Among my circle of Facebook friends — many of whom I used to interact with in the real world before the internets relieved me of that burden — there is a tendency to celebrate the common-sense wisdom of one Dwight David Eisenhower. (There is also a seemingly endless fascination with kittens and Star Wars, but that's for another post.) The good general’s quotes are brought up to demonstrate that the Republican Party was not always dominated by con artists, shills, and flat-out lunatics. “Why isn’t the GOP this sensible today?” or something similar is usually the comment that accompanies these citations.
What my friends don’t seem to realize is that The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today (since it would be an oxymoron to call it “The Modern GOP" or even “Today's GOP”) has its roots in a reaction against the very moderation that Eisenhower embodied. The short version is that early in Ike’s first term, a small group of right-wing reactionaries concluded that Eisenhower was a communist dupe (!) because he did not move immediately to uproot every last trace of the New Deal immediately upon taking office. So they decided they would do it themselves. Step One was to take control of one of the two major political parties, and we can all guess which one they picked.
Step Two was to get a candidate of their choosing onto the national ticket. That turned out to be Goldwater in 1964 — which was rather sooner than expected. Goldwater’s campaign is usually depicted as a setback for this peculiar brand of conservatism. But the reality is that winning the election was not the point of his candidacy, although I’m sure the folks who put him there would have viewed it as a nice perk if he had actually won. (All of this is admirably recounted by Rick Perlstein in Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, which I consider indispensable in understanding how we got into this mess.)
Step Three was to actually take the White House, which as we all know was accomplished by Saint Ronnie of Reagan.
Which brings us to another point my Facebook friends have made fairly regularly: The notion that Ronald Reagan — yes, even Ronald Reagan — would be “too liberal” for The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today. Nor is this point limited to Facebook. It seems to be Conventional Wisdom (which would explain why it’s disseminated on Facebook.) Last week it showed up here:
A lot of people have said that Reagan wouldn’t even recognize the Republican Party of today. Do you think that’s right?
I think that’s right. I don’t think Reagan or myself or any of us could win a primary now with these standards...
The problem with this idea is that it completely ignores the basic reality of what Reagan was — an opportunist. He would have become whatever his handlers told him to become in order to win a primary, and then a general election. I know The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today likes to claim that Reagan was a great leader. And certainly he exhibited many of the outward qualities of leadership. What he never exhibited was any actual leadership. Reagan was a follower, not a leader. It’s as simple as that.
So, let’s review:
1) Eisenhower was not representative of the GOP even when he was its nominal head.
2) Ronald Reagan is not our friend. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
Please make a note of it.
Jim Hightower writes:
…While the great majority of workaday Americans are struggling to make it on about $30,000 a year — and having, at best, puny pensions and iffy health coverage — these incoming lawmakers tend to be sitting pretty on hundreds of thousands of dollars each in accumulated wealth. Their financial reports show them holding extensive personal investments in such outfits as Wall Street banks, oil giants and drug makers.
Their wealth and financial ties might help explain the rush by the new Republican House majority to coddle these very same corporate powers. From gutting EPA’s anti-pollution restrictions on Big Oil to undoing the restraints on Wall Street greed, they’re pushing for a return to the same laissez-fairyland ideology of the past 20 years that got our country in massive messes…
The late and incontestably great progressive senator from Nebraska, George W. Norris, was my wife’s grandfather. The senator refused to own stocks or bonds in any company whatever, on the grounds that a senator cast so many votes on so many matters that it would be impossible to avoid at least the appearance of self-interest. What little money he had was invested exclusively in U.S. government securities.
…what’s the matter with the South? It’s worth remembering that Dixie was well on its way out of the toilet before it chose to dive right back in. Badtux the Southern Penguin poses the question in this excerpt. And here’s his answer, which is not likely to surprise you. But plenty of people don’t know the backstory.
Historically, the American South in the period from around 1920 to 1965 was characterized by populism. A series of charismatic progressive governors was elected in most Southern states during this time period who brought their backwards states up to then-modern standards in many ways.
Public education had been crippled for decades by barriers that prevented most poor kids from advancing past the 6th grade, especially the cost of textbooks. Those barriers were removed and poor kids for the first time had the opportunity for a high school education. Public universities were vastly expanded and tuitions cut to zero for poor kids in many cases, allowing access to higher education for many for the first time.
A road network that was primarily rutted dirt roads in 1920 was by 1965 as good as any road network anywhere in the nation. Taxes on the wealthy that basically didn’t exist in 1920 were at national norms by 1965. In 1920 most Southerners had no electricity, indoor plumbing, or telephone service, by 1965 those were at national norms. Manufacturers noted the new infrastructure and the newly-educated work force and flocked to the South in droves. Decrepit cities like Houston and Atlanta started throwing up modern skyscrapers and becoming thriving metropolises.
Yet this burst of modernization basically had slammed to a halt by 1975. Instead of electing progressive governors, the South started electing regressives, people intent upon rolling back the reforms instituted by the progressives. When progressives did get elected, like Edwin Edwards in Louisiana during the late 1970’s, they found themselves fighting holding actions, basically trying to keep government services from being gutted by a populace increasingly hostile to government.
City parks and recreation programs were gutted and closed, city bus services were cut back or eliminated, and the roads and schools started to deteriorate. A few cities fought back and managed to become isolated islands of progressivism and prosperity, but most Southern cities started a long slide to ruin…
I guess it would make some sense that Ron Paul fans are embracing Mario Savio, judging from the anti-military stance that Ron Paul fans enunciate. I might then find some solace in their attempts at doing well by using Thomas Jefferson's admonitions about standing armies.
The speech and the Ron Paul blurb at the end are below. If Savio were speaking then about the military machine, which I don’t believe he was on that occasion, then I could understand their method. The speech seemed to be aimed specifically at the University and its role in society. Our current political system might have seemed analogous to the Ron Paul fan in the video below, as regards the emasculation of the overseas military.
During the Berkeley Free Speech movement, Mario Savio certainly often made speeches that appealed to many, on campus as well as off campus. I read about Savio in a San Francisco News article and in this week’s The Nation.
But I have a little trouble with his persona being conscripted by the Ron Paul fans, who, after all, are still Republicans. I do, however, agree with the Ron Paul crowd about the senselessness of our national war policy and our standing military and its tremendous and incredible cost to our economy as well as to world prosperity. This great and terrible tragedy has festered since the end of World War II.
Personally, I think that Paul needs to jump ship and run as a third party candidate this election. I’d even join that group — if I thought he could help in today's world but particularly if I thought there was any chance of seeing a third party candidate run as Ross Perot did in 1992 and 1996. Not that I support Paul's current policies, but my wife did vote for Perot after all. Triangulation does work at times.
So what do our readers think of the Ron Paul supporters co-opting a speech by Savio that comes from 1964 and which wasn’t an antiwar speech as far as I can tell? I thought the Ron Paul groups and the ideas they espoused were conservative, in line with the Old Right. Now we know. They’re like Mikey. They’ll eat anything.
Here is another song for the Hard Hittin’ song series I started. This is one that Woody Guthrie wrote called This Land is your Land after hearing God Bless America one too many times. The song annoyed him, the lyrics were just too much for him to take. I never heard it said that Woody was an atheist, but maybe he was annoyed because Woody stood up for people who were put down by others as his own family had suffered from the perils of capitalism, people who had lost everything to the Great Depression and the often shaky infrastructure upon which capitalism stands, which can take down anybody without much warning including people like the Guthries who were once a prosperous family as the New Yorker article linked to above notes. So Woody stood up for others with his songs, or as he put it:
I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling.
I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.
I could hire out to the other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own kind of songs and to sing the kind that knock you down still farther and the ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think that you've not got any sense at all. But I decided a long time ago that I’d starve to death before I’d sing any such songs as that. The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that anyhow.
The Wikipedia and the New Yorker link to the song in the links above show you the socialist lyrics that Woody composed for the song that have been edited out by historians. Yes, This Land is Your Land is a Socialist Song. So sing it loud, and when the children sing it in school, remind them that it’s a fact that it is a socialist song, and that the word and the ideology are nothing to be ashamed of.
We are losing the middle class in this country because we’ve been abandoning every scintilla of socialism, which was once seen as a positive in America by many people, especially those who helped build a middle class in this country, which we’re losing and have been losing since Ronald Reagan started the ball rolling. Those of us old enough to know and understand what happened saw it happen right before our eyes.
So listen to the song and remember what it stands for: Socialism. It’ts not a bad word, despite what you hear on television and radio and from those who are out to take away your middle class lifestyle, if they haven’t taken it from you already. If you let them, they’ll take away your socialist Social Security and your Socialist roads and highways and your Socialist military retirement and your Socialist police force and your Socialist schools, and every other Socialist thing in this country.
But if you fight for it, you might just in the years to come find for yourself a truly socialist, nonprofit, low cost way of keeping alive when you get sick. So keep on fighting by organizing, speaking out, and engaging in every other legal nonviolent way you can to embarrass the people who are trying to steal your middle class lifestyle.
Don’t stop here, this has nothing to do with that Ayn Rand follower Arthur Silber but was found in a comment on Avedon Carol’s blog, and from those words quoted from an FDR speech, it’s quite easy to conclude that our current President and FDR have nothing, absolutely nothing in common, or so it seems to me right now.
Perhaps a second term will reveal a different perspective but with Republicans likely to be coming into the House and Senate in droves, that doesn’t seem likely. Those of us who vote Democrat long for the days when a speech like the one in the link would be spoken by a President in Office and we continue to vote that way because we have Hope — Hope that another Democratic President will deliver what FDR did. Obama seems to have failed the test miserably so far.
So we long for any President who would follow the path that FDR strode. Those of us old enough to have seen it happen know what Ronald Reagan ushered in. We see it every day in our streets filled with homeless people, in our dying and dead small towns, in our handicapped and mentally ill who too often fall through the cracks and who usually never get the help they need and in hundreds of places and people where and whom Reagan helped to fall from grace and economic security. Sure, he created a small economic elite, but at the price of a hundred people whose economic security was lost for every one person who gained a small fortune. The only thing that trickled down was piss.
Yes, we want FDR back. Perhaps that is too much to ask for. Nevertheless, the Republicans are far worse and I won’t ever vote for a party that seeks to create a permanent political and economic aristocracy. Perhaps all we can hope for is small steps, one at a time. Right now no further stimulus money is available.
That has been decreed and was allowed to happen ever since that cretin Nixon opened the doors to China, which I didn't and don’t disagree with. However, the situation was made intolerably bad by George W. Bush’s desire to lower taxes and then use borrowed money from China to finance his war and thereby break the economy, with Obama continuing in the charade, or so it seems at the moment. Now we have become the economic slaves of a small elite due to our national debt, on top of slaves to our own government as Chuck mentioned in the previous post. It is hard to be hopeful, yet dum spiro spero. Now, here’s the FDR that so many of our people seem to have forgotten:
And so it was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought. That victory gave the business of governing into the hands of the average man, who won the right with his neighbors to make and order his own destiny through his own government. Political tyranny was wiped out at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.
Since that struggle, however, man’s inventive genius released new forces in our land which reordered the lives of our people. The age of machinery, of railroads; of steam and electricity; the telegraph and the radio; mass production, mass distribution — all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free.
For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital — all undreamed of by the Fathers — the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.
There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small-businessmen and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.
It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.
The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor — these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small-businessmen, the investments set aside for old age — other people’s money — these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.
Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities.
Throughout the nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.
An old English judge once said: “Necessitous men are not free men.” Liberty requires opportunity to make a living — a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.
For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people's money, other people’s labor — other people’s lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.
Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.
The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.
Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.
These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.
The brave and clear platform adopted by this convention, to which I heartily subscribe, sets forth that government in a modern civilization has certain inescapable obligations to its citizens, among which are protection of the family and the home, the establishment of a democracy of opportunity, and aid to those overtaken by disaster.
But the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them.
I’ve always had a preference for Ian and Sylvia’s version of this song and I regularly look for their version on Youtube, but until I discovered the version below, I never knew that Paul Robeson sang it. I think I’m going to change my preference even though the Ian and Sylvia version has a quiet beauty that I still find spellbinding.
Coming from Paul Robeson, even though he was not Canadian, I still understand how poignant this song must have been for him, and for all of us who know some of what the United States Government did to him solely for his beliefs. In many ways, Robeson himself was an exile in his own country, for example as stated in his Wikipedia entry
To this day, Paul Robeson’s FBI file is one of the largest of any entertainer ever investigated by the United States Intelligence Community, requiring its own internal index and unique status of health file.
If you’re not familiar with who Paul Robeson was and what he stood for and what the US Government did to him for his beliefs, please go read the rest of his Wikipedia entry linked to above. And then listen to the his remarkable voice singing this wonderful but sad folk song.
Incidentally, I noticed that the song is called Le Canadien Errant on this version but is almost universally referred to elsewhere as Un Canadien Errant. I cannot say whether this has any significance but it is unusual to see the song referred to in that manner. (and sung in English with some verse changes) Perhaps it means nothing and perhaps it has a hidden meaning. Maybe one of our French speaking readers or writers here could offer me a clue as I always look for hidden meanings in small deviations from what is considered normal and I find the name change puzzling and can’t help but wonder if it has a hidden meaning, perhaps signaling that Robeson considered himself an exile in his own country.
Here is another sordid real estate tale, this one ending in suicide and occurring before the current wave of real estate failures. And although the newspapers have not made us aware of suicides that have occurred in the current wave of failures caused by the heartless men who manage our money supply, we can be sure that, human nature being what it is, that probably hundreds or thousands have already occurred and perhaps many more are to come. I realize this is just speculation, but Americans take pride in their successes and feel shamed by their failures, which I suppose is part of the essence of capitalism and capitalist economies. I often wonder if this price is worth paying, because every suicide invariably trickles down through the generations and the pain is felt by successive generations when a loved one becomes so overcome with depression that he feels it necessary to leave these mortal shackles and travel on to whatever comes beyond. The Catholics would tell me that my great-grandfather is burning in hell, but I take offense at that. My great-grandfather was a kind man who cared about how others were treated and if there is indeed a God, a man like my great-grandfather would most assuredly be welcomed into the community of God and not the community of the evildoers like George Bush who only claim to be Christians.
Evil men like those whose greed caused the greatest real estate calamity in modern times. I know very little about my great-grandfather because his son, my grandfather, never spoke of him after he died. It was too painful for him.
But my great-grandfather's story is a simple one. He came to America, suffered hardship for a period of time, but was able to turn hard work into a successful business enterprise. The business was so successful that he sold it for a handsome sum and then began looking for fruitful land for growing beautiful flowers that men could give to their loved ones, especially their wives, floral arrangements that could add grace and dignity to funerals, roses that could allow romance to blossom and turn into love and eternal commitment by two souls. But all that was ruined when he bought land in Florida through a man named Ponzi or one of his surrogates. The Florida land boom did him in. My mother tells me when he traveled to see this glorious piece of land that could add more grace and honor and pleasure to thousands more people who appreciated the gift of flowers that he had a special gift in cultivating, that all that was there was swampland. He had been hoodwinked.
Were there prosecutions? Very few. I’m one who believes that the proper method in dealing with the current scandal is to require the offenders to give community service to their communities after prosecution by picking up trash, by culling through garbage and taking out the recyclables, and by being seen in the community paying for their crimes. However, defining who the offenders were would be difficult. Personally I'd start with the top, a man named Greenspan, and move down the ladder. The prosecutions should trickle down like manna from heaven so that the lesson of greed and miscalculation would never be forgotten by those at the highest levels of income and power. But I’m a realist and know that our laws are not set up to prosecute all of those who caused the problems that have set our economy in a tailspin and caused countless millions to suffer incalculable losses. Nevertheless, I am firmly of the belief that prosecuting the smaller players in this saga will not prevent the problem from recurring. We must start at the top and move down the ladder. I am not hopeful this will occur.
Without further ado, here's a business writeup about my great-grandfather in his glory years, before the Charles Ponzis arrived on the scene. Men who were able to get away with their scheme because we had no regulation in place and men in power who did not believe in regulation. The parallels to today are uncanny.
I apologize for the ragged condition that this document is in; however, it has been kept for many years and likely looked at many times over the years, so reading it might be a little difficult, but you should be able to read most of it. And of course, as noted in the article, my grandfather was a committed socialist. If that evil tyrant, Alexander Mitchell Palmer, who created the Palmer Raids and was almost as evil a tyrant as Michael Mukasey and George W. Bush and many of their subordinates, was also responsible for my great-grandfather’s suicide, I'm not aware of it, but there is much that I do not know as this was not a subject that was talked about in our family except in whispers when my grandfather was not around or working. I guess the lesson in all of this is that when government officials fail to do their jobs by properly regulating industries and individuals, which history tells us that many will resort to greed at the first opportunity, the pain goes on not for just the next business cycle, but for generations. If we fail to heed this lesson, we will repeat it over and over and over again, as we have so many times before. If we have any more opportunities. George Bush has practically bankrupted the nation by celebrating and rewarding greed. If the Democrats won’t stop the greed and attempt to loot the nation and its people again, it will truly be time to leave the nation for other shores. The statue of liberty would then become a useless pile of copper that would best be scrapped and sent to China.
There are a good many Republicans who want to leave this country if Obama is elected as our President. And a good many Liberals and Progressives feel the same way should a McCain/Palin administration be elected, legally or by the usual fraudulent techniques we’ve seen in the last two elections.
However, there is a historical basis for wanting to leave a place that becomes so untenable to live in that one must find any way possible to get to a more just and palatable place to hang your hat. The Underground Railroad songs are an important part of American history and some of us may soon find ourselves in the position that so many Americans before us have experienced.
To those who rode those trains, or those interested in some of the history from those years, the Library of Congress has a wonderful collection of historical items from that era, some of it collected by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terril Lomax in the 1930’s, most likely from a Roosevelt administration funded program. If you’re one of those who feels you are going to have to leave this place if your candidate doesn’t win, I’d suggest making your plans early and getting the best advice possible.
The first step in planning such an endeavor is examining the historical record of those who have made such a trek before you have. So examine the links to some great songs and wonderful lyrics here and get ready to make your plans if you plan on leaving. Personally I’m going to take a chance that there won’t be an American holocaust despite the presence and funding for holding pens that look like replicas of German concentration camps.
I’ve tried to make this post as non-partisan as possible, although I couldn’t refrain from mentioning the stolen election of 2000 and the stolen state of Ohio in 2004 (and thereby the election — Kenneth your day is coming). If that makes me a partisan, then I’ll trade being a truthful partisan than a lying “neutral observer," which as many of us are aware by now, our mainstream media pretends to be. Personally, I hope the shoe falls on the white shoe this time, which means McCain supporters, but that’s just my opinion and we don’t pretend to be non-partisan here at Bad Attitudes, although I don’t think anyone that writes here at Bad Attitudes is a True Believer.
If anything you’ve read here is just too depressing to think about, then here’s something to brighten your day from Elizabeth Cotten.
I previously blogged this song and sent the link to someone who I’ve made acquaintance with online and then briefly met in person. He had never heard it before and said it brought tears to his eyes and actually made him cry. He then said he had sent it to his wife immediately. I won’t reveal his name, but he’s become something of a writing sensation in recent years. But I’m going to play it again now, because what was true then is even more true today and this song captures that sentiment so well. The sense of loss of a place and and life that once was and is gone or will be no more seems to be picking up steam and becoming more evident every day.
Forgive me for repeating a previous post, but this is what I’m having in lieu of my morning cup or coffee and orange juice. Forgive me for turning to folk songs. I regard many of them as a special version of poetry that helps me get through difficult times. The singer and writer of this song is Iris Dement, one of our national treasures who got blackballed in the 1990’s because she wrote a few truthful songs about our nation that crossed a line that one is not supposed to cross: speaking truth to power.
…There is a much better solution to the current financial crisis. But it requires discarding what has been conventional “wisdom” for too long: that government intervention in the economy (“big government”) must be avoided like the plague, because the “free market” will guide the economy towards growth and justice.
Let’s face a historical truth: we have never had a “free market”, we have always had government intervention in the economy, and indeed that intervention has been welcomed by the captains of finance and industry. They had no quarrel with “big government” when it served their needs.
It started way back, when the founding fathers met in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft the constitution. The first big bail-out was the decision of the new government to redeem for full value the almost worthless bonds held by speculators. And this role of big government, supporting the interests of the business classes, continued all through the nation’s history.
The rationale for taking $700bn from the taxpayers to subsidise huge financial institutions is that somehow that wealth will trickle down to the people who need it. This has never worked…
This song, timeless and yet timely, written in 1933 by Harry Warren and Al Dubin and updated recently with a photo montage by a creative person on YouTube who styles herself as Solitaire11 seems almost as timely now as it was when it was produced in 1933. Hopefully some folks will find it comforting. Because we’ve been here before.
A Smirking Chimp commenter by the handle of genboomxer hits us where it hurts.
There is a hypocritical duality in our American culture. We want a saint for president; we want someone with confidence and experience. We want the “Daddy” ideal. On the other hand we want someone who’s not afraid to play dirty to give us what we want. We are the children who idolize “Daddy” as long as we don’t know he’s cheating.
Politically we are one of the most immature countries. We run our domestic and foreign policies like an amoral adolescent with a car, a shotgun and a case of beer on a Saturday night who goes on a rampage, who then shows up for church on Sunday to repent our sins to show everyone that deep-down we’re really good.
A more concise statement of the American character is hard to find. When we’re disappointed in our leadership we blame it on them, as if we had no part in making it happen.
So I guess you wouldn’t be surprised to find the same person pointing to an old Bill Moyers show called “The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis”. It’s just as true now, and just as relevant, as when it was made. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Moyers remains unsurpassed. You kinda get the feeling he’s still trying to make up for the whole LBJ thing, though it’s hard to imagine that he had the power to fix it. Probably LBJ was just smart enough to make him the front man, because Moyers is so clearly a moral person in the best sense of the term.
Another reminder that periods of savage inequity are nothing new in American history — and yet liberal Democrats have dug us out of similar holes before. The estimable Grover Cleveland was not a progressive Democrat, but a conservative one. Nonetheless there were limits to the elasticity of his craw:
”The gulf between employers and the employed is constantly widening, and classes are rapidly forming, one comprising the very rich and powerful, while in another are found the toiling poor …
”The communism of combined wealth and capital, the outgrowth of overweening cupidity and selfishness, which insidiously undermine the justice and integrity of free institutions, is not less dangerous than the communism of oppressed poverty and toil, which, exasperated by injustice and discontent, attacks with wild disorder the citadel of rule.”
Autophagy is the zoologist’s term for self-cannibalization. Occasionally a snake is dumb enough to try it. The animal will seize its own tail and start swallowing until it can hold no more. Then it digests itself to death, a victim of brainless greed.
Economic autophagy regularly appears in American history, as Arthur Schlesinger shows in his 1986 book, The Cycles of American History. Greed, serviced faithfully by the Republican Party, sets out to consume its own vitals. We are in such an era now and have been since 1980, under two primordial Republicans, one Republican Lite, and one shape-shifting DINO.
Always in the past we have saved ourselves from the snake’s fate at the last minute by listening for a change to the frontal lobe instead of the amygdyla — that is to say, we voted for some Roosevelt rather than for some Father Coughlin or Mussolini.
These are dark days for the frontal lobe and so, as a reminder that we have halted the GOP’s autophagy before and can do so again, I offer this first in a series of quotes from progressive leaders of the past. It is from the Great Commoner, William Jennings Bryan:
It is not strange that The Man with the Hoe created a profound sensation. It is a sermon addresed to the heart. It voices humanity’s protest against inhuman greed. There is a majestic sweep to the argument; some of the lines pierce like arrows. How feeble in comparison have been the answers to it.
The extremes of society are being driven further and further apart. Wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a few. At one end of the scale luxury and idleness breed effeminacy; at the other end, want and destitution breed desperation.