Campaign Stops: The Rough Rider and the Professor

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Campaign Stops: The Rough Rider and the Professor

Postby shayeyp6shx » 09 Dec 2011, 16:27

In traveling to the soft hills of Osawatomie, in eastern Kansas, on Tuesday, to the small Doudoune Moncler town where Theodore Roosevelt laid out an agenda for advancing American civilization through the 20th century, President Obama tried on the words of a Republican president who committed Republican heresy in the same place in 1910.And though Obama gave a good speech, one that framed the coming campaign as a "make or break moment for the middle class," he is no Teddy Roosevelt. Nor, for that matter, is the Republican party of today anything close to the one that T.R. led through nearly two terms.In a century's time, the two parties have switched roles. Roosevelt, with his plea for an income tax, child labor laws, health care and conservation, his call for worker protections, control of corporate abuse, and "a square deal for the poor man," would be booed out of the room of any Republican gathering today.Consider just one line from the 1910 speech. "There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains," Roosevelt said. "To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done."Try getting a member of either party to say such a thing today.In attempting to show himself as the man who would ensure Roosevelt's progressive legacy, Obama showed only the timidity of modern political discourse. Roosevelt's speech was a manifesto; most of his ideas eventually became part of American life. Obama's Osawatomie oration was a rear-guard action, defensive of a governing philosophy under fresh fire.Still, if the president can frame the election in the people-versus-the-powerful mode articulated by Roosevelt, he will win in 2012.  He will win whether he faces a candidate easily cast as a corporate tool, in Mitt Romney, or if he faces an influence peddler, a man who epitomizes what's wrong with Washington, in Newt Gingrich."That's not politics," Obama said. "That's just math." He was referring to why the country could not make investments in its future without the rich paying more in taxes. But his words also apply to the electoral calculation – a play for a majority that feels it is being left behind in an insider's game.So while there were no policy specifics in Obama's address, what we saw in the Kansas high school gym was the clearest vision yet of the Democratic strategy for 2012. "This isn't just another political debate," Obama said, in introducing his theme of class fairness. "This is the defining issue of our time."Obama gave a heartland shout-out to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Warren Buffett and his own Kansan grandfather, who served in General Patton's Army. It was a rhetorical device, to make common cause with men of common sense. This made it easier for him to make his main point."Inequality," Obama said, "gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder."That line won him the loudest applause of a nearly hourlong speech.Roosevelt, who was born to Manhattan wealth but could be at his most passionate on behalf of the 99 percenters of a century ago, also spoke for about an hour in Osawatomie, stemwinding his way through what became known as the New Nationalism speech. It's worth remembering that he was no longer president at the time, but was mulling a challenge to his chosen successor, the malleable William Howard Taft. Ultimately, when he couldn't wrest the nomination from Taft, Roosevelt ran on the Progressive Party ticket. The split of the 1912 vote ensured the election of a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson.In the audience at Osawatomie in 1910 were many veterans of the Civil War, stroking gray beards just a few years before the unthinkable violence of the Great War broke out in Europe. They heard a far-reaching vision from Roosevelt.On the rich: "The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted."On labor:  "We need comprehensive workmen's compensation acts, both state and national laws to regulate child labor."On the environment: "Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of ensuring the safety and continuance of the nation."On corporate power:  "The Constitution Moncler homme guarantees protection to property and must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation."Today, Gingrich has called child labor laws "truly stupid,” and has suggested that poor grade school students do the work of janitors at schools. The Supreme Court has elevated corporations to full citizenship, freeing them to use their power to dominate elections. Forget about conservation — virtually every major Republican presidential candidate denies the basic science of a potential global climate catastrophe. And Glenn Beck, a leading voice for the Republican crazy caucus, calls Roosevelt-style progressivism "a cancer on our Constitution."But it's shame that Obama, in channeling T.R. from a long ago summer's evening, could not reach for anything more stirring in his proposals than a call for the approval of his consumer protection bureau appointee, and the continuance of tax cuts for wage-earners.So it is, a curse of the modern political age: no one from our times is even a distant candidate for Mount Rushmore.
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