As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Goodnight Bush

I promise this will be the last time I come back to this today, then I'll start looking forward and not backward. But just to look way backward for a moment, The Nation reprinted their editorial from 1933 waving farewell to Hoover and the Republicans in favor of FDR, and the similarities are striking.

At the risk of gilding the tinsel, let the record be set down finally as The Nation takes leave this week of the "only party fit to rule." American memories are short. Four years from now the public will be asked to restore the Republicans and prosperity [...]

There is no need to set down once more the repeated mistaken prophecies which issued from the White House as the country sank deeper into economic chaos. Those forecasts were sufficiently quoted during the recent Presidential contest. But Mr. Hoover's record as a false prophet continued consistent to the end [...] It is needless to stress the hollowness of these final promises and assertions. Unemployment mounts—thirteen million men out of work is today a conservative estimate; a 3.9 per cent drop in employment with a 5 per cent pay-roll decrease was recorded for the month ending January 15, according to the latest Department of Labor statistics available. The people's savings continue to be confiscated as banks close at an undiminished pace—272 closed in the month of January, 1933, and toward the close of February they closed, no longer singly, but by States —Michigan, Maryland, Ohio. Bankruptcy is becoming epidemic. The private and local relief upon which Mr. Hoover's policies relied are increasingly inadequate; destitution, undernourishment, actual hunger are spreading through the land.

But we are taking leave not merely of a single Administration. 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. The Republicans were as eager to make war—and both parties continued, until well after the crash, to be proud of their attitude in 1917. 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 [...]

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.

I mean, it's uncanny. And in a sense, it is the continuum we have often faced in this country. People vs. powerful. Rich vs. poor. Special interests vs. the rights of man. Roosevelt, in the wake of the misery created by Republicanism, chose a different path and ushered in both eventual prosperity and the weaving of a social safety net that is probably the only reason we aren't all in bread lines today. It remains to be seen how Obama will react, though there were some good signs in the address today (I will cover that in a later post).

What needs to be remembered is that George W. Bush, while a dull, selfish, pathetic figure, is not remarkable in the annals of Republicanism. His policies and the work of his execrable staff falls along the same lines of the moneyed Republicanism of the 1920s, the Nixonian secrecy and lawlessness of the 1960s and 1970s, the anti-government crusades of the 1980s and the theocratic revolutions of the 1990s and beyond. In the Bush years, the consolidation of all these efforts into an insidious whole created a government that hated itself, that existed for the benefit only of the wealthy, concerned with taking profits and humiliating enemies. And it produced success for those few, but utter failure and disgrace for the country, and ultimately for those individuals that directed it. The depressing final-night soiree of those souls oozes metaphor.

"Are these all white people -- I mean White House people?" I asked someone in a genuine Freudian slip. Turned out the crowd was a mix of alumni from the White House, State Department, Treasury, and Justice and a few campaign workers. The mood felt more sweet than bitter. Many staffers had spent the weekend clearing out their offices. The question I kept hearing was "What's next?" Some were applying to grad schools, others were heading to D.C. law firms or think tanks, and others were returning to their home states or traveling. One outgoing Treasury employee had already landed a job as a manager at Abercrombie & Fitch [...]

"This is objectively the finest group of people ever to serve our country," he said. "Not to serve me, not to serve the Republican Party, but the United States of America."

"I am glad we made this journey," he went on. Then he engaged in a little reminiscence. "Remember the time in 2003 when Bartlett came to work all hung over?" Laughs. "Nothing ever changes."

He continued: "We never shruck--"

"Shirked!" someone yelled.

"Shirked," Bush corrected, smiling. "You might have shirked; I shrucked. I mean we took the deals head on."

This is not unusual. This is the consequence of putting people into power who hate government. May America not have such short memories again.

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