The Right-winger: the Anachronism of the Age
Richard J. Garfunkel
May 23, 2016
Who are these people today? They wander within midst all of us. Are they the natural reaction to change as the two-party system divides itself between liberals and conservatives? Over the decades from the emergence of the modern, American, industrialized state in the post-civil war period, see saw the emergence of the Republican Party. Many elements of it were actually progressive. There were former abolitionists, there were women in the suffrage movement, and there were all sorts of reformers who fought against the post-Civil War Jim Crow South, the degradation of the cities, run by the political machines and the good government folks who believed in hard work and the Protestant Ethic. There were many who actually fought against the huge monopolies, trusts, inter-locking directorates, the pools and problems of pollution, de-forestation and deterioration of the health of the average American. The Party of Lincoln had progressive heirs like James Garfield, Theodore Roosevelt Midwesterners like William Allen White, Robert La Follette, Harold Ickes, and both Henry Wallaces, Senior and Junior. They were actually Republicans. There were many, many more.
The Democrats were not particularly liberal. Grover Cleveland, an honest politician, was the only Democrat elected to the presidency from 1860 to 1912. He could be considered a conservative. The Democrats were a disparate group of regional parties, dominated by the Solid South. There were western libertarians, Baptist evangelicals, isolationists, and anti-war, anti-Wall Street, and small government religious zealots like William Jennings Bryan, who was nominated by the Democrats three times for the presidency. There were big-city machines, most characterized by Tammany Hall in NYC, which represented immigrants; first the Irish, than the Italians, Jews and others. Eventually this Eastern branch of the Democratic Party found leadership with the new Democrats that emerged from the Progressive Era and its split from the old line Protestant reformers. People like Al Smith, Robert Wagner Sr, Frances Perkins, and yes, the young Franklin D. Roosevelt, joined the progressive bandwagon led by the academic reformer from New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson.
What had really changed? Why was there a progressive revolt led by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912? All one has to do is look at the Progressive Platform of 1912. Has anything really changed more than 100 years later?
· Strict limits and disclosure requirements on political campaign contributions
· Registration of lobbyists
· Recording and publication of Congressional committee proceedings
In the social sphere the platform called for
· A National Health Service to include all existing government medical agencies.
· Social insurance, to provide for the elderly, the unemployed, and the disabled
· Limited the ability of judges to order injunctions to limit labor strikes.
· A minimum wage law for women
· An eight-hour workday
· A federal securities commission
· Farm relief
· Workers’ compensation for work-related injuries
· An inheritance tax
The political reforms proposed included
· Women’s suffrage
· Direct election of Senators
· Primary elections for state and federal nominations
The platform also urged states to adopt measures for “direct democracy“, including:
· The recall election (citizens may remove an elected official before the end of his term)
· The referendum (citizens may decide on a law by popular vote)
· The initiative (citizens may propose a law by petition and enact it by popular vote)
· Judicial recall (when a court declares a law unconstitutional, the citizens may override that ruling by popular vote
What happened to Republican Progressives like Harold Ickes, Henry Wallace, Jane Addams, Hiram Johnson, Elihu Root and others in the wake of the split in the Republican Party and the Democratic landslide? In a sense, they never came back to the Republican Party. After the end of World War I, with the illness of Woodrow Wilson, the defeat of the League of Nations and the World Court, the core of the Republican Party, which espoused the political philosophy of William McKinley and William Howard Taft, re-emerged in the body of Warren Harding, The Harding-Coolidge-Hoover Era last twelve years through the halcyon days of the Roaring 20’s, which featured Prohibition, isolationism, wild speculation, the decline of the railroads, low taxation on the top brackets, and a revision to States’ Rights.
The Market collapse and crash of 1929, led to the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover, formally a progressive Republican, morphed into a conservative one, failed to solve the economic quagmire that kept on reaching new lows until finally the banking system collapsed, unemployment got incredibly worse and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal emerged. How bad was the Great Depression? Well it so shattered the “Old Order” that billions and billions of dollars had to be spent, record-setting, reform legislation (The First Hundred Days) had to be past, and that national planning had to resurrect a shattered economy and company. As per example, before the Crash, 250,000 people were employed by US Steel. On the day of FDR’s inauguration, only one person was on that company’s payroll. Of course, right-wing revisionists claim that the New Deal didn’t end the Depression, but really extended it. But, how come, after four years of Herbert Hoover and the natural forces of the market system, the Depression got uniformly worse? Statistically speaking, the GNP in the first five years of the New Deal showed record yearly increases, never seen before, or after, in our economy’s history. So the Depression was not completely ended until the buildup of to our emergence into WW II, but considering the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008-9, one can easily see how difficult it really was to bring the economy back to the false levels of 1928 or 2007!
Now here we are more than 100 years after the Bull Moose (Progressive Convention). The years that followed brought Wilson, a progressive, a new type of president and a new roll for the American government. But, with the vote the triumph of Suffrage and the women’s vote, America faced, in the post WWI Era, the rise of religious fervor, with evangelical fakirs like Aimee Semple McPherson and Billy Sunday, the era of Prohibition, the false prosperity of the Roaring 20’s, and the “Age of Wonderful Nothingness.” It was the first era of communications and many of the “talking heads” of those times were folks like Walter Winchell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Graham McNamee, HL Mencken and the humorous Will Rogers. The movies and sports were in the ascendency and people like John Barrymore, Charlie Chaplin Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, and the Latin Lover, Rudolf Valentino of the Silver Screen were the rage of America. Sports was bigger than ever with boxing, horse racing, baseball and college football creating huge industries with luminaries like Dempsey, Tunney, Man o War, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and the Galloping Ghost, Red Grange of Illinois. In other sports, Johnny Weissmuller and Sonja Henie became household names that would last decades. Even the Olympic Games emerged after the disaster of WWI and attracted world-wide attention.
What came out of this era, led in America by the arch conservative and small government acolyte, Calvin Coolidge? The result was an attitude that we could do nothing wrong, but there was emergence of the “great social divide” between classes and regions over attitude and ideology. Certainly, two of the most important regions in the country that were left out of this social revolution were the Old South and New England, the two strongest bastions of conservatism in both the Democratic and Republican Parties. The South and the vestige of its “Peculiar Institution” (slavery) was dominated by Jim Crow, where a significant proportion of its population was virtually enslaved by the indentured servitude of share cropping, abject poverty, the lack of electricity, running water, proper sanitation and virtually the most base level of education. The South was dominated by its own version of machine politics with baronial families controlling government in various states: the Byrds of Virginia, the Longs of Louisiana, and the Talmadges of Georgia. The others, like Jimmy Byrnes, Richard Russell, James Eastland, Theodore Bilbo, and Cotton Ed Smith were not much better. The Solid South of the Democratic Party ruled their fiefdoms through the ballot, the police and the suppression of the Black vote through poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses, and were able to dominate post New Deal majorities in Congress through the Seniority System. As a result of this one-party rule, the South and its conservative hegemony became the most backward and primitive region of the country. Ironically, when the Great Depression ensued, the rural South was hit the hardest and the Southern Democratic Party had to cooperate fully with the progressivism of the New Deal. But, this cooperation had its limits and when it came to Civil Rights or inclusion of the Blacks, and the resistance was fierce. As the New Deal matured and the recovery was working, the issue of Jim Crow, anti-lynching laws, and rights for Black Americans, came to the forefront. With this reality emerging, the Southern Democratic Party coalesced with Northern Republican opposition to the New Deal, and after 1938, its reform efforts and legislative initiatives were virtually ended. That was the South, and after the bolt by Strom Thurmond from the Democratic National Convention in 1948, the transition to the Republican Party started its march.
By 1968, in the wake of the all the Civil Rights legislation of the Johnson Era, the emergence of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy signaled the new South under the conservative Republicans. The Jim Crow Democrats were dying out, some like Thurmond changed their party allegiance and stayed in office and new faces emerged. As Blacks were able to vote in the South, their emergence as a key factor in the Democratic Party started to evolve. Blacks voted overwhelmingly for FDR from 1936 through 1944, but it wasn’t until the 1960s when African-Americans, ever loyal to the Party of Lincoln, completely broke from the GOP.
In New England, the transition from being a rock-ribbed conservative Republican region came with as the demographics of both Rhode Island and Massachusetts changed with new waves of immigrants. Even in 1936, only Maine and Vermont were Republican holdouts from an FDR sweep of all 48 states. By the time former Bostonian, John F. Kennedy ran for the presidency, New England started to morph its progressive Republicans, its tradition of education and new class of Democratic into the center of American liberalism. The integration of the Boston Public schools, in the early 1960s, was fought against by old-line ethnic supporters of de-facto segregation, Katherine Craven and Louis Day Hicks. These two women were seen as vestiges of the past and they were eventually, after a noisy and protracted struggle, committed to the dustbin of history as Boston moved on from the corrupt days of Mayor James Curley to the progressive vision of Kevin White. Other states fell in line and Democrats have dominated New England, with few exceptions since the 1960s.
So what is left in America? The Midwest, the Industrial Great Lakes States, the Farm Belt and the West Coast. What we have seen in the last quarter of a century since Reagan is the division of America into two philosophical regions. The coastal areas, the areas abutting the Great Lakes, the cities, and the university towns are the centers and the strengths of the Democratic Party and the progressives. What do they have in common? All these areas have a mixture of people of different races, religions and of ethnic traditions. They are centers of commerce, education, culture and social tolerance. They lead the country in every category from education, to health care, to housing, to property values and to wages. In other words, the highest standard of living for most Americans is in the so-called Blue States. On the other hand, the so-called Red States, which have been dominated by the new Republicans and their Tea Party minority, lead the country in every negative statistic, regarding education, mental health, drug use, women’s healthcare options, housing, illegitimacy and even the need for abortions.
So the question remains, what do the conservatives really stand for? Is it family values? What evidence reflects that? The list of Republican sexual offenders and abusers who have served in public office is long and can be easily view at this sites: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×1709387 . How about job creation? Well since the end of WWII their record leaves much to be desired. In fact, Democrats have created more than 2.5 times the amount of private sector jobs and, ironically, the GOP has created more non-private sector jobs!
http://www.truthfulpolitics.com/http:/truthfulpolitics.com/comments/u-s-job-creation-by-president-political-party/ . But what of the stock market and the Dow Jones Industrial Average? In fact, since 1961, according to Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/chart/ipIOl6TObSmU/ under the Democrats $2,000 invested would return $10,920 and that same amount under the GOP would return $2,087. Therefore, are you more economically secure under GOP/Tea Party governance? Are you better off supporting people who want to move back to States’ Rights, get rid of the Federal Reserve, privatize Social Security, get rid of the Internal Revenue Service and institute a flat-tax which allows billionaires to pay the same amount as the lowest compensated worker? Are you willing to reverse all the gains made by women and minorities? Are you willing to reverse all the provisions regarding job safety? Are you willing to reverse all the protections that workers have gained since the New Deal, which include “wages and hours,” the minimum wage, arbitration, sexual harassment laws, the minimum wage, and anti-discrimination statutes?
Again, the question remains, what do the conservatives support and are they the anachronism of our time? If you want to buy into the idea that both parties are equally to blame, and that the answer is conservative, anti-government libertarianism, go to it. The GOP Conservatives and their Dixiecrat allies have been opposed to every advance in our long history. Many called it the progressive evolution of our society, but the small government acolytes seem to think that word progressive is a euphemism for left-wing socialism. As a long-time student of history, political person, and writer and lecturer on mid -20th Century history, it is not a stretch to see what side both parties fall onto. The right-wing has opposed: the following;
The Bill of Rights, Anti-trust laws- Sherman and Clayton Acts, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, Labor unions and their right to collectively bargain- the Wagner Act, Wages and Hours Laws, Child Labor laws and regulation- Triangle Shirtwaist and other disasters, the Minimum wage, Civil Rights- Integration- anti-lynching laws, The Security Laws of 1933, 4, and 1940, affirmative action, Pure Food and Drug laws, almost all environmental regulation on clear water and air, Women’s Rights, sexual choice, the right of choice, Birth control access and information, Equal pay for equal rights, The Establishment Clause- separation of church and state, Gun control, Graduated Income Tax- taxes in general, Inheritance Taxes, Federal housing- urban renewal, Public education, and even aid to Great Britain before WWII
What have they supported?
Restrictive Immigration: Chinese Exclusion Act 1882, National Origins Immigration Act of 1924, Property rights over individual rights, Censorship, Monopoly, trusts, Inter-locking directorships, Unrestricted gun ownership, Flat-taxes, sale’s taxes, State’s Rights, Public funding for private schools, Red-lining, Segregation, White Citizen’s Councils, the KKK, Privatization of services, Union-busting, Off shore banking shelters The market place cures all ills, The Oil Depletion allowance
In other words, what has the right-wing ever supported that was in the public’s interest? The choice is clear, go back in time with the right-wing, or reject their so-called values and move forward.