…same as the old progressivism:
Much…could be said about progressivism’s errors. Most damagingly, it argued that because progress had improved humanity and dissolved or overcome legitimate differences of opinion about morals and politics, the Constitution’s checks and balances and separation and dispersing of power were no longer necessary to prevent majority tyranny and officeholders’ abuse of power.
A central paradox of American progressivism arises from the divergence between its democratic aspirations and its aristocratic ambitions. On the one hand, progressives sought to democratize American politics by putting government in the service of, and giving greater say to, the people. On the other hand, they favored the enlargement of a distant national government, and the creation of an administrative elite that reduced popular accountability.
In the progressive classic The Promise of American Life (1914), Herbert Croly identified the source of this paradox with startling candor. Centralization and elite control were necessary to advance democratic ends because American constitutional government was based on “erroneous and misleading ideas,” and “the average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities as a democrat.”
Along those lines, I found the president’s comments yesterday to be not just condescending, but contemptuous of the American people:
OBAMA: Well, here’s what I know is that when they actually find out what’s in the proposals for insurance reform, for making sure that we’re making health care more affordable, those specific provisions are actually very popular.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You made that speech in August.
OBAMA: Well, and one of the things that I have learned in Washington is you have to repeat yourself a lot because because unfortunately it doesn’t penetrate.
See, he just has to keep repeating it to us, like children, because we just won’t get it otherwise. The notion that we realize upon first hearing that it’s nonsense would never occur to him.
And, you know, If there’s one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here —
STEPHANOPOULOS: That people would get it.
OBAMA: That people will get it.
Oh, the people do get it, Mr. President. The problem is that the “good, rational decisions” seem to have been pretty thin on the ground in Washington this past year. The best evidence that people get it occurred on Tuesday in Massachusetts.