In his book, A Fierce Discontent, The Rise and Fall of the Progresive Movement in America, 1870-1920, Michael McGerr describes an interesting correlary to current events. In 1897, there was a ball in NY, one of many during the Gala and Glamour of the Gilded Age”, for the “upper ten” of the nation. The Bradley Martin Ball sparked outrage around the nation for it’s extravagance amidst a depression; and similarly, the Bush Ball’s have sparked an outrage for the spending among deficits and war costs. But you’ll hear the Bush supporters right away say, but the parties were supported by private donation. Right they are. The corporate ownership class is just saying thank-you, may I have another?
Now whether we are at a similar point in history as when the progressive movement was back then in the 1890’s is a great question. I don’t know that a progressive agenda has yet emerged for the Democratic Party to rally around, especially in the midst of its current reform era. The advent of Howard Dean is a revitalization of the Radical Center, and as the DNC Chair, I hope it will further the progressive movement like nothing has done in many decades. We can see that as the Democratic minority has shrunken to its core, the Party is now unifying. But as minority, the agenda of the moment is opposition.
The Republicans are now the governing body of the US, and they do have an agenda. In a GOPAC PR email on Newt Gingrich’s new book, Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America?they lay out their agenda:
Among America’s many challenges, says Gingrich, three must be dealt with immediately and shrewdly if we are to succeed:
- Winning the War on TerrorÃ‚Â — Gingrich explains how we can adapt Ronald Reagan?s winning strategy in the Cold War to this new global struggle.
- Reestablishing God in American public lifeÃ‚Â — without God, says Gingrich, America ceases to be American (which is why leftists are so keen on banishing our Creator).
- Reforming Social SecurityÃ‚Â — an imperative, before Social Security bankrupts the nation and the next generation of taxpayers.
The first two are shams. The War on Terror, is merely a mechanism to exploit the fears of the electorate. The use of God, and devisive social issues are a means to exploit those who live by traditional values. The first two items of the agenda are mere Republican tactics to divide the middle class, producing a partisan parity that will go along with the agenda against their economic self-interest. It’s what’s allowing the Republicans to get down to the real agenda: dismantling the nations’ social safety net.
These Republicans detest having a social compact; detest having to care for others; and detest having to share their wealth. The Republican agenda to dismantle Social Security is an attack on the most enduring social accomplishment of the Democratic era that followed the Progressive Movement.
If Democrats can make Bush fumble in 2005 by defeating the pinnacle of the anti-social Republican agenda, it’d go along way to crashing the Republican party’s hold on majority power.