Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bully for Teddy

By Capt. Fogg

It's a funny thing, the conservative American mind. Talk about quotidian things, work, the weather, and they can be charming, witty, and companionable, and seem intelligent, but stay away from politics if you don't want to have to discard many friendships. Beneath the mask can lie a morass of anger and ignorance as deep and foetid as hell itself.

I've very often had people express nostalgic longing for a president like Teddy Roosevelt -- a hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, soldier, adventurer ,and writer of books, a man not afraid to conquer and not likely to apologize for it. A conservative's conservative. Someone who stood square-jawed and well-armed astride the American horizon in a time of unlimited freedom, opportunity, and prosperity, when the lower orders knew their place. Thus are the dreams.

Of course, Teddy was often denounced as a Communist agitator. Today, his opinions would have the Sarah Palins and Joe who isn't a Plumbers flapping in a frenzy like decapitated chickens. He espoused a graduated income tax and more government regulation of financial markets. He advocated more government social programs such as housing for immigrants. Of course, there were no Nazis then to be falsely associated with American progressivism and no way to compare him to Hitler, as today he inevitably would be.

Roosevelt's time had seen the effects of economic booms, panics, and busts in rapid and relentless quick step. Economic inequality was growing, monopolies were tightening their grip on free markets, and massive accumulations of private wealth were threatening democracy. His vision didn't include doing nothing or faith in the power of doing nothing or blind trust of the altruism of the very, very wealthy.

Those who oppose reform will do well to remember that ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish materialism,

said Roosevelt in a famous 1910 speech calling for a "New Nationalism." One wonders what bizarre grotesqueries of accusation would emerge had it been given today. Would people be carrying weapons to his speeches, would he be called a tyrant, would there be hysteria over the way he was "dismantling freedom"? Would they question his citizenship, his patriotism, and accuse him of murder? It's hard to tell, but surely Barack Obama has suffered worse for less radical statements.

Of course, Teddy had to remind his audience after he said,

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,

that he was quoting Abraham Lincoln ,because he was regularly being called a totalitarian himself, as well as a Communist. Perhaps such things never change, but the perception of an America that's sliding irretrievably down a slope toward the antithetical perdition of Communism and Fascism because sentiments such as those of Lincoln and Roosevelt are essentially "far-left" and "liberal" and we're being assured of it daily by mindless maggots with megaphones.

It seems that the Niebelungs of negativity have been crying wolf for a very long time, but look at how well the average man lives today compared to how he lived a hundred years ago, when poverty consumed most of us and faith-based laws restricted huge numbers to certain neighborhoods, certain jobs, certain levels of education, and certain expectations of justice in an essentially Hobbesian society.

Somehow, I cannot believe that a hundred years of progress toward more liberal goals have made us justifiably disgruntled. We live longer, better, cleaner, and healthier, and have far more freedom to alter our circumstances for the better. The slope has not been slippery, the slope never existed. Progressive income taxation has not stifled entrepreneurship, which has thrived even in times of over 80% top brackets, and in fact it seems to dampen economic cycles. It seems the only wolves that have shown up were wearing conservative clothing and warning us of wolves.

Isn't a new nationalism what we need today? The old kind and the old attitude and the old maxims and the old and vicious, dishonest, and hate-filled rhetoric has never done us any good and have now brought us to the brink.
(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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  • Today's right might like Teddy's hawkish foreign policy, they would still call him a "communist" for his progressive stands of domestic issues.

    By Anonymous George Arndt, at 3:55 PM  

  • Can you imagine him supporting oil drilling in a wildlife preserve? No, Obama was called a Marxist for supporting policies Roosevelt advocated. There's no doubt he would inspire absolute hysteria from today's Republicans.

    I should have pointed out that someone actually did bring a gun to one of his speeches in 1912 -- and shot him. What I was really talking about is the open display of weapons to make a political point.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 5:54 PM  

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