Nothing to fear but fearful politicians

Posted on May 20, 2008. Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , |

I was watching a little of the PBS documentary on FDR last night and by chance I saw the part where they talked about his 1936 re-election campaign. In a speech Roosevelt took on what he called “big money,” the businesses that were not only keeping workers on starvation wages but, according to Roosevelt, trying to take over the government.

“No business which depends for existence by paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country,” he said; “big business and big money are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.

“I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match; I would like to have it said of my second administration that in it these forces met their master.”

It is sadly difficult to think of a politician who would make that speech today. Politicians today seem much more timid, very frightened of angering anyone who has any power. Having the commitment to our founding principles to acknowledge and to welcome the hatred of those who want to alter–or simply ignore–our Constitution for their own profit is rare today.

Today, on the contrary, we are often told that big money/big business is critically important to the growth and maintenance of democracy, and must be allowed to do whatever it wants. FDR had an answer to that, too:

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.”

FDR’s words are a reminder of how rarely you ever hear a major politician today 1) stating that the defense of our Constitution is her main priority; and 2) that s/he will cling to our founding principles no matter what opposition s/he faces; because 3) anyone who opposes our founding principles is no American, and therefore 4) those who oppose her/him can stuff it.

Actually, you will hear fringe nuts make these statements, but I’m talking about mainstream politicians.

Let’s remember FDR as our current presidential election campaigning goes on, and cast a vote for the person who comes closest to his courage and guts.

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The original truth v. myth

Posted on May 4, 2008. Filed under: American history, Politics, Truth v. Myth | Tags: , , , , |

There’s a great opinion piece in the Times today about the state of the nation. You can read it for yourselves; the takeaway is that the president we need today is the president who can tell us that we’re not doing very well, that we are not living up to our founding principles, and that our current way of life is unsustainable.

Of course, that’s the president we always need.

We need that person to not only tell us how we are failing, but to offer a viable, principled plan for improvement that s/he will push through a reluctant Congress and withstand withering criticism for supporting.

I’ve carped in other posts about politicians’ inability or unwillingness to brook any criticism from “the people” (usually a few people pretending to speak for all people). Politicians should be leaders, taking on the tough job of forcing Americans to do the right thing. But they seem more and more to be followers, hoping the people will tell them what to do.

And there’s the even-worse-case scenario, in which major politicians, like the president, trample our founding principles to further their own personal goals.

The truth about America is that we are great when we live up to our founding principles of representative democracy focused on promoting and protecting natural rights. When we don’t do that, we are awful, because we were founded with a very idealistic mission, and so we fall from a great height when we let that down.

The myth about America is that whatever we do, we are living up to those principles, that it just naturally happens and that we are good no matter what we do because we are America. Representative democracy goes against human nature. Every generation, we have to re-learn the principles of justice and democracy we are founded on, and re-dedicate ourselves to fulfilling them. These principles can’t really be inherited. They have always to be adopted, over and over.

Our job as Americans right now is to do what our politicans won’t: demand that we adhere to our founding principles. We have to take the lead.

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