A Roosevelt Democrat

I cannot really say for how long the "new" Republicans have been using the term "liberal." I do know that they spit it out like an epithet to coerce people. They use it to paint everyone who does not tow the party line as less than good Americans. Particular glee is taken by the neo-fascists in equating Democrats and Liberals as the same. This does not really surprise me since the politics of derision is a mainstay of the Reagan Republicans. If you cannot win, then denigrate. It is important to know that about the new conservatives, because without that knowledge; the hypocrisy of their beliefs cannot be exposed.

So what is a Rooseveltian Democrat? It is a view that common people can have a vision. That vision can and must include all people for the good of this country. It is also the realization that the government is responsible for nurturing the dream. In fact, the American Dream throughout the twentieth century is rooted in what President Roosevelt did in the first decade of the century. Did you think I was writing about Franklin Roosevelt? I do not mean to minimize what that man did. After all the three great accomplishments of his career are with us yet today. They are for the historically illiterate: the WPA, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Social Security Act.

One can tour this country and see the accomplishments of the WPA to this day. The roads, bridges and parks of this nation are a visual legacy of that idea. Although the Republicans in recent years have tried to undermine the National Labor Relations Board, it still stands for the American worker against big business. Then, of course, there is the Social Security Act; over the generations the Republicans have tried to gut and dismantle this dream. It truly galls them to see so much money that they cannot get their hands on.

The Roosevelt that I write about,. the man who is responsible for setting and defining this nation for the century is Theodore Roosevelt. When I think about what the Democratic party stands for; I cannot find anything that is not embodied in the beliefs and actions of our 26th President. Now I know that in the history books he is labeled as a Republican. But consider that of all the presidents; the Republicans hold up Truman and Kennedy as good examples. Is there a reason for this? Yes there is. It is because T.R. stood up against big business and the monopolies for the common man and the common good. So to name a Democrat is easier than to give in to one of their own The list of issues that T.R. stood for are still being debated and confronted to this day.

The 1906 message to congress addressed campaign finance. He asked for, "A law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party." Still ninety years later, even after what the current Republicans whine about as the big democratic campaign finance scandal. They refuse to even consider finance reform. Could it be that they have as much or more to gain by not addressing the issue?

In the same address to congress T.R. stated: "The United States Navy is the surest guarantor of peace which this country possesses." This is something that President Carter was aware of in the late seventies when he began the military build up of the Navy and in fact laid the keel for the 500 ship navy that the whiny-lying Republicans credit to Reagan.

When President Roosevelt was governor of New York, he passed a bill to outlaw racial discrimination in the public schools. In fact his stand on equality between the races cost him votes and support in the South. He received Booker T. Washington at the Whitehouse, the first President to do such a thing, costing him support in the South. Even then, those people hated anyone different.

T.R.'s stand for women and women's rights dates at least to his address to the Progressive Party convention in 1912 when he stated: "The burdens of labor and loneliness bear heavily on the women in this country; their welfare should be the especial concern of all of us." He had a singular belief that the nation would be better off with the "equality of right" concerning women's rights and suffrage.

The list of his achievements that are with us and part of our lives today is quite impressive: the Department of Commerce and Labor; the Interstate Commerce Commission; the Pure Food and Drug Act, meat packing inspections and child labor laws. He organized the National Forest Service in 1905. The truth is that he is the inventor of what we now look upon as the modern conservation movement. He put 125 million acres into reserves, created five new National Parks, sixteen national monuments, fifty-one wildlife refuges. The senator from Wisconsin, Robert Lafollette said: "His greatest work was inspiring and actually beginning a world movement."

Yes, it is no surprise that the Republicans of today would rather talk about democratic presidents, while embracing the practices of Hoover. It is after all easier to say one thing and ignore the foresight and vision of someone they have painted as a comic; whose face is carved into a mountain somewhere out West. The real truth, as I have stated, is that this singular man is responsible for all that we are as a nation. And the Republicans hate that such a liberal should have such an influence, even though he was a Republican. His far reaching ideas are the core of what we are now. I, for one, know what it is to be an American and take a great pride that Theodore Roosevelt was there to point the way.

Mike Sherer

 


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