Sunday, July 17, 2016

The election of 1912 was very similar to today a century later

I finally finished reading "The Bully Pulpit" by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It has been an amazing read since conditions a century ago were very similar to now. Only the political parties seemed more honest.  

It was mainly focused around the election of 1912, in which all 4 candidates agreed that corporate abuses were the #1 issue. All 4 candidates were in the Progressive spectrum.

Republican William Howard Taft was formerly Roosevelt's sidekick in the Progressive Republican agenda to regulate corporations, break up the Trusts, promote labor rights, and conserve land from the greedy hands of mining corporations and preserve them for the People. They favored a post office bank, child labor laws, 8-hr workdays, Workman's Comp insurance, European style social insurance, direct election of Senators, prohibition of corporate campaign donations, and a progressive income tax. Taft wanted to break up all the trusts. During his first term beginning 1908, he made a lot of compromises. By 1912, he was considered the "Conservative" of all the Progressives running.

Not being chosen by the Republican convention, former President Teddy Roosevelt felt Taft had abandoned the Progressive agenda by compromising with the corporations on some things, so he started a new party called the Progressive Party. But since everyone associated it with Roosevelt, people liked to call it the Bull Moose Party. They were also advocating women's suffrage, and the rights of referendum on 5-4 split SCOTUS decisions. His platform was that all power belongs to the People and money is to serve the People, not be master.  People are more important than property. 

On the way to Roosevelt's first speech as the Progressive candidate for President, an assassin shot Roosevelt at point blank range. The bullet was slowed by the 50-page speech he had written and folded in half to fit into his breast pocket. The bullet lodged in his rib, and he went on to give the entire speech anyway before spending the remainder of his campaign convalescing. He still beat Taft 27% to 24%. He never regained his robust health and died 6 years later of a cardiac embolus.

Calvinist intellectual Woodrow Wilson, governor of New Jersey, was the Progressive Democrat. He was chosen at the Democratic Convention on the 48th vote. Can you imagine if there were 48 votes at the upcoming Democratic Convention in Philadelphia? If so, I'm sure Bernie would be the winner! Wilson had almost the same agenda as Roosevelt and Taft. Only, Wilson was a southerner, and so firmly believed in segregation. He institutionalized segregation in many government services. He also initiated the Federal Reserve in order to control the money supply. But as a candidate, he was an anti-corporate Progressive. He won with less than 42% of the vote.

And Eugene Debbs ran as the Socialist candidate for the 4th time. No, the campaign was not conducted from prison this time; that would be 1920, when he was convicted for Sedition for speaking against the war. He was not just anti-corporate; he believed that the whole Capitalist system was wrong and was impossible to regulate. He promoted common ownership of the means of production, co-op prisons, a national bureau of health, abolition of both the Senate and the presidential veto. 
All of these Progressives envisioned an expanded role for the government beyond just national defense.  They all felt to one degree or another that the role of the government was the welfare of the People.   Unlike today, when only the Green Party expresses values like the Progressives of 1912.  Both our current Democrat and Republican Parties kowtow to Wall Street and corporate interests, just like the corrupt legislatures that the 1912 Progressive candidates were striving to fight. 

The things I liked most about this book are these:
1. Every time they described the boundless energy of Teddy Roosevelt, I thought of Aric Cordell.
2. It really put into perspective the current 2016 election when we are facing mostly the exact same issues.
3. The incredible Muckraking journalists, Ida Tarbell, Jay Baker, Lincoln Phillips, Sam McClure, etc., thought that when they exposed the corruption to the American People, that justice would prevail. They all became disillusioned understanding that the general public doesn't care a whit.
4. It contrasted the campaign styles of Roosevelt and Taft. Taft was straightforward, trustworthy, logical and linear, and wanted to be loved. Roosevelt wanted to win. He rode the public sentiment like a surfer, and learned how to manipulate the legislature in order to get what he wanted. It teaches me how much of getting political justice has to do with manipulation.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The 1912 Democratic Platform was far more Progressive than now

The thing about voting in California is that your absentee ballot only gets counted if you submitted it well in advance of election day. Absentee ballots submitted on election day don't get accounted for until almost a month later. Since the polls in CA close 3 hours after those in the east, by 7pm on election day, Californians have a pretty good idea of how the rest of the nation voted. If it is close, you can vote for the lesser of 2 evils. In 2000, I voted for Gore instead of Nader at 7:45pm. If one candidate is distinctly ahead, you can vote for the best of the lot, because your vote becomes a statement at that point. In 2012 when Obama was far ahead of Romney, I proudly voted for Jill Stein.

The question is, if the race is close, do you vote for the best choice thereby possibly allowing the worst candidate to get elected like in 2000 when Nader got over 2% of the vote which supposedly stole the election from Gore. The fact is, Nader took the blame but Bush stole the election in a rigged system. The next question is, when the system is rigged, what difference does it make how we vote?

It was obvious to Gore in 2000, to Kerry in 2004, and to Sanders in 2016. The system is rigged and they ended up walking away rather than challenge a corrupt system. Bernie at least used his considerable influence, having nearly as many primary votes as Hillary, to squeeze a few progressive concessions into the Democratic platform. Bernie wants it to be the most progressive platform the Democrats have ever had, but he has overlooked the far more progressive 1912 Democratic platform listed below.  Woodrow Wilson was the Democratic candidate and winner. Link to the actual text of the 1912 Democratic Platform
Curb corporate abuses with:
  1. Honest tariffs
  2. Regulation of Railroad rates
  3. Break up the monopolies with Anti-Trust laws
  4. Prohibit all corporate campaign contributions
  5. Regulate of Interstate Commerce
  6. Conserve of National Parks and wilderness lands free from corporate exploitation
  7. Nationalize of Alaskan coal before the giant monopolies take them
  8. Labor Rights
  9. Oppose the Federal Reserve but favor public banks
  10. Post Office Bank
  11. A Civil Service Law rather than the Spoils System of government positions
  12. Direct election of Senators
  13. Farm credit reform
  14. A Progressive income tax
  15. States Rights
  16. Presidential primaries in States
  17. Pure Food and Public Health
  18. Decrease poverty and the high cost of living with redistribution of wealth
  19. Control the Mississippi and use it to generate power
  20. Enforce the Monroe Doctrine with a strong navy
 The fact is, that in 1912, everyone was so sick and tired of the giant corporations getting filthy rich at the expense of everyone else, destroying free trade and monopolizing the industries, that all 4 candidates in the election were Progressives.  William Howard Taft, the incumbent, was in the Progressive wing of the Republican Party.  Woodrow Wilson was in the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party.  Former Republican Teddy Roosevelt split the Republican vote by starting a third party called the Progressive Party (aka Bull Moose Party).  Eugene Debs was a Progressive Socialist, left of the other 3 Progressives.  1912 Election candidates in Wikipedia

Conditions a century ago sound a lot like now.  Obviously, whatever the Progressive Reformers did to control corporate abuses a century ago didn't last.  History repeats itself.  But where are our Progressive reformers now, to break the stranglehold of the corporations?