A Message on “The Progressive Surge and Conservative Crackup?”

Editor’s Note: As we at The Center for Vision & Values prepare to wrap up our sixth annual conference tonight, we would like to thank everyone who participated in “The Progressive Surge and Conservative Crackup?” For those of you who were not able to attend the two-day conference, please be sure to visit our website and stay tuned to our emails over the next few weeks for links to streaming videos of our conference presentations and additional information. Please scroll down to read Dr. Paul Kengor’s welcoming statement and opening remarks from another cutting-edge conference hosted by The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

Welcome, everyone, to the sixth annual conference by The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. This one is titled, “The Progressive Surge and Conservative Crackup?”—a title that demands a question mark at the end. Indeed, is America truly facing a progressive surge right now, and, conversely, is it facing a conservative crackup?

Well, one thing we know is that the progressives—who, more recently, simply called themselves liberals—are, in fact, surging right now, at least legislatively, policy-wise, passing and implementing an exhaustive, comprehensive left-leaning agenda that we have not seen in this country in decades.

Most ironic, that was made possible by the votes of an American electorate that for at least 20 years now has described itself as conservative over liberal by a margin of two to one, or about 40 percent to 20 percent. In a truly stunning display, the same millions of Americans who decisively voted for president a man that National Journal ranked as the most liberal member of the most liberal Senate in history, minutes later walked outside the polling center and described themselves to pollsters as conservative. You’ll hear more on that phenomenon from Professor Dave Ayers.

So, with that, the progressive surge had begun, made possible by a self-described conservative electorate.

And did that electorate suddenly turn progressive with the election of President Obama? Not at all, in June 2009, at the peak of Obama’s presidential popularity, a huge survey by Gallup, which polled 160,000 Americans, not only reaffirmed that Americans call themselves conservative over liberal by, again, 40 to 20 percent, but found that conservatives outnumber liberals in every single state in America, from the West Coast to the Northeast, from California to Massachusetts.

No matter, though: They voted as they did. The progressives are now in charge.

Alas, what is a progressive? That’s the million-dollar question, is it not? Or, perhaps, in light of the new one-year record deficit of $1.6 trillion, maybe we should call it the trillion-dollar question.

As you’ll see in the papers in the binder, and hear in these presentations, defining a progressive is not easy; it is a term that seems to change—progresses, appropriately—over time. Perhaps the best, shortest definition is found in the nebulous be-all/catch-all campaign slogan of Barack Obama: a progressive favors “change.”

Of course, what kind of change? That’s the trillion-dollar question.

Moreover, today’s progressive is not necessarily your grandfather’s progressive. Among other things of importance to this crowd, today’s early 21st century progressive, generally speaking, is not nearly as religious as the early 20th century progressive. This is a subject that Dr. Gary Smith will touch upon.

In this conference, you’ll hear about all kinds of progressives: John Dewey progressives, TR progressives, Woodrow Wilson progressives, Margaret Sanger and her Planned Parenthood progressives, Potemkin progressives, FDR progressives, George Soros progressives, John Podesta and the Center for American Progress, and, of course, Progressives for Obama, which, ironically, is not made up of TR-Wilson progressives but Tom Hayden / Mark Rudd / SDS radical-Marxist progressives from the 1960s.

In our past conferences, we have prided ourselves in tackling cutting-edge historical-political issues. This year’s conference may be the best example yet, even as we address a politicalquestion as much as a political theme or statement.

America is currently facing a major shift in its governing political paradigm. To that end, this conference will seek to address a fundamental sub-question that is bewildering much of America, its pundits, and its scholars: “What really happened on November 4, 2008?”

Less than a week before the November 2008 election, then-Senator Barack Obama boldly proclaimed, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” Few realized just how prophetic that statement was.

Did the American people fully comprehend the magnitude of such a defiant declaration as “fundamentally transforming the United States of America?”

If they didn’t on November 4, 2008, perhaps they do today, April 15, 2010—Tax Day, coincidentally. What a perfect day to start a two-day conference on progressivism….

Thank you all for coming. We will start the show with a Q&A by two veterans of Grove City College, two wonderful men, teachers, scholars, and forefathers of The Center for Vision & Values: John Sparks and John Van Til.

Dr. John Sparks is dean of the School of Arts & Letters here at Grove City College, and a Center for V&V fellow for education policy, and coordinator of our education working group.

Dr. John Van Til is a retired business law and humanities professor, a Center fellow for law and humanities, and professor to the 75 students participating in this conference as part of a unique course experience. He wrote the detailed introduction to the conference binder.

Gentlemen, take it away.

— Dr. Paul Kengor
Executive Director,
The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College
Grove City, PA
April 15, 2010