From William Voegeli in The National Review, Hillary’s Empty Moralism Is a Reflection of the Greater Progressive Movement
It has now been more than a century since progressivism reconfigured American liberalism by discarding the Founding’s commitment to constitutional structures and limits, which were intended to secure inalienable natural rights and sustain government by the consent of the governed. Progressives introduced a new determination to organize and improve modern life by applying, vigorously and if need be forcibly, the insights being uncovered by a clerisy of social scientists. Eleanor Roosevelt, for example, believed that the emergency posed by World War II called for government experts to rationalize every aspect of national life. Three months after Pearl Harbor, she contended that “all of us — men in the services, and men and women at home — should be drafted and told what is the job we are to do.” Only through such regimentation could each of us confidently gain the satisfaction that comes from knowing he was “complying with the wishes and doing the things which those in authority thought should be done.”
The -ism of progressivism is the belief that movement toward a better future is a goal, a right, and the highest imperative. “Progress,” in its most direct, literal sense, simply means getting closer to some objective, one both comprehensible and manifestly superior to the current state of affairs. The early progressives believed that ascertaining and mastering the processes that shaped society and history would move mankind to a better future, just as understanding the natural laws of the physical universe had improved the human condition through steam engines, telegraphs, anesthetics, and other modern marvels.
Liberalism, however, came to regard its faith in progress as untenable. The rejection was, in part, a reaction to historical developments. Complying with the wishes of those in authority lost much of its appeal when the authorities turned out to be men such as Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy, smart fools who provided detailed charts and graphs to justify each augmentation of America’s catastrophic misadventure in Vietnam. At home, liberals came to detest the progressivism of Robert Moses and other power brokers, experts whose idea of urban renewal was to bulldoze any city block that had the temerity to evince charm or social cohesion in ways not part of a government agency’s master plan.