Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The GOP insurgent who heralded the Progressive Era and paved the way for the Tea Parties (Atlantic)

"He’s a fanatic," charged a corporate attorney, "and the way that man goes around spreading discontent is a menace to law, property, business, and all American institutions. If we don’t stop him here he will go out and agitate all over the United States. We’re getting him now; you’ll get him next. That man must be blocked."

"Yes," added an indignant banker, "La Follette will spread socialism all over the world."

Well, according to Glenn Beck, that's just what La Follette and others did in the early 1900s -- by starting the Progressive Movement.

In fact, the Progressives, who were born out of the corrupt 19th century GOP, saved capitalism and American democracy for almost a century. What do I mean? Let me quote myself from 2007:

Progressives wanted government to take action against rising economic inequality, discrimination against freed blacks, child labor, squalid living conditions and "slumlords," price discrimination and monopolies; high protective tariffs; and in general, gov't serving Big Business.

Progressive reforms included: breaking up trusts and interlocking directorates; new food safety standards (Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act); sanitation codes for sweatshops; reform of "reform" schools and prisons; workmen's compensation laws; use of the political referendum; direct election of U.S. Senators via the 17th Amendment (they called the Senate the "Millionaires Club" even back then!); regulation of the railroads through the 1903 Elkins Act and local public utilities commissions; and state corrupt-practices acts. They also campaigned for women's suffrage, the 8-hour workday, and prohibition, but weren't successful until the 1920s.

Sounds like a bunch of stuff straight outta Marx, huh?  In fact it's the America we know today, a country we wouldn't want to give up.

Says Wolraich in The Atlantic  of La Follette:

If "Fighting Bob" were alive today, he’d be howling in the Capitol. A hundred years before the Tea Parties, Senator Bob La Follette of Wisconsin was the original Republican insurgent. In the early 1900s, he led a grassroots revolt against the GOP establishment and pioneered the ferocious tactics that the Tea Parties use today—long-shot primary challenges, sensational filibusters, uncompromising ideology, and populist rhetoric. But there was a crucial difference between La Follette and today’s right-wing insurgents: “Fighting Bob” was a founding father of the progressive movement.

Git yerselves edumacated and read on!....

By Michael Wolraich
July 22, 2014 | The Atlantic

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