Are Progressives “Liberal”?

I have been teaching the progressive movement in college classes for over two decades.

Progressives always had one goal: power.

They were born in the Deep North and found a political home in the early Republican Party. They were also smart.

Progressives thought locally and acted locally, particularly in the late 19th century when the movement seemed dead.

You see, “national” politicos thought they killed the movement in the 1890s. Conservatives Grover Cleveland and William McKinley won the presidency in 1892 and 1896 respectively.

Progressives appeared to be shut out. They never are. Progressives are the most aggressive political thugs in American politics. They never quit.

Why? Power.

By 1900, the Republicans placed an open progressive, Teddy Roosevelt, on the ticket with McKinley, and when he was assassinated in 1901, progressives had their man in office.

That didn’t matter as much, because for the preceding two decades, progressives had transformed State politics by running for local office and joining local civic organizations.

National election victories were great, but controlling the States was even better. This didn’t mean they had success everywhere, but they were able to make some gains in virtually every section in America, even in the South.

Thus, when Hillary Clinton announced in 2008 that she was a “progressive”, it seemed American politics had come full circle.

You see, Wilson and Roosevelt damaged the term in the early 20th century with open attacks on business and troubling American involvement in European wars. Coupled with the growth of communism–they too were progressive–along with Hitler’s and Mussolini’s open embrace of the term–and progressivism again seemed dead.

Along came the “liberal.” Liberals were just people interested in free speech and free ideas. They loved capitalism but wanted to trim its abuses. They were also anti-communist.

Except they clung to much of the same dogma as progressives.

By the 1980s and 1990s, Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich had made liberal a dirty word, and so progressives just went back to calling themselves what they had always been.

This doesn’t sit well with “moderates” on the left. They miss the days of being called a liberal.

All of this is fascinating, for it shows that the left’s “big tent” isn’t really that big.

At the same time, both “liberals” and “progressives” think government should expand and use it’s considerable muscle to control American society.

Again, power.

This all made for great Podcast fodder. I discuss the terms on Episode 904 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Has the Middle Class Been Forgotten?

In 1883, sociologist William Graham Sumner coined the term “The Forgotten Man” in a lecture at the Long Island Historical Society in Brooklyn, New York.

This lecture was later published with a collection of essays after his death in 1910.

Sumner correctly argued that the American middle class was being squeezed by those at the top and those at the bottom. Those at the top received government welfare through subsidies and what we generally call “corporate welfare,” while those at the bottom gained through government handouts.

The middle class paid for it all without receiving any tangible benefits.

Socialists would argue that government created jobs were the benefit, but most Americans don’t work for the government, even if so much of our economy is subsidized. The percentage of Americans receiving government benefits in any form in 1883 was far lower than today.

This is the disconnect in American society and why so many Americans in the middle class have become disillusioned politically.

Why keep voting for someone else to grab their paycheck?

Additionally, decades of government subsides for the top and bottom have eroded American culture. Consumerism, cancel culture, wokism, corporatism, etc., have atomized and secularized American society.

Middle class Americans feel lost because they work hard, pay their bills, do the right thing, even when it hurts, while they watch those at the top and bottom skirt the same system. White middle class Americans feel the pinch even more, as the establishment media hammers the “systemic white supremacist” narrative while promoting an agenda at odds with traditional American societal norms. Just take a peak at the Christmas trinkets at your local big box store or the casting for any Netflix, Disney, or frankly any modern television or movie production, including commercials or major sporting events.

The agenda does not line up with the primary audience.

Better clothes and more things doesn’t make anyone happy long term. Comfortable, yes, but not happy.

Sumner focused almost entirely on the economic ramifications of the warfare State, but the warfare State has also created the social justice State.

If Jefferson and the Old Republicans rightly feared the fusion of government and finance capital, modern middle class Americans should worry about the three-headed hydra of government, finance capital, and corporate society along with their willing proponents on the federal bench.

The warfare social justice State would not exist without the federal courts.

Of course, this all makes for great Podcast fodder, so I attempt to answer the question, “Is the Middle Class Forgotten” on episode 903 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Why Don’t Americans Want to Join the Military?

Young Americans are refusing the join the military. In fact, for several years in a row, the military has fallen short of its recruitment goals.

The question is why.

Newsweek provided some answers, and surprisingly, were generally spot on.

But they missed the larger picture. We take it for granted that the United States needs a standing army over nearly 1 million men and women.

The United States spend more money on the military than the next ten countries combined.

It has become a huge industry and it makes people like Nimrata Haley rich. It also provides jobs, which is why Republicans keep the money flowing into their districts. Of course, it’s been this way since St. Abraham’s war on the South. He had to pay people just to fill out the Union ranks for much of the war.

In other words, it’s just another version of government welfare, only you could die to receive it, particularly when the United States has boots on the ground in 178 countries. That’s over 150,000 soldiers in over 750 foreign bases, and this doesn’t count off the books activity like CIA destabilization operations.

To put that in perspective, when the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, it had roughly 125,000 men in the standing army.

That number ballooned to over 4 million during the war, and while Congress disbanded much of the regular army in 1920, it never reduced it to prewar strength, and since World War II, the United States standing army has never fallen below about 1 million soldiers.

It’s amazing what a progressive foreign policy will do.

To “keep the world safe for democracy”, fight totalitarians abroad, contain communism, and destroy an “axis of evil,” Americans have shed a lot of blood and been soaked for trillions of dollars.

It has also allowed for massive social engineering. Military recruitment has gone woke, and so their efforts to draw new soldiers from generally conservative families and groups is now broke.

Young Americans are wondering why they should go fight and die for an American empire that does not support them. And those that are already woke won’t fight for a racist, sexist, bigoted society.

Leftism is a disease worse than cancer. It cannot be destroyed, never goes into remission, and the prognosis is always fatal.

But the issue provided good Podcast fodder, so I cover it on Episode 901 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

African Founders and Albion’s Seed

I’ve often been asked a variation of the same question:

“If you had to choose one American history book to recommend, what would it be?”

The answer is simple: David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed.

I don’t make this suggestion lightly. There are other fascinating and important works to consider, but Fischer presents a compelling tale of early American culture that cannot be ignored.

Culture matters, and Fischer explains that white American society has never been a monolithic “nation” in the traditional sense.

Albion’s Seed empirically verifies John Taylor of Caroline’s argument that saying there is an “America for Americans” is like saying there is a “Utopian for Utopians.”

Southern exploration of cultural divergence in nineteenth century America was no mere rhetorical exercise. “White” had a cultural undertone defined by region and origin.

The Virginia elite may have found common cause against the British with their Puritan neighbors in Massachusetts, but their widely antagonistic folkways were destined to produce conflict once the common enemy in George III was banished from American society.

Jefferson’s desire to protect Southern boys from the “dark Federalist mills of the North” recognized culture more than politics.

This made federalism the natural cornerstone of American society. And it worked for a few decades until the innovations of the “nationalists” destroyed the uneasy truce between the States.

But if white American society could never rally around a common set of folkways, what about black Americans?

Race seemed to allow for the establishment of a rigid social order in America. Without hereditary aristocracy, the yeoman or mechanic could easily mix with the merchant or planter, but not so for for slave or the free black American who was readily identified by his skin tone, even in the North. Jim Crow was, in fact, born in New England.

White Americans bristled at less desirable Europeans entering the United States. Catholic Irish faced as much opposition in Northern cities as free blacks from the South when they arrived in New York City. But whereas Europeans could, perhaps, hide their cultural identity, black Americans could not. Race created a simplistic dichotomy, at least for political purposes, and therefore for centuries, historians, journalists, and politicos have tended to treat the black American population as a static and monolithic set of victims of “systemic white supremacy” without agency.

This has resulted in the 1619 Project and a growing demand for reparations.

Thorough studies of slavery bucked those trends, most importantly Roll, Jordan, Roll by Eugene Genovese, but even he treated the American black population as a “nation within a nation.”

Race mattered more than culture.

David Hackett Fischer has corrected this problem. His latest book, African Founders, applies the same empirical analysis to black America as Albion’s Seed. He even classifies this book as a companion to that study.

Fischer weaves the main themes of Albion’s Seed through black American society, and by default creates a different racial narrative.

Africa is a continent with regional and cultural diversity, and Americans knew it, even when purchasing slaves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In other words, “African-American” has as much meaning as “European American.” Both terms fail to recognize important regional identity.

Black Americans in Virginia differed from those in South Carolina, just as white Americans in North Carolina differed from those in Connecticut.

And even within States, black Americans boatmen who lived around the Chesapeake Bay watershed had little in common with those who lived and worked in the rest of Virginia.

Like Genovese in Roll, Jordan, Roll, Fischer emphasizes that these cultures were not always forced from the top, but rather brought from their respective homes in Africa, and in many ways contributed to American society as much as imported British folkways, particularly in the South where Fischer argues that black American leadership developed in earnest. Regional white American culture influenced black Americans, for example Quaker conceptions of “reciprocal liberty” filtered into Pennsylvania black society, but black Americans formed their own cultural identities.

The earliest slaves in this region arrived from modern Nigeria, and unlike their counterparts from other areas of the African West Coast had differing notions of power and liberty. In other words, they were not as docile as those eventually brought to the lower South.

He does identify some elements of African culture–speech, music, and religion–that crossed regions and individual customs, but like in Albion’s Seed, those broad cultural traits were secondary to the important regional black American cultural norms.

Fischer presents this material to spark questions in an effort to understand, not as a polemic or a critique. That is true job of the historian. In his mind, the work offers a bridge between the positive Whig histories that dominated the profession for decades and the more recent negative efforts of modern historians which can only be described as “useful” stories of past oppression and written in order to spark “activism.”

If his conclusions are accurate in both books, then the entire basis of a monolithic black or white American society needs a reexamination. Furthermore, such an analysis tends to promote reconciliation and continuity rather than conflict, a position typically lost in modern American society.

Like the 1619 Project, Fischer would seem to agree that black Americans believed in a “proposition nation” that was rejected by most Americans until the middle of the War for Southern Independence. In fact, Fischer suggests that black American notions of freedom have been more readily adopted in the modern era than earlier British patterns. But unlike the 1619 Project, his story of black American society is one of strength and innovation, not victim-hood and oppression.

In the end, African Founders presents a picture of American history at odds with modern scholarship and therefore demands review, study, and critique, but in a profession that now lacks much of the academic rigor that drove the publication of this work, the question becomes, will anyone care? Judging by the generally frosty reception by the establishment profession, probably not. Reconciliation doesn’t sell for loud mouthed, snarky activists.

I discuss Fischer’s new book on Episode 900 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

The Government Can

Back in 2009, the comedian Tim Hawkins created a funny little tune titled “The Government Can“.

It went viral for a time–as good as it could get in 2009–but the point was simple.

The government can do anything it wants.

Why? Because the Supreme Court said so, that’s why.

Don’t you know history, McClanahan?

You see, the Supreme Court has been expanding the powers of the general government beyond their limitations since 1793. Now it’s almost a rubber stamp, and when it’s not, the progressives want to abolish the Court.

Funny how that works. When these petulant children don’t have their toys, they scream and cry until the bad parent gives them back.

The toys, of course, are the keys to the federal government.

But we all know how the government works: waste, corruption, hypocrisy, unaccountability, etc.

Take for example a recent study that found that 80% of federal office space is unoccupied. Of course taxpayers are still paying for it, because if the government agencies had to fix this problem, it would cost millions of dollars more.

And they can’t just cut their budgets. How would they have enough paper pushers to survive?

What if all of this non-essential office space is being held for non-essential workers? That’s a novel thought.

It made for good Podcast fodder, so I discuss the nature of federal bureaucracy on Episode 895 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

What is the Greatest Threat to America?

I like reading Jonathan Turley. He is about as honest as a lawyer can get, no offense to any lawyers on my list. I know a few better than Turley.

He’s sometimes wrong, but so is everyone else, even yours truly at times.

That said, that sometimes happened in a recent column he wrote for Fox News.

Turley thinks the greatest threat to America is “anti-constitutionaism.”

This is boilerplate “conservative” speak.

If we just went back to the Constitution, everything would be alright.

Turley argues that too many Americans on both the left and the right have given up on the document.

This is true, but they’ve given up on it for good reason.

No one has really paid attention to it since 1789. Not the Supreme Court. Not the Congress. And with very few exceptions, not the President.

Some patriots in the States tried, but they were consistently thwarted by the Supreme Court and then finally by bullets.

The Constitution was dead once the First Congress started legislating. See Section 25 of the 1789 Judiciary Act.

I once had an Internet troll jumping up and down in jubilation because he had me “admit” that I think the Constitution is a flawed document, and that it should not have been ratified.

So what? I’ve said it so many times, that isn’t news.

I also suggest that if we followed the Constitution as ratified, we would not have the political problems plaguing the United States today.

But that ship sailed a long time ago.

The federal republic died a slow and painful death. It was finally put down by St. Abraham the Wise and his Republican reptiles in 1861.

St. Patrick shooed the snakes out of Ireland. St. Abraham charmed them into perpetual power.

The rest is unconstitutional history piled on by more unconstitutional history.

Of course, the States still have powers–they have never been fully eliminated–but it will require more people realizing the emperor has no clothes before they can embrace the bedrock of the American political system: federalism.

Turley’s piece made for great Podcast fodder, and a listener sent it my way, so I cover it on Episode 892 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

What is an “American” Foreign Policy?

American foreign policy is a disaster. It has been since the 1860s.

Most people forget that the American empire was not created in the last thirty years.

It began as an extension of the moral self-righteousness of the Republican crusade against the South during the War.

Democracy and American liberty needed to be extended across the globe. So did the dollar, but that didn’t have the same ring to it.

Until 1861, American foreign policy focused on nonintervention. That is not the same as “isolationism” as critics like to contend.

This was a non-partisan consensus.

George Washington warned against American involvement in European politics. John Adams spent his four years in office trying hammer out a treat with France to avoid war, even if Congress was forcing his hand. Thomas Jefferson urged against “entangling alliances” while his successor, James Madison, was forced into war with Great Britain after exhausting what he considered to be all peaceful means to avoid conflict.

James Monroe and his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, crafted the Monroe Doctrine, which specifically stated that the United States would not get involved in foreign wars for foreign interest.

Peace through strength had real meaning, and the strength was American economic muscle.

Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, and Tyler followed this path.

James K. Polk pursued a continental empire with the goal of acquiring Pacific ports, a policy that eventually led to American involvement in Pacific wars, and he was aggressive with Mexico, a point that John C. Calhoun made frequently.

That was the one exception to the rule in the antebellum period. Taylor, Fillmore, Piece, and Buchanan generally pursued a Washingtonian/Jeffersonian foreign policy.

Why? Because it worked and kept American free from foreign wars.

Even John Quincy Adams said while Secretary of State–some historians call him the greatest Secretary of State in American history–that while Americans should sympathize with countries seeking liberty and democracy, they had no role in making that happen.

That changed in 1865 when Republicans and then their progressive offspring went crusading around the world to spread “liberty and democracy.”

The has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead American soldiers and massive government expenditures, the very thing Washington and Jefferson wanted to avoid.

As politicians in Washington bellow about sending millions or billions of dollars to one foreign country or another, or openly discuss putting boots on the ground in foreign countries, Americans should reflect on what that means for them.

More inflation, more blood, and a less peaceful United States.

I discuss what a truly “American” foreign policy would look like on Episode 885 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Did the Founders Make a Critical Mistake?

Jamelle Bouie is almost always wrong.

But he is the best opinion columnist at The New York Times. Why? Because he at least does some research before he scribbles for the newspaper, and his essays are generally thought provoking.

Take for example a recent column that suggested the Founders make a critical mistake.

I agree, but not for the reasons Bouie suggests.

The Founders make a critical mistake when they ratified the Constitution and then another when they did not provide an enforcement mechanism for the Tenth Amendment.

Once the nationalists had the keys to the car, they ran over their opponents.

It was more like a bulldozer than an automobile.

Bouie thinks the Founders have too many “checks and balances” in the system, particularly when it comes to federalism, the Electoral College, and the rules of the Senate.

You see, these checks and balances tend to thwart progressive programs.

A supermajority doesn’t allow for nightmare leftist government, at least in theory.

Tell that to the federal court system. Bouie doesn’t like that either, unless they are doing exactly what he wants–which would be most of the last one hundred years excluding the current Supreme Court.

Calhoun would agree, but he thought the “supermajority” wasn’t really that super. Consider that these supposed “anti-democratic checks and balances” Bouie worries about have never stopped the unconstitutional expansion of federal power or executive government.

Just take a look at Washington D.C. today, and Calhoun was simply worried about federally funded internal improvements, a central bank, and protective tariffs.

We can only imagine what he would think about a central government with virtually unlimited powers, not matter how often Bouie whines about “un-democratic conservatives.”

The fact is, the nationalists orchestrated the greatest coup in American political history, a coup eventually brought the progressives to power on both the left and the right.

Either way, his pieces always make great Podcast fodder. I discuss Bouie and his critique of the Founders on Episode 883 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Why Do Americans Support Secession?

According to recent polling, about 20 percent of Americans support secession. It is higher in some areas like Texas and the South, but even among Democrats, support for secession has increased in the last several years.

The establishment can’t figure out why.

The Washington Post recently published a piece trying to figure it out.

They backed into the answer, but were still confused as to why secession is gaining steam.

The Left supports it because they can’t control people in other States. In other words, the political Puritan is worried that people in red States wont do their bidding.

Conservatives support secession because they don’t want to be governed by the blue State freaks.

At the end of the day, the real problem is American abandonment of federalism.

If we had real federalism, people in California could live in their own little socialist Utopia while those in Alabama would be free to from San Francisco third worldism.

The trick is getting leftists to willing give up the dream of controlling everyone else.

It’s also convincing Lincolnian “conservatives” that secession isn’t treason nor is it illegal.

And the answer may not ultimately be individual State secession, but perhaps regionalism or a greater emphasis on what made American great: federalism.

But the fact that more Americans are simply discussion secession and are open to greater decentralization means that our side is starting to win the argument.

Make no mistake, the establishment cannot stand it and would do more to prevent it if they thought secession was a real threat.

If enough people start pushing for decentralization in all forms, the establishment may not have a choice but to embrace it.

I discuss secession on episode 882 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Did Governor Grisham Violate the Constitution?

In case you missed it, last week New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an executive order making it illegal for citizens to carry firearms in public–both open and concealed carry–for 30 days in Albuquerque and the surrounding county.

She called it a response to a “public health” emergency.

The “Constitutional conservatives” went nuts.

How dare she violate the 2nd Amendment!

In fact, a resident of Albuquerque quickly filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the order.

Politicos on both the left and the right called the move unconstitutional, though a few openly admitted they knew it would eventually get thrown out in federal court. This was a matter of principle and an effort to stimulate conversation.

Grisham did indeed violate the Constitution.

But not the U.S. Constitution.

And her edict should never have been challenged in federal court.

Here’s why.

The 2nd Amendment folks don’t understand that the Bill of Rights as ratified only applied to the general or federal government, not the States.

Everyone knew this, even John Marshall who said as much in the majority opinion in Barron v. Baltimore in 1833.

This was the only thing Marshall ever got right.

Madison even proposed an “incorporation amendment” to Congress as part of the proposed Bill of Rights.

It was explicitly rejected.

Very few men in the founding generation wanted a federal negative of State law. John Rutledge said that alone would damn the Constitution in the 1787 Philadelphia Convention.

Every time it was proposed, it failed.

Marshall created one by “judicial review” in 1821, but it was not related to a Bill of Rights issue.

But the nationalists kept pressing,

In 1868, the Republicans illegally ratified the 14th Amendment.

Attempts to insist that it “incorporated” the Bill of Rights, meaning that the first nine amendments applied to the States, were rejected time and again, most explicitly by the Supreme Court in 1873 by a Republican controlled Supreme Court.

That all changed in the 20th century because of Hugo Black, the progressive jurist from Alabama.

Black made a great ahistorical discovery that the founding generation really wanted the Bill of Rights to apply to the States but never got their way.

Black rode to the rescue.

Over the next half century, the first eight amendments to the Constitution would be “incorporated” by the Supreme Court, history be damned.

This is why all of these “Constitutional conservatives” cried foul.

Yet, as Raoul Berger conclusively proved, the 14th Amendment was never designed to incorporate anything. This is a fabrication, and a dangerous one for those who supposedly believe in limited government.

If the States are mere administrative subdivisions of the general government, liberty is gone.

Now, Grisham’s decree is unconstitutional according to the New Mexico State Constitution.

It violates the State Bill of Rights according to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Grisham correctly pointed out to her leftist colleagues that this was indeed a State rather than federal issue, but she omitted that she did not have the power to issue such an order, particularly when her legal justification was a fifty year old law made for public health emergencies like a viral pandemic.

This law is illegal and unconstitutional.

It would be great if American “conservatives” really believed in federalism. This whole thing could have been thrown out in New Mexico without appealing to our federal overlords.

I discuss the issue on Episode 876 of The Brion McClanahan Show.