Tuesday, March 28, 2017
I’ve recently finished (or almost finished, whether I’ll return to the book is an open question) Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild, a finalist for the National Book Award. Loved by most, the work, for me, typifies everything I find wrong with progressive writing, particularly an unwillingness to confront the obvious
In the preface to her book, Ms. Hochschild writes, “I have lived most of my life in the progressive camp, but in recent years I began to want to better understand those on the right.” To that end, she spent five years researching the lives and opinions of Tea Party-Trump supporters in the heart of the Louisiana fossil-fuel/petrochemical corridor near Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The word “empathy” is used again and again throughout the book. Ms. Hochschild wants to feel what these people feel, to see the world through their eyes. Unfortunately, the closest I came to an empathetic response was disgust. Almost every man or woman interviewed in this book has been victimized by pollution, a number losing relatives to cancer, their homes to man-made environmental disasters, and the outdoor way-of-life they hold most dear to the destruction of the outdoors. Yet they continue to support the very industries responsible for the chemical releases that injured them. To an individual, they hate the federal government and the regulations imposed by the EPA.
Ms. Hochschild, I don’t suppose you’ll ever read this review. But if you should, I want you to consider a simple and very obvious truth, which you played with, but never really addressed. For a hundred years, white southerners voted Democratic because a Republican ended slavery. For the next hundred years, their pitiful rationalizations aside, they will vote for pro-business, pro-rich, anti-worker Republicans because a Democrat ended segregation. And if those votes require them to live along a stretch of road they, themselves, have named Cancer Alley, so be it.
Strangers in Their Own Land did influence me. It hardened my belief in the foolishness of a 50-state political strategy, as urged by Dems like Howard Dean. Most of the people in Ms. Hochschild’s study believe that the entire universe (not just our planet) is 6,000 years old. Denial infuses nearly every aspect of their political lives as well. Whenever information contrary to their beliefs penetrates the filters they’ve created, they simply close their eyes and whisper the magic mantra: “Liberally Biased Media.”
That’s apparently what happened when they cast their votes for Donald Trump, a man who cheats small business owners, who manufactures overseas, who hires illegals, who uses his personal charity to pay his bills and who buys foreign steel for his new hotels even as he proclaims, “America First.” And if there’s anything to be gleaned from his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, it’s Gorsuch’s consistent rulings for business over workers. CBS estimates the net worth of Don the Con’s cabinet to be $14,000,000,000.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Pretend you’re a Freedom Caucus, Republican Congresswoman from rural Wyoming, a Tea Party supporter from way, way back. You’ve been summoned to the White House for a last minute conference with President Donald Trump. Don the Con hopes to secure your vote for his repeal-and-replace Obamacare bill, the American Healthcare Reform Act. Which you’ve so far refused to do.
Your chauffeur, George, at your request, slows down as he passes the mall alongside Madison Drive. It’s spring, finally, and the blossoms on the cherry trees cast a soft white glow despite the overcast skies. The walkways are crowded with families come to view the foliage, the museums and the monuments. The mood, out here in the real world, is celebratory.
There’s no hurry because you need time to think. It seems that you like Paul Ryan, even pity him a bit – herding cats is no fun – and you’d like to help the Speaker and the President by voting for their bill. Plus, you’re a pro, not a rookie. You fully realize that a major defeat this early in a new administration will cause major pain down the line. But the opposition to this bill, outside of Washington, is damn near universal.
First thing, approval ratings for the American Health Care Reform Act start at 20% and go down from there. Plus, the entire health care industry, except for insurers, hates the bill, from the American Medical Association to the American Psychological Association to Nurses United. And, oh yes, might as well throw in AARP and its 40 million members.
But you’re not really intimidated by these groups. Your district is 80% Republican and voters won’t turn away from you because a few elitists - probably from New York or Hollywood – oppose your reelection. No, your fears pour from the opposite side of the political equation because, also opposed to the Ryan-Trump bill, are an array of the most conservative organizations and media outlets in the country.
Like Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth, the American Enterprise Institute, the Tea Party Patriots, Breitbart, the Federalist, National Review, and Rush Limbaugh.
Most of these entities have primaried unruly conservatives in the past. That means waking up some morning to discover that a well-funded candidate has emerged to challenge you for the Republican nomination in your district. Meanwhile, your own donors, the contributors you’ve counted on for the past 12 years, won’t even return your calls. These are the folks who unseated Eric Cantor, then House majority leader, and Cantor’s boss, John Boehner, Speaker of the House.
“George,” you call out to your chauffeur, “would you please turn up the air conditioning? It’s a bit stuffy in here.”
Fifteen minutes later, along with a dozen other Tea Party conservatives, you’re seated across from Donald Trump. Though his features betray something close to disdain, his $5,000 bespoke suit fails to conceal the immense gut and the man-boobs. You note the daffodil-yellow hair and the orange makeup, which he somehow wears even though no cameras are present, and you wince. But then Trump calls you by name and you find yourself staring past the narrowed lids at his dead, gray eyes. The man’s threatening to call you out before the next election. You mess with him, he’ll make you pay.
It takes a moment before you realize that you’re supposed to be afraid, but not of Grover Norquist and the Koch Brothers and Jim DeMint of the Heritage Foundation and Rush Limbaugh doing ads for your opponent. No, you’re supposed to be intimidated by Donald Trump. Only at that point does the fundamental question arise. How do you keep from laughing in his face?
Friday, March 24, 2017
If, as I insist, the issue of race played a decisive role in the breakup of the New Deal Coalition, how do I explain Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama? I’ll deal with the first two in this post and reserve Obama for a later time.
To begin with, although the coalition’s breakup is indisputable and southern whites are now entirely lost, white, working-class voters in the north, especially in the rust belt states, did not desert the ship en masse. In the turning-point election of 1968, the George Wallace vote never reached 12% in the Midwest. But Nixon’s people knew that even a swing of seven or eight percent at the polls was enough to determine the outcome of national and local elections. More than enough. Ronald Reagan didn’t demean himself with his fried-chicken eatin’ welfare queen in the hope of gathering every working-class vote north of the Mason-Dixon Line. He only needed enough to win, which he did, securing every mid-western state except Minnesota in 1980.
Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both good-old-boys from former slave states, shared a common task. If they hoped to be elected president, they had to counter the Republican party’s racist appeal without losing the African-American vote. The two men employed nearly identical tactics to achieve this goal.
Carter, of course, had a natural advantage going in. Nixon had resigned in disgrace, the only President to do so, while Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, was widely viewed as ineffective. Beyond that, however, like many Southerners, Carter was at ease in the company of African-Americans. A born-again Christian from rural Georgia, he related on a gut level to Black evangelicals, speaking the language of temptation, sin and ultimate redemption with practiced grace. At no time during his campaign was there even a hint that Black voters would turn to Gerald Ford and the Republican Party.
But the Black vote wasn’t enough, as Nixon had twice proven. Carter needed to lure at least some of the George Wallace Democrats back to the Democratic Party. That he ultimately succeeded is beyond doubt. Carter won every state in the South, from Texas on the west to North Carolina on the east. Up North, though he lost Michigan and Illinois, he swept the remainder of the rust belt, winning Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota, all states won by Nixon in ’72.
How’d he do it?
Jimmy Carter played the race card and he played it pretty hard. Early on, he championed the right of white enclaves to hang onto their “ethnic purity”. The remark was no secret, no skeleton-in-the-closet locked away by the Carter campaign. When Carter was asked to clarify his remarks, he doubled down. He spoke of the problems associated with “black intrusions” into ethnically pure neighborhoods. That alone would probably explain his southern victories on election day, but Carter didn’t stop there. He opposed forced bussing to integrate schools and his campaign staff produced an issues document that attacked welfare directly.
“The current welfare system is demeaning to the recipients, overly burdensome to the taxpayers, and overly bureaucratized. We need a streamlined, simplified welfare system with strong work incentives.”
After twelve years of Reagan and Bush, each of whom played the race card at every opportunity, William Jefferson Clinton faced the same problems Carter had, with an added fillip. In 1980, the George Wallace Democrats had morphed into Ronald Reagan Democrats. They’d remained in the Republican camp for the following two elections, spurred on by Willie Horton’s hooded eyes, open mouth and bulging muttonchops. In 1988, George Bush had hammered Mike Dukakis so hard the man went into hiding after the votes were counted.
Clinton just had to snare some of those votes - no other path to the White House existed for an obscure, small-state Governor - and he had to retain the African-American vote at the same time. Like Carter, he did have an advantage here. As Governor of Arkansas, he’d brought more Blacks into his administration than any of his predecessors and his campaign staff was extremely diverse. More to the point, as a poor boy from Little Rock who’d come up hard, he related directly to African-Americans, especially in small groups. I recall the comedian, Chris Rock, in performance before a predominately Black audience, telling a joke that had ‘em rolling the aisles.
“I know Bill Clinton. Hell, I am Bill Clinton.”
So, one down, one to go. Clinton now had to work on the Reagan Dems, scattered as they were throughout the south and the Midwest. Two examples will illustrate his tactics.
Crime and the death penalty had been hot-button issues in campaigns stretching back to the George Wallace era. They were still on the table when Clinton, at the peak of a crime wave, entered the presidential race in 1992. Running as a centrist, Clinton demonstrated his law-and-order creds early on. In the last week of January, shortly before the New Hampshire primary, Clinton broke off his campaign – at a crucial moment, his handlers insisted - and flew back to Arkansas. There to supervise the execution of a murderer named Ricky Ray Rector.
Ricky Ray’s guilt was never in doubt. He not only killed one man in a dispute, he executed the cop who came, at Ricky’s request, to accept his surrender. But then he wandered into the backyard of his mother’s home and put a bullet through his own head, destroying the frontal lobe of his brain.
Somehow, Ricky Ray survived the surgery, living long enough to be executed. But his mental disabilities were obvious to all who knew him, including the corrections officers who strapped him to the gurney before he was executed. It seems Ricky had set aside the dessert served with his last meal, asking that it be saved for later on.
And did I mention that Ricky Ray Rector was a Black man?
So it was Bad-Ass Bill, which nobody could deny. Law and order, as well as the death penalty, were effectively neutralized and it was on to bigger and better displays. Six months later, invited by Jesse Jackson, Clinton addressed a Rainbow Coalition conference on the Los Angeles riot that followed the Rodney King acquittals. He chose that platform to attack an obscure rap artist named Sister Souljah, who’d made an unfortunate remark (in the furtherance of her career, no doubt) to a Washington Post reporter.
“I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people…. So, if you’re a gang member and you would normally be killing someone, why not kill a white person?”
Clinton used his moment before the Rainbow Coalition to attack Sister Souljah. Although her indiscrete statement had been uttered a month earlier and she wasn’t at the conference, he compared her attitude to that of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. Jesse Jackson went through the roof. He even threatened to join the race as an independent. But in the end, with Clinton holding firm, Jackson capitulated, formally endorsing Clinton at the Democratic Convention.
Aided by third-party candidate Ross Perot and a stubborn recession, Clinton won the election with 43% of the vote. He even prevailed in several deep-South states, including Louisiana and Georgia, an achievement he repeated in 1996. Al Gore, on the other hand, lost every former slave state in 2000, including his home state of Tennessee.
Perhaps he needed a Sister Souljah moment.
Finally, and I don’t usually do this, I want to recommend a book, Running on Race by Jeremy Mayer. Mayer provides a quick, and very readable analysis of presidential contests, and the role played by race in the campaigns, from JFK’s in 1960 through Bush vs. Gore in 2000. Long out of print, it’s available from third-party sellers on Amazon.
Monday, March 20, 2017
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Hey Dems, get it right. It's Trumpcare, Trumpcare, Trumpcare, Trumpcare, Trumpcare, Trumpcare, And after that, it's more Trumpcare. Repeat it every time you get within striking distance of a microphone. Why? Beyond the obvious, if you make Don the Con own the legislation, there's a good chance he won't sign it. And if he does, the public, after hearing Trumpcare repeated again and again, will hold Republicans responsible two years from now. But you have to actually say it.
Yesterday and today, I watched two Democratic House Members, Gene Green of Texas and Marc Pocan of Wisconsin, interviewed on C-SPAN'S morning show, Washington Journal. Accorded more than an hour's airtime between them, Pocan mentioned Trumpcare once and Green not at all.
Leading me to believe that Democrats are really the wimps Republicans say they are.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
I began my recent post – Laissez Fair to New Deal and Back Again Rant – with the following: “I make the somewhat absurd claim that there rose, once upon a time, a political coalition so powerful that politicians finally considered the good of the common man (and to a lesser extent the common woman).” I gave this coalition a title, the New Deal Coalition, named its founder, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and identified its constituents: white southerners, white workers in the north, African-Americans and progressives of all stripes, including feminists.
I devoted the rest of my post to naming the benefits, president by president, that flowed from the government to ordinary Americans. Now I turn to when and why the coalition disintegrated.
Let me begin with a quote from Lee Atwater. A Republican strategist who worked for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Atwater was the force behind the infamous Willie Horton ad. Later elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee, he made this statement in the course of a 1981 interview with Alexander Lamis.
“You start out in 1954 by saying, `Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968, you can’t say nigger – that hurts you, backfired. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is that blacks get hurt worse than whites…. This is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of lot more abstract than nigger, nigger.”
Atwater got the year right. The Republican’s yellow-brick highway runs, straight as an arrow, from the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Ed decision to the presidential year of 1968 when George Wallace, the candidate of the American-Independent Party, faced off against Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. On its way, it passed the presidential year of 1964 when the fissures inside the New Deal Coalition first became obvious. That year, Barry Goldwater, who’d voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, won five states in the deep south. Goldwater captured 83.% of the vote in Mississippi. The same Barry Goldwater who lost to Lyndon Johnson in the electoral college, 486–52.
If Goldwater cracked the New Deal Coalition, the George Wallace campaign in 1968 blew it to smithereens, ushering in a profound rightward shift from which Republicans profited enormously. A glance at the current Republican political dominance on the state and federal levels provides more than enough supporting evidence. If, however, that’s not enough for readers, you might consider that Republican appointees will have a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court once the Senate confirms Antonin Scalia’s Federalist Society-vetted replacement. Given the ages of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer, that majority is likely to increase.
The questions jump out at you. Who, when and why? Who left Roosevelt’s coalition, when did they leave and why did they leave?
If you accept my analysis of the New Deal Coalition, the “who” part is obvious. White southerners finalized the divorce thirty years ago when they voted, en masse, for Ronald Reagan. The white working class waited longer, vacillating between the two Bushes and Clinton-Obama. My contention is that it’s over now. Donald Trump didn’t merely use race to win an election. Donald Trump has been a racist all his life, an assertion I’ll support in a later post. His core voters can’t be lured back with progressive policy positions. If they return - and I’m fairly certain they will – the return will be driven by Republican policies so repugnant to their interests, they’ll be left with no choice.
I’m going to shift now, to the breakup’s early stages, and to chart its course over the decades. And while I know that race wasn’t the only issue on the table for the last fifty years, I contend that the profound rightward shift over those decades could not have been accomplished without the use of race to win elections.
When the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional (overthrowing the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision that in 1896 affirmed the constitutionality of segregation), the southern states responded with a massive resistance. In Little Rock, Arkansas, resistance took the form of an outright refusal to obey the Court. An attempt to admit eight black students to Little Rock High School produced days of rioting before President Eisenhower responded with troops, forcing the students’ admission. Even so, for the remainder of the year, Federal Marshals accompanied the students to class every day.
In that same year, 1957, William Buckley, a founding father of modern conservatism, published an essay in his magazine, National Review, entitled Why the South Must Prevail. “The NAACP and others,” he wrote, “insist that the Negroes as a unit want integrated schools. What if the matter comes to a vote in a community in which Negroes predominate?”
Buckley answers the question in the next paragraph. “The central question that emerges …is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically. The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.” Later, he adds, “It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, then to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.”
Later, Buckley permitted out-front racists like James Kilpatrick and Ernest van den Haag to publish long articles on racial inferiority, making the same arguments that justified slavery, the slaughter of the American Indian, the exclusion of the Chinese and the internment of the Japanese. Bear in mind, the articles were published in 1957, before the modern Civil Rights movement got started, before the race riots of the 60’s, before the Black Power movement, at a time when crime rates were extremely low and the country prosperous.
Flash forward to 1964 when Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona voted against the Civil Rights Bill, one of only seven northern Senators to do so. A Libertarian, Goldwater embraced the Declaration’s “unalienable rights”, particularly the part about the pursuit of happiness. Your property was yours, to do with as you saw fit. The government had no right to demand that you provide your goods and/or services to black Americans. Yet even while Goldwater claimed the high ground, the Republican National Committee was assembling the elements of the southern strategy and signs were appearing in restaurants across the country: WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO ANYONE.
Nominated for President, Goldwater won every state in the deep south, from Louisiana thru South Carolina. In Mississippi, as noted, he received 83% of the vote. At a time, of course, when African-Americans couldn’t vote in Mississippi.
The Emerging Republican Majority by Kevin Phillips was originally scheduled for publication in 1968, The printing was delayed until 1969 because Phillips worked as a political analyst on Richard Nixon’s campaign team and the book’s content was too explosive. That it was also prescient became more and more obvious, election by election, as time passed. Termed “The Political Bible of the Nixon Administration” by Newsweek, the book is largely forgotten now. But it was a best seller in 1969 and most historians consider it a classic work of political analysis. Still in print, it’s currently being published by Princeton University Press.
The delay in Emerging Republican Majority’s publication provided Phillips with enough time to include an analysis of the 1968 campaign. The presidential field that year, in addition to Nixon, included Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic candidate, and Alabama Governor George Wallace, running as an independent. This was the same George Wallace who, at his gubernatorial inauguration in 1963, proclaimed, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
Wallace went on to win five, deep-South states in 1968. That comes as no surprise because white southerners were in full rebellion over the Civil Rights movement by then. No, it’s what he managed outside the deep south that caught the eye of wonks like Kevin Phillips. In border states, like Tennessee, he garnered up to 34% of the vote. Further north, in the rust belt states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Wallace’s totals ranged from 7.9% to 11.8%. These votes came mainly from white blue-collar workers who’d been voting Democratic for many decades.
Had these Wallace Democrats taken a time out? Would they return to the Democratic fold? Was George Wallace a novelty they’d soon discard? Kevin Phillips had an answer, along with some advice for his fellow Republicans.
“Generally speaking, the South is more realistic than its critics believe, and nothing more than an effectively conservative Nixon Administration is necessary to bring most of the Southern Wallace electorate into the fold against a Northeast liberal Democratic nominee. Abandonment of civil rights enforcement would be self-defeating. Maintenance of Negro voting rights in Dixie, far from being contrary to GOP interests, is essential if southern conservatives are to be pressured into switching to the Republican Party – for Negroes are beginning to seize control of the national Democratic Party in some Black Belt areas.
“Successful moderate conservatism is also likely to attract to the Republican side some of the Northern blue-collar workers who flirted with George Wallace…. Although most of Wallace’s votes came from Democrats, he principally won those in motion between a Democratic past and a Republican future.”
Appropriately, given The Emerging Republican Majority’s thesis, there are more references in the book to George Wallace than to Hubert Humphrey.
I began this post with a quote from Lee Atwater: “By 1968, you can’t say nigger. That hurts you, backfires.” Richard Nixon took this to heart. In 1972, when he ran for reelection, he had the code words in place: welfare, law-and-order, anti-bussing, anti-quotas (which morphed to anti-affirmative action). The Moral Majority was there as well, promoting a myth still in vogue: there exists a pool of virtuous, hard-working, law-abiding (and very white) American citizens who never took - and never would take - a government handout. In toto, they constitute the real America.
Nixon won every state in the Union except Massachusetts.
George Wallace also entered the race in 1972, running this time as a Democrat. In a primary race with Hubert Humphrey and Ed Muskie, Wallace garnered 50.9% of the vote in the Michigan, an absolute majority. How far he might have gone if he hadn’t been shot by a sicko named Arthur Bremer is open to speculation. Even paralyzed in a wheelchair he won 13% of the delegate votes at the Democratic Convention. Even paralyzed in a wheelchair, he was twice reelected Governor of Alabama.
I’m going to close with three short quotations. One from John Ehrlichman, White House counsel to President Nixon. One from H. R. Haldeman, Nixon’s Chief of Staff. One from Nixon, himself.
John Ehrlichman: “Look, we understood we couldn’t make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure. We understood that drugs were not the health problem we were making them to be, but it was such a perfect issue… that we couldn’t resist it.”
H. R. Haldeman: “Nixon emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to recognize this while not appearing to.”
Richard Nixon: “When you call on the nation to be strong, on such things as drugs, crime, defense… the educated people and the leader class no longer has any character, and you can’t count on them. We can only turn for support to the non-educated people.”
Welcome to Trump World.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Just looked at a recent poll. Sixty percent of Republicans believe that Don the Con's phones were tapped. Wait, that deserves a rare exclamation point. And maybe all caps.
SIXTY PERCENT OF REPUBLICANS BELIEVE THAT DON THE CON'S PHONES WERE TAPPED!
Face it, boys and girls, no policy proposal will change their minds. Let's target those Republicans who still have a mind.
Friday, March 10, 2017
I performed a Google search this morning: how many commercials do young children watch in a year? Estimates ranged from 20,000 on the low end to 40,000 on the high end. Now, I know that kids learn, early on, that they can't have everything they see on those commercials. But that misses an underlying truth. Virtually every commercial viewed by the children has an underlying message. Consumption improves your life.
Restraint, thrift, postponing satisfaction? These traditions, the Republican virtues urged on us by Benjamin Franklin, are absent. The inevitable result?
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
"There has been more violence in one subway in New York City in one night than there has been in the entire state of Alabama or Mississippi in a year."
From a George Wallace campaign brochure issued in 1968.
"We need law and order. African-Americans and Hispanics are living in hell. You walk down the street and you get shot."
Don the Con in 2016.
And why not play the same tune for fifty years? If it ain't busted, don't fix it.
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Along with most of my friends (it’s that “birds of a feather” thing again), I tend to view government as an arena in which various entities compete for whatever goodies become available. You know, like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton asserted in The Federalist. Nevertheless, I make the somewhat absurd claim that there rose, once upon a time, a political coalition so powerful that politicians finally considered the good of the common man (and to a lesser extent the common woman) instead of the rich and powerful. That coalition, which continued to exert a powerful influence for the next fifty years, is all-but-lost now. It grows more distant every day.
Franklyn Roosevelt’s New Deal was not, like George H. W. Bush’s Points of Light, mere political rhetoric. This much I intend to establish in the current posting. The product of a coalition that included white southerners, white workers in the north, African-Americans and progressives of all stripes, including feminists, it produced human-friendly results, both legislatively and in the courts.
Now comes the boring-but-necessary part. To prove this point, I’m going to list (God, how I hate that word) the major accomplishments of the New Deal coalition. I’ll deal with them President by President, Democrat and Republican.
The Tennessee Valley Authority brought electricity to most of Tennessee, along with parts of Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia. The Rural Electrification Program brought electricity to the deep south and the western plains.
The National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) created, for the first time, a right to freely organize, to bargain collectively and to strike.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, created in 1933, provided insurance for the bank deposits of all Americans.
The Agricultural Adjustment Act provided subsidies to farms during hard times, a program designed to stabilize crops prices.
Social Security, including unemployment insurance.
The Fair Labor Standards Act established the forty-hour work week, time-and-a-half for overtime, a federal minimum wage and the end of child labor under most circumstances.
The Fair Employment Practice Committee forbade racial or religious discrimination in the defense industry.
The Homeowners Refinancing Act refinanced the mortgages of millions of depression-era homeowners who faced imminent foreclosure.
The Securities Exchange Act established the Securities and Exchange Commission to oversee the various markets.
The National Housing Act created the U.S. Housing Authority.
Desegregated a federal workforce initially segregated by Woodrow Wilson, a true son of the South.
Desegregated the military for the first time since the end of the Revolutionary War.
Expanded Social Security to include another 10,000,000 Americans.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957. Though essentially gutted by southern Democrats, this act, the first Civil Rights Bill passed in more than eighty years, attempted to guarantee voting rights to African-Americans. A second bill passed in 1960.
Sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce the desegregation of the city’s high schools. This was the first test of a Supreme Court decision (Brown vs. Board of Education) ordering the integration of public schools.
Signed the Federal Aid Highway Act, at a cost of 425 billion dollars, which created the Interstate Highway System, the largest infrastructure project in American history.
John. F. Kennedy:
Extended Social Security benefits to another 5,000,000 Americans in 1961. Lowered the retirement age to 62.
Passed the most comprehensive housing bill in American history, a bill that included aid for mass transportation and urban renewal.
Doubled spending on water pollution.
Created the National Seashore Parks system.
Raised the federal minimum wage.
Revised the food and drug laws for the first time since 1938.
Signed a bill forbidding discrimination in federal housing.
Dispatched the National Guard to counter George Wallace’s attempt to prevent the desegregation of the University of Alabama.
Lyndon B. Johnson:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Created the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities.
The Public Broadcasting Act.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Massively increased funding for primary and secondary education. Increased funding for programs that affect the poor from 6 billion to 24 billion dollars.
Ended the draft.
Founded the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Clean Air Act.
The Clean Water Act.
Signed Title IX legislation outlawing discrimination in women’s college sports.
Gave Native Americans the right to self-determination.
The Earl Warren Supreme Court:
Brown vs. Board of Education in Topeka: outlawed segregation in the public schools.
Griffin vs. County School Board of Prince Georges County: ruled that closing public schools and giving students vouchers to attend segregated private schools violated the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Loving vs. Virginia: declared laws forbidding interracial marriages to be unconstitutional.
Baker vs. Carr and other cases: outlawed gerrymandering that gave disproportionate power to lightly- populated districts. The so-called, and today offensive, one man/one vote rule.
Brady vs. Maryland: forced the state to reveal exculpatory evidence to defendants in criminal cases.
Mapp vs. Ohio: excluded the introduction of illegally seized evidence at time of trial.
Miranda vs. Arizona: forced law enforcement to read suspects their rights before questioning.
Gideon vs. Wainwright: gave defendants the right to a lawyer in non-capitol cases.
Okay, so I left out the part about the McCarthy witch hunts, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and the covert interventions in Iran and Chile, and the murders of African-American Civil Rights activists, and dozens of other affronts to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence. But I also left out many further examples of positive legislation and Supreme Court decisions.
That’s not really the important part anyway. The important part is that never in American history had a federal government, or any state government, extended these benefits to ordinary Americans. Make no mistake, with marginal tax rates at 90%, the New Deal was a new deal, a deal that over its fifty years of dominance transferred vast amounts of wealth down the ladder. And it didn’t trickle down, either. It was yanked down with both hands. This was a disemboweling.
Ask yourself this question: of what value is a million-dollar bonus when the feds take nine hundred thousand off the top? Gosh, it’s enough to make a CEO think long-term.
Ask yourself another question: the Supreme Court, under Rhenquist and Roberts, has gutted the Voting Rights Act, allowed unlimited spending on campaigns, created a Second Amendment right to own guns never intended by James Madison, and betrayed their oath to support the Constitution when they put George W. Bush in the White House. All with a 5-4 majority.
So, what will the Roberts court for if conservatives gain a 6-3 majority? Or if Anthony Kennedy, the so-called swing vote, is replaced by another Samuel Alito?
Both the Heritage society, on the political side, and the Federalist Society, on the judicial side, view the Gilded Age as the golden age, an age when laissez faire ruled the day. My grandmother grew up in lower Manhattan at the end of the 19th Century. She spoke of wagons dispatched on the coldest mornings to gather up the frozen bodies. And there was no help coming from government, city, state or federal, even during the worst of the 19th Century’s many depressions. Families who couldn’t pay the rent found their possessions – and themselves – at the curb. Goodbye and good luck.
The most honorable among the rich and their lackeys called it what it was, social Darwinism, the survival of the fittest, let’s sterilize the inferiors among us. The dishonorable sold trickle-down theories. Make me richer and I’ll give you more jobs. Either way, it’s clear that we’ve come to a tipping point. Today’s Republican Party bears little resemblance to the Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Call the new breed economic fundamentalists. For them the world stopped twice, first after they read Ayn Rand at fifteen, and then after they read The Wealth of Nations in college. They worship at the feet of Calvin Coolidge. They will bring the rest of us to that altar and force us to bow. If they can.
Again, I apologize for the lists. But I needed to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, if not to a moral certainty, that the New Deal was more than a slogan. Which raises another question. If the New Deal really was a blessing to the common man, why and when did the coalition that elected all those New Deal politicians break apart? How did we get from Franklyn Roosevelt to Donald Trump? And more importantly, how do we get back? I’ll deal with this question in a coming-soon post.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
Just ran across a survey taken by the Kaiser Health Foundation. More people believe that Medicare is "very important" (77%) than believe the defense of the nation is very important. (73%). And yet...
And yet the leadership of the Republican Party, those friends of the working class, are determined to replace Medicare with a voucher system.
"Here, granny, here's three thousand dollars. Go find yourself a health care policy. Oh, you're 87, deep into dementia and you've got no close friends or relatives to help you find that policy? In that case, the Republican Party officially advises you to invest in a coffin."