Walter Weyl was one of the three founders of the New Republic, all of whom were pivotal in the creation of so-called “state activist liberalism”, an Orwellian phrase if there ever was one. Weyl was a professor at the Wharton School of Business and advocate of socialism. His book, New Democracy, is not as popular today as Herbert Croly’s and Walter Lippmann’s, his partners’. But Weyl’s book is the most prophetic and forthright. In it he argues (unlike Croly and Lippmann who were not so explicit) that Progressivism (the ideology of Theodore Roosevelt -R- and Woodrow Wilson -D-) would lead to socialism.
The culmination of Weyl’s ideas has occurred. The close linkage between the Progressivism of the Rockefeller Republicans (of whom Theodore Roosevelt was the first) and the social democracy of the Democrats (that traces back to Franklin Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan) is now evident. With the bailout we see that both Progressivism and social democracy are, as Weyl knew and advocated, complementary versions of socialism. The triumph of Progressivism was, as Gabriel Kolko put it, the triumph of conservatism.
One side effect of this is we now know what to call them. They are not “liberals”, which is what libertarians should be called. They are not “Progressives” because no ideology is more conservative than socialism. Nor are they “social democrats” because they do not believe in democracy, preferring pandering to Wall Street and other special interests, especially public sector unions, failed manufacturing firms and banks to democracy. Rather, they are SOCIALISTS. I therefore say to you now:
KNOW YE BY THESE PRESENTS THAT HENCEFORTH I, MITCHELL LANGBERT, REFUSE TO CALL ROCKEFELLER REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS BY ANY OTHER THAN THEIR TRUE NAME: SOCIALISTS.
A second side effect is that there is an important struggle ahead: to retake control of the GOP. In the early twentieth century the GOP was the party of Progressivism. William Howard Taft was what today would be called a conservative, and Theodore Roosevelt bolted the GOP to start the Progressive or Bull Moose Party by which time he was aggressively socialist. William Jennings Bryan had captured the Democrats in 1896 on behalf of populism, and these ideas found final articulation not in the Progressivism of Wilson, who was for most of his life a Bourbon or laissez faire Democrat, but of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The fact is that most of FDR’s ideas had already been advocated by TR in 1912.
The GOP never recovered from the harm that TR did. Subsequent presidents, Harding and Coolidge, were not ideologically astute and did absolutely nothing to alter the Progressive institutions that Roosevelt and Wilson had initiated. Hoover was a Progressive from the time he had worked for Woodrow Wilson as his food industry price fixing Czar during World War I. The New Deal was just a continuation of Hoover’s failed Progressive ideas such as using public works to cure unemployment. Eisenhower did nothing to reduce government and added his share, such as the Interstates. Goldwater and Reagan were a departure, but George W. Bush was part of the Progressive tradition, and waited until several years into his office to make it clear.
We are left with a situation where socialist extremists are in control of both parties. The pro-bailout Republicans of McCain and Bush and the socialist Democrats constitute a twin-headed hydra. We can win, though, because a healthy 30 percent of America still favors freedom. If we align ourselves with various other interests, such as the religious, we can win.
But there is a big fight ahead. Liberty Republicans need to think about how to convince the Rockefeller Republicans to move to their true home–the Democratic Party. Yes, let’s get rid of them. They predominate in the unwinnable Blue states anyway, and the public will not care if oil, health care and insurance executives align themselves with the party of greed, the Democrats.
In any case, we have a good argument: the pro bailout Republicans lost because of their ideas. They have failed. They should step aside.
Mitchell Langbert blogs at http://www.mitchell-langbert.blogspot.com.