Progressivism’s War on Winners
From the March 10 issue of NR



Had enough of the never-ending “war on women” — which, in reality, never began? Same here. So let’s talk instead about a different kind of siege that does happen to exist, and that hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves: the ongoing, systematic assault on society’s winners by today’s progressivism.

These “winners” aren’t the fabled economic “1 percent.” I mean instead the unknown number of men and women among us who ought to be recognized as the alpha humans, and usually aren’t: the moral winners who spend their days helping the poor, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry.

They’re the foot soldiers of Catholic Charities; of Prison Fellowship Ministries; of religious orders and other private associations grounded in the mission of service; and of many more groups, Protestant and Catholic and Jewish alike, than can be named here.

They’re the people who don’t just talk the talk of social justice but actually walk the walk — into hospitals, soup kitchens, nursing homes, and other places stacked with plastic trays rather than china, where disinfectant rather than potpourri wafts through the halls. They’re the people usually found far removed from, say, the ballroom in the Washington Hilton Hotel, where President Obama recently addressed the 62nd annual National Prayer Breakfast.

As if their missions weren’t daunting enough already, these heroes and heroines must now also face constant ideological and legal attack. And as political irony would have it, their opponents are the same people who ostentatiously swaddle themselves in the mantle of concern for the destitute, who castigate their fellow Americans for failing the poor.

These critics are the generals in the war on winners, starting with the progressive-in-chief. “Our faith teaches us that in the face of suffering, we can’t stand idly by, and that we must be that Good Samaritan.” So said President Obama during the Prayer Breakfast the other week. So say his progressive allies and friends, and his administration, too . . . all the way to the courthouse.

Begin with the most obvious example: the court case brought against the administration by the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Little Sisters argue that their refusal to comply with the HHS contraception-and-abortifacients mandate on grounds of conscience will incur some $2.5 million in annual fines. That’s $2.5 million that could otherwise feed, house, and warm those for whom they care.

If the appeal doesn’t go their way, the administration will have successfully kneecapped their unique mission among the old, the sick, and the dying, whom they take in and treat as “family” when everyone else has thrown them out.

All of which raises an interesting point. From the perspective of sheer public relations, taking on the Little Sisters should have been the political equivalent of slapping babies. Why wasn’t it? This is a puzzle to which we will return.

Team Obama strapped the HHS mandate into law and detonated it in pews and food pantries across the land. The result has been a volcano of litigation: In addition to the Little Sisters, 90-plus lawsuits and some 300 plaintiffs now stand in line waiting to be heard. Nor is this just a Catholic thing. The most prominent of the Supreme Court cases involving the mandate, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., features a corporation owned by Protestants.

And those are just the lawsuits over the HHS mandate. On front after front, this same overweening progressivism has ignited a wider conflict. For example, as Greg Scott of Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal organization defending pro-life groups, recently pointed out, “There is an all-out war by Planned Parenthood and leftist politicians to shut pregnancy centers down through onerous regulation and other policies.”

Churches, family-owned companies, nursing homes, women and babies seeking shelter and care: What isn’t fair game after the mandate?

In fact, so unmistakably ambitious has today’s progressivism become that it has lately attracted attention beyond the usual political precincts. Writing in The New Republic, Damon Linker — whose first book attacked what he called the “theocons” of the Right — now warns of the “latter-day Jacobins” of the Left and denounces the “broader, troubling trans-Atlantic trend of secular liberalism steamrolling competing, non-liberal visions of the good.”