A new promotional segment for MSNBC’s “Hardball” program took the network’s “Lean Forward” advertisement campaign to new heights of progressivism, with host Chris Matthews citing the American Revolution as proof that “liberalism always wins — eventually.”
The commercial, which appears to have first aired Tuesday on MSNBC, shows a thoughtful-looking Matthews strolling through Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.
“It took 22 months of men debating in this room to achieve the Declaration of Independence,” he intoned. “Progressive change takes time.”
“Abolition would take a great civil war, but it came,” Matthews continued. “Women’s suffrage would take a crusade, but it became part and parcel of our democracy. Voting rights have taken a brutal fight, as will the case for marriage equality and equal pay for men and women.”
“Liberalism always wins EVENTUALLY,” he declared, “just as it did in the sweltering summer of 1776.”
On its face, the ad is a rallying cry for an American Left sorely disenchanted by the lack of progress on, and stiff opposition to, their domestic agenda. “Do not despair!” Matthews urges. “You follow in a long American tradition begun by our progressive Founding Fathers!”
But was the American Revolution really a win for liberalism? Perhaps classical liberalism — today identified primarily with libertarianism — but surely that’s not what Matthews meant.
Many historians argue that — contrary to society-shifting upheavals like the French and Russian revolutions — the American Declaration of Independence was driven by measured conservative opposition to an overreaching monarch.
The fact that the Revolution was debated and declared by monied, powerful and well-respected men rather than exploding in the streets — like the fight for women’s suffrage, voting rights and other movements Matthews cites — belies the MSNBC host’s attempt to appropriate the Founders as part of a broader progressive American history.
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