It feels like every day I talk to people that are disillusioned and/or frightened by the potential of the future of this country. It is obvious to me that they were either not paying attention in history class or they just don’t remember. Then I hear from others that are looking for a path back to a “Better Time” that is either inaccurate or at the very least naive. For the remainder of this article I will refer to these people as “MAGAs”, short for “Make America Great Agains”. For my part I smile and think back to the time in history that they referenced and remember the similarities and difficulties that we still face today. I like to go back and remember too, but for different reasons. I look for patterns in human behavior and the patterns in politics and financial institutions.
I would like to take you on a quick glance backwards and see what the future holds, because you can see the most curios things in the looking glass. I would like to start with the election of 1900. I will present the political and social atmosphere and see if you recognize some of this. The Republicans ran on an expansionist World Power platform, having just won the Spanish American War. They wanted to invest in the Panama Canal and condemned the Democratic Party for attacking the 15th amendment to the Constitution by passing Jim Crow laws in the south to restrict the vote of African Americans. The Democrats were anti-expansion, anti-Panama Canal, and looking to strengthen the laws to inhibit voter registration in certain states. Sounds kind of upside down as far as what is being done today, but still very similar.
The Republicans won and when President McKinley was assassinated shortly after the election, we ended up with Theodore Roosevelt for President . Teddy fought to hold businesses accountable to their employees and began to regulate big business. He passed anti-trust laws and began building the infrastructure of our country. Teddy also recognized the importance of the free press and although he referred to the press as “Muckrakers”, he never tried to suppress their ability to investigate and print the corruption in government.
Let’s move on to the presidential election of 1912. During this election the Democratic MAGAs controlled the White House and Congress, and wanted no economic oversight or government involved in the economy. They deregulated the banking industry and eliminated any oversight of the New York Stock Exchange. This attitude created a huge gap between the wealthy and the working class. It also set the stage for the largest economic crash ever. The Democrats also tried to practice Isolationism and keep us out of WWI but we ended up fighting in the War to End All Wars anyway.in 1919 the Democratic Congress passed the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. But They also ratified the 18th amendment that prohibits alcohol and regulated Drugs sales. The 18th Amendment gave rise to the biggest organized crime syndicate our country has ever seen.
The Roaring Twenties where a time of chaos in the country The Movie Birth Of a Nation was all the rage and people began to dress in white hooded robes and march in the streets, This began a reign of terror in the south. Thousands of clansmen marched on Washington and New York. And a white nationalist movement came out this, that can still be seen today.
In 1929 the Stock Market and Banking collapse which was brought on by the deregulation of these highly corruptible organizations devastated the economy and brought to an end the unregulated growth and unscrupulous practices of stock speculators. But this collapse brought on a more Socialist attitude in the country as the people embraced the “New Deal” and Voted into the White House Franklin Roosevelt and he ran on the promise that the Government will have your back. Roosevelt brought in Social Security and a promise of Jobs as the Country worked to increase it’s infrastructure. Roosevelt also wanted to be involved on the world stage but The Congress and Senate wanted to pass Embargoes and freeze assets of Japan and a travel and economic Embargo of Germany. This sent a strong message but in the end was ineffectual. This also led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as it was seen as an act of war by the Japanese. But these policies where implemented as a response for the aggression by the Japanese in Indo-China. We also saw the rise of foreign Fascist Governments using modern multi communications to control the public dialog and the media. There are a lot of modern day similarity, but that’s another article.
1940’s brought on the Second World War and the rise of the war economy as we geared up for the inevitable involvement in the war. After the War we emerged as a world leader and began a period of economic growth in this country that was fueled by a belief in a positive future by the average citizen, and an explosion in the population. The national debt was incredible but that did nothing to slow down the economy as we began to rebuild after the war. Truman Called for an end to segregation and in 1949 NATO was formed.
1950’s we saw this continued feeling of prosperity and possibility but this was tempered by the expansion of the threat of communism. Eisenhower was voted in as President fresh from his victory in Europe and began the most incredible infrastructure construction the U.S. has ever seen. Eisenhower, a Republican, also Desegregated the Military and called for a national Civil Rights act to bring equality to all Americans. 100 Democratic Congressmen signed a “Southern Manifesto” to stop the dismantling of segregation. The Korean Conflict gave birth to the separation of North and South Korea because we didn’t want to upset the Chinese who where backing the Communist North Koreans. MAGA’s love this time period and think this is what we need to go back too, but I don’t think they would be willing to go through another World War to get there, at least I hope not.
1960’s JFK a Democrat runs on a ” Possible Bright Future” platform for the first time. The republicans ran Richard Nixon who was part of the old establishment in Washington and seen by many younger people in the country as part of the problem with Washington. John Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon Johnson became president carrying on the fight for civil rights and if it hadn’t been for our continued involvement in the Vietnam War I believe he would have been held up as the biggest proponent beside Lincoln for human rights. The 60’s where scary for a large portion of the population over the age of 40 the MAGAs where looking to go back to the 50’s and Nixon promised them just that.
1970’s Nixon, a Republican, is in the White House, a notorious anti communist and lets face it a bit of a racist. He is a pawn of big oil and he sends our country into the worst oil shortage we had ever seen. He used the Vietnamese as political pawns and caused huge protests in the streets. He also began talks with China and Russia calling it “Detente”. Nixon was involved in a cover-up exposed by the free press, that forced him to leave office and we ended his time in office with Gerald Ford. Ford was a truly nice person but an ineffectual leader. On to Jimmy Carter probably one of or most intelligent Presidents. He designed Nuclear Submarines and Nuclear reactors. Carter was a man driven by religious belief and always believed in doing the right thing. He attempted to bring down Opec by reducing our usage of foreign oil and reducing the oil shortage in the country. Unfortunately Carter was too nice and an ineffectual politician. During his tenure Carter focused more on foreign policy and unfortunately had a contentious relationship with congress when trying to pass domestic legislation. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Carter told them this would be the end of Detente. Most People don’t know this but Carter tried unsuccessfully to enact a National Medical Insurance.
1980’s Hello Ronald Reagan… Ron Reagan is one of the Presidents MAGAs love to talk about. Which I find most disturbing, Its like they weren’t even there. The republicans love to talk about Reagan like he was a progressive President. But Reagan ran a fear based campaign and kept telling everyone that would listen that He was going to make America Great with questionable economics (Voodoo Economics) ,deregulation of big business whiched caused the closing of plants and the end of the steel industry. Large companies were bought and sold off in pieces and there where massive cut backs in the military including the closing of multiple bases around the world. Unlike other presidents that have closed bases, Reagan didn’t offer anything to the towns who’s income depended on those bases. We also got Iran-Contra and the War on Drugs from this era. the rich got richer and the middle class started to disappear. This era also gave us George H.W. Bush and off to the 90s we go.
1990’s George Bush’s popularity is in the decline and again the people are ready for change along comes William Jefferson Clinton a young Kennedy like figure charismatic and intelligent, Clinton promised an exciting future and like Kennedy sold the story in just the right way. Most of us remember how that all turned out and still plays out in our politics today.
2000 George W Bush I don’t even know where to start between war and economic decline into a second depression it’s just too depressing to think about. then along came Barrack Obama. promise of a new America, an America of equality and a future in green technology and a leader on the world stage. But here come the MAGAs again calling them selves the Tea Party and the Alt Right and talking about making America Great. Are you seeing the pattern … I could start with the plague followed by the dark ages and go on to the age of enlightenment but the pattern of death and rebirth just repeats itself throughout history. So the next time someone says they want to make America Great again ask them, When were we great? And why would we ever go back? The most positive political eras have always focused on the future never the past. People that want to glorify the past tend to have an agenda i.e. Hitler, Richard Spencer, Most religious leaders including ISIS, They use false memories and alternative histories to put forward their agendas based on fear and distrust. Just be careful of these people they never have your best interest in their heart. One final note, I asked my 103 year old Grandmother (born 1898) when she was alive would she like to live in a decade from her past. Her answer was worth volumes “No! Although I’ve seen amazing things in my life, I also lost a lot of loved ones to diseases and war. I like it now.” Gram was right, I like it now with a world of possibilities.