Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 18, 2009
By: Hilzoy

Eternal Recurrence

The Nation has republished an editorial from just before the inauguration of FDR in 1933, called 'A Farewell To Republicans' (h/t). Except for the absence of any mention of Iraq or global warming, it's downright scary how apt it is today:

"For twelve years the Republican Party has been in power. During ten of those years it controlled the executive and legislative branches of the government. When, a few years hence, an attempt is made to minimize the disaster of this last quadrennium, and to point to a preceding eight year period of material development and growth, let it be noted that in a purely material sense the American people are much worse off today than they were twelve years ago. Far more than was gained has been swept away. Savings have been dissipated, lives have been blasted, families disintegrated. Misery and insecurity exist to a degree unprecedented in our national life. And spiritually the American people have been debauched by the materialism which made dollar-chasing the accepted way of life and accumulation of riches the goal of earthly existence. The record of Republicanism must be judged as a whole, although, in fairness, the consequences of the World War and the major responsibility of the Democrats for putting the United States into it must not be forgotten. (...) Moreover, economic disaster has been only a part of this sterile decade's legacy, the burdens of which will descend to unborn generations. Our worthiest traditions have been impaired; vital tenets of American life have been destroyed. What has become of that fundamental American axiom "salvation by work"? In all our previous history it has been taken for granted that ours was a land of opportunity, and that rewards bore some relation to initiative, effort, and ability. Granting the large mythical content of these beliefs, they were more nearly valid in America in the first century and a half of our national existence than anywhere else on earth. They are no longer true today. The promise of American life has been shattered -- possibly beyond repair. (...)

Behind the Administration facade, capped by the genial and banal Harding, the insignificant Coolidge, and the erstwhile superman, Hoover, have been the real rulers of America [ed.: there follows a long list.] It was a Grand Old Party -- for them -- while it lasted. Makers and beneficiaries of our politico-economic system, these are the men whose failure is now written large in the towering empty edifices that scrape the New York sky, in the hundreds of thousands of "For sale" and "To let" signs which adorn our cities, in the closed banks, in the foreclosed farms, in the whole picture of devastation which has come under their rule.

Have these captains and kings departed -- not to return? The epoch of their wanton and repulsive leadership is ending. Their incompetence and their betrayal are manifest. But much of the evil they have done lives after them. The coming years will see the struggle to purge America, to reassert the promise of American life, to validate, in consonance with the changed times and conditions, the high aspirations of the founders of the nation. Mr. Roosevelt has the opportunity to be the leader of this renaissance, but he will have to forge as his instrument a wholly different Democratic Party from that which so long has been indistinguishable from the Republican."

Plus ca change...

(Though, like Ed Kilgore, I don't think we'll have too much trouble telling Democrats apart from Republicans in the years to come.)

Hilzoy 11:22 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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I'm looking forward to hearing the question "Daddy, what was a 'Republican'?"

Posted by: craigie on January 18, 2009 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

reminds me of those bitter partisan attacks on our President on July 4th when everyone was quoting the Declaration of Independence.

That's one thing you can say for Bush, he never quartered soldiers in people's homes.

Posted by: marc sobel on January 19, 2009 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

Very very interesting in light of our current situation. The similarities are, indeed, striking. I fear we may yet see Depression-like conditions in this country. So far, it appears we may be able to mitigate things to merely a long and particularly deep recession. As to the Republican Party, I have seen no signs that its highest members have realized how deeply flawed their preconceptions are.

Posted by: independent thinker on January 19, 2009 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

"it's downright scary how apt it is today"

(followed by a great string of lies and hysterical exaggerations).

Yes, very apt. It's depressing to see the lack of improvement on the Left.

Oh, you do know which national governments and ideologies The Nation favored in those times, don't you? How did that go>

Posted by: a on January 19, 2009 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

(followed by a great string of lies and hysterical exaggerations).

Yes, that's right, a -- Hoover was actually an amazing success as a president who just wasn't appreciated by all of those ungrateful unemployed workers. What was the unemployment rate when Hoover left office -- around 30 percent?

You just go back into your own little dreamland and let the adults try to fix the disasters that your fantasies have created in the real world, okay?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 19, 2009 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana

You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.

George Bush

We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do...

Karl Rove

Sometimes, when you forget the basics, like your Santayana, and your own past, that reality you're trying to create BITES YOU IN THE A$$.

Posted by: Glen on January 19, 2009 at 3:31 AM | PERMALINK

FRD called them Banksters, the people who run the GOP, the Robber Barons who elevate sycophants to power, and who fund the efforts required to have the voting public support these sycophants to the requisite degree.

The GOP is a party for the few, pretending to be a party for the many in order to achieve a plurality. (And since they would never succeed in doing so in a fair election, they have to do all they can to game the process.)

Nothing has changed, until the voters realize they are being had. We could be at the cusp of that realization now, but that remains to be seen.

Posted by: SteinL on January 19, 2009 at 4:06 AM | PERMALINK

The "we're an empire now" statement came from an unnamed Bush official to Suskind. It's not clear that it was Rove.

Posted by: SteinL on January 19, 2009 at 4:08 AM | PERMALINK

Attributed here:

Danner, Mark (2007). "Words in a Time of War: On Rhetoric, Truth and Power", András Szántó What Orwell Didn't Know: Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics, First edition, 17, Philadelphia, PA: PublicAffairs Reports. "... the unnamed official speaking to Suskind is widely known to be none other than the self-same architect of the aircraft-carrier moment, Karl Rove ..."

Posted by: Glen on January 19, 2009 at 4:17 AM | PERMALINK

Although if we're going to quote Karl, this has to be one of the all time greats:

"We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him!"

One guess as to who he's talking about.

And just so it's perfectly clear - Karl Rove is a traitor. He outed CIA agents during a time of war.

Posted by: Glen on January 19, 2009 at 4:21 AM | PERMALINK

Worse than that, Glen. Karl Rove is an enemy of the state, a subversive working against the principles of the Constitution, and an active agent against universal enfranchisement.

Think of him as a Fifth Columnists, working against everything that was intended by the founding fathers of the nation.

That's Karl Rove.

Posted by: SteinL on January 19, 2009 at 4:59 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't keep repeating myself if you numbskulls would just EAT THE RICH.

Posted by: HISTORY on January 19, 2009 at 7:53 AM | PERMALINK

the difference then and now is that while the republicans of the 1920's undertook massive crimes against the American people and morality, as far as I know, they were mostly metaphorical crimes and not so much in the legal sense. Whereas the bush regime of 2000-2008 have outdone their insidious odious greed-stricken predecessors in going the step further to commit criminality against the American people and humanity in the legal sense.

Posted by: pluege on January 19, 2009 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

On NPR Today

... they were going over recent polls on Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama's popularity. Bush was hitting 22% in the NY Times poll; no surprises there, except that it seemed unreasonably high to me.

NPR also reported that currently, about 23% of the population describes themselves as "Republicans".

Posted by: Zandru on January 19, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Hopefully we'll be able to tell one political party from the other for the next 8 years. I've really had a hard time doing that lately. The same dollars coming from the same sources as 'contributions', the same authorizations for the same actions, the same token verbal soundbites before agreeing to vote solidly for the military-political-industrial complex.

Did I miss anything of significance, except aropund the margins?

Posted by: BigSky in AZ on January 19, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK



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