The First “Progressive” President

A warning to modern “progressives” to be careful what they wish for:

I’m thinking of an American president who demonized ethnic groups as enemies of the state, censored the press, imprisoned dissidents, bullied political opponents, spewed propaganda, often expressed contempt for the Constitution, approved warrantless searches and eavesdropping, and pursued his policies with a blind, religious certainty.

Oh, and I’m not thinking of George W. Bush, but another “W” – actually “WW”: Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat who served from 1913 to 1921.

President Wilson is mostly remembered today as the first modern liberal president, the first (and only) POTUS with a PhD, and the only political scientist to occupy the Oval Office. He was the champion of “self determination” and the author of the idealistic but doomed “Fourteen Points” – his vision of peace for Europe and his hope for a League of Nations. But the nature of his presidency has largely been forgotten.

That’s a shame, because Wilson’s two terms in office provide the clearest historical window into the soul of progressivism. Wilson’s racism, his ideological rigidity, and his antipathy toward the Constitution were all products of the progressive worldview. And since “progressivism” is suddenly in vogue – today’s leading Democrats proudly wear the label – it’s worth actually reviewing what progressivism was and what actually happened under the last full-throated progressive president.

The record should give sober pause to anyone who’s mesmerized by the progressive promise.

But they don’t even understand their own intellectual history.

7 thoughts on “The First “Progressive” President”

  1. Yeah, not only that, we had the first woman United States President. Mrs. Wilson. You see, Mr. Wilson had an incapacitating stroke, and that Constitutional Amendment regarding taking over for an incapacitated President did not exist at the time. It is widely believe that his wife had a major role in decisions.

    There are also those who believe that the old-man Joe Kennedy was at least the consiglieri if not the decision maker some half century later, and when he had his stroke, the country was in the hands of the perhaps not as intellectually capable fellow who was actually elected.

    And then there must have been quite the while when FDR was of some diminished level of capacity, and his understudy Harry Truman was given the full “Joe Biden” treatment, and it is not clear where the post-war planning that led to the Iron Curtain ran off the rails.

    So in each of these three cases where we have had Progressive leadership leading to grand messes (Wilson — WW-II, FDR — the Cold War, Kennedy — Vietnam), we had the actual head guy (Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Kennedy) have major brain impairment, so we will never really know how things would have turned out.

  2. It’s amazing half of Europe doesn’t spit at the mention of WIlson’s name, considering how utterly he betrayed them in Paris. He gave away everything for the sake of his beloved and utterly chimerical Leage of Nations.

    My theory is that democracies are like battered women. They keep thinking oh THIS strong man will be different — he really loves me — he wouldn’t hurt a fly.

  3. “It’s amazing half of Europe doesn’t spit at the mention of WIlson’s name.”

    Actually they do. My parents are European emigrees from one of the nation states Mr. Wilson cobbled together and Mr. Holbrooke worked so dilligently to dismember. I remember growing up with Momma doing just that.

  4. After we were “back to normalcy” (and that’s frightening itself, that a corrupt dimwit like Harding represented an improvement), James Branch Cabell wrote a brilliant satire of Wilson’s policies.

    Nobody noticed because they were looking at all the salacious parts of Jurgen, woo hoo, that actually looks like a sex act!

    But the section set in Hell describes Wilson’s policies, which in itself says something about them.

Comments are closed.