Friday, December 28, 2007

Learning a Little from History

"The People's Army"

Allison Kilkenny on HuffPo

It was a time when a demoralized population was subjected to corrupt elections, the spineless press was censored and subsidized by muscled partisan agents, outrageous interest rates implemented by suit-wearing pirates bankrupted citizens, and unfair mortgages left people homeless and desperate. Meanwhile, land concentration forced poor people off valuable property and ensured corporate profits continued to balloon unregulated.

The poor kept getting poorer, the rich kept getting richer, and all the while an elite class fought to reinforce arbitrary divides between the working class to keep them - the angry masses - at bay and squabbling among themselves.

The year was 1892. From this systematic abuse of the poor arose the People's Party, or the Populist Party, one of the original third parties in the history of the United States. Mainly farmers, the Populist Party bridged a divide and united two groups that many politicians saw as hopelessly and permanently estranged: northern Republicans and southern Democrats, the city-slickers and good ole' boys - white and black. If you want to be crude about it: the intellectual north and ass-backwards south.

At the time, Republicans were the ones who were anti-slavery. The Democratic southerners wanted a return to the "better time" where lavish plantations lined verdant cotton fields. Republican northerners wanted an eight-hour week day and streets that weren't lined with feces. Naturally, blacks liked the Republican party because 99.9% of them were a little nervous the crazy Democrats would enslave them again.

Think: red state-blue state, but turned on its head. It feels only vaguely unfamiliar, like a dream. Except, it happened. It happened in this very country 115 years ago.

More after the click ...

My comment: The first mistake most people make is to confuse "Conservative" and "Republican". There have been times in history when Republicans were Liberal and Democrats were Conservative ... though it may be hard to imagine that from where we are today.

It's amusing to have todays Republicans, who consider themselves Conservative, point to Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt as icons of their party when the two of them were actually representative of Liberal trends in American politics.

Lincoln freed the slaves and was opposed to "states rights" as it was presented by southern (conservative) Democrats. Roosevelt is noted for supporting unions and for "trust busting" which many on today's right would consider quite "anti-business".

It's amusing to watch people who've not cracked a history book (or, in many cases, a book of any kind) since high school try to wrap their heads around the realities of history.

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