by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
… you’re incensed over the Hobby Lobby ruling, especially if you wish to believe — or desire others to believe — the ruling was about preventing women from gaining access to contraception.
You might be a ‘progressive’ if you had no knowledge of, or have no interest in, the fact that Hobby Lobby’s health insurance coverage for employees provided coverage for 16 different types of contraceptives, just not abortifacients given the owners’ moral objections against them.
You might be a ‘progressive’ if you think the main issue in the case wasn’t maintaining the first freedom protected by the First Amendment (religious liberty), but in forcing all people regardless of creed to fall into lockstep with your beliefs. As Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post, the ruling
does, however, burden ‘progressives’ who want no exceptions to its edicts, no matter what the damage done to people of conscience. The reaction to the case suggests desperation to cook up a 2016 issue and maybe some measure of embarrassment that a law they passed with nary a peep should have done in contraception absolutists. The reaction on the left also highlights the totalitarian impulse that now routinely afflicts the left. How dare people of faith get a special accommodation! (How dare a speaker with different views speak at graduation!) The outrage over the decision has become far more interesting and revealing than the case itself, which boiled down to an ordinary free-exercise case.
Charles Murray writes in the Wall Street Journal in favor of differentiating liberals from ‘progressives’ because of the latter group’s totalitarian impulse:
philosophically, the progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century had roots in German philosophy ( Hegel and Nietzsche were big favorites) and German public administration ( Woodrow Wilson’s open reverence for Bismarck was typical among progressives). To simplify, progressive intellectuals were passionate advocates of rule by disinterested experts led by a strong unifying leader. They were in favor of using the state to mold social institutions in the interests of the collective. They thought that individualism and the Constitution were both outmoded.
That’s not a description that Woodrow Wilson or the other leading progressive intellectuals would have argued with. They openly said it themselves.
It is that core philosophy extolling the urge to mold society that still animates progressives today—a mind-set that produces the shutdown of debate and growing intolerance that we are witnessing in today’s America. Such thinking on the left also is behind the rationales for indulging President Obama in his anti-Constitutional use of executive power.
The progressives’ philosophy (or belief system) habitually runs roughshod over self-evident rights inherent within each individual, such as religious rights and free association in this instance. It is also a philosophy steeped in situational ethics, where truth is subjective to the political goals of the day and the end justifies the means.
Historically, the progressives’ totalitarian impulse with respect to contraception has been even more sinister. Consider North Carolina’s forced sterilization program (which the state under GOP leadership chose to make amends for) and California’s recently discovered prisoner sterilizations.
Eugenics is a progressive cause, harnessing the power of the state to have experts determine who could reproduce and who could not, depending upon if the would-be parents had “undesirable” racial or other genetic qualities, other “objectionable traits,” or even low incomes.