Glenn Beck and the Fox Puppets Want to Repeal the 20th Century

Glenn Beck has now supplanted Rush Limbaugh as the most influential broadcaster in America. He's the one the tea-party movement looks to. Beck wowed the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) crowd Feb 20 with his attack on progressivism, which he said must be "eradicated." "Progressivism is the cancer in America and it's eating our Constitution," Beck told the crowd.

Now that Beck has given his marching orders, expect to hear all the Fox Puppets echoing him. The goal is to discredit "progressivism" as they did "liberalism."

Beck fancies himself a historian; his patter is full of historical references that seem to have convinced his audience that he knows what he's talking about. Historians like Beck know that when they offer provocative ideas, they bear responsibility for what those ideas actually mean.

So let's look at what would happen if the "cancer" had been cut out when it first appeared, as Beck recommends. A world without the Progressive Era would be a world with:

  • Only men voting: The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was the product of progressivisim. Beck thinks women are second-class citizens.
  • No cell phone or low-cost long-distance telephone service: It was the breakup of AT&T in the 1970s under the progressive antitrust laws that allowed for today's telecommunications (and computer) systems. Beck thinks corporations should have no restraints at all.
  • State legislatures electing U.S. senators: The 17th Amendment, part of the progressive movement, allowed for the direct election of senators. If you think the Senate is bad now, imagine what it was like when state legislators were the only voters. (They defeated Abraham Lincoln in Illinois in 1858 even though he won the popular vote for Senate). Beck likes hacks.
  • No recourse for the people against corrupt politicians: State laws allowing recall and ballots initiatives and referenda were the product of the Progressive Era. Beck hates citizen power.
  • Any food and drugs sold legally even if they killed you: The Progessive Era brought the Food and Drug Administration, as well as USDA inspection of meat. Beck likes snake oil and rancid meat.
  • No high-tech economy: A big part of progressivism was Robert LaFollette's "Wisconsin Idea," whereby the ideas and expertise of universities was put in the service of society. Without it, there would be no high-tech or medical technology sector. Beck doesn't believe in economic growth.
  • A global depression: The Progressive Era produced the Federal Reserve system, which Beck despises. But without the trillions in guarantees provided by the Fed in 2008 and 2009, the world would be in a depression right now. Beck likes destitution.
  • Social Security and Medicare: Both ideas grew out of the Progressive Era. They were first raised by Teddy Roosevelt in the Progressive Party (Bull Moose) platform of 1912. Beck thinks old people should eat cat food and die if they get sick and that TR was a bad president.

The Progressive Era brought a few dumb ideas, especially Prohibition. But to say it was a "cancer" is simply pathetic. I look forward to how Beck and the Fox Puppets defend it.