The one factor that contributed most to the downfall of the Democratic Party during the seventies and eighties was allowing conservative Republicans to seize control of the political rhetoric. The Democrats simply sat back and allowed themselves, their constituency and their agenda to be redefined in the eyes of the American people by conservative “spin doctors” without rebuttal. As a direct result, they’ve allowed the term “liberal” to become a bad word in the political lexicon.
When you consider how methodically the conservatives went about mounting their assault on the liberal agenda you can’t help but recognize that it was a stroke of genius. Ironically, the conservatives took the Democratic Party’s strength and made it a political liability. First they took the party’s penchant for being concern with the plight of the downtrodden and coined phrases such as “bleeding heart liberals” and “tax and spend Democrats.” They then played on the frustration of the middle class by tying civil rights legislation, welfare, and crime into one neat bundle as the source of middle class woes; then they attributed all of these problems to what they called the Democrat’s tendency to be ” bleeding heart liberals”. Once the connection was made between minorities, welfare, crime, and the liberal agenda, it was just a matter of repeatedly hammering the message home.
In addition, conservatives used such tactics as spitting out the word “liberal” as though they were saying rapist. In this way they not only implanted a negative attitude toward liberalism in the mind of the voter, but it was said in such a way that the implication was made that it went without saying that all the negative stereotyping of liberalism was true. In other words, their attitude seems to suggest, “I could substantiate what I’m saying about liberals, but I don’t think it’s necessary since we all know what they’re like.” And in the election that spawned the “Republican revolution” the voters said, yes, we do.
Through these strategies conservatives accomplished three goals with one ingenious stroke — they defined minorities as slovenly criminals, they define liberal Democrats as “soft on crime”, and they allowed themselves the freedom to place these thoughts in the American psyche without having to substantiate their facts. Moreover, they accomplish all this in every sound bite, and without seeming to be racist, with the use of just one word, “liberal.” In fact, conservatives have been so thorough in their disparagement of liberalism that at this point the word “liberal” is treated like vulgarity, and simply referred to as “the L word.”
One would think that Democrats would be up in arms in defense of their liberal tradition. It would seem that they would be falling all over one another in an attempt to debate this issue. But instead, these people are falling over one another trying to put distance between themselves and the liberal tradition. Where are their backbones? Where is that one Democrat willing to say, wait a minute! Read your history! It was the “bleeding heart liberal” policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that brought this country back from the brink of disaster.
In 1921 — eight years before the great depression — Republicans took over the helm of this nation for 12 years. During that time there were three Republican administrations, the first of which was the administration of Warren G. Harding. History remembers Harding’s administration for one thing more than anything other — scandal. It was during Harding’s presidency that the Teapot Dome Scandal erupted. His administration was considered the most corrupt administration in the history of the United States — until Nixon’s, then Reagan’s, and finally Bush’s.
Next, in 1923, came Calvin Coolidge, the president that Ronald Reagan is said to have most admired. Coolidge’s policies of large tax cuts, allowing business a free-rein, and his encouragement of stock speculation contributed greatly to the impending stock market crash and the great depression that was to come.
Then in 1929 Herbert Hoover came to power. During his administration the stock market crashed, starting the great depression. In spite of the fact that by 1933 the unemployment rate was at 33.3% with 16 million people out of work, the Republican, Hoover, just sat, thinking that the economy would eventually rejuvenate itself. During Hoover’s administration 15,000 WWI veterans marched on Washington demanding that they be paid what they were owed by the government. Hoover responded by calling in federal troops to throw these ex-servicemen off government property.
Finally in 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a liberal democrat, was elected overwhelmingly. He immediately surrounded himself with a group of the finest minds in the country, including Columbia professors Adolph A. Berle, Jr., Rexford G. Tugwell, and Raymond Moley, known at the time as the “Brain Trust.” After assembling these men and others he went about the business of developing a” New Deal” for the working class people of this country.
The New Deal had two components — one to help the economy to recover from the effects of the great depression, and a second component to give relief to the American people and to insure that they were never be placed in a position of total destitution again. To help heal the economy Roosevelt created programs that regulated business, controlled inflation, and brought about price stabilization; to bring relief to the people he signed The National Labor Relations Act which guaranteed workers the right to collective bargaining, and he created the Social Security Administration to guarantee workers some sort of income once they became too old to work. He also signed the Fair Labor Standards Act which protected workers rights and set a minimum wage for workers.
With his New Deal in place Franklin Delano Roosevelt, this “bleeding heart liberal”, not only led this country out of the worst, Republican generated, crisis that this country has ever faced, but went on to lead the free world in victory over Hitler in WWII. He then ushered in the most sustained prosperity that the world has ever known.
One would think that conservatives would have seen the light, but their passion to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the middle and lower classes seems to supersede all logic. Therefore, from the moment that the New Deal went into place, conservatives have been determined to dismantle it. The closest they’ve come to succeeding started during the Reagan administration with Supply-Side Economics, or, “Reaganomics” — and the battle is currently raging in Washington D.C. as we speak.
Supply- Side Economics was a scheme hatch by U.S.C. economist Arthur Laffer and the Reagan crowd which was supposed to cut the deficit and balance the budget. The theory behind Reaganomics was ostensibly, if you cut taxes for business and people in the upper tax brackets, and then deregulated business of such nuisances as safety regulations and environmental safeguards, the beneficiaries would invest their savings into creating new jobs. In that way the money would eventually “trickle down” to the rest of us. The resulting broadened tax base would not only help to bring down the deficit, but also subsidize the tremendously high defense budget. When the plan was first floated, even George Bush, Reagan’s vice president to be, called it “voodoo economics.”
Reaganomics, for the most part, sought to undo many of the safeguards put into place during the Roosevelt era and create a business environment similar to that which was in place during the Coolidge Administration. What actually took place, however, was even more like the Coolidge era than planed.
Instead of taking the money and investing it into creating new jobs, the money was used in wild schemes and stock market speculation. One of these schemes, the leveraged buy out, involved buying up large companies with borrowed funds secured by the company’s assets, then paying off the loan by selling off the assets of the purchased company. This practice cost the citizens of this country its industrial base. In addition, the bottom fell out of the stock market. On Monday, October 19, 1987 the Dow-Jones Average fell 508.32 points. It was the greatest one-day decline since 1914 – 15 years before the Great Depression.
And what about Ronald Reagan’s promise to balance the budget and lower the deficit? By the time he left office he was not only the most prolific spender of any president, but he also added more to the deficit than all of the other presidents from George Washington to his own administration combined. And what does the Republican Party propose to do about that? One of the Republican proposals was their “contract with America,” a capitol gains tax cut — for the rich.
Due to the continued freewheeling fiscal policies of conservative Republicans, between 1986 and 1989, spanning the presidencies of Reagan and Bush Sr., the FSLIC had to pay off all the depositors of 296 institutions with assets of over $125 billion.
Then in 1988 Silverado Savings and Loan collapsed, costing the taxpayers $1.3 billion. It was headed by Neil Bush, brother of George W. The investigation alleged that he was guilty of “breaches of his fiduciary duties involving multiple conflicts of interest.” The issue was eventually settled out of court with Bush paying a mere $50,000 settlement.
Then there was the Lincoln Savings and loan scandal in 1987, involving John McCain. The scandal was very similar to the one that is currently playing out on Wall Street. He was one of a group of senators dubbed “The Keating Five” involved in a scandal by the same name.
In 1976 Charles Keating moved to Arizona to run the American Continental Corporation. In 1984, shortly after the Reagan era push to deregulate the savings and loan community, Keating bought Lincoln Savings and Loan and began to engage in highly risky investments with the depositors’ savings. In 1989 the parent company, which Keating headed, went bankrupt, and it resulted in over 21,000 investors losing their life savings. Most of the investors were elderly, and the loss amounted to about 285 million dollars.
After having received over a million dollars from Keating in illegal campaign contributions, gifts, free trips, and other gratuities, the Keating Five–Senators John Glenn, Don Riegle, Dennis DeConini, Alan Cranston, and Sen. John McCain–attempted to intervene in the investigation into Keating’s activities by the regulators. Later, they were admonished to varying degrees by the senate for attempting to influence regulators on Keating’s behalf. Charles Keating ended up being convicted for fraud, racketeering and conspiracy, for which he received 10 years by the state court, and a 12 year sentence in federal court. After spending four and a half years in prison, his convictions were overturned. But prior to being retried, he pled guilty to a number of felonies in return for a sentence of time served.
Then came the George W. Bush administration that caused close to a million people to die uselessly, and illegally in Iraq, robbed the American people blind, whose fumbling ignited the longest war in American history in Afghanistan, and whose greed came very close to sending the nation into yet another depression.
Now, after all of their repeated efforts to deplete the national treasury, they’re unanimously voting against every piece of legislation that the Democrats propose to repair the damage they created, and to bring relief to the American people. Then they have the audacity to claim that they’re doing it because they’re concerned about deficit spending.
They’re against affordable health care for American families; they’re against any kind of spending to put Americans back to work, and they’re against extending unemployment insurance to relieve the burden of America’s unemployed. What’s particularly telling, however, is they’re against any kind of strong legislation to prevent the financial community (them) from being able to rob the American people in the future.
The fact is, what they really want is to maintain the status quo, and make damn sure that the American people suffer until the 2012 elections so they’ll have a chance to regain power and raid the treasury again. That’s their one and only agenda – period.
History is clear. The conservative Republicans don’t mind spending money, they just don’t want to spend it on those who need it — us. Remember, they’re the party of Alexander Hamilton, one of this country’s founding fathers who believed that only those who owned property should even be allowed to vote. He also said:
“All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and wellborn, the other the mass of the people…. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in government. They will check the unsteadiness of the second, and as they cannot receive any advantage by a change, they therefore will ever maintain good government.”
Debates of the Federalist Convention (May 14-September 17, 1787).
So, let’s set the record straight. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that “bleeding heart liberal”, not only brought the nation back from the Great Depression and saved the world from Hitler during his life, but his “New Deal” for the American people gave us the greatest prosperity we’ve ever known, and allowed him to reach back from the grave to save the nation from Ronald Reagan 50 years after his death.
That isn’t to say that the liberal Democratic philosophy corners the market on what is in the best interest of the nation — it is clear that both parties have had illustrious moments in the past — but rather, this is one of those defining issues in American politics that determines whether this is to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, or a government where the citizens or nothing more than disposable resources for big business.
In the past the Democratic Party has always been there to draw a line in the sand on this issue, but in recent history the liberal philosophy has been distorted to the point that even Democrats are distancing themselves from their own political philosophy.
But what makes America great, are those dramatic moments in American politics when that one individual has the courage to put everything on the line to defend, protect, and save the American people from disaster. And the annals of modern American history will clearly show that during those moments, it was a “bleeding heart liberal” that stepped up to the plate. First FDR, then Bill Clinton, and now Barack Hussein Obama.
Thus, future historians will record that there is nothing more honorable in American politics than a bleeding heart . . . because their hearts bleed for America.
Now if we can just find a few.
Religious bigotry: It’s not that I hate everyone who doesn’t look, think, and act like me – it’s just that God does.
Eric L. Wattree is a writer, poet, and musician, born in Los Angeles. He’s a columnist for The Los Angeles Sentinel, The Black Star News in New York, and a Staff writer for Veterans Today. He’s also the author of A Message From the Hood.