Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Can The GOP Destroy Democracy Itself? You Betcha


We used to talk a lot about Mike Lux's book, The Progressive Revolution-- How The Best In America Came To Be. Recently my friend Roland asked me if I had ever heard of some author named Michael Lux and informed me that he had just read an amazing book by him. Good for Roland! Everyone should read Mike's book. It puts the history of our country into a kind of perspective that emphasizes an eternal battle between the forces of reaction and the defense of wealth and power, on the one hand, and the forces of progressivism and community, on the other.
If you look at our country’s long history, from the days of the first stirrings of our revolutionary impulses against Britain to today, progressive leaders and progressive movements have moved this country forward in the face of bitter-- and frequently violent-- opposition from reactionaries and defenders of the status quo. Consider the major advances in American history:

• The American Revolution

• The Bill of Rights and the forging of a democracy

• Universal white male suffrage

• Public education

• The emancipation of the slaves

• The national park system

• Food safety

• The breakup of monopolies

• The Homestead Act

• Land grant universities

• Rural electrification

• Women’s suffrage

• The abolition of child labor

• The eight hour workday

• The minimum wage

• Social Security

• Civil rights for minorities and women

• Voting rights for minorities and the poor

• Cleaning up our air, our water, and toxic dump sites

• Consumer product safety

• Medicare and Medicaid

Every single one of those reforms, which are literally the reforms that made this country what it is today, was accomplished by the progressive movement standing up to the fierce opposition of conservative reactionaries who were trying to preserve their own power. American history is one long argument between progressivism and conservatism.
The fight over extending the franchise, the subject of the video above, has been a key part of this unending battle between conservatives and normal people. From the time they joined the British to fight against American independence right up to Republicans hiring Nathan Sproul and Colin Small to device and carry out a systematic program of voter suppression, conservatives have opposed democracy. They've always hated it and they've always fought it. And for the next two weeks they'll be fighting it with all their considerable might. This is from an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American champion of individualism and emancipation, that Lux quoted in his book
The two parties which divide the state, the party of conservatism and that of innovation are very old, and have disputed the world ever since it was made. Now one, now the other gets the day, and still the fight renews itself as if for the first time, under new names and hot personalities.
After the conservatives (Tories) were defeated thousands of them left for Britain, Canada and the West Indies, including some of the richest families in the colonies, the DeLancy, DePester Walton, and Cruger families in the Hudson Valley and the Penn, Allen, Chew, and Shippen families from Pennsylvania. But as long as there will be greed, avarice, bigotry and elitism as driving forces in mankind, there will be conservatism as a political force. Once it was John C. Calhoun; today it is Jim DeMint. Once it was Roger Taney; today it is Antonin Scalia. Once it was the Know Nothing Movement and the KKK; today it is the Tea Party. Once it was William McKinley, Warren G. Harding. Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover; more recently it was Reagan, the Bushs, Romney and Ryan. Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms have been replicated by Michele Bachmann and Todd Akin. Once there was William Sumner, Albert Nock and Ayn Rand; today it's Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Ann Coulter. It was dangerous and destructive in the past and it's no less so today. They put every obstacle they could in the way of universal suffrage-- and they're not changing a thing today. Watch Bill Moyers discuss what's behind it with Chrystia Freeland and Matt Taibbi.

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At 2:51 PM, Blogger John said...

I believe Lux's book is:

"The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America CAME to Be"

John Puma

At 8:06 PM, Anonymous me said...

You are more optimistic about the future of our country than I am. Perhaps you are right; I hope you are.

But personally, I've seen few signs of improvement since the 1960's, when the country voted overwhelmingly to continue the Supreme Crime known as the Vietnam War.

It's gotten steadily, almost uniformly, worse since then, with sharp declines in 1980 from Reagan and again in 2000 with Bush.

You can't argue that those disasters were flukes either, because both Nixon and Reagan won easy re-election, despite voters knowing full well how bad these men were. The same can be said of Bush, even though both his "elections" were clearly stolen. In any decent society, Bush would not have gotten more than a handful of votes, rather than a large enough fraction to make election theft possible.

So now our country has devolved to the point where corporations legally monopolize all election communications, certifiable lunatics have taken over Congress, the demise of Social Security is openly promoted, and our only choice for president is between two unacceptable candidates. The fact that one is more unacceptable than the other is no comfort.

As bad as the political situation was in the 1960's, 70's, and 80's, I think that the conclusion that it's infinitely worse now is unavoidable.


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