What are the common threads in these progressive contest finalists? Well, first that none of these high-flown sentiments may be realized without being backed up by the threat of government force and bureaucracy. But second, we see this common thread of future vs. past. It reminded me of words Joe Sobran wrote in 1990, words which apply not only to politics, but to many debates going on in our churches.

In The Whig Interpretation of History, Herbert Butterfield lamented the tendency of historians to see the controversies of the past in the anachronistic categories of “progressive” and “reactionary.” Whig history interpreted the clash of, say, Reformers and Church not in terms the raging opponents would have understood, but as a battle between the forces of the future (Luther) and the forces of the past (Pope Leo X).

This way of flattening complicated disputes into easily grasped melodrama has trickled down into journalism. Many “news” stories have as their subtext the battle between Progressive good guys and Reactionary villains. Despite the official journalistic ethic of neutrality, unmistakable moral commitment creeps into news reports of conflict between pope and theologian, government and protestor, business and labor, white and black, male and female. We sense we’re getting cues as to which side we should be rooting for … The ultimate Progressive categories are not heaven and hell, or good and evil, or order and chaos, but Future and Past. Even the cusswords of the Progressive are chronological: archaic, outdated, Neanderthal, medieval.

…History itself has begun to demolish the Progressive mythology. Socialism is in moral, political, and economic ruins. The noble savages of the Third World have shown us what comes after “liberation.” And it’s all so tiresome. We have seen the Future, and it has acquired its own discreditable past.