The ‘Conscience’ of a Conservative
Way back at the turn of the last century, while the eyes of fair play, security and dignity peered out from Upton Sinclair’s Jungle and watched some movement toward decency from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, it was indeed TR’s distant cousin Franklin who purposefully began efforts to tease the most malicious abuses out of the American system and put a floor under the feet of his free-falling fellow citizens. And after 12 years of markets gone wild, wealth concentration and an epic crash at the hands of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, most of a grateful nation was ready for the alphabet soup of agencies intended to rend some humanity out of pure capitalism; so much so they elected the man and his ideas four separate times.
In fact, the continuation of government as an agent of good under Truman survived threats from Bob Taft, Strom Thurmond, Thomas Dewey, Doug MacArthur and their ilk, and was a welcome impulse in the Eisenhower administration; let us not forget Ike refused tax cuts, maintained spending on New Deal programs, respected Labor, built the Interstates and presided over incremental civil rights developments and respectable annual economic growth of 2.4 percent.
While steady but measured government investment continued in the New Frontier and through the Great Society, conceptually speaking, the agent of good concept was about to meet doom: enter Barry Morris Goldwater. Shaking his fist at what he and the John Birchers saw as a commie tornado wreaking havoc on the US, Goldwater attempted to apply intellectual credibility to the canards of every man for himself, charity begins and ends at home, unions are thugs and the disadvantaged are insolent hoboes. Running on the platform that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” Barry may have lost 44 of 50 states, but his brand was burned into the hide of the man who would be our 40th President, Ronald Wilson Reagan.
The Dynasty Dynasty
Uttering such chestnuts of wisdom as “trees cause more pollution than cars,” “facts are stupid things,” and of Latin America, “you’d be surprised. They’re all individual little countries,” the Gipper ushered in the era of brazenly fact-free politics and full-on dullification of ‘Merica . With an assist from Rush Hudson Limbaugh III, the disgruntled, disrespected, ignored, ignorant, ill-tempered, ill-informed and mentally ill could now give full-throated voice to their personal frustrations and failures writ large. And the basic theme was elegant and simple: I’d be a millionaire if it weren’t for these evil taxes, regulations, affirmative actions, moral depravities and giveaway programs.
Sounding a battle cry of ‘government IS the problem,’ and armed with anti-tax fervor, anti-intellectualism, religious fundamentalism, racism, sexism, nationalism and crony capitalism, hordes rampaged the countryside, convincing the average Joe and Jane to act and vote against their own modest interests, and a near half-century of carefully nurtured equity, dignity and stability went by the wayside. Labor, women, minorities, the poor and the curious all became casualties in a pogrom against the very concept of a reasonably enlightened, orderly and peaceful society.
At this particular turn in the tale it’s worth noting that while both Clinton administrations attempted some modest roll-back of the above degradations, that era brought with it globalism, false-equivalence journalism, banksterism and a broadly held sense that ANY Democratic POTUS is by definition illegitimate; that goes quintuple for a black man.
Barbarians inside the Gates
Recently commiserating in a similar vein in Esquire last week, Charles P. Pierce wrote “We have elected an ungovernable collection of snake-handlers, Bible-bangers, ignorami, bagmen and outright frauds, a collection so ungovernable that it insists the nation be ungovernable, too. We have elected people to govern us who do not believe in government.” Indeed we have, as decades of purposeful ignorance and conscientious stupidity have loosed a legion of lunatics inside the hallowed halls of Congress, bringing Lady Columbia to her knees.
We all bear some responsibility for this lowly state, but the actual hostage-takers can and will be called out: Cruz, Paul and Lee in the Senate; Mark Meadows, Michele Bachmann and yes, Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy in the House. And though the latter three are not numbered among the afore-mentioned morons and would likely prefer to be golfing or tanning right now, they surely are the three wise monkeys hearing, seeing and speaking no evil whilst the zoo beneath them descends into animal chaos. Or as they said in WW2, ‘there’s something Vichy about the French.’
Going for a run around the block, I see an elderly neighbor I know to be enjoying her Social Security and Medicare with a sign in the yard stating ‘Government is Not Good.’ On the net, I see a tea-baggish friend who supports herself between tarot card- reading, care-giving and unemployment, decrying the apocryphal Obama and his care and dismissing facts as some kind of lefty Jedi mind trick. In the commons of the courthouse are murmurs that it’s just as much the President’s fault for refusing to negotiate, and worst of all, the Tigers are down two games to one to the A’s.
Meanwhile outside the gates, though we hear reports of establishment moderates running primaries against tea-party incumbents and disgruntled donors turning off the spigots, the long-running puppet show methodically staged for the child-like seems all too real to the base and their dullard darlings; if a few dozen congress-folks can’t be convinced Jesus didn’t actually ride dinosaurs, in the next nine days, it’s the tar-pit for us all.
A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University.
In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, the seventh-largest city in Michigan. Mr. Urich remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, an annual film festival, three rescue cats and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.