized within the legislature would now be more locally focused."
  • 1.3 Efficiency
  • 1.4 Regulation of large corporations and monopolies
  • 1.5 Social justice
  • 1.6 Conservationism
1.1 and 1.2 are hilarious in the modern context. Average person having more control, or even...involvement? Look at what happens to someone with a Journalism degree from a Western school with the temerity to accept a Vice Presidential nomination. Locally focused? Where locally is defined to mean "within the Beltway", sure.
1.3, 1.4, and 1.6 were certainly not concerns of the 1770s. And Social Justice? Amar's book spends a great deal of time talking about the lengths to which the Constitutional language went to avoid the fact that its Social Justice aims were just a trifle narrow. Oh, I weasel-worded that! The Constitution enshrined slavery, front and center, with overtly farcical elements like the Three-Fifths Compromise. Social Justice waits the better part of a century, for Amendments 13-15 to acquire legal adequacy. Almost another century later, the Civil Rights Movement gets us most of the way there. There are still elements of DNA-based decision hanging around in the form of Affirmative Action. What can I say? Evil dies hard.
Back to Lux:
the Tories who opposed American independence were the conservatives of their day.
Does this mean that modern conservatives are Royalists, secretly plotting the restoration of the House of Windsor as American sovereigns?
Our progressive revolutionary founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine argued that we should "make the world new again."
One is nearly tempted to waste time on this wretched book of Lux's to see him dance around Jefferson's slave ownership. Admire the man's achievements and contributions, but don't whitewash the truth and call him progressive just because he "felt bad" about being a slaveholder.
Oh, I think I perceive a counter-argument: your definition of Progressive has progressed to the point where it means "basically anything with which Mike Lux agrees at the moment".
And make no mistake: the ideas we take for granted today were truly radical in 1776.
Hey, check out this idea that was as radical in 1791 as it was in 2009:
Amendment 10: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Let me unveil a counter theory: American independence is about the freedom of the individual, and finding ways to delegate enough power at differing levels to differing branches of government to accomplish tasks with minimal risk of tyranny.
Progressivism, like labor unions, had an important historical place. However, organizational behavior has kicked in. The leadership of the country, Democratic and Republican Party alike, has quaffed this progressive kool-aid and quietly moved in the direction of aristocracy. If you don't know the proper people, have the proper accent, haven't attended the proper schools, and, perhaps most importantly, ponied up sufficient money, then you are nothing.
Lux tries to use the Declaration of Independence as a fig leaf:
deriving their just power from the consent of the governed
To which the Woodbridge, VA Tea Party replies:

(Sorry about the spelling error. Completely invalidates the point, no? And, clearly, we need a funding increase at the DOE to help Joe Teabag with his learnin'.)
This is one book where the one-star review is probably most accurate:
The author tries that old canard of equating modern liberals with classical liberals like the Founding Fathers. Never mind the fact that modern liberals are the exact opposite. He claims that progressives fought for things like the Declaration of Independence, against the Conservative Tories. However, most of the "progressive" things that we have today were exactly what the Tories supported and the more classical liberal citizens wanted. Most modern-day "progressives" despised the idea of "individual rights", hence famous progressives like John Dewey who absolutely despised homeschoolers. Let us not forget that throughout the twentieth century, many progressives looked starry-eyed on the Soviet Union as well. Many still do.

Teach piles on.


  1. "Oh, I think I perceive a counter-argument: your definition of Progressive has progressed to the point where it means 'basically anything with which Mike Lux agrees at the moment.'"

    Must be convenient to be a liberal and have the ability to redefine reality and history to fit your personal opinions with no sense of shame. I'm not sure why the intellectual dishonesty surprises me, but it always does, just a little bit.

  2. Smitty1E,

    Remember July 3, 2009 -- the day the Left killed the idea of Cincinnatus in American life.

    The Left believes in the People as long as they don't try to rise above their station.

    Yes, we campaign on that in 2010.

  3. I'm a bit too hungover at the moment to do any research myself, but does Lux's book dive into eugenics, prohibition, and other swell ideas that progressives have had over the years?

  4. @Nixon,
    Sorry to hear about the hangover. For a glance at the editorial reviews, those who claim to have read the book may still be blotto.

  5. Haha, thanks for the laugh Smitty. The sycophant reviewers are certainly wasted on their own sense of self-righteousness.

  6. From Woodrow Wilson Star Progressive

    For it is clear in fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same.

    Read the whole thing at

    Mr. Lux is simply following the same line of thinking.

    Please note that Teddy Roosevelt was not of the same mind as Wilson. Many lump the two together. They should not be.

  7. The Progressive Party in the United Stats was created by a split in the Republican Party in 1912. Teddy Roosevelt believed in standing up to American trusts and cartels, fighting for workers against corporate abuses, women's suffrage, welfare for women and children, and inheritance taxes. Much like Lincoln, TR believed in the struggle for human dignity. Teddy's progressive ideals were rejected by the conservative bloc in the Republican party and found a home in the Democratic Party.

  8. A- friggin'-men, Mr. Comlish

  9. @Greg,
    Teddy's progressive ideals were rejected by the conservative bloc in the Republican party and found a home in the Democratic Party.
    Except the part where they've largely been incorporated by the explicitly Progressive and centrist GOP, sure.
    Hence the fact that John McCain ignored state governments entirely at the presidential debates in discussing what to do about the housing crisis: Federalism is a tragically moot concept inside the Beltway.