Three Weeks in a Progressive Swamp

Through the first three weeks of May, the Rockridge Institute, a California-based politically progressive think tank, partnered with a coalition of religious organizations to host an online conference on “Values and Building a Movement.” After going to, signing on and getting my password, this conservative Calvinist Presbyterian elder waded into a post-modern religious and political slough.  Sometimes I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, being spun around in a cultural tornado that left me wondering, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto!”

North Florida, where I grew up, is a long way from the plains of Kansas, so I have a hard time “framing” reality in tornado terminology. But I know swamps.

As a youngster, I learned to appreciate swamps for their diversity in fauna and flora.  Their beauty, however, belies dangers lurking out of sight; beneath the skiff, in the trees and along the banks. Alligators and snapping turtles large enough to cleave off a leg, water moccasins dropping from tree branches and panthers in the bush are some of the dangers hidden amid the beauty. The slough of post-modern religious and political progressivism contains its own perils.

Ostensibly, this was a religious conference coordinated by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Christian Alliance for Progress, Muslim Peace Fellowship and Tikkum, a Jewish group. Avowed atheists and pagans also participated. The purpose was to “reframe” the progressive agenda to make it more acceptable to the electorate.

After a few days discussing the nature of God and whether what one believes about Him (or Her) should influence public policy, I concluded that religious progressives passionately believe almost anything about not much and not much about almost anything.  Progressives frame reality outside the context of a master narrative with each individual’s truth determined by gender, sexual-orientation, race and class. My contentions that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, Jesus Christ the only way to salvation, and that same sex “marriage” is sinful got me dubbed a “Konservative Khristian.” One correspondent suggested I might be a “freeper who reports to the Karl Rove Gang.” (A “freeper” is someone who reads The Free Republic.  Sorry, I’m a “trender” who reads Motor Trend.)

Most of the conferees busied themselves with framing or reframing the progressive political agenda. Their departure point is that Konservative Khristians from the religious right hijacked the body politic. Progressive political articles of faith are that President Bush stole the elections of 2000 and 2004 and also lied about weapons of mass destruction to justify invading Iraq so defense contractors and Halliburton could make big bucks destroying then rebuilding the nation while American oil companies appropriated Iraqi petroleum. Their immediate objective is to compel the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the “Downing Street Memorandum,” a document published last month in European papers that purports to be the July 2002 “smoking gun” revealing Bush’s perfidy in manipulating intelligence to support an invasion of Iraq.  The ultimate objective is for a radicalized Democratic Party to regain both houses of Congress and the presidency by 2008…hopefully earlier with the impeachment of Bush.  Dorothy, do they have swamps in Kansas?

Otherwise, the progressive agenda is familiar: legalize gay marriage, retain unimpeded access to abortion, hike taxes to expand government social, medical and welfare programs and to save social security. Progresso-babble concerning radio-active particles in the atmosphere, global warming, along with contentions that the Bush administration engineered 9/11 crept into “the frame.” Aware that most Americans reject most if not all their agenda, how they frame their arguments is vital. One correspondent warned, “In terms of political discourse, gay rights and abortion are clearly ‘wedge issues’ purposely positioned by political conservatives to keep us off the ‘bread and butter’ issues.  But does that mean that we should abandon the dialogue concerning moral fairness and diversity?” Translate that, “frame to fool so we can win.”

Beware the gators and snapping turtles in the progressive slough. The progressive left’s immediate goal is to discredit and (they hope) impeach the President by contending he manufactured intelligence to support invading Iraq. One correspondent, noting that impeachment is unlikely, recommended “focus on War Crimes (sic) as the vehicle for bringing Bush & Co. to justice.”

Constant carping that “Bush lied” joined to contentions that American soldiers are committing war crimes in Abu Ghraib and the “Guantanamo Gulag” will result neither in impeachment nor increased voter support for the progressive agenda. It may, however, encourage terrorists to step up their attacks hopeful that “help is on the way” in the guise of a new administration.  Meanwhile, progressive protestations that “we are doing this to support the troops” are disingenuous and dangerous. Make no mistake, progressives want to discredit the administration and regain political power. What they envision is unfathomable to most Americans.

Earl H. Tilford

Earl H. Tilford

Dr. Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University. From 1993 to 2001, he served as Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In 2001, he left Government service for a professorship at Grove City College, where he taught courses in military history, national security, and international and domestic terrorism and counter-terrorism. Email: [email protected]

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