Saturday, March 18, 2017

DONALD TRUMP IS NO ANDREW JACKSON

                

I an effort to normalize people's attitudes toward President Donald Trump there has been an effort by his apologists and some sincere writers to favorably compare him to Andrew Jackson. Though Jackson is today a controversial President he was tremendously popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.The Trumpeters seem to be unable to compare their leader with any other President of like popularity.

Obviously I did not know Andrew Jackson nor was he a friend of mine.  I have read all written about him by Schlesinger, Remini and Meacham and other s and I think it takes a misunderstanding of the history of our nation in the first half of the 19th century and a misjudgment of Andrew Jackson to equate him with Donald Trump.  Last summer I coauthored an essay comparing Trump’s campaign and rise to power with that of Jackson and most particularly stressed the unsuccessful ways in which Jackson’s opponents sought to defeat him that were being copied by Trump’s opponents (which later proved likewise unsuccessful}.

Andrew Jackson was a self-educated, and self-raised man who was well read and though he often shot from the hip he could shoot.  During the Revolutionary War, when only a youngster, Jackson was ordered by a British cavalryman to shine his boots.  He refused and was struck by that Britisher with his sword. One wonders what a young Donald Trump would have done had an enemy soldier told him to shine his boots - probably trade him a pair of his new ones.

Andrew Jackson was a lawyer who believed that the function of the law in America was to protect people.  He held no truck with autocracy or plutocracy.  Though married twice it was to the same woman.  When he became aware that her divorce from her first husband had not been finalized he, admitting his earlier mistake, remarried her.  For that he was pilloried and she was defamed and he spent his entire career and public life defending her.  He didn’t throw his wife, or for that matter any of his friends, under the bus.

Andrew Jackson was a soldier (a General) he was a Congressman, a Senator and a Governor.  He also owned his own business (a plantation in Nashville, Tennessee).  Born of Irish immigrants on the North/South Carolina border he grew up and lived on the frontier not in one of the eastern cities.

He was in many ways the first Populist President.  He believed in leveling the playing field so that new “men on the make”: farmers, merchants, and mechanics could compete with the moneyed planters and business owners and bankers.

He lost the Presidency in 1824 because he failed to get a majority of the electoral vote (though winning the popular vote) and won a strong popular vote victory in 1828 and 1832. He was an early advocate for popular election of electors and for universal white male suffrage (at that time the vote was often limited to white men with property).  He was the first President to call for the abolition of the Electoral College and direct popular election of the President (he would not be impressed by Donald Trump’s so called “win” of the Presidency}.

Andrew Jackson was fiercely patriotic.  As a General and later Governor of Florida he stood up strongly to the greatest power on the planet Great Britain.  His belief in the sanctity of the American Union was almost akin to a religious conviction. When the federal government’s power was challenged he responded with the fully believable threat that he would hang the putative rebels even though they were from South Carolina a state he carried.  He would undoubtedly have not only fired Gen. Flynn he would most likely have shot him for Treason. And I will not even venture a guess how he might have reacted to Trump’s flirtation with Vladimir Putin.

And, though no proponent of big government or bureaucracy he was fiercely protective of the powers of the federal government to protect the rights of the citizens of the United States.  I believe he would have abhorred the Bannon inspired Trump effort to dismantle the federal government so that its ability to enforce federal laws is crippled.  Jackson may have believed that as President he should decide which laws should be enforced but “by the eternal” he would enforce them.

Andrew Jackson as President banished the Cherokee and Creek Indians from Georgia, NC and Alabama to west of the Mississippi.  That stain on America’s image has become known as the Trail of Tears.  It was controversial at the time. New Englanders, having exterminated their Native Americans in the 1600's wanted to live with the Indians in the south east.  The southeastern whites wanted to kill off their Indian neighbors.  Jackson settled for the removal policy - by today's standards he was wrong.  I can only say that unlike Trump he was not relegating some people (e.g. Muslims and Mexicans) to the horrors of their own country and closing off the United States to political and economic refugees.

Andrew Jackson did not like the strangle hold that banks had on the growing American economy.  He particularly hated the Bank of America, which was a monopoly chartered by Congress and which held America’s funds as its deposits and in effect controlled the value of our currency and the ability to get credit.  Jackson vowed to destroy the Bank and he did so. He vetoed their charter renewal and moved all the federal funds into state banks. Today's economists will most likely argue he was wrong and his actions led to a recession in 1837.  But in the 1930's as America faced the sorrows of the Great Depression brought on in part by mindless speculation Jackson and his populist attack against big money and the wealthy plutocrats of the eastern cities brought a new popularity to the President of a hundred years before.

Andrew Jackson owned slaves who worked his plantation.  For that there was then and there is now no moral justification.   And if the Trump apologists want to excuse his misogynistic behavior and his low treatment of women by recalling Jackson’s slaveholding so be it. It makes them both morally flawed individuals but one of the two is living now in the 21st century and there is no excuse that the culture allows it.

There is so much more that Andrew Jackson as President accomplished. He instituted national political conventions to replace Congressmen nominating Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates.  He fired cabinet members when they wouldn’t follow the administration policy and defended those whom his critics excoriated. After he served two terms and rejected any third attempt he retired to his plantation outside Nashville and for ten years remained a force in American political life.  He was responsible for the election of two Presidents: Van Buren and Polk; and, undoubtedly a major player in the decade's long effort to join Texas to the American union. He is considered the founder of the still existent Democratic Party and his campaign of 1828 considered the first modern voter oriented national campaign.

In conclusion may I borrow from a bon mot that made the rounds among intellectuals and political wags in France in the 1960's about their then President and offer this --- I do not think that Donald J Trump thinks he is the reincarnation of Andrew Jackson.  But, as he sits at his desk in the oval office, with the picture of President Jackson looking down at him from the left, I do believe that President Trump may just for a moment think that Andrew Jackson may have thought he was Donald Trump.  



18 March 2016

Thursday, January 26, 2017

TRUMP CONCOCTS PROBLEM SO HE CAN “FIX” IT.

           
Donald Trump has used the office of President to now give credence to a long held alt-right conspiracy theory that millions of undocumented alien residents of the country vote in our elections. There is not one scintilla of evidence that this is the case. In fact every reputable study and bipartisan reviews have found our elections among the cleanest in the democratic world and no longer plagued with the frauds often perpetrated by various party machines prior to the 1960's.

I believe that the people around Trump will use his need to believe in these illegal votes to explain to himself how he was out polled by a woman on Nov. 8, 2016, to seek voter repression legislation at the federal level to keep minorities, young people and poorer people from exercising the franchise.  These efforts which the courts have rejected in some states but which were successful in North Carolina and Wisconsin in helping Trump will be his “fix” for the problem that doesn’t exist.

There are imperfections in our democratic processes.  As the great Democrat Al Smith said “the cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy”. Rather than suppress the vote the federal government should be concentrating on protecting the right to vote and making it easier for all to participate in the electoral system.  Those who oppose the Trumpian vision of a controlled democracy should rally around real democratic reforms and not allow the myth of election fraud to dominate the conversation.

1.  We should demand the direct election of the president of the US. Abolish the antiquated Electoral College and join other democracies in directly electing the one official who represents the entire nation.

2.  We should adopt some of the ideas that are working well in the states: Same day registration (with id evidence required of course); voting by mail; early voting; unquestioned right to an absentee ballot; sufficient polling places to eliminate lines and hour waiting time.

3. We should end the two party structural monopoly of our election system by adopting open primary voting, or the California multiple candidate primaries with top two runoffs, and universal ballot access for candidates without requiring fees or signatures.

4. If we truly want to increase the electorate than give the voters a reason to participate.  End the partisan gerrymandering that make most of our congressional and state legislative districts one party bastions and replicas of the 19th century English rotten boros. Set term limits for Senators and Representatives so that new faces can flourish.

5. And, if we want to really democratize our democracy than enact public financing of campaigns - end unlimited corporate donating and allow the average working man or woman to compete in political contests.

The only threat I could see to democracy last Nov. 8th was the result, with the election of an authoritarian minded pseudo populist who is spearheading right wing fanatics in the greatest threat to our democracy since the abomination of slavery tore this nation apart. America ended slavery and unified as a better nation. 

What will happen if the Congress says No to some of Trumps ideas? Does the capital get burned down and the President blame illegal aliens or Muslims?  Wake Up America - It CAN Happen Here.


26 January 2016. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Trump values or American values a fork in our road.

      
I was born seventy years ago in 1946.  It was the first year of peace since 1938, and it became the start of a post WWII world order that lasted until 1990 when the United States of America became the world’s one great superpower. Now many posit that 2016 will be the beginning of a new world order, somewhat similar to the post WWI order of competing and often hostile powers, with the United States merely a player neither a leader nor a symbol.

In the days of my youth we in America saw our country as the symbol of democracy. We were engaged in a cold war with an evil empire that was godless and was patently totalitarian. As that time period unfolded we saw the expansion of human rights across our nation and the world: civil rights for African-Americans one hundred years after emancipation; women to be treated equally with men fifty years after obtaining the right to vote; and, a growing tolerance and acceptance of differing lifestyles to the point that marriage equality and many other equal rights were guaranteed to those in the LGBTQ community.   

In the world we saw the end of apartheid in South Africa; the final eradication of fascism in Spain and Portugal; the end of European colonial rule of third world peoples and the restoration of democracy and true nationhood to the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Russian dominated states of the USSR.

The galloping pace of technological change has reached levels that were considered science fiction in 1946 and many not even thought of in 1986.

But, in those seventy years something seems to have been lost. I’m not sure how to sum it up but I can describe some of what we’ve lost. As Americans we’ve lost our self-assurance that things were always going to get better. That education would enable one to earn a really good living and provide for a family. That America was a middle class nation with only a few very rich and with a sincere attempt beginning in the 1960's to end poverty. We seem to have forgotten that the World Wars taught us the lesson that all nations must work together to solve the world's problems and that multilateral organizations, e.g. the United Nations, and coalitions, e.g. the Gulf War; and world agreements, e.g. Climate Change, were the preferred norm.
We lost sight of the fact that our nation’s neutrality in religious conflicts was because we promoted toleration of all beliefs something which most profess. Our leaders presented us with great challenges: John F Kennedy admonishing us not to ask what the country can do for us but what we can do for the country; Martin Luther King calling on all of us to judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin; and, Lyndon B Johnson proclaiming to Congress that “We shall overcome”.  These words seem hollow today as we wallow in nostalgia for a time that never was or younger generations react to such sentiments with cynical derision. We respond to slogans like making America Great Again as if it no longer is.

At the close of WWI America rejected the changing world and the mantle of world leadership and “returned to normalcy”. For twelve years the country was run by businessmen, millionaires and their political puppets. It took a great depression to awaken Americans to the need for social programs that would build a middle class that could be strong on its own; and the most horrific War to make us realize that we would only be safe and secure when all people are safe and secure.

2017 will open with the inauguration of a new American President - Donald Trump.  Will he be the worst leader this nation has had since Warren Harding?  Will Trumpism unleash the forces of intolerance and fascism that we rejected in the 1930's and 1940's?  Will we simply replace him in four or eight years with a modified version of this new type of leader?  Will we exit from the World and retreat into a fortress American?

I do not know. But I do know that the answers to those questions will not be decided by Trump -- they will be decided by the American people. We can continue the way we are going -- two America’s one happily ruled by a billionaire oligarchy and the other continuing the age old struggle for human dignity for all. We can continue to be a culture that is symbolized by concern for ME and a denial of realities as we build a Wonderland world of myths to replace one based on the reality of truth and facts.

We should return to the basic values upon which our nationhood was built -- values common to all the major religious and philosophical movements of the past two thousand years -- to treat our fellow human beings as we want to be treated with respect and kindness, to tolerate the lifestyles of others, to respect the beliefs of others, and to stand firm against those who would trample over those values and the rights of human beings to live in dignity.
When the Puritans came to settle New England they wanted to plant a City on a Hill - a New Jerusalem.  After the Revolution of 1776 and Constitution of 1787 Americans saw themselves as “the last best hope of mankind”.  This was not just chauvinistic braggadocio because most to f the world also saw it that way.  The revolutions in Latin America and in Europe and later in Africa and Asia would almost always copy the American in their declarations, their constitutions and their symbols.  We didn’t always do the right thing at first but when we did the wrong thing we tried to atone for the mistakes.  And after wars that were justified we reach out the hand of friendship to former enemies.

I’m proud of my country and I’m proud of the positive aspects of our history these past two hundred and forty years.  In 2086 children born this past year will turn seventy.  I hope that they will be proud of America’s performance as a nation this twenty-first century.  I pray that they will see 2017 as the beginning of the end of Trumpism and its’ recipe of intolerance and hatred fueled by lies and distortions and hiding behind a wall of isolation.  If my generation and that of my children reject the ME culture and remember what America accomplished when the operative word was WE then I do not doubt that WE will defeat Trumpism as WE have the other negative ism’s of the twentieth century.


31 December 2016  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Don't Bury the Democratic Party -- Trump Hasn't Killed It.


To paraphrase from a song popular after the Great War “Sixty-Five million Americans can’t be wrong.”  That’s how many United States voters cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate for President on November 8, 2016.  She won the vote but not the election.  And since then the pundits and consultants and those with their own political agenda have waxed eloquent in their attempts to determine what is wrong with the Democratic Party.  As Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out only in America would those who won two and one half million more votes than their opponent ask what they are doing wrong?

Let’s reduce this election to the simple fact t that just as in 1888 the Electoral College system resulted in the election of the candidate who received fewer votes from the people for President.  Donald Trump thus joins that illustrious list of President's chosen not by the people but by the system devised in 1787: Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and George W. Bush (although most historians would agree that the first and last of those were actually chosen by actions outside the electoral college.)

The message of the Democratic Party, the most progressive platform in a century was not rejected by the American people -- it was in fact endorsed.
The messenger of the Democratic Party, with all her misperceived warts, was not rejected by the American people - but by a system devised when it seemed difficult to imagine a national electorate. And so the Republican Party already in control of the House of Representatives due to congressional and state legislative gerrymandering of districts, and the Senate due to the malapportionment of that body now controls the national governing institutions. The Democratic Party remains with only one indicia of influence -- the support of the majority of the American people.

Will 2016 be 1828 or 1932 and usher in decades of party dominance of the American political scene.  Or will it be 1928, 1964, 1972 lopsided victories were followed by the opposition returning to power in the next election?

As a Democratic Party activist I recognize that there are things my party needs to do.  Things they should have done had they won but most likely in that case wouldn’t have.   The party needs to return to its historic roots. It has spent the past fifty years fighting, successfully, to extend civil rights to those so long denied - African Americas, women, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, native Americans, and Latinos. But while doing that it appeared to forget the needs of those who made it possible for the Democrats to accomplish this historic inclusion of all in the American way of life - the white working class, the Euro-American ethnic groups, the Catholic sons and daughters of immigrants and the evangelical Christians of rural America.

The traditional Democratic principle of economic justice for all and opposition to the uber-rich combined with the struggle for social equality would have kept that coalition intact and in fact could have expanded it. But in the 1990's led by the Clinton inspired democratic leadership council the party moved its economic positions to the center and embraced globalization trade agreements that lifted other societies up and a detente and bonding with the magnates of wall street. This new relationship led int he last year of the Clinton administration to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act a New Deal measure that even Reagan and Gingrich couldn’t repeal.

And, when the bubble burst, the American people responded to the crash of 2008 with the election of Barack Obama whom they expected to be another FDR. Instead they found themselves with a 90's Democrat - liberal on social issues and centrist on dealings with the powers of Wall Street: sort of a combination of Jimmy Carter and Grover Cleveland. His signature accomplishment domestically was the Affordable Care Act which brought health insurance to many millions who had not had it but never resonated as a benefit for all those who already had.

Winning the next national election and remaining relevant to American democracy requires that the world’s oldest political party take some actions:

1) Adopt fifty state strategies asking why we lost where we did and what we have to do to win there. No one size fits all manual that instructs political neophytes how to run a campaign but tried and true tactics that meet the conditions in each state (and within the state, e.g. Pennsylvania, 67 county strategies not a failed 15 county strategy).  

2).Advocate for and fight for the progressive platform of 2016 recognizing the party’s historic commitment to economic justice for all as embodied in the platform of 1896 and FDR’s four freedoms and second bill of rights.

3) Replace my generation of baby boomers from leadership positions at every level and replace them with fighters in their fifties and forties and open the doors of the party to those under forty to be full participants not merely sometime votes.

4)Using every means possible struggle to expand the franchise with early voting and same day registration; fight to change the anti-people aspects of the American political structure - the electoral college and district gerrymandering.

5) Expose the outside forces such as the FBI and the dictator of Russia who interfered in the election and to some extent determined its outcome. And remind Americans again and again that It Shouldn’t Happen Here.

Finally Democrats should remember the injunction of Andrew Jackson that “One man with courage makes a majority” and realize that sixty-five million Americans with courage can make a nation.


3 December 2016.    

Thursday, October 6, 2016

IT IS TIME TO LABEL TRUMPISM WHAT IT IS - EVIL.


It has been said that Evil succeeds when good men and women do nothing to prevent it.  The Presidential election of 2016 could well become an example on point.

I am not one of those who contends that Trump is another Hitler (although he does a good imitation of Mussolini) nor do I believe that all Trump supporters are closet Nazis.  I do believe that those in our country who admire the Ku Klux Klan, who consider themselves alt-right nationalists; are white supremacists, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim as well as xenophobic are supporters of Trump. Make no mistake about it Trumpism is home grown American Fascism wrapping itself in the banner of patriotic populism. Trump’s candidacy has appealed to the evil elements of people’s natures not as Lincoln called for the Better Angels. Trump’s candidacy has unleashed those elements and let that genie out of the bottle -even his defeat may not be able to put the genie back in . But, Trump's victory would legitimatize those hate groups as acceptable to the American President.

There are those in America who have not learned the lessons of the past nor even perhaps are aware of them.  They do not understand why hundreds of thousands died in a Civil War to abolish slavery when one candidate tells them that African-Americans have never had it so bad. They do not understand why the “greatest generation” sacrificed so much to save the world from Nazism, Fascism and Militarism.  And quite frankly many do not even realize the evilness of the Stalin Soviet Empire that fell with the Berlin Wall nor how close we came to nuclear war in 1962.


If Trump wins and the forces of evil are unleashed with the imprimatur of respectability lent them by a President there will come a time decades from now when the grandchildren of today's voters will ask “What did you do to stop Trumpism” If Trump wins it will be because so many will answer that question with “When ballots could stop him I didn’t vote or didn’t see a difference between him and his major opponent.  And when only bullets could stop the evil it was those forces that had them.”  

One can only hope that those elderly voters of the greatest generation remember what happened when evil was unleashed in 1939 and will vote to make sure it doesn’t happen here.

And I pray that my own generation, the baby boomers, will remember the idealism and the sacrifice of the 1960's and vote for the candidate that embodies the best of us - Hillary Clinton.

If you believe that America is a great country that has come a long way toward being that shining city on a hill that the Puritans envisaged and the last best hope of mankind that Lincoln labeled it you are on the other side of the Trump evil forces who believe that the America of the past fifty years has been in decline and they must make America Great -White - Straight- Christian Again.

Will it happen here? Will America succumb to the politics of hate and fear?
Our country rejected that path in the 1930's and then preserved some 60 years of relative world peace and the spread of democratic values. American leaders have become icons and symbols throughout the world: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  And we have elected some Presidents who have become the synonym for corruption Warren Harding and Richard Nixon. To which model of leader will American voters look to this November?  To those who were bold enough to envision a better future or those who were afraid of the progress of the past.


6 Oct. 2016

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Can Trump's Opponents Stop Him? -- Andrew Jackson's Couldn't !

I prepared a version of this blog entry two months ago with the assistance of, and in collaboration with, a long time friend, Dr. John Tantillo, "the Marketing Doctor", who is an expert on branding and offered significant marketing and branding insights on my basically political history take; John is the author of the book, "People Buy Brands, Not Companies". 

Political pundits and some historians always try to match current presidential candidates with past political figures. The matches are never exact, but knowledge of history can help prepare us for what might be. 2016 presents what the media presents as a Trump phenomena—a nationwide celebrity defeating the establishment of a major political party and securing the nomination of that party for president. Trump faces a former secretary of state (and US senator and first lady) in a general election that has become nasty and divisive and possibly close.

Almost 200 years ago, as the “the Era of Good Feeling” drew to a close, the political establishment proceeded to choose a new president. The secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, by birth (his father was the Revolutionary icon and second president, John Adams) and tradition, was the obvious choice.  The Congressional Caucus, which in those days nominated the candidates, met and endorsed Secretary of Treasury William Crawford. Speaker of the House Henry Clay saw an opportunity with multiple candidates if the Electoral College failed to produce a majority and the House had to choose from amongst the top-three candidates.

There came forth an outsider, a Westerner, and a national celebrity. Andrew Jackson was known popularly for his victory at the Battle of New Orleans and by many as the victor of the War of 1812. Jackson was also known for his battles against Native Americans (the Indians) in Alabama and then the occupation of Florida; Andrew Jackson was in his day a national celebrity perhaps better known across the country than any other public figure since Washington and Franklin. He became the candidate supported by those on the outside—poor farmers, workingmen, and mechanics of the cities, politicos from the new states, and the entrepreneurs fueling the growing economy known as the “men on the make.” 

For the first time in presidential elections, most states allowed the people to vote to choose the electors from that state; and, Andrew Jackson amassed the most popular votes followed by Adams. In the Electoral College, Crawford (the candidate of the NY/VA Democratic–Republican establishment) edged out Clay for third place, which threw the election into the House with the Speaker not in contention. Jackson and his supporters claimed the moral right to win due to receipt of the most popular votes and the most electoral votes. Adams supporters cited the lack of anyone receiving a majority and the rules in the Constitution specifying what should then happen. Adams was elected by the House with Clay’s support, and, when the latter was made Secretary of State, Jackson called it a corrupt bargain and began a four-year campaign to win the presidency.

Jackson was considered by his opponents as brash, uncultured by Eastern Seaboard standards, a racist, a philanderer and bigamist, a murderer, and a hot-tempered man ill-suited to be the nation’s chief executive. Sound familiar? (And we think today’s political rhetoric is rough!) He had little if any support from the nation’s political establishment. In fact, his predecessors (Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe), though publicly supporting Crawford in 1824, in private correspondence expressed sympathy for the aspirations of John Quincy Adams.
Jackson’s opponents, the political elite and the money establishment of New York and Philadelphia, used arguments against him, which in fact may have gained him votes.

Jackson was not yet president, so he had no record to stand on; furthermore, it was only during his second term that his most controversial actions took place. The opposition to Jackson used what they considered his personality flaws to try to defeat him. They ridiculed his poor spelling (he evidently spelled Congress with a K). But this was at a time when even the most literate Americans spelled phonetically. Because he had married his wife Rachel assuming her husband had gotten a divorce, when in fact he had only applied for one, Jackson was accused of bigamy --  at a time when, outside Eastern cities, record-keeping, to say the least, was sporadic. He was accused of murder, having slain a man in a duel who had slandered Jackson’s wife; this attack at a time when men thought it their duty to protect the honor of their wives. And in a “swift boat-style attack,” Jacksons’ opponents issued the “coffin circular,” which pictured six coffins representing soldiers he had executed for disobedience and desertion. But the men who belonged to militias and had heard the stories of their fathers from the Revolutionary War accepted the concept that you had to execute those in your ranks whose actions endangered all. 

Though Jackson as president was a divisive character, he was loved by the people enough to win three popular votes for president and elect his successor; his name has been used to denote the era in American history before the Civil War: the Age of Jackson. Hatred by his opponents caused the coalescing of the opposition groups into the Whig Party. He was a fierce nationalist and a believer in a strong presidency. His policies divided the three branches of the federal government, but in most cases the position of the executive prevailed. Among the nineteenth-century presidents, only Lincoln surpassed him in national homage.

Is Donald Trump the twenty-first-century incarnation of Andrew Jackson? Certainly there are similarities in temper and his possible rise to the highest office.  Jackson, like Trump, could be civil and polite in society. He also could be stubborn and even sometimes cruel. Once he determined on a course of action, nothing stopped him. When he declared war on a political enemy, it was total. 

While there are similarities between the two candidates there are even more in the reaction to the candidates.  Jackson’s opponents attempted to turn his strengths into weaknesses and may, in fact, have merely enhanced the repute of his strengths. In 2016, Trump’s opponents might do well to study the failure of Jackson’s opposition and develop a better strategy to stop him.  They should recall Santayana’s dictum: “those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it.”  Jackson ultimately won the presidency in a wave of popular dissatisfaction against the establishment, the effete elite, and the big money interests who allegedly owned Washington DC politicians. 

The intent herein is neither to denigrate Andrew Jackson nor to elevate Donald Trump. America has been graced with much good luck throughout its history. Jackson, who followed some disastrous economic policies and a horrific Indian removal policy, nevertheless ushered America safely into a new era and created a popular attachment to the union that bolstered Lincoln as he won the Civil War.  Should Donald Trump be elected president, let us hope that America’s luck has not run out!

Andrew Jackson was an American original. Donald Trump is likewise -- whether one likes him or not. The inside-the-beltway bureaucracy, along with the historical elite, have decided to remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill. It would be ironic if the people now send a 21st century version of Jackson to the White House.


9 Aug 2016

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Liberal - Progressive -- A Rose By Any Other Name...


The labels Liberal and Progressive are thrown around in Democratic Party politics without any reference to either historic meaning or consistent current definition.  We have reached a point in our politics today where anyone can label them self what they like, their opponents can label them what they want and people just accept those labels -- giving those labels their own understood meanings.  Thus the labels become meaningless.

In 1896 a relatively conservative Democratic party controlled by the money interests of the northeastern states and the ex-confederate Bourbons of the South was subjected to a popular revolt and transformed into a populist party. That original Populist agenda included many items of economic justice (anti-big banks, anti-monopolies), political justice (direct election of Senators, referendum, recall) and global justice (anti-imperialism and anti-war).  After the turn of the 20th century Populism, whose roots were rural and western, merged with urban Progressivism and became the Progressive movement. Progressives added social justice (labor conditions, health care, and slum eradication) to economic and political justice and on the global scene became advocates for an American style world justice and organization.  The Progressive movement was personified by Theodore Roosevelt and institutionalized by Woodrow Wilson.

After World War I, as Progressives embraced woman suffrage, extreme elements pushed successfully for prohibition and many nativist elements opposed Wilsonian world leadership. These divisions, which often reflected urban  rural differences, lasted throughout the 1920's.  And, then came Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal.

FDR, a firm Wilson Progressive and cousin to Teddy Roosevelt, considered himself a LIBERAL.  Read his speeches and you will be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t use the world Liberal in it. He advocated economic, social, political, and global justice. He preached Four Freedoms “everywhere in the world” and an Economic Bill of Rights.  His twelve years in office made the Democratic Party a Liberal Party. Truman, Stevenson, Kennedy, Johnson and Humphrey were all proud to call themselves Liberals. 

The Vietnam War divided Liberals on global issues and the degree to which the US should be willing to engage in war to defeat communists and so called fellow travelers.  After the 1968 convention the anti-war Democrats took control of the party apparatus and the 1972 convention and nominated George McGovern on a Liberal platform strongly anti-war.  His crushing defeat by Nixon caused a reaction among Democrats that can only be described as cowardly as most Democrats began to deny the word Liberal and instead use the word Progressive which they felt would denote liberal views on social and economic issues and not carry the “stain” of McGovernism.  In contrast when LBJ decimated the Goldwater Republicans in 1964 they responded by hunkering down and pushing conservatives from the school board to the court house and building the base for the Reagan revolution sixteen years later.

And so for twenty years the Democrats, having rid themselves of the segregationists and having taken a clear pro-choice position on abortion, see sawed between centrists Progressives like Carter and Liberals like Mondale and Dukakis.  Finally in 1992 the centrist Democrats led by Bill Clinton took control of the party and Liberal became an unused label.

It was not until 2014, when Senators like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown began to crusade for economic justice again - and people went into the streets to demand that government reign in Wall Street, raise the minimum wage, and rescue the middle class from extinction, that the word PROGRESSIVE began again to have its historic meaning of economic justice and opposition to the power and greed of the wealthy and the corporate interests.  And people also began to again use the word LIBERAL with pride as contra CONSERVATIVE.

The two labels tend to denote the same views on social issues and support for the economic programs of the New Deal and the Great Society.  I would argue that Progressive today includes liberal values with a heightened concern about the oligarchic power of big business and the influence of the military industrial complex on our international relations.  But, I would also say that it is difficult today to give precise meaning to the two labels: Liberal and Progressive. While both support equal rights for all only some in each oppose the death penalty. Today both labels now denote opposition to corporate power and Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United; but, Progressives place more value on minimum wage and single payer health care than many Liberals.  And, most unfortunately, many Liberals today are not advocating political reform - they are satisfied with the reforms that were enacted post 1972 and the party structures they control and so resist changes such as open primaries, abolition of automatic delegates, ending caucus systems.     

But, now (2016) in the mind of the public the labels Liberal and Progressive have become somewhat synonymous. Many people see them as the same-- which they are not.  And, many party activists argue over the Progressive bonafides of candidates.  If the key litmus test is economic justice and attitudes toward Wall Street and corporate political power than we should begin using the terms Progressive Liberal and Traditional Liberal. A Progressive Liberal being one who holds basic liberal values on most issues but is clearly anti-Wall Street and all that entails.  A Traditional Liberal would be one who holds basic liberal values on most issues but has become comfortable with the role that corporations and big business play in our government. (To be clear I would denote Bernie Sanders the former and Hillary Clinton the latter.) Personally I prefer either type of Liberal to a conservative, or an extremist tea-partier, or an enabling so-called moderate or Trumpian.


24 July 2016