In the late 19th century the body politic of the United States became infected with a toxin that worked its malignance from the top down. The mutagenic transformation of America that would occur over the next ten decades was not grassroots in its origin but began at the university level – where future political, religious and business leaders were educated – and then filtered slowly into the national consciousness, subtly shaping it over the scope of generations.
Without question its single, most historically prominent avatar was the “Rough Rider” himself, President Theodore Roosevelt (he hated the moniker Teddy and so I will employ it going forward). Teddy was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth and inherited a double dose of noblesse oblige and what today we call “liberal guilt,” prompting him in later years when he was president to bludgeon laissez-faire capitalism on his trust-busting spree while insisting that we (read government institutions) somehow had a role in giving a “Square Deal” to the common man. Ah yes…the Square Deal. Remember that slogan, as you will encounter it in various forms over the next century – during which time America would witness the rise of labor unions – an aberration of the free market that would one day challenge its very existence.
And yet, for all his humanitarian cant, Teddy (along with his Progressive confreres in the federal government and the major print media of the day) was in the vanguard of U.S. imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, for it was they who, with crony capitalist interests (does the name Dole – as in pineapple – ring a bell?), toppled the legitimate and peaceful government of Queen Liliuokalani and made Hawaii a virtual colony of the United States. It was Teddy who actually volunteered to fight in the Spanish-American War, in which we wrested the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico from the decadent Empire of Spain. Way to go, Teddy! What a hero: Teddy the Rough Rider. Teddy the trust-buster. Teddy the Square Dealer.
Ultimately, he became Teddy the Spoiler when, despite his assurance that he would not run for the office of president again after his first and only full term of office, he did precisely that – but as a candidate of the Progressive Party opposing Republican William Howard Taft and Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Needless to say, he split the Republican vote and Wilson – whose Progressive agenda made Teddy look like Ronald Reagan – became the president who introduced America to the progressive income tax and the Federal Reserve. Despite his promise otherwise, Wilson involved us in the First World War, thereby ensuring Allied victory over Germany, a punitive Treaty of Versailles and, of course, the infinitely worse Second World War and Nazi holocaust that erupted long after he assumed room temperature. It was the busy-body, nanny-state Progressives who inflicted Prohibition on the entire U.S., starting in 1920 and ending thirteen years later, during which time it engendered the rise of organized crime in the form of the Mafia. It was the Big Government Progressives who gave us the Federal Reserve.
Despite the best efforts of Calvin Coolidge (without question one of the top ten U.S. presidents in my book and the last true Conservative Republican until the advent of Ronaldus Magnus) to undo the mushrooming growth of the federal government, he was succeeded by the true progenitor of modern day RINOs: Herbert Hoover.
Rather than let the market and the economy correct itself and recover after the Wall Street Crash in 1929, the newly minted RINOs in Congress took the route of government intervention and passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 (with Hoover’s reluctant approval), thereby exacerbating the effect of the Crash and worsening the massive recession that was unfolding.
As the economy went from bad to worse, the Democrats - who saw an easy glide path to political power in the seductive charms of Progressivism writ large – rallied behind former New York governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a relative of TR who focused the latter’s Progressivism through a prism that shifted the noblesse oblige wavelength from the upper classes to the federal government. Historically speaking, it was a brilliant move: while the concept of bread and circuses was well known long before the rise of Imperial Rome, it was the Roman Empire that perfected it into a vote-harvesting machine. And that’s just what Roosevelt’s New Deal would become.
Hayek’s bitter medicine of free market self-correction would have pulled us out of the Great Recession and prevented a Great Depression had FDR gone that route. But instead he opted for the government-controlling opium of John Maynard Keynes: an ever-expanding federal government fueled by ever-increasing spending that did nothing to end the Great Recession and everything to plunge us into the Great Depression for the rest of the 1930s and into the early 1940s.
During this time, trade unions were empowered by the Wagner Act of 1934, which ultimately put a gun to the head of the private sector by prohibiting companies from firing striking workers. It didn’t take long for both the Mafia and the Democrat Party to co-opt the trade union movement; the former to rake in untold millions in kickbacks and tribute and the latter to establish a reliable stream of revenue to the coffers of the Democrat Party, courtesy of union member dues.
In return, the Democrat president and Democrat-controlled Congress…blah blah blah.
Ugh. I’m weary of regurgitating the same history over and over again. I’m weary of explaining in magazine article-length, multi-post blogs what any casual student of U.S. history with half the brains God gave a clever goose has already figured out. This “thumbnail sketch” is becoming the Sistine Chapel and I haven’t the patience of Michelangelo Buonarotti to complete it, so here’s the Twitteresque version:
FDR and the Dems consolidate the power of the Democrat party and begin increasing the size and scope of the federal government by engaging in a policy of bread and circuses.
More Americans become dependent upon Uncle Sam for their sustenance.
While the Second World War pulls us out of the Depression and unifies us a nation, the Cardinal Strength of Self-Reliance takes a solid hit and begins its decline. The Strengths of Virtue, Education and Unity remain solidly intact – but not for long.
To be continued in Part 3 (with greater brevity regarding how we got into this mess and sharper focus on what to expect in 2012).