Progressive Versus Progressive, Part 3: “From Three Days to Three Words”

A lot of the people who today call themselves “Progressives” express disdain for considering constitutional limits on government power, and in so doing offer up another example of how they do not live up to the example of their forebears from the Progressive Era. Although the Progressives of old did a lot of violence to the Constitution and set the stage for our era of the “living Constitution” (which means that the philosophy that gave birth to it is dead), most of those old Progressives at least understood that they needed to argue the matter, and some of them even respected that some constitutional limits still existed.
I am struck by the fact that Senator Albert Beveridge (a Republican from Indiana), one of the leading Progressives and a wingman for TR, spent three days on the Senate floor in 1907 arguing extensively about the constitutionality of proposed child labor laws. He saw that a serious constitutional argument was necessary, and he made a strong case.
This contrasts rather sharply with the answer given by the last Speaker of the House when asked by an impertinent reporter about the constitutional justification for Obamacare. Whereas Beveridge held forth for three days, Speaker Nancy Pelosi held forth for all of three words: “Are you kidding?”
“From three days to three words” might well be taken as the constitutional regress of what is called “progressivism” today.

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