Tuesday, December 10, 2013

12/10 Post-War Liberalism to the Present


 The modern welfare state created by the progressive reformers took shape over several decades. 

Franklin Roosevelt is sometimes considered the first "modern" president because of the massive expansion in the power and the capabilities of the state under his administration. Although other Cabinet departments had been added to the government such as the Department of Agriculture created by Lincoln, the Department of Commerce in 1903, and the Department of Labor created during the Wilson administration, Roosevelt drastically increased the power of the president by enlarging the personal staff of the president at the expense of the Cabinet departments.


When Roosevelt ran for president, he was the Governor of New York (Herbert H. Lehman, Roosevelt's Lieutenant, was then elected Governor of New York in 1932, Lehman is who the college is named after––somewhat more infamously now, also one of the Lehman Brothers formerly of Wall St.) Roosevelt advertised what he called his "Brain Trust" a collection of university-trained intellectuals who analyzed data, did research, and created the policies that became known as the "New Deal." 

In 1939, on its second attempt, The Reorganization Act is passed y Congress. This gives Roosevelt the power to create additional federal offices. 

Once the president was given the authority by Congress, Roosevelt created several new offices within the executive staff, the Executive Office of the President (EOP) that forms the foundation of the modern White House Office (WHO) today. The executive office is headed by the Chief of Staff who runs the day to day affairs of the president and in many cases controls access to the president. Also, an earlier version of today's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was created to oversee the expenses of the executive branch in the budget, as well as earlier versions of the National Security Council (1947) and the Council of Economic Advisors (1946). 

In all of these cases, offices were to be staffed with scientifically trained intellectuals overseeing the complex functions of the government. All of these offices, along with the office of the Vice-President, are "Cabinet-level," equal with Cabinet departments, and again, in many cases the presidents have come to rely on the advisors in the EOP more than the Cabinet. Since then, even more executive offices have been created like the Office of the Trade Representative (1962); Office of Environmental Quality (1969); and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (1989), as well as others.




The 22nd Amendment was introduced in 1947 and ratified in 1951, explicitly limiting the number of terms a president could serve to two–or a maximum of 10 years if they assumed office as a Vice-President. In between this time, the Republican Party once again came to dominance which culminated the following year when Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961), the Allied Commander during World War II, was elected President. Despite briefly winning Congress in 1952 when Eisenhower is elected, by 1954 Congress was still in Democratic control again, and would remain so for decades. 

The major issue of the election was foreign affairs, specifically the threat of Soviet Communism. During World War II, U.S. propaganda referred to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as "Uncle Joe" when the Russians were allies against the Germans. After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, a new conflict emerged between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over the fate of Germany and the rest of Europe. By the end of the 1940s, the conflict had extended throughout the world. It is after this period of time that the U.S. begins to transition into the role of global superpower, a reversal of its traditional non-interventionist, or isolationist, position throughout most of its history dating back to George Washington's administration. The shape and design of many international institutions today are clearly influenced by the U.S. political system, as is the still vague notion of "international law." This has created impressive new challenges to balance the requirements of democratic government with the sensitive nature of geopolitical affairs. In many regards the demands of specialized technical knowledge has only increased the distance between the government and the public.

The most traditional role the President has had is dealing with foreign nations especially including the command of the military. In the post-war era, the office of the Presidency was reformulated into the role of maintaining global order.


After the war, Germany was divided up between the allied powers before being finally separated into East and West Germany in 1949. The period between 1945 and 1949 is a strange period of time because it is a lull in between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union which continued on and off until the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991. During these four years the U.S. and Soviets were unlikely allies who slowly became bitter enemies. The Soviet Union exploded their first atomic bomb in 1949, ending a brief four year dominance of when the U.S. was the sole nuclear power in the world, after becoming the first, and so far only, country to use atomic weapons in war in 1945 against Japan.

In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong defeated the opposition led by Chiang Kai-shek, whose defeated Kuomintang party was forced to flee to the isle of Formosa, now known as Taiwan, an island claimed by the communists on the mainland as well. This conflict is still unresolved today. Republicans in the United States attacked Democrats for their perceived weakness towards the Soviet Union and blamed them for "losing China to communism" something they swore would not happen again.

 In 1950, the Korean War began after communist North Korean (supported by China and the Soviets) forces overran the South. The U.S. intervened. This was the first war the U.S. fought since World War II. The war turned into a stalemate, after China and the United States both entered the war against each other. The inability to resolve this conflict also contributed to the Democrats defeat. In 1953, under Eisenhower, a ceasefire was signed, today North and South Korea are still separate. 3-4 million North and South Koreans are estimated to have been killed and approximately 1 million Chinese soldiers.

This was a preview of what became known as "proxy war" where conflicts between the U.S. and Soviet Union would not be fought directly between the two but through "allied" countries. 

During World War II, Japan had conquered the colonial empires of the British and the French in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. This had the unintended consequence of creating nationalist movements in these countries that fought, first, the Japanese and then later the remnants of the European colonial empires. The most important French colony was the province of Indochina. France continued to claim a right to rule this territory after the war which it tried to enforce until 1954 when the communist forces in Indochina under Ho Chi Minh defeated the French, leading to the province being split into different countries: Cambodia, Laos, and most notably North and South Vietnam. The French appealed to the U.S. for assistance who filled the void of the departing French. Ho Chi Minh also appealed earlier to the U.S. writing several letters to then President Truman (1945-1953), invoking The Declaration of Independence as a model for what the Vietnamese were trying to accomplish in their own country. Truman never responded. The U.S. tried to support the capitalist South Vietnamese government, until 1963, when the CIA ordered their own puppet leader of South Vietnam to be overthrown and killed. This signaled the direct take over of the war effort by the U.S. (only 20 days later U.S. President John F. Kennedy was also assassinated in Dallas, Texas).

Kennedy represented to many, the kind of "New Americans" that were taking shape in a new United States, one that had now undoubtedly become a superpower that had tremendous influence across the world. By 1890, the U.S. had already become the dominant economic power in the world with more wealth than Great Britain, Russia, and Germany combined, but it took almost another fifty years until the U.S. became the dominant military power in the world as well (or arguably the second most powerful after the Soviet Union at that time). JFK was also, like FDR, a very media friendly politician. However, while Roosevelt was still limited to the technology of radio, Kennedy made great use of the television medium. It is around the same time that conservatives start creating the ideology of the "liberal media," to attack the credibility and reliability of the media mostly coming from the Richard Nixon campaign who is running against Kennedy in the 1960 election and is the Vice-President under Eisenhower. Ironically, while many of the arguments against liberal bias are credible, many of the claims made about Nixon turned out to be true, which is often not acknowledged by conservative critics of the media.




In the 1960s, the conservative movement started to reassert itself after its devastating losses in the 1930s and 1940s. What had happened to the Republican Party in the 1930s was similar to the Democratic Party in the 1860s. It became so identified with something so negative (slavery, or causing the Great Depression in this case) that it took literally decades for it to repair the damage to its image. In the 1950s, a Republican president reigned, but Eisenhower had adopted virtually every major program introduced by the New Deal and after, in other words Eisenhower was a very moderate republican and in many ways tended to be liberal especially on domestic policy, in fact it was under Eisenhower the first school desegregations were ordered like in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1954. In 1964, the Republicans ran Arizona Senator, Barry Goldwater against Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969), Kennedy's former Vice-President, and someone who modeled himself after FDR, even calling himself LBJ. Johnson won in one of the biggest landslides in American history. 



1964 U.S. Presidential Election

At the time, in American political culture, there was a strong commitment among the public for social welfare policies and programs for the poor. Programs like Medicare and Medicaid were created under the Johnson administration as well as the new Cabinet Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Johnson also presided over the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Along with these landmark legislative acts, the "Civil Rights" Amendments were passed in the Constitution:

  • 23rd Amendment (1961): Allows Washington D.C. to vote for president which previously had no representation in the electoral college.
  • 24th Amendment (1964): Prohibits a poll tax, literally a fee paid to vote used especially in the South.
  • 25th Amendment (1967): Establishes the presidential line-of-succession, like the 20th and 22nd amendments, this amendment reflects the growth of executive power and its importance.
  • 26th Amendment (1971): Passed during the height of the Vietnam War, this amendment lowers the voting age to 18 from 21.

Three of these Constitutional amendments deal with the crucial issue of the right to vote in a democracy which was also the focus of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, electoral laws are mainly decided by the state, and there has recently been a determined effort by many Republican governors of states like Florida to "purge" registered voters from the voting lists and thus take away their right to vote under the pretext of preventing "voter fraud." It might seem strange that a party that claims to be working in the interest of the majority of people would put so much effort into reducing the number of eligible voters, and many liberals have argued this is an attempt to undermine the Voting Rights Act.

After Kennedy's suspicious assassination in late 1963, plans were set in motion to escalate the war in Vietnam beginning in 1964. A fake assault on U.S. naval vessels was used as a justification to escalate the war, which by 1968 had over 500,000 U.S. servicemen in Vietnam. The combined stresses of Johnson's domestic welfare programs and overseas wars began to take its toll on the American economy which began to show signs of inflation.

The United States became the dominant economic power in the world after World War II. At one point it was responsible for almost half of the world's entire industrial output. This was the material basis of the so-called "Baby Boom" generation in the United States, which reaped the full benefits of the U.S. post-war prosperity in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. It is during this period of time the mythical image of the American way of life is created. Often unacknowledged is the super prosperity of the U.S. during this time was primarily because other major industrial powers of the world were rebuilding from World War II. The two most dominant industrial powers besides the U.S. before World War II were Germany and Japan. By the late 1960s and especially in the 1970s, exports from these countries was seriously eroding U.S. economic power. Arguably the U.S. has never recovered from this and has pursued a series of artificial means of preserving itself largely through uncontrolled deficit spending, both public and private.
Trade Statistics 1930-2005
Bureau of Economic Analysis


The public assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, was echoed by Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the brother of John Kennedy, assassinated in April and June 1968.

Robert Kennedy had been the favorite in the upcoming Democratic primary for the election in November. Instead, they nominated pro-war Hubert Humphrey. Republican Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, and re-elected again in 1972, although the illegal tactics used during his re-election, such as Watergate, would lead to his downfall and resignation in 1974, the only president so far to resign in office. 

A major factor was that after 1964, the Democratic party largely lost the Southern vote to Republicans. The Democrats had been a force in the South since the founding of the party in the 1790s. Johnson reportedly remarked as he was signing the Civil Rights Act in 1964, "we have lost the South for a generation." Many have accused Nixon and other Republican presidential candidates as playing to Southern racism without being explicit about it, sometimes called "symbolic racism" or "institutional racism."
1968 U.S. Presidential Election
George Wallace was a segregationist third party candidate


In 1968, Nixon had won the Republican primary against a number of challengers including Ronald Reagan, the Governor of California. After three attempts Reagan would be elected president in 1980, thus signaling a backlash against the values of the 1960s.



The Reagan administration was defined by the phrase "government is the problem" and tried to remove all government regulation of businesses. Despite this, the budget deficit of the federal government continued to grow through the decade, along with an increasing trade deficit als growing rapidly since the 1970s, and despite Reagan' promises to tackle the "twin deficits." 

The budget deficit grew largely because of a combination of increased military spending and significant tax cuts given to the highest income brackets in the country. Reagan was later forced to reverse many of these tax cuts and ended up raising taxes several times.  Much of the increased military spending was used to finance covert wars in Latin America and the Middle East, but also to "outspend" the Russians on defense, a process that some commentators believe helped pushed the Soviet Union into its final downward spiral into dissolution.

During this period of time a book entitled The Wise Men (1986) was published chronicling the events of several of the most influential political operatives in foreign policy (the term wise men of course also has religious significance). It followed the careers of six men: W. Averell Harriman, Robert A. Lovett, William Bohlen, George Kennan, John J. McCloy, and Dean Acheson. The authors spend the majority of the book convincing their readers that these men were non-ideological, bipartisan, in short "above the biases" of conflicts that normally characterize politics. 

However, the notion that they were above ideology seems strange when it is so obvious how militantly anti-communist these men were. Harriman, McCloy, and Lovett all had connections with Nazis stemming from before World War II. These men helped create the "containment" strategy that was invoked in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the coups or attempts at a coup in several countries including: Iran, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Colombia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and of course Cuba (and many other states). Several other men were not included in the circle of wise men even though they had the same background, like John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Eisenhower, and his brother Allen Dulles, director of the CIA until the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. Both so directly involved in overthrowing foreign governments and assassinations that including them as "wise men" would probably be too controversial. Another notable omission is James Forrestal, the last Secretary of Navy before the Navy and War departments were combined into the new Department of Defense after World War II, and became the first Secretary of Defense. Forrestal another militant anti-communist who was became increasingly paranoid later committed suicide in 1949, something covered up at the time.

It is reasonable to question how appropriate it is to call someone wise when they were unable to foresee that the consequences of establishing brutal and corrupt "puppet dictators" who oppressed their own people would one day come back to haunt the U.S. The term used for this by intelligence operatives is "blowback," and the most famous example could be the Iranian revolution in 1978-79 which began after enduring 25 years of the tyrannical Shah of Iran after a U.S. sponsored coup in 1953. Although many of these men were too old to play a direct role in the late 1970s and beyond, these same ideas were put into effect to train and fund men like Osama Bin Laden to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, and Saddam Hussein to fight Iran in the 1980s. Most Americans are not even aware of the huge death tolls as a result of U.S. wars in Southeast Asia, according to some estimates, almost 4 million Vietnamese killed and maybe more than 2 million neighboring Cambodians and Laotians. Between half a million to a million Indonesians were killed in another U.S. supported coup running parallel with the Vietnam war in 1967. If you add in the death toll number from the Korean War which, then you have approximately 12 million Asians killed between 1950-1980, or roughly twice as many as the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust by the Nazis from 1942-1945 and about the same number overall of all the people who died in the Holocaust (our country did not do it as quickly as the Nazis did).

To label people as ruthless and dogmatic as this wise is not so shocking. In the 1980s especially there was a strong tendency to mythologize the American way of life in what can be seen as an attempt to break away from the terrible legacy of the Vietnam War and a stagnant economy since the late 1960s, aided greatly by the ever-developing mass media industries which recreates history when the moment calls for it.



The trade deficit continued to grow in the face of competition from Germany and Japan after the 1960s, and the inability of major U.S. corporations like General Motors to adapt and innovate their product designs, as well as decreasing quality in the automobiles, compounded by multiple Arab oil embargoes in 1973 and 1979. Despite advances in several high-tech U.S. industries revolving around the emerging computer industry in the 1980s, the U.S.'s overall trade deficit continues to rise even today. This did not prevent President Reagan from winning the largest landslide in American history, over a very anemic and weak Democratic party, still haunted by its past. Despite this, the House of Representatives maintained a Democratic majority throughout the entire Reagan administration. The Senate was recaptured for the first time in 30 years by the Republicans in 1980, but reverted back to Democratic control in 1986 after numerous scandals during the Reagan administration. It was not until 1994 when Republicans were able to take both houses of Congress and hold on to them for more than one election.
1984 U.S. Presidential Election

The U.S. economy grew during the Reagan administration, but the distribution of the wealth is concentrated in fewer hands. Poverty increased during the Reagan administration at the same time in which scandals emerged over Reagan's administration misallocating funds for the poor (literally stealing from the poor to give to the rich). Many commentators pronounced the return of the "Gilded Age." On the other side, Democratic opponents of Republicans usually point to the Post-War Liberal era as the time of greatest productivity in the U.S. and favor policies that attempt  to bring back the New Deal.
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
The chart is meant to show that even though economic productivity increased in the 1980s, the actual wages of working people did not keep pace with this change. Also, that productivity was greater during the social welfare period of the New Deal and that wages and incomes raised in proportion with the increase in productivity

In 2008 the biggest stock market crash since the Great Depression occurred resulting from financial speculation in the U.S. housing markets. This was in large part a result of the "deregulation" of the financial industry beginning in the 1980s, overturning laws established in the 1930. Unlike the Great Depression which began in the middle of a Republican administration and helped to discredit the Republicans for more than 40 years, this one exploded, or was timed to explode, shortly before a presidential election, the 2008 election which saw the election of Barack Obama. 
2008 U.S. Presidential Election
"Battleground" states are states that do not have either a solid Republican or Democratic majority
In many regards the divisions into North and South regions still exists
President Obama has so far tried to adhere to a "consensus" approach to politics which has so far produced mixed results at best. Much like Jefferson, another controversial figure of his time, appeals to the unity between Federalists and Republicans, Obama has in many of his speeches appealed to common sentiments between Democrats and Republicans. However, unlike Jefferson whose party came to dominate politics in America, the Obama administration has not had a clear majority in Congress and has had great difficulty in getting legislation passed. This is a function of the system of checks and balances as intended in the Constitution, but as critics have pointed out, often this system creates paralysis in government.

After the election of 2012, however it appears that President may have more leverage to put through his policies even though the House of Representatives still has a Republican majority. Note also the similarities between the election results of the previous election, and the changes in certain "battleground states."



Obama, for obvious ideological reasons, seeks to portray himself in the lineage of Jefferson and Lincoln. Obama addresses the issue of race in a way Lincoln never could by drawing upon his own experiences with racism, especially as a child of mixed race who has insight into the attitudes of whites and blacks. His association with black radicals like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, has also pushed the president to defend the legitimate anger and resentment many African-Americans feel towards a system of government which has often failed to meet their needs.

As most Democrats look to the New Deal era of FDR and LBJ as the high-point of the Democratic party in the modern era, he has tried to expand upon these policies. Most notably, healthcare which Roosevelt stipulated was a right, and advanced by Johnson who established Medicare and Medicaid. 




The current president has also kept in place the coercive and intelligence apparatus created during the Bush administration to fight the "war on terror." So far nothing as radical as the programs set up in the 1930s has been attempted. Obviously however the circumstances in which they find themselves has changed drastically, Roosevelt for example could still count upon "the solid South" to support Democratic policies and a strong majority in Congress.





Assignment: Due 12/17 Choose a passage from JFK, Reagan, or Obama, write it out and explain what it means.

I hope you all enjoyed the class. Thank you for your participation and your blog entries which were very interesting to read. The final exam will be posted on Blackboard 12/17. It will be an essay exam like the midterm.





Tuesday, December 3, 2013

12/3 The Progressive Era

"Come, Brothers You Have Grown So Big You Cannot Afford to Quarrel," William A. Rogers,  Harper's Weekly, 1901

There has never been a successful political revolution in the United States, some historians have the divided the American political system into "three republics": The First Republic, the constitutional system established in 1789-1860. Originally the system emphasized states' rights and consensus, no laws could be passed unless all parties agreed, like the "compromises" made between pro and anti slave factions leading up to the Civil War. 

The Second Republic 1861-1912, is established during the Civil War establishing a strong central state, assisting the expansion of industry throughout the country, like the railroads and steel industries. 

The Third Republic 1913-1980(?), beginning in 1913 under the Wilson administration (1913-1921) but developing fully under the Roosevelt administration (1933-1945). The large centralized state becomes the "welfare state" now that industry has expanded through every aspect of life. The critical question, posed by progressives, is should large industrial monopolies be regulated? Political conflicts in the present are still fought over whether government should regulate and tax businesses. 

In other words, the political issues of the early 20th century are to a large extent the political issues of today especially over the economy. A consequence of the labor movement that grew during the late 19th century. Progressive thinkers took on corporate monopolies, but they were hardly communists, progressivism is a liberal alternative to communism. These movements were, however, linked. At its peak in the 1930s, union membership consisted of about 30% of the workforce of the country, still far less than a majority. Since the 1980s, union membership nation-wide has declined to less than 10%. In the North, especially in states like New York, unions are still fairly strong, but in the South, unions are much weaker.

The Republican Party slogan in 2012 "We Built It," refers to private entrepreneurs creating the American "free market" system. Many aspects of the market taken for granted today were actually the result of long bloody struggles against management and ownership, including: Child labor laws, an eight-hour workday, minimum wage laws, worker's compensation for injuries sustained on the job, health and fire safety standards, and more–all of these reforms were fiercely fought by employers, often at the cost of many worker's lives.


Not all progressives were opposed to "scientific" theories of racism. Many were nationalistic and pro-war and in favor of the U.S. going to war in World War I (1914-1918), to help "make the world safe for democracy." The opposing view was held by Randolph Bourne, also a progressive intellectual, who spoke out against the racist or xenophobic tendencies in the essay we read at the beginning of class.

Among major progressive thinkers only a handful like W.E.B. DuBois and Bourne did not see war as a great heroic struggle for democracy. We began the class with Bourne and Chesterton and now after going back to the origins of the political system we have come full circle. The reason why I begin the class with these essays (besides being well-written and interesting to read) is to emphasize again how little has really changed in our political discourse since the 1920s.

The managers of the industrial cartels, trusts, and monopolies sought greater organization and control in society in order to better manage their own economic empires and prefer a system of "managed competition" over the unpredictable free market. Establishing a social welfare state was not against the interests of corporate managers, but was desired as way of consolidating control and the predictability of "business cycles." In reality, there has never been a society that has ever functioned according to the principles of the free market, in many ways, this is as utopian a belief as the communist idea of a fully equal society. The U.S. economy was built for centuries upon a slave economy (which the North benefited from), followed by an unprecedented era of government corruption in the period after the civil war. By the time of the progressive era, the idea of managed competition or a "mixed economy" had already taken hold.


Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)became the first Democratic progressive president in 1913, and only the second Democratic president since the Civil War. His election marked the first time Democrats had won both houses of Congress since before the Civil War as well. Wilson, a Southerner from Virginia, became President of Princeton University and then Governor of New Jersey in 1910. Wilson, like all progressives, and basically every American politician invokes the name of Jefferson: 
You know that it was Jefferson who said that the best government is that which does as little governing as possible, which exercises its power as little as possible. That was said in a day when the opportunities of America were so obvious to every man, when every individual was so free to use his powers without let or hindrance, that all that was necessary was that the government should withhold its hand and see to it that every man got an opportunity to act if he would. But that time is past. America is not now, and cannot in the future be, a place for unrestricted individual enterprise. It is true that we have come upon an age of great cooperative industry. It is true that we must act absolutely upon this principle (p. 439).

One thing that many working people have in common is no contact between employees and management. Wilson's central point is that the size and scale of American society is so large that  government intervention is necessary:
Who in this great audience knows his employer? I mean among those who go down into the mines or go into the mills and factories. You never see, you practically never deal with, the president of the corporation. You probably don't know the directors of the corporation by sight. The only thing you know is that by score, by the hundred, by the thousand, you are employed with your fellow workmen by some agent of an invisible employer. Therefore, whenever bodies of men employ bodies of men, it ceases to be a private relationship" (p. 440)

He argues that government up until now has been the tool of industrial monopolies that control the economy, "I say, then, the proposition is this: that there shall be two masters, the great corporation and over it the government of the United States; and I ask: Who is going to be the master of the government of the United States? It has a master now––those who in combination control these monopolies. And if the government controlled by these monopolies in its turn controls the monopolies, the partnership is finally consummated" (p. 441).

The population of the country at the time of the founding of the Constitution was about 4 million; when Wilson was inaugurated it was just under 100 million; the population is now more than three times as large from Wilson's time (320 million).

During Wilson's administration the Federal Reserve was set up which regulates the supply of money in the economy, by controlling interest rates. The Federal Trade Commission was also established to regulate commerce and prevent abuses. Several "Progressive" Amendments to the Constitution were passed between 1913-1933:
  • 16th Amendment (1913): Right for government to collect income tax.
  • 17th Amedment (1913): Provides for direct election of Senators by the people of the state.
  • 18th Amendment (1919): the infamous Prohibition amendment making the sale of alcohol illegal.
  • 19th Amendment (1920): Gave women the right to vote (the defining civil rights issue of the era).
  • 20th Amendment (1933): moved the President's inauguration from March 4th to January 20th. This was done to speed up the time between a president being elected and taking office and was a response to the crisis of the Great Depression. It also testifies to the growing importance of the executive branch of government. January 1933 is also when Adolph Hitler took power in Germany who basically had a two month head start on Roosevelt for taking on the depression in their countries although that may not have been a direct influence at the time.
  • 21st Amendment (1933): Reverses Prohibition.

Wilson committed the U.S. to the war in Europe in 1917, and tried unsuccessfully to get the U.S. to join the League of Nations, a precursor to today's United Nations (UN). 



The psychological and emotional identification with the state during World War I, accompanied by controversial laws, like the Espionage Act of 1917, the Sedition Act of 1918, and the Immigration Act of 1918, gave the state extensive powers to jail or deport those critical of the war effort. Radical labor unions like the Industrial Workers of the World  (I.W.W.) were suppressed and Socialist Party leaders like Eugene Debs were put in jail–competing labor organizations like the American Federation of Labor (AFL), with a history of racism and xenophobia were supported. The first U.S. propaganda department was created, the Committee of Public Information (CPI, or Creel Commission), headed by Carl Creel, noted journalist for the Rocky Mountain News. The massive propaganda apparatus was accompanied by, and itself a part of, an even larger apparatus used to regulate the economic forces of the nation:

By propaganda, by Presidential decree, and by willing patriotism, the United States became more unanimous than ever before. The brains and hands and even the stomachs of 100 million Americans were made to function as one. While dollar-a-year men poured into Washington to run the swollen government machine, four-minute men poured out to sell Liberty Bonds, Thrift Stamps, Home Gardens, and the Red Cross. “Do Your Bit,” “Food Will Win the War,” and “Swat the Hun” glared from billboards on every side. Overstuffed society ladies said they were “Hooverizing” when they did without wheat on Monday, or meat on Tuesday. A Fuel Administrator in Washington gave an order, and the nation’s lights were dimmed; he gave another order, and all the clocks were turned ahead. The War Industries Board under Bernard Baruch converted 28,000 factories into a production “trust” such as even Morgan had never dreamed of. William G. McAdoo, the President’s son-in-law, became dictator of the nation’s railroads. The German language was banned in schools; German born musicians and scholars were publicly insulted; Eugene Debs was put in jail, and the New York Times printed a rumor that German spies were putting poison in bandages in Philadelphia. It was all part of the home-front war (Butterfield pp. 360-61).

Wilson also suffered a stroke in 1920 that limited his ability to rally support for his cause. The Republicans won the election of 1920 and again the Presidency and Congress until 1932. It was under a Republican administration and Congress when the Great Depression hit in 1929, with the crash of the stock market in New York. 

The response of the Republicans was to do nothing and let the market work itself out. Problems became worse, and after almost three years of unsuccessful Republican attempts to deal with the effects of the depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) is elected in 1932. Democrats also re-capture both the House and Senate, and have large majorities in both for more than 50 years. Roosevelt invokes a kind of evolutionary argument, seen in his campaign speech from 1932. He also refers implicitly to the "Second Republic" after the Civil War:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
 The tariff was originally imposed for the purpose of "fostering our infant industry," a phrase I think the older among you will remember as a political issue not so long ago. The railroads were subsidized, sometimes by grants of money, oftener by grants of land; some of the most valuable oil lands in the United States were granted to assist the financing of the railroads which pushed through the Southwest. A nascent merchant marine was assisted by grants of money, or by mail subsidies, so that our steam shipping might ply the seven seas....It has been traditional, particularly in Republican administrations, for business to urgently ask the Government to put at private disposal all kind of Government assistance. The same man who tells you that he does not want to see the Government interfere in business––and he he means it, and has plenty of good reasons for saying so––is the first to go to Washington and ask the Government for a prohibitory tariff on his product. When things get just bad enough, as they did two years ago, he will go with equal speed to the United States Government and ask for a loan; and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation is the outcome of it (p. 455)


American industry and finance has expanded and risen to such heights the purposes of the government must change. Changing functions of the government necessitate a new kind of qualified expert for running the government:
The day of the great promoter or the financial Titan, to whom we granted anything if only he would build, or develop, is over. Our task now is not discovery or exploitation of natural resources, or necessarily producing more goods. It is the soberer, less dramatic business of administering resources and plants already in hand, of seeking to reestablish foreign markets for our surplus production, of meeting the problem of underconsumption, of adjusting production to consumption, of distributing wealth and products more equitably, of adapting existing economic organizations to the service of the people. The day of enlightened administration has come (p. 457)


Roosevelt argues, again like most progressives, the primary function of the government is to prevent the concentration of wealth in large monopolies, as he says in this speech from his first re-election campaign in 1936 (Roosevelt is the only president to serve more than two full terms in office, he was elected four times in all but died shortly into his fourth term). Despite his status today, FDR was a very polarizing figure in his time. He also suggests that the artificial prosperity created by the corruption of government and business only sets the stage for its own destruction:
During those years of false prosperity and during the more recent years of exhausting depression, one business after another, one small corporations after another, their resources depleted, had failed or had fallen into the lap of a bigger competitor. A dangerous thing was happening. Half of the industrial corporate wealth of the country had come under the control of less than two hundred corporations. That is not all. These huge corporations in some cases did not even try to compete with each other. They themselves were tied together by interlocking directors, interlocking bankers, interlocking lawyers (p. 463).

Roosevelt suggests hypocrisy on those who claim to be "social darwinists," to let the strong survive, except when their survival is at stake:
I know how the knees of all our rugged individualists were trembling four years ago and how their hearts fluttered. They came to Washington in great numbers. Washington did not look like a dangerous bureaucracy to them then. Oh, no! It looked like an emergency hospital. All of the distinguished patients wanted two things––a quick hypodermic to end the pain and a course of treatment to cure the disease. They wanted them in a hurry; we gave them both. And now most of the patients seem to be doing nicely. Some of them are even well enough to throw their crutches at the doctor (p. 464).

The final reading is from Roosevelt's Economic Bill of Rights made up less than a year before he died during the waning days of World War II (1939-1945). The contents of this bill including a right to healthcare and a right to education:




In short, like today the most dominant issue confronting progressives and conservatives is over the role of the government in regulating the economy and the extent of government intervention.

Next class, we will try to bring things up to the present and see how modern politics is influenced by the issues we have talked about in the past.

Assignment Due 12/10 : Choose a passage from Wilson, or Roosevelt, write out the passage and interpret it and explain why you chose this passage.

Go to the link for the The Great Depression. Choose a passage from this website and write it out and interpret it and explain why you chose this passage. Also choose a picture or painting and explain the content of piece and how it relates to class.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

11/26 Lincoln (Part 2)


The slave law, made it a crime to shelter any runaway slaves and by implication legally compelled citizens to aid in the capture of found runaways. Susan B. Anthony makes reference to this in readings from last class, referring to the humanity of people who disobeyed this law. The conflicts of the 1850s raised the importance of civil disobedience even more. The Dred Scott case was decided that an ex-slave named Dred Scott who have lived for years already as a free man was not legally entitled to his freedom or to any rights. Chief Justice Taney ruled explicitly that African-American were not entitled to the rights under the Declaration of Independence. This illustrates how the court system applies the laws to specific events, it also underscores, how no matter how elegant the words are in the Declaration, they are in the end just words and are only powerful to the extent they became the basis of action. One of Lincoln's most famous writings is his response to this case which firmly established him as a leading anti-slavery spokesman in the Republican Party.

Civil disobedience was practiced by both pro and anti slavery forces, and very quickly it descended into violence. Perhaps, nowhere was there a better prologue to the Civil War than in Bleeding Kansas in 1855. Kansas which had recently applied for statehood was expected to come in as a free state. Pro-slavery forces then invaded the state and actually staged battles against the anti-slavery government. Eventually the pro-slavery side won and burned the capital of the anti-slavery government and established, by force, a pro-slave government in Kansas.

One man who fought in Bleeding Kansas was John Brown. He believed he was God's agent to bring about the destruction of slavery. In Kansas he executed several pro-slavery prisoners. In 1859, he led an attack on the U.S. Armory at Harper's Ferry in Virginia with five black men and thirteen white men. His intent was to start a full-scale slave revolt in the South by arming the slaves. However his plan failed and he was captured by an Army Colonel named Robert E. Lee who would later become the General of the Confederate Army. Here is an excerpt from the New York Herald, once an important newspaper, interviewing Brown shortly after his capture: "Bystander: Upon what principle do you justify your acts? Mr. Brown: Upon the golden rule. I pity the poor in bondage that have none to help them....Bystander: To set them free would sacrifice the life of every man in this community. Mr. Brown: I do not think so. Bystander: I know it. I think you are fanatical. Mr. Brown: And I think you are fanatical."
At this time, it is important to remember that to be considered an abolitionist at this time was to be considered a radical, an opinion which was not shared by the majority of the people at the time.

"Tragic Prelude," John Steuart Curry, Kansas State Capitol, 1934


Brown was tried for treason and hanged, however, he became an icon of the abolition movement and was praised by people like Frederick Douglass and writers like Herman Melville who wrote of  the prophetic quality of Brown's actions, one that would be confirmed just a few years later, in his poem "The Portent":


Hanging from the beam,
Slowly swaying (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green,
Shenandoah!
The cut is on the crown
(Lo, John Brown),
And the stabs shall heal no more.

Hidden in the cap
Is the anguish none can draw;
So your future veils its face,
Shenandoah!
But the streaming beard is shown
(Weird John Brown),
The meteor of the war. 

Shenandoah is an Indian name for Virginia, where Brown's attack was carried out. There are many prophetic references in the poem, which was first published in 1866, so Melville is reading this prophetic quality in Brown after the war. A portent is a sign of the future, a meteor (actually his beard covered by a hood) has also been seen for centuries as a symbol of prophecy, weird in this sense refers to the "weird sisters" who predict the future in Shakespeares' play Macbeth. Lincoln, who has also been attributed with prophetic qualities, however denounced his use of violence. Lincoln at this time had returned to the practice of law after serving time in Congress. He would later run for president in 1860. This more than anything else is what drove the South to secede from the Union. 

Lincoln was perceived by Southerners as representing a direct threat to their way of life, even though he was perceived as a moderate and was often criticized by the more progressive elements of the abolition movement. Lincoln for example did not favor the total abolition of slavery, only to restrict its further expansion (which he believed would kill it in the long run). Douglass, you will remember from last class, was very critical of this view and in fact became one of the most vocal critics of Lincoln. Many credit his frequent protests against the government in the form of public speeches and written documents to have influenced the policy of the administration in eventually abolishing slavery.

 The Souther Secessionist movement to leave the Union was led by members of Congress, like Jefferson Davis, a Senator from Mississippi who became the first and only President of the Confederate States of America. Southern states began to seceding after the election of Lincoln and before he took office on March 4th, 1861. South Carolina was the first to secede in December 1860, followed by Mississippi and Florida. In Texas, the Governor Sam Houston was thrown out of office by pro-slavery factions. West Virginia broke off from Virginia and refused to secede from the Union. Maryland was retained by force after President Lincoln sent troops to occupy Baltimore and the capital and arrested the mayor of Baltimore and secessionist legislators. All of these men were held without trial.


As mentioned last class, Abraham Lincoln belonged to the Republican Party which was originally named the Free Soil Party and then Free Soil Republicans. Anti-slavery was one of the major foundational principles of the modern Republican Party. It also a strong Union and a strong national government. It also stressed economic growth and favored close relationships with the growing industries: railroads, shipping, iron and steel, coal mining, lumber, textiles, cattle and livestock, corn and other cereal crops. All of these industries were mutually interdependent and growth in one sector tended to mean growth in all the sectors. Most historians stress the North's  industrial supremacy over the South in being a decisive factor in their ultimate victory over the Confederacy. After the war, many of the industrial managers who had supported the war effort now benefitted from government support in the various form from protective tariffs to control over currency and even influencing the passing of laws.

Highlights of Lincoln's Presidency (Besides the Civil War):
Lincoln was a very powerful president who extended the power of the executive branch of government more than it had ever been previously.

Pacific Railway Act 1862: Started construction on the transcontinental railroad connecting the East and West coasts of the U.S.

Land Grant Act 1862: Sold federal land cheaply to states in order to create public universities to specialize in teaching agricultural and industrial arts as well as military training

Founded Dept. of Agriculture 1862 (USDA): This branch of government would provide assistance to farmers, providing them credit, and giving them information on the latest farming techniques and technology. This was helpful too for the newly freed slaves after the war, most of whom tried to make a living for themselves through agriculture (farming and raising livestock).

During the Civil War, Lincoln suspended certain civil liberties like habeas corpus. This legal principle states that people arrested for a crime must be brought as soon as possible in front of a judge and charged formally with a crime. During the war, Lincoln had Southern sympathizers jailed without reason and never charged with a crime. He also shut down newspapers which were sympathetic to the South. Lincoln seized control of all Northern telegraph lines thus controlling the flow of information between all the states in the North.

Lincoln idolized Jefferson and in the Gettysburg Addressattempts to redefine the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. Notice how he refers to "dedication" and "conception". He says the country was born with liberty (conceived) and dedicated to equality. He does not say the country was born with equality. Instead dedication refers to a future goal that has not come to pass. In this sense America is an unfinished project that is committed to realizing equality among its citizens. The Civil War will be the rebirth of the Nation which will now be conceived in equality as well. Lincoln's death will link him to the memory and sacrifice of the soldiers he himself commemorates in this speech. Lincoln himself becomes a victim of the Civil War, unlike leaders who usually escape the personal consequences of war themselves.


The traumatic experience of the war, and theme of devotion to a cause to the point of self-sacrifice was still felt even decades later as this quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Civil War veteran and later Supreme Court Justice shows, and perhaps suggests a much darker undercurrent to the idea of civil religion:


 I do not know what is true. I do not know the meaning of the universe. But in the midst of doubt, in the collapse of creeds, there is one thing I do not doubt, that no man who lives in the same world with most of us can doubt, and that is that the faith is true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty, in a cause which he little understands, in a plan of campaign of which he has little notion, under tactics of which he does not see the use.  
Most men who know battle know the cynic force with which the thoughts of common sense will assail them in times of stress; but they know that in their greatest moments faith has trampled those thoughts under foot. If you wait in line, suppose on Tremont Street Mall, ordered simply to wait and do nothing, and have watched the enemy bring their guns to bear upon you down a gentle slope like that of Beacon Street, have seen the puff of the firing, have felt the burst of the spherical case-shot as it came toward you, have heard and seen the shrieking fragments go tearing through your company, and have known that the next or the next shot carries your fate; if you have advanced in line and have seen ahead of you the spot you must pass where the rifle bullets are striking; if you have ridden at night at a walk toward the blue line of fire at the dead angle of Spottsylvania, where for twenty-four hours the soldiers were fighting on the two sides of an earthwork, and in the morning the dead and dying lay piled in a row six deep, and as you rode you heard the bullets splashing in the mud and earth about you; if you have been in the picket-line at night in a black and unknown wood, have heard the splat of the bullets upon the trees, and as you moved have felt your foot slip upon a dead man's body; if you have had a blind fierce gallop against the enemy, with your blood up and a pace that left no time for fear—if, in short, as some, I hope many, who hear me, have known, you have known the vicissitudes of terror and triumph in war; you know that there is such a thing as the faith I spoke of. You know your own weakness and are modest; but you know that man has in him that unspeakable somewhat which makes him capable of miracle, able to lift himself by the might of his own soul, unaided, able to face annihilation for a blind belief (The Soldier's Fate, 1895).


The Second Inaugural Address, is one of the most famous political speeches of all time (along with the Gettysburg Address). In this speech Lincoln tries put the war in context, he views it as a long and painful act of atonement for the sins of slavery. Slavery is a crime against nature and a part of "original sin" in Christian doctrine. For over 250 years (in his time) this crime against nature had been perpetuated. Now this war has been delivered like a judgement from God to balance the scales of justice, sparing neither North or South both of whom share guilt. Unfortunately, the "sins" of racial oppression continued long after the war.

Lincoln was assassinated shortly after the war, but the legacy of his presidency could not be changed. Lincoln greatly increased the power of the presidency, mostly out of necessity and circumstance. However, certain changes once made cannot be undone, and although Congress tried to control presidents after Lincoln the power of the president was forever increased. 

Power over reason also came to play more of a role in politics. Although the framers like Hamilton and Madison believed that reason and persuasion could solve our problems (a central belief of Enlightenment philosophy), the legacy of the war and slavery revealed the limits of persuasion. The lesson was clear, at a certain point, persuasion fails and only power can achieve the necessary results. Hamilton did want the citizens to identify and form emotional attachments with the federal government, and in this sense he succeeded beyond his imagination. States' rights was seen as coded language for slavery. The Union (as in United States), which many hundreds of thousands fought and died for ascended to a level of importance in the eyes of ordinary citizens that had been unprecedented in the history of the nation thus far.

Next class we will talk about the Progressive movement.

Have a happy holiday and a great Thanksgiving!


Assignment Due 12/3: Choose a passage from the Gettysburg Address or the Second Inaugural Address. Write out the passage and interpret its meaning and explain why you chose it.