For decades, America’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, was a Democratic Party icon. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman revered Wilson, and Democrats of all stripes worked toward achieving his dream of “a world safe for democracy.”
In recent times, however, Wilson has fallen in disfavor in some quarters of his party. Progressive Democrats have (rightfully) accused Wilson of being a racist and a eugenicist.
Wilson, as president, ordered the segregation of Washington, D.C. And as a professional historian, Wilson — the first and only president who had earned a Ph.D. — had peculiar views on race.
At the turn of the 20th century, Wilson objected to the ethnic origins of the new wave of Catholics and Jews who were coming through the gates of Ellis Island. The historian, Thomas McAvoy, has noted that Wilson feared that European sturdy stock were being replaced by “men of the lowest class from the south of Italy and men of meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland, men out of the ranks where there was neither skill nor energy nor any initiative of quick intelligence. …”
Wilson argued that while his race was progressive, “other races have developed so much more slowly and accomplished so much less.”
Yet, despite his character flaws, today’s Progressives still light one candle at Wilson’s altar because he was the founder of their cherished administrative state.
Professor Ronald J. Pestritto’s new book, America Transformed: The Rise and Legacy of American Progressivism, explains that leftists are still enamored by Wilson and his disciples because their perception of “the modern liberal state was grounded in the progressive rejection of the founders’ political principles.”
Influenced by the German philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), who held that “The Divine Idea as it exists on earth,” is the state, Wilson despised the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution because those founding documents elevated the human person over the state.
On one occasion, Wilson lectured, “if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface.” Wilson rejected the notion that every person had “unalienable rights” that came from the hand of God.
Wilson abhorred the position held by Thomas Jefferson and other founders that human nature does not change, and that there were immutable laws of nature that applied to men. Instead, he embraced Darwin’s evolutionary theory that man was malleable and progressing toward perfection on earth.
He further argued that “we are not bound to adhere to the doctrines held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence” because they were not applicable to modern times.
As for the U.S. Constitution, (which Pestritto reminds us “was crafted and adopted for the sake of achieving the natural rights principles of the Declaration of Independence”) Wilson dismissed it as dated. He called for a “living constitution” which is “far superior then the founders’ model, which had considered government a kind of ‘machine’ which could be constantly limited through checks and balances.”
Wilson despised the founding documents because they limited the power of the almighty state. The state, for Wilson, “was a god to which all citizens owed their undivided devotion.”
To achieve perfection, the work of government had to be removed from the people and their elected representative and placed in the hands of professional administrators, who would “engage not only in executive action, but legislative and judicial action as well.”
Professional administrators free from electoral accountability would search for “truth” and unlike lowly politicians “could be objective and could focus on the good of the whole people.” They would be above the fray because they would be well-paid, tenured, and therefore selfless, competent, objective and free of political influence.
Wilsonians advanced the cause of expansive government by arguing “for less focus on constitutional principle and form, and much greater focus on empowering and perfecting administration.”
One Wilson disciple, Frank Goodnow (1859-1939), frowned upon the social compact and the principle of government by the consent of the people, and demanded that “social expediency rather than natural right, is thus to determine the sphere of individual freedom of action.”
Wilson’s heirs considered public administration outside the purview of the Constitution. Hence, “modern administrative law … would take it for granted that the political branches of government had to cede significant discretion to administrative agencies….”
And for over a century, Progressives have worked around the clock to “consummate the transformation they envisioned:” the elimination of individuals’ rights and the destruction of the separation of powers by unelected bureaucracies and unelected judges.
In America Transformed, Dr. Pestritto paints a frightening picture of the ever-expanding deep state that was inspired by a racist who believed the will of the state superseded the will of God.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
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