US Constitution Project, Inc.

A 501(c)(3) Organization

Survey Results

A survey was conducted in the fall of 2015 to determine and document the extent of ignorance of the source of progressivism and related events in our history.  According to guidelines published by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut, our sample of 242 participants should yield a margin of error of no more than about 7%. 

The survey consisted of five statements, with three multiple-choice responses for each: Y=Yes I knew that; N=No I didn’t know that and X=I don’t believe that.  To prevent ‘stuffing the ballot box’, we allowed just one entry per IP address.

Survey statement 1 During the latter part of the 19th century, many American scholars studied in Germany for advanced degrees, and became believers in something called the 'German State Theory'. That theory held that the governments progress over time, thus the term 'progressive'. As America was perceived to be new relative to mature Germany, some of these scholars returned home with their doctorates and disdain for the US Constitution, to become leaders in our institutions of higher learning.

Results: Y=24%, N=58%, X=18% and N+X=76%

More than three-quarters of all who participated in the survey were as ignorant as I.

Examples of scholars who studied in Germany and became progressive educators were (a) Frank Johnson Goodnow, who attended the University of Berlin and subsequently became President of Johns Hopkins University, and (b) Ira Remsen, who attended The University of Göttingen and was subsequently on the faculty of Johns Hopkins.

The second survey statement focuses on the period commonly called the Progressive Age:  Beginning with the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt (Republican) and Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), American government has included individuals who held two distinctly different philosophies - some subscribe to our Constitution and others to progressive doctrines.

Results: Y=60%, N=26%, X=14% and N+X=40%

A substantial majority of the participants knew this to be true.  One of the X participants wrote me an email afterward, arguing that while there may have been differences at one time, all of today’s government officials subscribe to the Constitution.  One of the progressive philosophies introduced by Wilson that often results in 5 to 4 Supreme Court decisions is the notion of an evolving constitution.  Concerning the Constitution, Wilson wrote ‘The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton.'   Because it is difficult to amend the Constitution, progressives cling to the notion that it is a 'living constitution’, subject to interpretation.

Survey statement number 3 fared poorly:  Progressives generally do not subscribe to the concept of inalienable rights (Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness), as set forth in our Declaration of Independence. They believe that only governments can grant rights to its citizens. Woodrow Wilson was very explicit about this, and advised that readers of the Declaration should skip that paragraph.

Results: Y=31%, N=38%, X=31% and N+X=69%

There can be no disputing that Wilson advised skipping the paragraph in the Declaration.  Most progressives are more subtle than Wilson was on this topic.  These personal rights do not require laws to enforce them; they are granted by “nature and nature’s God.”  To enjoy them, we must be left alone.  Few people are ‘left alone’ by the current progressive administration.  Indeed, Wilson wrote in The New Freedom that “freedom today is something more than being let alone.  The program of a government of freedom must in these days be positive; not negative merely.”  That same thought was echoed by Barack Obama in a radio interview in 2001.

We have a recent demonstration of survey statement 4:  Progressive doctrine holds that the public at large is insufficiently intelligent to practice democracy. Experts must write laws, and if necessary need not share information with the public nor even with the Congress.

Results: Y=41%, N=30%, X=29% and N+X=59%

Herbert Croly, founding editor of New Republic Magazine, wrote “The national advance will always be impeded by these misleading and erroneous ideas, and what is more, it always should be impeded by them, because at the bottom ideas of this kind are merely an expression of the fact that the average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a serious and constant conception of his responsibilities as a democrat." Excerpted from The Promise of American Life, 1909, page 276.  Dr. Jonathan Gruber. Obamacare ‘expert’, said 'This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. OK? . . . . Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to get the thing to pass." From a 2013 video, explaining why a lack of transparency was essential to the passing of Obamacare.  Further quoting Woodrow Wilson, “Those who are to be charged with ‘adjusting’ government to the evolving demands of history must be sufficiently educated and expert both to see what history demands and to know the proper means for adjusting government accordingly.”

 

Survey statement 5 relies heavily on Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism by Dr. Ronald J. Pestritto, now also with Hillsdale College:   From the time Wilson was a graduate student until he became president of the US, his published writings were in effect a one-man constitutional convention. He argued against the separation of powers and pronounced that the risk of tyranny is a thing of the past.

Results: Y=26%, N=50%, X=24%, and N+X=74%

Among Wilson’s earlier writings, as a student, is a religious series that includes the title ‘”Christ’s Army”.  Pestritto’s interpretation of Wilson’s religion is summarized in these words: “The final victory of good over evil is not something that transcends the earthly regime; instead, God uses human history to bring about the triumph of good here on earth, in the form of the ideal state at the end of history.”  He directly quotes Wilson: “Thus the battle of life progresses and the army of Saints ever gains ground under divine generalship.”  Wilson’s dispute with the separation of powers is found in The New Freedom, an edited collection of his campaign speeches: “No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live.”  Wilson’s views over time varied from:

(a)  A Britain-like cabinet government, in which members of Congress would also serve in the Executive Branch.  That would have required a constitutional amendment, which Wilson proposed.

(b)  A Congress-centric government.  A problem he saw was the “decentralized clash of interests” in Congress, which appeared to be at odds with his religious (progressive) belief that such diversity had ceased to exist in the United States.

(c)   A President-centric government.  The President must interpret the spirit of the age, and in so doing must bring along not only the other institutions of government but also the people themselves.  Quoting Wilson, the president will be “a man . . . who has the personality and the initiative to enforce his views both upon the people and upon Congress.” 

In each of these variations, he emphasized the need for oratorical skills sufficient to sway the public, because he did not have a very high opinion of the people themselves.

Summarizing the survey and its results, the results of Statement #2, dealing with the progressive movement and its departure from the Constitution, is a significant exception among the five statements.  That is, a majority of participants reported that they knew that.  Even so, a significant percentage still do not believe it.

A majority ranging from 59% to 76% of participants were not aware of the facts of the other four statements.  We believe this is a fundamental issue accounting for the election and re-election of Obama and the current direction of the country.  We believe that it confirms the urgent demand for the documentary, The Hijacking of America.