How the Progressive Movement Changed America
“Review: Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom by Andrew Napolitano, Thomas Nelson 2012″
Some people do not see history as isolated moments, but as a stream flowing in constant motion. Andrew Napolitano is one of those great minds whose grasp of American history, law and philosophy give him a perspective on American government like few others.
When Napolitano says that the federal reserve system is an unconstitutional fraud or when he advocates the right of Americans to use drugs if they choose, he redefines the terms “liberal” and “conservative.” In actuality, those terms have lost their traditional meaning a long time ago and they are applied in news stories and analysis today as a mere convenience.
In “Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom,” Judge Andrew P. Napolitano makes the case that the progressive ideology is responsible for many of our country’s problems because it fundamentally changed the structure of the Democratic Republic. Both The Republican Party and the Democratic Party led by their standard bearers, President Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were progressives.
Both political parties responded to the public outcry against trusts, the treat of violent anarchy which finally exploded with the assassination of President McKinley and the perceived threat of the emergence of a socialist party in America led by Eugene Debbs. Sometimes the rush to “reform” does not lead to reform that is consistent with history. Napolitano recounts the ideas presented in the constitution including the framers concept of liberty and interprets the progressive era reforms through that very important lens.
Most widely known for his commentary on Fox News, Napolitano relies on his in-depth knowledge of constitutional law and American history to analyze the profound changes the progressive movement has made to the Constitutional framework of 1787. His unique perspective as a Libertarian gives him great insight into the post-civil war path the nation’s leaders took that led America to the current paradigm of a generally accepted theory of constitutional democracy and American nationhood.
Napolitano’s book is fascinating, in large part because most historians consistently place Roosevelt and Wilson on the lists of most popular and influential U.S. presidents. During their administrations, the role of the federal government was greatly expanded, often at the expense of individual and states’ rights. While progressives argued that the changes were necessary to advance the country, critics contend that it is exactly what the Founders sought to prevent. Judge Napolitano writes:
The Constitution does not mean what it says, it is not the supreme law of the land, it does not limit the federal government to the specific powers delegated to the federal government in the Constitution. Rather, in their view, the federal government can do anything it wants, as long as it is not expressly prohibited by the Constitution…that is 180 degrees from what their predecessors and the founders believed when they wrote the Constitution and created this Republic.
According to Napolitano, the changes that took place under Wilson and Roosevelt altered the path of the country to its detriment. He refers to the creation of the Federal Reserve system as an “unconstitutional fraud” and calls the institution of a compulsory military draft “a form of slavery and therefore tyranny.” He also criticizes compulsory education, attempts to redistribute wealth, and industrial regulation. Napolitano’s portrayal of the two presidents is equally unflattering and eye-opening, characterizing them intellectually arrogant and even racist.
Judge Napolitano ties many of the Progressive Era changes to the present day. He notes that Jackson was the last president to present a balanced budget without debt. He also argues that the imperialism embraced by Wilson and Roosevelt is responsible for several senseless and unproductive military engagements. He characterizes the invasion of Iraq as “the deadliest and most creative marketing job in the history of the world.”
The book is thoroughly researched and well-written, but it is far from an academic treatise. Geared to everyday Americans, “Theodore and Woodrow” reflects the blunt tone and clever wit that Fox viewers have come to expect from Judge Napolitano.
“Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom” is available via Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other popular booksellers.