As a libertarian evangelical Catholic grandson of a social gospel-ing Episcopalian priest candidate for NYC Assemblyman in the 1920s on the Socialst ticket, I have spent a great deal of time trying to understand how and why smart men like my grandfather could believe all they do believe.
In the case of the second generation, those that came to maturity around the Great War, it is somewhat explained in that the new ideas had hardly been tried. Bold and broad prescriptions for the ills of industrial society found an audience, much as Hope and Change appealed broadly in 2008 to U.S. voters. In the case of the current generation, it is clear that a century’s evidence indicates the prescriptions are not only insufficient to the problem but are in fact injurious to humanity.
Rather than scour the ruling classes of wickedness, leftist programs tried around the globe have institutionalized wicked ruling classes. Those societies most removed from active Christian practice revealed most clearly the depravity potential of a Progressive regime: the atheistic Communist governments of the USSR, China, the National Socialists, and the Khmer Rouge piled up bodies at a horrific rate. De-Christianized Europe and radicalized Muslim governments lagged well behind in total body counts, but in both cases the declaration of noble ends justified overt and subtle means of repression. The leftists of America announced a revolutionary program at the dawn of the 20th century, and it was implemented step by step over the course of 100 years, with only a five year hiatus during the Coolidge Administration. Even under Ronald Reagan the Leviathan grew. Now, already a decade into the 21st century, there is no cover left for the utter ineffectiveness of Progressivism to reach its stated goals of a Kallipolis.
The United States was founded by men who wittingly or not subscribed to the Thomistic/Aristotlean realism of man rather than the soaring Platonist idealism of their French contemporaries. Woodrow Wilson’s and Herbert Croly’s efforts to import a European solution failed because this country is not and never will be Europe. Rather than noble ideals, it is now apparent Progressivism trades in class envy and resentment. These sell in the short term but destroy in the long term. It is a sign of American health that Progressivism is losing its credibility, as Americans reclaim liberty as the founding principle of the country.
Walter Russell Mead’s blog has a post on this subject, from the perspective of the perplexed Progressive