It is a well-known fact that economic recessions give the forces of radicalism a shot in the arm. We have seen that as recently as 2016, as evinced by the popularity of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. This is what made it so easy for Trump to knock aside and disregard the rank-and-file Republicans that have made our life a hell all these years.
We have also seen that the far right is the inevitable beneficiary of the consequences, when the far left loses control of themselves and does something stupid. The emails dumped by Wikileaks the day before the Democratic National Convention in 2016, that led to rioting in the streets and the forced resignation of Debbie Wassermann-Schultz illustrate a particularly grotesque example.
People don’t take it well, when they lose everything due to government incompetence. No one is as aware of that as people who came of age in the new millennium. If you grew up in the 1990’s, under the benign and prosperous reign of Bill Clinton, you just were not prepared, for the slaughterhouse reality of watching it all go to the dogs after 2001.
The turn of the millennium was a very hopeful time for our generation. We all grew up talking about it, watching movies about it, and dreaming of what the world would look like, when the big year finally came. The years just prior had been some of the best the country had ever seen.
The Soviet Union was gone, the Internet boom had created a whole new infinity of possible ways to spend your future, and the Stone Temple Pilots were actively touring. It is the opinion of Millennial Democrats that Purple was a superior album to Core.
When George W. Bush got together with Ralph Nader, and stole the 2000 election from Al Gore, he turned all that prosperity into an unjust war. Watching the country start resembling a garbage dump, when all indicators had pointed to a magnificent, futuristic era, was the most heartbreaking and disillusioning thing you could imagine.
It was the worst thing he ever could have done for the country. The resultant war, catastrophe, and repression has caused a terrible anger to start brewing in the hearts of our people. Failure to properly cope with that anger is why people voted for Trump.
It was the financial crisis known as the Great Recession that set the stage for the chaos we are living in now. In Teddy Roosevelt’s time, also, the stage was set by a terrible financial crisis. It was known as the Panic of 1893.
Employee unions had become an increasingly ubiquitous force in American life, during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. They sought to improve working conditions, and their methods were not always nonviolent.
Strikers had clashed violently with police and the military, in many places nationwide. In Chicago’s Haymarket Riot in 1886, a bomb was thrown at police, and seven were hanged in the aftermath. The European “doctrine” known as anarchism had showed up on the scene. Its presence was unwanted and so were the immigrants that brought it. These tensions exacerbated the situation further. Communication started breaking down between the people and the government, which barely stayed open.
The year before the Panic, the Carnegie Steel Trust cut the wages of its workers at the Homestead Works near Pittsburgh, sparking one of the greatest labor battles of the day, and bringing the name of Emma Goldman, the revolutionary socialist, to the forefront of American politics for the first time.
Goldman’s circle devised a plan to assassinate the plant manager, Henry Clay Frick, and her husband Alexander Berkman actually tried it. The plan did not work, Berkman went to prison, and it ruined the strike for the strikers. The law had their excuse to suppress the workers, and Goldman was soon forced into exile. The pressure on the streets began approaching critical mass.
In 1901, President William McKinley was interacting with a crowd at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, New York, shaking hands with someone, when a 28-year-old anarchist named Leon Czolgosz ran up and shot him in the chest. He died eight days later, and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was immediately sworn in as president.
When the far-left lost their collective temper, it expressed itself in the shooting of the President. This event worsened their lot tremendously. The press associated the assassination with “crazed” anarchists in the public mind, costing it whatever public sympathy it had.
The authorities used the assassination attempt as an excuse to arrest and imprison leftists of every stripe, radical or not. They will do it again anytime they have to. This is one of many reasons why we will always take a strong position against rioting and bedlam for any reason.
Whatever else is going on, Democrats remain lawful and nonviolent. We don’t poison our own waters with crap like this.
As a result of all this disorder, the immigration question suddenly took on a paramount importance. It was perceived in terms very similar to what we see today, although no one on our political scene back then was stupid enough to think this could be fixed by building a wall.
Then as now, the nation was being challenged to find ways to accommodate a massive influx of immigrants. Most of these were from South America, Eastern Europe, and Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, areas which have traditionally been host to agricultural countries with dated political systems.
It was under these conditions that Teddy Roosevelt became the first president in office to explicitly link immigration with the security of the country, and put the immigration issue high on his political agenda. Although he considered immigrants to be a key building block of the nation’s success in the future, his predecessor had been murdered by one, and he never stopped considering them a threat.
TR suspected the public’s mood would darken in this direction, and he moved to take advantage of their outrage. Thanks to the excesses of anarchists, the executive branch was able to set the basic course of immigration debate and policy for decades to come, with the ultimate goal being for the federal government to gain the ability to pick and choose at the gate.
Our Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients have a unique perspective on this issue, and particular focus should be paid going forward on hearing their stories and receiving their input.
Under Republican guidance, the problem has gotten steadily worse, and the government responses more extreme. Most recently, the 45th President of the United States, Republican Donald Trump, ordered immigration checkpoints to remain open in Texas during the evacuation process from Hurricane Harvey.
Although Millennial Democrats opines that Theodore Roosevelt is rolling over in his grave, to see what today’s GOP has been doing with his ideas, the fact remains that he can legitimately be held responsible for setting in motion an immigration policy that revolved around a selection process that included stereotyping, racial profiling, and immigration.
TR’s views on race and people of color are repugnant by the standards of today. But it’s important to remember that he came to office at a time when racism was all-pervasive. Jim Crow laws had recently begun taking effect down South.
The famous scientist Sir Francis Galton coined the term “eugenics”, a set of beliefs and practices designed to improve the genetic quality of a human population. Eugenicists were universal in declaring for the inferiority of the black man. This theory remained popular until the Nazis applied it to its logical conclusions. These days, Republicans do not like to talk about it.
Although Galton himself ridiculed it, part of the so-called scientific racism eugenics evolved from included another “science” called phrenology, attempting to measure one’s intelligence, ability, and personal characteristics by the shape of one’s skull. The conclusions drawn by that pack of louts were, to say the least, ungenerous in their assessments of African- Americans.
But TR did not pay any of it much mind. The great Booker T. Washington served as his close adviser on racial relations, and at his invitation, became the first African-American to eat dinner in the White House. This was one of the things that inflamed the conservative wing of the Republican party against him, and this is of the highest significance.
In that inflammation, was the seed of the modern deplorable.
It was a very horrible time to be in America for anyone except white males, as we moved into the 20th century. These were free to murder a black man, or rape a black woman, with all but complete impunity in most of the nation. Discrimination against minorities and women was a part of the American bedrock, and perfectly legal, and this manifested in acts of murderous violence all the time. In 1915, a Jewish man named Leo Frank was dragged out of prison by a mob and lynched.
This event caused a great deal of controversy, so much so that two famous and familiar institutions were born and reborn from it- the Anti-Defamation League, and the Ku Klux Klan. The merest mention of the latter’s sickening name, let alone its history, should be enough to make anyone understand why we can’t equivocate when it comes to philosophies of hatred. When it comes time to call a foul abomination like Charlottesville by name, you have got to make a choice. Either you do, or you don’t. Inside that choice, lies the key to what manner of person you are.
Between racial issues and economics, the beginnings of the ideological schism in the Republican Party had become quite clear already. In 1908 TR decided not to run for a full second term, and went hunting in Africa instead. He came home displeased at the direction things were going, and opposed his former Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, in the 2012 primaries.
Taft used his control of the party machinery to gain a bare majority of delegates, and kept control of the nomination by dubious means. Roosevelt left the party at once, and formed the Progressive Party.
The remainder of the Republican Party was now to be solely comprised of the reactionary Conservative faction represented by Taft, his successor. Here we find the nucleus of the Party of Hate that the GOP is today.
But the Democrats still had plenty of racists, too. It wasn’t to be until the decline of the conservative wing of the Democratic Party was complete after 1960 that we managed to mostly rid ourselves of this pernicious and unworthy influence.
Woodrow Wilson, who defeated both Taft and Roosevelt in 1916, was a Democrat. He was also a Southerner, who did great harm to the cause of black people, far more than either Taft or Roosevelt would have. But with the two old friends now at each other’s throats in a third-party disaster, like what we have gone through with the Green Party, his victory in 1912 was a fait accompli.
The Republicans got beat that year, and their party split in two, because of their inability to come to terms and see eye to eye. The same thing happened to us on the left wing in 2000, and again in 2016. When decent people fail to work together, it is always the villains who profit.