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.