Woodrow Wilson: American Progressive

The 28th President of the United States Woodrow Wilson is sometimes remembered for his, frankly, visionary Fourteen Points at the end of WWI, and for his support and promotion of the League of Nations. What has come to light by some recent analysis are his progressive policies and his deep racist actions and assumptions.

Interestingly enough, the WhiteHouse.gov site even describes Wilson at one point in his career as, ” a conservative young professor of political science and became president of Princeton in 1902.” While I have read several books that have taken exception to that identification, I don’t necessarily disagree that in some regards Wilson, like Teddy Roosevelt, could be called conservative in some policies, especially those involving foreign policy.

We throw around the labels of “Progressive,” “Liberal,” “Conservative,” ect when the meaning of those ideologies has literally changed from generation to generation. But I digress… back to Wilson.

I am not a huge Wilson fan and for numerous reasons: Progressive (big government), racist (rabid), and in 1918 the Sedition Act allowed him to imprison political opponents, something FDR would learn from and do as well. Wilson arrived at the White House after winning the election of 1912 and removed all of the colored (black) staff in the White House. He would embraced D.W. Griffith’s “A Birth of a Nation,” which of course is known for it promotion of the Ku Klux Klan as the savior of the post-South, threatened after the war by carpetbagging Republicans and freedmen. Not to mention his support of segregation in the military. The list against Wilson could go on frankly.

So thus, I have a professor who is progressive and considers Wilson in a far more favorable light than I. What to do? I suspect I will keep my bloody mouth shut…

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4 Responses to Woodrow Wilson: American Progressive

  1. Alex says:

    ” I have a professor who is progressive and considers Wilson in a far more favorable light than I. What to do? I suspect I will keep my bloody mouth shut…” – Unfortunately, that is what many “conservatives” are forced to do in academia. I usually label myself a moderate. However, my conservative friends (Paleos and Neocon alike) say I’m a liberal for my positions on education and a desire for limited welfare state (they want it eliminated completely). On the other hand, my liberal friends call me a right winger since on social issues like abortion, immigration, and same sex marriage, I take a more conservative position. But now I’M the one digressing. Either way, it is the same thing in academia. If I say that FDR was a “great” President, then I’m a crazy leftists to conservatives, but if I say that Reagan was great too, I get labled a right winger. Anyhow, in college, I kept my mouth shut because there was only one side represented. The only exception was my Lincoln and Civil War professor, who respected, and ENCOURAGED different interpretations and points of view.
    Good post, and VERY good points on Wilson.

  2. Chris says:

    Alex: I first need to clarify that I like my professor and am learning a lot, I just don’t speak my mind all the time to save myself the trouble. And I hear you about being labeled and I know I have done that, but I try to avoid it . But then I think as things continue, as government becomes the complete opposite of what the Founders wanted and as I see deficits grow, that maybe we are approaching times where, as Samuel Adams said, it’s time to “take sides”… Chris

  3. Alex says:

    I hear ya.
    I too am guilty of labeling others, sometimes even too prematurely to the point I end up with egg on my face. I guess as I get older I try to be less abrasive in my approach .
    But I think that you have hit on a point that my friend challenged me on too. I may need to pick a side because of the context of our times, and so far I tend to not only be “leaning” to the right, but placing my rear end almost permanently there.
    I personally don’t like the extremes the left have taken us, and my moderate days are being challenged more each day.
    As Abraham Lincoln said, “Important principles may and must be inflexible.” My moderate days may be coming to a close. Thanks again Chris for a great post. Got me thinking.

  4. Martin says:

    With regard to Wilson, the more I read, the more I dislike him. I highly recommend R.J. Pestrito’s Woodrow Wilson and The Roots of Modern Liberalism. Additionally, (although it sounds like it is a polemic, it is actually quite scholarly, and not polemical) Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism has a quite a bit to say about Wilson. (I’ve written reviews of both of these books on my site.)

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