Obama’s Progress

Try to define progressivism. In fact, ask progressives to try to define progressivism. All we really know is that they’re, well, progressing. They and their ideas and their politics are always changing, evolving. This means that what they believe and hold fast and dear today may not be what they believe and hold fast and dear tomorrow, or decades or a century from now.

For instance, when progressive heroine Margaret Sanger started her American Birth Control League a century ago, she was seeking birth control for, among other purposes, what she and fellow progressives termed “race improvement.” She hoped to expunge the gene pool of what she termed “human weeds,” “morons,” and “imbeciles.” She repudiated abortion, calling it “an alternative that I cannot too strongly condemn … the practice of it merely for limitation of offspring is dangerous and vicious.” She clarified in no uncertain terms: “some ill-informed persons have the notion that when we speak of birth control we include abortion as a method. We certainly do not.”

Today, Sanger’s American Birth Control League is Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider. Progressives have not only progressed to that level but also to the point where they demand full taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and birth control and abortion drugs. Most amazing, those who disagree are castigated as Neanderthals favoring a “war on women.”

How did we suddenly progress to this latest stage?

That’s a long answer with a lot of factors, but we cannot disregard the huge impact of the latest influence: President Obama. If you would have told me five years ago that the president of the United States, by executive fiat, would force all Americans—including all religious organizations—to fund sterilization services and abortion drugs, I would have at least taken solace in one thing: my liberal friends would surely respect my religious beliefs and insist their president was crossing the line.

Sorry, the opposite is true. With President Obama leading, millions of Democrats have willfully fallen in line. He is not bending, and neither are they. If we disagree with what they’re compelling us to do … that’s our fault. We have failed to progress to their understanding.

My pro-choice friends always promised they’d never force me to pay for their abortions. With Obama out front, that has changed. They simply hadn’t progressed there yet.

The same is true for gay marriage, where liberals—immediately after Obama’s statement on gay marriage to ABC a few months ago—are suddenly on fire for the cause, from blasting Chick-fil-A to, according to The New York Times, considering the unprecedented step of placing gay marriage in the Democratic Party platform. Consider liberals’ progression on this issue:

A half century ago, the concept of “gay marriage” would have been unthinkable to any Democrat. Currently, I’m being frequently asked about parallels in thinking between Obama and his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. There are striking similarities when it comes to their words on Wall Street, the rich, tax cuts, wealth redistribution, universal healthcare. I’m often asked if Davis’ writings indicated support for gay marriage and abortion. Are you kidding? Anyone who might have voiced public support for those things back then, Democrat or Republican or radical, would have been hauled off to an asylum as a public menace.

Just 20 years ago, the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton, supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as strictly between a man and a woman.

While support for gay marriage has increased since then, what the progressive movement needed was a front man to light the fuse and take the lead. They got it big-time from President Obama. Just like that, the entire public debate has changed, with gay-marriage advocates on the offensive and opponents on the defensive. Those opposing the unwavering norm since the dawn of humanity, following the billions before us—what Chesterton called the “Democracy of the Dead”—are suddenly framed as extremists who must explain ourselves. And CEOs of companies who voice a mere opinion to the contrary—e.g., Chick-fil-A—are picketed, protested, banned, and attacked by the nation’s mayors for manufacturing everything from “hate thoughts” to “hate chicken.”

Progressivism. No one can see where it will end up, but we can see how it unfolds. In this latest manifestation—call it President Obama’s progress—it compels all of us to acquiesce on gay marriage and abortion. Obama didn’t begin the push, but, in only four years, he has advanced the progressive project by leaps and bounds, a stunning surge that doesn’t happen without him.

In 2008, Barack Obama promised fundamental, transformational change—and now, thanks to the American electorate, we’re getting it.

This article first appeared August 6, 2012 on The Center for Vision & Values website, and is reprinted with permission.

Paul Kengor


Paul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of many books including The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage (2015). His new books are A Pope and a President and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism (2017).

  • Briana

    Amen! Anthony Esolen had a similar column about this problem several months ago. These “progressives” never can say specifically where the heck they are going, how they plan on getting there, or why it is a good thing for them to take us to some of these places in the first place. They just expect us to follow them, slobbering like Pavlov’s dog, and if we don’t do that, they will force us to heel under the law! So much confusion and arrogance…..

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Ask a typical Progressive what (political) freedom is for and he or she will reply that it is to liberate the creativity of the human spirit, so that humanity can realise its fullest potential &c, &c.

      If one complains that that seems awfully vague, the well-catechized Progressive (a product, perhaps, of the Sciences Po) will reply that we cannot tell what it will be like, in advance.  Just as we can all recognise progress from Bach, to Mozart, to Beethoven, to Bruckner and, in retrospect, it even presents a sort of inevitability, like a symphony itself, no one could have foreseen what shape that development would actually take.

      Warming to his theme, the Progressive will claim that each step in the long ascent of progress and enlightenment is the work of a few choice spirits, who saw a little further and climbed a little higher than the vulgar herd of their earth-bound contemporaries.

      In other words, the concept of Progress is an empty one: it cannot be used to distinguish any conceivable sequence of events from any other.

      • Briana

        You are darn right it is empty!

      • Adam_Baum

        “If one complains that that seems awfully vague, the well-catechized
        Progressive (a product, perhaps, of the Sciences Po) will reply that we
        cannot tell what it will be like, in advance. ”

        Where? What progressive will ever express, let alone embrace indifference to the direction of humanity. With progressives, they always have an end in mind-egalitarianism, the destruction of any mediating institution (the family, the Church) outside an all powerful state that governs from what Hayek referred to as the “pretense of knowledge” once it gains an initial consent (without recourse), usually through deception,duplicity, treachery or fraud.

        There’s no catechism involved with Progressivism, it’s programming.It’s also easily distillable into three essential components-ignorance, indignation and arrogance. In the Progressive worldview, the world is morally bankrupt and they are not (arrogance) earthy perfection is attainable (ignorance) and it is up to the rest of mankind to adapt to, and comport with their vision (arrogance), under duress if necessary.


        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          That is what the Progressives I encounter would call clearing the ground

          Here is an example from a pamphlet, celebrating the Banlieue riots of 2005 – “This whole series of nocturnal vandalisms and anonymous attacks, this wordless destruction, has widened the breach between politics and the political.  No one can honestly deny the obvious: this was an assault that made no demands, a threat without a message, and it had nothing to do with “politics.”  One would have to be oblivious to the autonomous youth movements of the last 30 years not to see the purely political character of this resolute negation of politics…”

          This is Progressive politics in action, “whether in Burkina Faso, in the South Bronx, in Kamagasaki, in Chiapas, or in La Courneuve,” as their professors describe it.

          • Mr Ponsers

            you know what fundamentalist action can be?
            The K.K.K. (here goes devils advocate) yes because there is that one organization that claims to be fundamentalist all fundamentalists are diversity hating extremists who will only support something if it makes everyone go back in human history, rather than progress it. that is fundamentalist politics everyone, this is how they will destoy our planet ( a note for later you nitwit, making a comment that attempts to dehumanize a group due to a very specific example is the most common and ridiculous attempt to popularize his own opinions)

            • Paul Tran

              You can call the K.K.K fundamentalist all you want but clearly they cannot be Christians. Christianity does NOT advocate violence. Tghe language of hate seems to eminate equally from the liberal progressives as from the extremists of any kind.
              LOL, your definition of fundamentalism is anything that is rooted in hatred for diversity ??? Just take one look at any church-going congregation and see if your view still holds true. And as for turning back the clocks on human history, all I can say is Christianity is human history and , at least for those who believe in it, we have a sense of what history is unlike the liberal progressives who want progress without having the simplest of clue about history !
              How mankind will destroy our planet is the day we forfeit & dispense with God and behave arrogantly ! If you don’t believe me, just look at ALL the tyrants and despotic regimes in the world !

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  • Paul Tran

    So how can Obama claim he’s a Christian when he’s fundamentally against the basis or foundation of Christianity ? Moreover how could 51% of Americans ever believe this hyprocrit ?

  • givelifeachance2

    How did we get here?  The NeoCons colluded with the progressives by failing to stand up for heroes like Joseph McCarthy, who should have been able to tackle Frank Marshall Davis in the fifty’s if he hadn’t been borked.  The same people who are running, screaming, away from prolife truthteller Akin ran away from McCarthy and showed the Left that all was safe for the sexual revolution to unfold.  The “authoritarians” would be beaten up, not the progressives.

    • MarkRutledge

      The problem here is that the term “neocon” is as meaningless and malleable as “progress.”  Though I would agree with you that Senator McCarthy deserved (and still does) more support from conservatives, the left was already in firm control of our institutions by mid-century.   Progressivism as we know it took hold in the USA around the time of the Wilson administration and, like the rest of the world, has carried the nation along with the currents of public passion.  To resist progressivism we must largely resist populism, and to do this we must know our faith, as our faith leads us to what is good, beautiful, and true.  For if we know what is right, but don’t know *why* it is right, we will be wont to win converts and are likely to lose more ground.

      • Mark

        The only practical modern definition of “neocon” is anyone not named Ron Paul.

        • Jmann

          Spare me.

          • Mark

             “The U.S. had about 38,000 troops in Iraq and 36,000 in Afghanistan at the end
            of George W. Bush’s second term. Liberals hated him for it. Why, he was
            a war criminal, don’t you know, and he was a warmonger, and he was a Nazi and a
            child-killer! Not a day went by that the media wouldn’t report how many U.S.
            troops were killed that day.
            Two years later, under Barack Obama, there were an additional 10,000 troops
            in Iraq (48,000 total) and an additional 61,000 troops in Afghanistan (97,000
            total), substantially expanding the wars not only in troop levels, but also
            expanding them to countries not previously touched by the Bush
            And liberals remained silent. Where were all the almost-daily anti-war
            protests from the left? Where were all those violent demonstrations by liberals
            in which they burned replicas of Bush and openly joked about assassinating him
            (wholesome peace-lovers that they are)? It was all a sham, political
            partisanship,” – Political Outcast

  • MarkRutledge

    Ah, Chesterton.   One of my favorite GKC quotes addresses progressives: “My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday.”

  • Dplunkt

    I think that the new movie, 2016, and other media outlets have underestimated Frank Marshall Davis’ influence on Obama’s worldview. The “progressive” movement really comes out of the Marxist movement and is a manifestation of that. I will also say that this worldview, moral relativism, a rejection of the Catholic faith has been a progressive/marxist efforts spaning the last century. We Catholics have been weak in responding to this ideology and still are.

  • Meggie

    “They and their ideas and their politics are always changing, evolving. ”
    I would not agree with this definition. A “progressive” should be open to new scholarship and understandings and should be able to analyze new ideas, reject those that seem illogical, and assimilate those that make sense, but his/her ideas should only change and evolve when there is good reason. 

    • Paul Tran

      The problem is their so-called “good” reason is not necessarily the morally right reason.

    • Adam_Baum

       A “progressive” should be open to new scholarship.

      They are-as long as its a new tract on Marx, Keynes or any one of the lesser honored members in their pantheon of pseudosaints.

  • nick

    I don´t believe in abortion either but don´t support yourself with religious claims! it´s against the constitution to make political actions with religious bias! and to paul, there is more than one way to believe in christianity. His interpretation maybe be enormously different to yours. and besides that christianity is always changing and adding on new groups with different values. and to conservatives, wow. cause you have it good nothing should change? the children who can´t have a scrawny meal a day can stay as they are but for a man who used to be able to buy an 10 million $  yacht but can´t  now because he has to pay for their benefits, should pay less cause then he can only buy a 5 million $ yacht? as a progressive I can clearly say what I think should be Improved. Poverty, Racism, Religious intolerance, sexism, the fact that places exist where women aren´t safe from rape (and they can´t stop the growth of a baby even before they´re devloped in any way), infrastructure, jobs demographics, health care, and everything else that you think we should look to previous FAILED measures to achieve that. how cany you possibly think that it´s better to stay with something old and majorly flawed but that works for you, than to try and find new things that work for the population as a whole? It´s like if you have something against the advancement of humanity as a whole because it might lessen a poor old billionares salary to 500 million instead while he´s probably burning half the money anyway. It´s sickening to be honest.

    • Paul Tran

      LOL, sure there’s more than one way to believe in Christianity or anything else for that matter ! But are ALL these different ways correct or morally right ? Obama’s interpretation of Christianity is painfully obvious that either he does NOT understand Christianity or is setting out to destroy it. Just look at issues on contraception, abortion and gay marriage.
      I beg to differ that Christianity is “always changing” ! Far from being ever changing it is TIMELESS as its foundation is clearly based on good commonsense and clearly thought-out rationale.
      As for “adding on different values”, this is NOT what Christianity is about ! Christianity is NOT about changing hard won principles at one’s whims to suit one’s life ! Christianity is rooted in values that are based on permanence as the values are God given ones and NOT one constantly altered by mankind and used as a reason for “progress” !
      You clearly demonstrate you have a very narrow-minded interpretation of what is being a conservative ! Your view of a conservative is one who is basking in his millions, have looked at Hollywoods rich list lately ? I can assure you the rich list is over-flowing with liberal progressives who preach one thing and practise something totally different. Bunch of hypocrits !
      Talk about “relilious intolerance”, how about intolerance to religion (by the cultural Marxists or progressive liberals) ? Just look at what the progressives have done to Russia, China, North Korea , Vietnam etc … Look at ALL the issues/societal woes in these places before you start slating Christianity.

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