The Struggle Ahead is the name of a talk by Michael M. Uhlmann, born in 1939. Mr. Uhlmann is Professor of Government in the Department of Politics and Government at Claremont Graduate University and Claremont McKenna College.
Mr. Uhlmann recently received the Claremont Institute’s Henry Salvatori Prize for helping to secure the teachings of the American founding.
Having been born in 1939 Uhlmann came of age in the 1950s and has witnessed much of the heated and raucous domestic turmoil that descended on America in the 1960s and has continued on what seems a non-ending upward path to the present day. Mr. Uhlmann gave a talk after receiving his honors which he named, The Struggle Ahead.
The struggle to which he refers is the necessary goal of restoring the Constitutional order that so well served the American people for at least 200 hundred years before the present bout of radical politics fell upon us like a load of bricks about 50 years ago. It’s not that we haven’t had struggles in the past. We fought a bloody civil war over what kind of a country we would be.
The present push into a dark future will be no easier than those in the past except that this one threatens to change America forever into something it has never been and never should be.
We are in a genuine crisis for the soul of America. Mr. Uhlmann says:
First, I think it beyond argument that we do face a genuine crisis, that it is very deep, and that it is essentially moral and intellectual rather than merely political in the narrow sense of that term. I also think that conditions are likely to get worse before we see improvement. But when and if the denouement arrives, I believe the resolution will strain our constitutional order as nothing before. I say this because a significant percentage of the population seems to have lost faith in the foundations of the American constitutional order. That should not be altogether surprising, inasmuch as they have been badly tutored. The loudest and most influential among their instructors have argued for two generations or more that the Founders’ Constitution is not merely mistaken in this or that feature, but is fundamentally flawed, even illegitimate. For many if not most left-wing intellectuals it is seen as an anti-democratic plot foisted upon naïve citizens by corrupt white males. This disposition, once the more or less exclusive property of hot-headed pamphleteers, agitators, and the professoriate, has surfaced increasingly in the rhetoric of prominent public officials, who disparage the Constitution they have taken a solemn oath to protect and defend.
The Constitution of their oath, however, is not the constitution that attracts their loyalty. Their constitution does not derive from the laws of Nature and Nature’s God; and it is certainly not devoted to securing natural rights and limited government. Theirs, rather, is a constitution in thrall to the prospect of perpetual change and ever-expanding government. This view of constitutional things in the United States was born over a century ago in the writings of leading Progressive thinkers and politicians. They set about to alter the foundations of the American regime, and to a remarkable degree they have succeeded. Their teaching dominates schooling at every level, book publishing, the news media, and popular culture. Despite occasional setbacks, the Progressive chattering class seems confident that its agenda will remain in the vanguard of American political culture. The election of Donald Trump, however, and now the prospect of a conservative Supreme Court, appear to have sapped their self-assurance and triggered a heavy bout of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Something seems to have gone awry with History’s inexorable march toward a Progressive utopia. That explains, I think, why so many Progressive thinkers and politicians have recently become bolder and nastier in expressing negative opinions about their country.
Uhlmann looks to the Kavanaugh hearings as the current example of the newspeak of fevered leftist politicians. They have abandoned the decorum of the past and now proudly and loudly spew their hatred of America’s founding principles. To them the Constitution is an evil document because it places limits on the power of government and requires the government to respect the natural rights of its citizens. Those rights do not come from government but, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, they are endowed upon us by our creators.
Thus, for today’s so-called “progressives” the Constitution has no value except as they can manipulate it to serve their own ends. They mean to achieve their ends by any means necessary. In their minds the means, any means, are always justified if they lead to their favored ends, intros case, a totalitarian regime they alone control.
Mr. Uhlmann predicts a long and dangerous struggle ahead to save America from the dystopian future progressives envision for us. He offers three observations that underscores his belief that we are now engaged in a battle for America’s constitutional soul.
First, you will note how little Kavanaugh’s opponents had to say about the merits or demerits of his more than 300 judicial opinions as an appellate judge, or the jurisprudence that informed them. There was good reason for this tactic. His critics knew perfectly well that Judge Kavanaugh could more than hold his own on any important legal subject, and for that reason, they avoided engaging him in a manner likely to enhance his credentials to sit on the High Court. For Kavanaugh’s opponents (including the 2400 professors who signed a letter saying he was unfit to hold office) the nomination fight was only incidentally a debate about differing theories of constitutional interpretation; it was fundamentally a battle about judicial will and power. The hearings reveal, it seems to me, that today’s Progressives have completely internalized the central premise of legal realism and jurisprudential positivism, namely, that the law is what judges say it is. The Progressive constitutional cat, so to speak, is now out of the bag.
Lest I reprint Mr. Uhlmann’s entire speech here, please go directly to it for Uhlmann’s description of the second and third modes of descending darkness the progressives want to impose on America. The rest of his speech offers a hopeful plan for how we who still believe in America can fight to reverse the current trends of destruction by radical leftists.
The featured image at the top of this post is “Political Chaos Theory” by Hans-Peter Fleps, You can buy a 30X40 of this painting at Saatchi Art. Wouldn’t it look great in Kamala Harris’ Senate Office!