Glenn Beck suggests that Newt Gingrich is so “progressive” that only racism could explain why the Tea Party would support him over President Obama. He is alluding to Gingrich’s praise of Theodore Roosevelt. But the “progressive” outlook of Republican Theodore Roosevelt (TR) was much different than the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace, who served as Democrat Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president. TR opposed socialism and communism.
During an appearance on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Fox Business Channel program, Beck said about Gingrich, “This man is a progressive. He knows he’s a progressive. He doesn’t have a problem with being a progressive. So if you’ve got a big government progressive [in Gingrich] or a big government progressive in Obama, one in Newt Gingrich, one in Obama, ask yourself this Tea Party. Is it about Obama’s race? Because that’s what it appears to be to me. If you’re against him but you’re for this guy, it must be about race.”
With this comment, Beck is claiming that the policies of Gingrich and Obama are the same or at least very similar. However, in his interview with Beck, Gingrich made the point that he believes government has a role in maintaining some “minimum regulatory standards of public health and safety.” He also said government programs have to be reformed to maximize individual choice and that some federal subsidies, such as those which bolster a domestic oil and gas industry, are defensible. None of this qualifies as Obama-style socialism.
Christopher Ruddy of Newsmax noted in his article, “Glenn Beck Should Revere Theodore Roosevelt,” that “The policies advocated by TR were not those of some social engineer who wanted to remake the United States based on a Saul Alinsky radical model.”
Beck notes that Theodore Roosevelt started the Progressive Party, but this is not the same Progressive Party, dominated by the Communists, that nominated Henry Wallace for president in 1948 and which continues to influence the Democratic Party today.
The differences were set out by Roosevelt himself in his 1917 book, The Foes of Our Own Household, especially the chapter, “Socialism Versus Social Reform.” TR wrote, “One of the main vices of the Socialism which was propounded by Proudhon, Lassalle, and Marx, and which is preached by their disciples and imitators, is that it is blind to everything except the merely material side of life. It is not only indifferent, but at bottom hostile, to the intellectual, the religious, the domestic and moral life; it is a form of communism with no moral foundation, but essentially based on the immediate annihilation of personal ownership of capital, and, in the near future, the annihilation of the family, and ultimately the annihilation of civilization.”
TR wrote, “The doctrinaire Socialists, the extremists, the self-styled ‘scientific’ Socialists, the men who represent the doctrine in its most advanced form, are, and must necessarily be, not only convinced opponents of private property, but also bitterly hostile to religion and morality; in short, they must be opposed to all those principles through which, and through which alone, even an imperfect civilization can be built up by slow advances through the ages.”
I asked noted historian and author David Pietrusza to explain the differences between TR’s and Obama’s progressive philosophy.
“Far more significant in tracing the roots of today’s progressives,” he told me, “is another Progressive Party—not Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party of 1912 but Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party of 1948. The 1948 election witnessed a titanic battle for the soul of the Democratic Party, between Cold Warrior Harry Truman’s mainstream faction and Henry Wallace’s fellow-traveling radicals. At the time—and for decades afterwards—it seemed self-evident that Truman’s faction had triumphed easily and decisively over the hard left Wallacites.”
He adds, “Now, we know differently. Following their humiliating 1948 defeat, Wallace’s Progressives refused to surrender. They instead embarked upon a ‘Long March’ that led to their ideological heirs’ capture of the modern Democratic Party. A key milestone in their re-birth was 1968. That year, Democrats turned against Truman-JFK-LBJ Cold War policies. That same year, former Progressive Party national convention delegate Senator George McGovern emerged as the heir to the martyred Robert Kennedy. Four years later, McGovern captured the Democratic nomination and re-wrote party national convention rules to cement the transformation of his party’s leftward drift. The Obama victory of 2008, and the personnel and policies of his administration, largely translate into a victory for Henry Wallace’s ideological heirs, not for Truman’s. The Truman-style Democrat is largely extinct.”
Pietrusza notes significant differences between the earlier Rooseveltian/Wilsonian progressivism and Henry Wallace’s later version. “Wilson was profoundly anti-Bolshevik,” he points out. “He dispatched U.S. troops to Russia to fight communism. He jailed radical dissenters. Henry Wallace advocated abolition of the House Un-American Activities Committee. He opposed Truman’s Greek and Turkish aid programs and even the Marshall Plan. He apologized at virtually every turn for Stalinist foreign policy.
While TR and Wilson advocated regulating big business, Pietrusza says they relied largely on anti-trust laws and “trust-busting.” On the other hand, “Henry Wallace Progressives scoffed at the effectiveness of that approach” and “demanded far more radical action.” He points out, “The 1948 Progressive Party platform committed the party to ‘public ownership of key areas of the economy,’ ‘democratic economic planning’ and nationalizing, as ‘a first step,’ large banks, railroads, electric power and gas companies, and the companies doing business with the government.”
Wallace’s platform stated flat-out: “The Progressive Party will initiate such measures of public ownership as may be necessary to put into the hands of the people’s representatives the levers of control essential to the operation of an economy of abundance.”
Henry Wallace’s brand of progressivism was a “far-more radical” version that “presaged Obama-era attitudes and policies,” he notes.
Pietrusza goes on, “In 1948, for example, Barack Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis’s Chicago-based newspaper, The Star ‘wholeheartedly’ backed Wallace. That summer the Progressive Party ‘apparatus’ purchased the paper from Davis—converting it to the Illinois Standard—and thus enabling Davis to relocate to Hawaii on the advice of fellow Progressive Party activist Paul Robeson.”
The suggestion that the Henry Wallace philosophy is consistent with or follows from that of Theodore Roosevelt ignores the involvement of the Wallacites and Wallace himself in a communist-dominated coalition in 1948. This is one of the major differences that cannot be ignored. In fact, this difference is critical to understanding the forces backing Obama.
These include such groups as Citizens for Global Solutions, once known as the World Federalist Association, that favor world government. The group is advertising a national conference that will include a briefing and tour at the Obama White House in March. “Unlocking the doors to power,” says the invitation for the event.
A patriot like Theodore Roosevelt would never have opened the White House to globalists representing foreign interests and ideas alien to the U.S. constitutional republic.
It’s true that Obama himself and his supporters in the Soros-funded Center for American Progress have tried to suggest that Obama’s progressive philosophy is somehow based on or related to what TR said and believed. This is a clumsy attempt to make Obama’s ideas look bipartisan and less radical than they really are.
Conservatives and the conservative media should not fall for the bait.