Class Warfare Blog

December 7, 2011

Not Your Grandfather’s Republican Party

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:01 am
Tags: , , , , ,

President Obama’s speech yesterday echoed a speech made by Theodore Roosevelt August 31, 1910 in Osawatomie, Kansas. Roosevelt, having failed to get the Republican nomination to run for president in 1912 created the Bull Moose Party and ran as a progressive. That today’s Republican Party cannot claim to have T.R. as an ideological descendant is made clear from the following quotes from that 1912 speech.

“The National Government belongs to the whole American people, and where the whole American people are interested, that interest can be guarded effectively only by the National Government. The betterment which we seek must be accomplished, I believe, mainly through the National Government.”

“‘Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.’” Abraham Lincoln Quotation

“The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need to is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows.”

“I believe that the officers, and, especially, the directors, of corporations should be held personally responsible when any corporation breaks the law.”

“No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered—not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective-a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.” (This was prior to the adoption of an income tax.)

“One of the fundamental necessities in a representative government such as ours is to make certain that the men to whom the people delegate their power shall serve the people by whom they are elected, and not the special interests. I believe that every national officer, elected or appointed, should be forbidden to perform any service or receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, from interstate corporations; and a similar provision could not fail to be useful within the States.”

“The people of the United States suffer from periodical financial panics to a degree substantially unknown to the other nations, which approach us in financial strength. There is no reason why we should suffer what they escape. It is of profound importance that our financial system should be promptly investigated, and so thoroughly and effectively revised as to make it certain that hereafter our currency will no longer fail at critical times to meet our needs.”

“The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows. That is what you fought for in the Civil War, and that is what we strive for now.”

“We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.”

“A broken promise is bad enough in private life. It is worse in the field of politics. No man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election; and, if he makes such a pledge and does not keep it, hunt him out of public life.”

“In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity.”

“One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege. The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows. That is what you fought for in the Civil War, and that is what we strive for now.”

“At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will.”

“I stand for the square deal. But when I say that I am for the square deal, I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the game, but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service. (. . .) When I say I want a square deal for the poor man, I do not mean that I want a square deal for the man who remains poor because he has not got the energy to work for himself.”

“. . . this means that our government, National and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests.”

“. . . every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.”

“The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man’s making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being.”

“It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public-service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs.”

“It has become entirely clear that we must have government supervision of the capitalization, not only of public-service corporations, including, particularly, railways, but of all corporations doing an interstate business.”

“I should be heartily ashamed of any American who did not try to make the American government act as justly toward the other nations in international relations as he himself would act toward any individual in private relations. I should be heartily ashamed to see us wrong a weaker power, and I should hang my head forever if we tamely suffered wrong from a stronger power.”

“Nothing is more true than that excess of every kind is followed by reaction; a fact which should be pondered by reformer and reactionary alike. We are face to face with new conceptions of the relations of property to human welfare, chiefly because certain advocates of the rights of property as against the rights of men have been pushing their claims too far. The man who wrongly holds that every human right is secondary to his profit must now give way to the advocate of human welfare, who rightly maintains that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.”

“If our political institutions were perfect, they would absolutely prevent the political domination of money in any part of our affairs. . . . It is particularly important that all moneys received or expended for campaign purposes should be publicly accounted for, not only after election, but before election as well. Political action must be made simpler, easier, and freer from confusion for every citizen. I believe that the prompt removal of unfaithful or incompetent public servants should be made easy and sure in whatever way experience shall show to be most expedient in any given class of cases.”

Why has the Republican Party gone so far astray that it is in direct conflict with the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln? Lincoln I could vote for. T.R. I could vote for. Newt Gingrich? Michele Bachmann? Mitt Romney? Egad.

1 Comment »

  1. T. R. actually had a lot in common with modern Republicans, in that he saw the U.S. as a hemispheric overlord (his famous corollary to the Monroe Doctrine), saw a military solution to every problem, eschewed cooperation (or even interaction) with foreign powers, and promoted an aggressively racist social agenda. Of course, he also supported national parks, education, and limited social welfare, so you can’t push it too far. In some respects, though, it was in the late 19th century that the Republican party began its gradual transition from a reform party to the ravening lunacy that seems to be its current hallmark. Actually, in a lot of ways, I see T. R. and G. W. as kindred spirits, in that they both attempted to remake their public images (with different degrees of success) from effete, privileged Northeasterners to rugged manly men by buying ranches and playing soldier (T. R. abandoned New York for the Dakotas, G. W. tried to rid himself of the stink of Yale by going Texan). (It’s little known, but when T. R. was a New York State Assemblyman, he was ridiculed mercilessly by New York newspapers for being an effeminate dandy, even a homosexual.)

    Like

    Comment by Andrew — December 17, 2011 @ 4:53 pm | Reply


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