It's hard to miss the MSNBC motto's comfy similarity to President Obama's reelection slogan. Widely mocked since its debut, the "Lean Forward" campaign celebrates the unabashedly progressive news network's mission to explain to the American people why we need more government, not less.
Harder to understand is the choice of symbolism in the network's ads – The Hoover Dam and Mount Rushmore. The ads' director, Spike Lee, hoped to promote the idea that "great projects" can only be undertaken by muscular government. Which is odd, considering that neither the construction of the Hoover Dam nor the sculpting of Mount Rushmore would be remotely possible in today's politically correct, hyperactive regulatory environment.
Let's go back in time and imagine if MSNBC were around when these projects were first conceived and executed. How might its correspondents have reported the events?
June 7, 1927 – Keystone, South Dakota, Chris Matthews: "And so it begins, the defacing of a once majestic work of nature, Mount Rushmore, more properly called Six Grandfathers by the Lakota Sioux whose sacred land was stolen by the white man despite promises made in the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The planned sculptures, designed to romanticize the presidents most known for their policies promoting imperialist expansion at the expense of native Americans, is designed to attract tourists who can only despoil this pristine wilderness. Construction will also disturb the nests of at least three bald eagles and a dozen white-breasted nuthatches. Count on MSNBC to keep you updated as this tragedy unfolds."
December 21, 1928 – Washington, D.C., Rachel Maddow: "Thanks to a suspect interstate compact signed behind closed doors by seven states conspiring to circumvent the Supreme Court's anti-water diversion ruling in the Wyoming v. Colorado decision, Congress today voted to flood 250 square miles of land near Boulder, Colorado. And for what? To destroy the way of life of hundreds of underprivileged citizens just so greedy agribusiness and energy profiteers can divert water from the Colorado River that rightly belongs to Mexico. Unless the courts put a stop to this pending environmental disaster, construction of a giant dam by private interests employing non-union labor can be expected to commence within two years. Stay tuned for our exclusive interview with the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, a veteran activists of the battle to halt construction of the notorious Hetch Hetchy Dam."
October 4, 1927 – Keystone, South Dakota, Rev. Al Sharpton: "You know what! I'll tell you what. This Gutzon Borglum character, the Mormon sculptor with polygamist parents who wants to carve a bunch of dead president's faces onto a mountain in South Dakota. Well, MSNBC has it from authoritative sources that he's a former member of the Klan. That's right, the Ku Klux Klan! Can you believe government money is being spent to promote racist artwork? I'm calling for a boycott of all products coming from South Dakota until this injustice is corrected."
May 15, 1931 -Boulder City, Nevada, Andrea Mitchell: "The staggering sum of $49 million was committed by moneyed interests in Congress today to fund the construction of the controversial Boulder Dam on the border between Arizona and Nevada. This will be the largest concrete structure ever built using construction techniques that remain unproven in a remote site completely lacking in proper facilities, subjecting workers to blistering heat in unsanitary living conditions. However, the winning consortium claims it can complete construction in less than six years. Stay tuned as our experts explain why this ill-conceived project can only end in disaster."
July 4, 1934 – Keystone, South Dakota, Rachel Maddow: "Over my shoulder you can see what is supposed to be the likeness of our former plantation president, George Washington, soon to be joined by another slave-owning son of privilege, the common law husband of Sally Hemings. As this project continues, more and more people are beginning to ask, where is the space reserved for the inspirational civil-rights leader Susan B. Anthony? Where is the space reserved for the great Lakota chieftain Thasunjke Witko, also known as Crazy Horse, a brilliant general who led his braves to victory against genocidal white supremacist troops in the Battle of Little Bighorn? Join us tonight in a candlelight vigil demanding a public referendum to allow the voice of the people to be heard."
January 10, 1935 – Boulder City, Nevada, Chris Matthews: "The death watch continues as the body count mounts toward 100 workers killed thanks to the callous indifference of the robber barons racing to complete the massive Boulder Dam ahead of schedule, completely disregarding the human toll. The fact that the most environmentally destructive dam ever conceived is being built on the graves of a workforce more callously exploited than the Pharaoh's slaves is a stain on America's character. How fitting that diehards are still trying to rename this dam after failed president Herbert Hoover, a name that will never stick as President Roosevelt's New Deal policies guarantee that prosperity and full employment are right around the corner. Stay tuned to MSNBC as we bring you further coverage of a scandal destined to live in infamy."
Yes, that's the way it was – if you were to go back and frame the narrative of these can-do triumphs of American exceptionalism with modern progressive eyes. But don't worry, MSNBC, Progressivism means never looking back. Let us lock arms and march FORWARD, oblivious to reality. What do facts matter when life is just a social construct?