Archive for the 'History Regurgitates Forward' Category

the case of Lawrence Dennis

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

This is an experiment.  I have taken the brief passages concerning Lawrence Dennis — a rather eccentric person in American history, no?, as presented in White Protestant Nation, by Allan J Lichtman, and posted them here.  It’s a slice of the story of how Lichtman presents his view of the history of the “conservative movement” through nine decades, and by slicing out the obscure figure of Lawrence Dennis, I have a conspiratorial connecto that leads from Technocracy through Fascism, (and the internal war against Fascism as rationalization for McCarthyism as “fair turn-about”) on to acceptance of a “leviathan state” by Cold War Conservatism and ends in a carefully planned election of Ronald Reagan.
Is this a convincing story?  No, but I do find it amusing, and I trust somewhat suggestive of the way people can siphon off pieces of history to fit a narrative.:

page 78:  Political theorist Lawrence Dennis gave a sophisticated twist to right-wing thought in The Coming American Fascism, which argued that an Italian – or German-style corporate state was preferable to an otherwise certain communist takeover of the United States.  He said that the United States had better prepare for fascism and make sure that the “right people” ran the new order.  The technocratic movement that swept across America in the early 1930s, with appeal to both the right and the left, also influenced Dennis’s work.  The technocrats preached that with expert planning and direction America could efficiently utilize resources and labor to end the depression and create abundance.  Dennis claimed to have analyzed social trends dispassionately, but the very title of his book made him a notorious figure.

page 119-120:  In July 1942 the Roosevelt administration for the first time deployed its police powers against the right.  About six weeks after federal agents captured a team of German saboteurs in the United States, prosecutors indicted for sedition twenty-eight German agents, Bund members, and far-right activists including Elizabeth Dilling of the Mothers Movement, and shirt leaders Gerald Winrod and Joseph Pelley.  The indictment named the America First Committee and antiwar mother’s groups but no left-wing opponents of war.  The trial began in 1944 under new indictments that dropped the antiwar groups and added the alleged pro-fascist Lawrence Dennis.  Prosecutors charged defendants with violating the Smith Act of 1940 by conspiring with Nazi agents to overthrow the US government.  The trial dragged on through eight inconclusive months and the deaths of the presiding judge.  In 1946 a new judge dismissed all charges, ruling that a new trial would be a “travesty of justice”.
Conservatives charged the president with chilling free speech and tarring his political opposition as anti-Semitic and pro-fascist.  “The crackpots in the so-called sedition trial,” Sterling Morton wrote to Alf Landon, “were the victims of just what the New Dealers would have liked to subject you, Bob Wood, Lindbergh, myself and others if they hadn’t felt that we had too many friends, too much standing, and too many resources to make it worth while.”

page 133 (memo to RNC in 1942):  Dennis warned that eventually it would not matter whether Democrats or Republicans controlled the government.  To fight “Communist sin,” America had to build a bigger and more invasive government than ever before contemplated in its history.  Such a big government regime would strive to master the world and placate America’s masses at home with “New Deal boons.”  You couldn’t “plump for WPA projects for foreigners and none for the home folks,” he wrote.  A postwar crusade would keep Democrats in power for a while, but soon party would become irrelevant.  Neither Democrats nor Republicans could escape the iron logic of the leviathan state.  The antimcommunist campaign would be of “such cosmic magnitude and such indefinite duration that the national undertaking could only be rationally carried out by a single and necessarily, self-perpetuating regime.”  Moreover, postwar government would have to deal with the contradiction between lingering imperialism abroad and Jim Crow at home.

pages 145-146:  Maverick conservative analyst Lawrence Dennis saw his 1942 predictions of Democratic victory and a leviathan state fulfilled in the Truman Doctrine.  “Truman should win in a walk in 1948,” he wrote.  “The Republicans, having accepted the internationalist doctrine in the bi-partisan foreign policy, now lack a basis for a successful opposition. … Accepting the Truman doctrine for a holy war on communist sin all over the world commits America to a permanent war emergency. … The executive has unlimited discretion to wage undeclared war anywhere, anytime he considers our national security requires to blow to be struck for good against sin.”  Why start with Greece and Turkey?  “Answer:  the Standard Oil monopolies in mid-east oil.”

page 203:  As analyst Lawrence Dennis had predicted in 1942, the crusade against “Communist Sin” meant adjusting conservative ideas to accommodate big government.  An early warning came in 1952 from rising conservative star William F Buckley Jr.  “We have to accept Big Government for the duration,” he wrote, “for neither an offensive nor defensive war can be waged, given our present government skills, except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.”  Conservatives had no choice but to embrace “the extensive and productive tax laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-Communist foreign policy.”  Moreover, if “[conservatives] deem Soviet power a menance to our freedom (as I happen to) they will have to support large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards, and the attendant of centralization of power in Washington.”

page 276 :  The “growth and development of a thought-control system,” including “the press, radio, TV, movies, book publishing, and education kept either party from challenging the liberal state.  Echoing conservative analyst Lawrence Dennis’s warnings from the 1940s, Jones wrote that neither party could resist the lure of leviathan government.  He wrote that if Republicans won in 1968, with $200 billion a year to blow, with no real accountability,” they too would exploit “not only the power, but the money of the Federal Government.”
William Baroody, president of the American Enterprise Institute, offered a similarly grim prognosis.  He said that if a liberal malaise swept Democrats from office, conservatives still lacked the ideas and infrastructure needed to turn electoral success into policy change.  Conservative reform “requires a well thought out set of ideas concerning policy if it is to achieve its purpose.”  Instead conservative thinkers were “a lonely lot, supported by only a few. … The alliance with men of affairs must be made now.”  For Richard Ware of the Relm Foundation, which provided financial assistance to conservative scholars, conservatives had to use their resources to “change the tone of academic orthodoxy” through a long-term process that “prepares a climate of thought, ultimately, in which the election of 1980 may be, for a change, uphill-going for the left.”

The Ides of March

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Later on, he provided a lesson to all great men and women who surpass their peers and earn the right to believe themselves entitled to an irrational level of exalted treatment.  This delusion may be unavoidable in those who move the world.  Evidence speaks to that lamentable conclusion.  It is always sad to see the greatly gifted, the geniuses, the truly exceptional turn into honking jerks parading around like pheasants exulting in their plumage.  And yet, in the end, this was what became of Caesar.  His grandiosity stripped the Republic of the illusion of its importance, and that the puffed-up linens of the Senate could not abide.

Before we get there, though, there is a tale of accomplishment that could well be studied by every executive who seeks to be a constructive force, to use power in such a way to transform his or her little corner of the world for the better.  Here are just a few of the things Caesar did in the time that was alloted him — a scant five years at the helm:

Hired experts to create the 365-day calendar, featuring a month named especially after him
Filled vacancies in the Senate, stacking the upper house with his guys, much the way Franklin Roosevelt tried to jam the Supreme Court with partisans, and filled a variety of other posts throughout the infrastructure
Brought back a bunch of executives who had been persecuted by the patricians for diuciary irregularities, mostly bribery.  Since payoffs werre about as common in the Roman corporation at that time as they are now in the Far East and the Mob, prosecution of these offenses were highly selective, and usually focused on guys the suits didn’t like.  In communicating a clean slate, few actions could have been more meaningful to probusiness types
Took control of the electoral process just as surely as the Bushes took Florida in hand, giving the people the right to elect about half of their representatives, as long as they made up their slate from a list of guys he liked
Cut down the number of people on welfare — they received free grain from the state — from 320,000 to 150,000, and better regulated who got put on that list
Decreed that no citizen between the ages of twenty and forty should be out of Italy for more than three years at a time unless it was on military service, keeping the corporate center well stocked with the hale and hearty who might otherwise have gone exploring in the vast world Rome had conquered
Passed a law mandating that all in the business of grazing must make sure that among their herdsmen were at least one third of free birth, ensuring that enterprise did not become solely dependent on slaves, a move somewhat akin to Citibank deciding that some of its telephone representatives must in the future come from somewhere other than Bombay
Made doctors and teachers citizens, improving the status of Rome as a good place to pursue those professions
Regulated the paying back of debts, not canceling them altogether, but eliminating the usurous hikes that had resulted from the innumerable civil wars in recent years
Stiffened penalties for crimes, particularly murders committed by the rich; and enforced existing laws on extravagance that limited the kinds of foods that might be sold and served at Roman tables.  This fit in nicely with one of Caesar’s other traits — a general lack of interest in food and wine
Imposed duties on foreign products, strengthening local operation
Kept the citizenry busy with a bewildering array of public works and projects, including the biggest temple to Mars ever, the filling in of a gigantic pool he had himself created for a mock sea battle he had mounted for the public entertainment; the construction of an enormous theater; the regulation of the proliferation of statuary — some of it quite bad — and their location throughout the corporate center; the opening of more and better libraries with the very best Greek and Latin books; the draining of assorted marshes; the construction of a highway across the Apennine Mountains from the Adriatic to the Tiber; the building of a canal through the Italian isthmus; and many, many more, the number of which were limited only by his prodigious imagination

Many of these endevors were put on a back burner when he was, which seems a shame.  And yet, better men than Casca and Cassius believed it was right to kill him.  Not one or two, but some thirty senators took part in the drill, including the noble fellow who amounted to his stepson, the high-minded Marcus Brutus, descendent (supposedly) of the man who had freed the corporation of its Etruscan kings.  A lot more of those dignificed patricians knew about the plot to murder the leading man of their day, and said nothing.  Why?

Because in the murder of Caesar, we have the perfect interface between self-interest and morality, the killer combination of factors that throughout history, from the Crusades to today’s computerized versions, has fueled more depredations than all others combined.

And our boy?  Like many a chief executive of more recent vintage, sitting with the weight of the world on his shoulders and, perhaps, an intern on his knee, Caesar gave his foes exactly what they wanted.

He accepted all honors that were heaped on him, including the title of Dictator for Life, a position enjoyed in our day only by guys who own, not simply run, their corporations.

He allowed the forname Imperator to be given him, as well as teh name of Pater Patriae — the Father of His Country.  This was very obnoxious to guys who thought their fathers were the fathers of their country.

He was careless in his speech, stating egregious (if true) opinions — like the state was an empty shell, more form over substance; that he was the supreme ruler whose word should be counted as law, that favorites of the past, such as Sulla, were morons, that kind of thing.

When elected officials died in office — even the consul of the corporation — he took it upon himself simply to name a temporary successor, not paying the hereditary dudes the respect they thought they deserved by asking for their opinion.  The irony of protecting a republic through its non-representatives did not seem particularly piquant to the grouchy elite.  He was also fond of:

The commisioning of statues of himself for holy locations
Lounging on a raised couch in a special section of the theater
The wearing of offensively royal purple at all times when a nice magenta would have sufficed
Sitting in state on a specially constructed golden throne while conducting business in the Sneate, whose members continued to maintain a touchy attitude about such gross displays of monarchical splendor
Constructing temples to himself and placing them beside those reserved for the gods…

… and plunging assorted big fat thumbs into the eye of the ruling political and religious pooh-bahs, acts that certainly must have pleased and amused him while being of virtually no utility to the people he had always championed.

Then there was the talk of formally naming him King of Rome.  Sure, he had indicated his unwillingness to take that title… but since of late he had accepted every other title with great pleasure, there were those who doubted his sincerity.  There were even those who believed he was engineering the move.

Rome had had no kings since Junius Brutus thrust them out hundreds of years ago.  The fact that there was no king was a matter of huge pride to the aristocracy that had filled the power gap and benefited from the rise of the Republic and the eviction of a strong, dictatorial monarchy.  There was a lot they would suffer to butter the ego of Caesar.  But some things they could not live with, and being the generation of elite who allowed the return of kings to the corporation was one of them.  As a group, they shared this conviction above all others, and it had the added benefit of making them feel good about themselves.  No kings.  Period.

But Caesar’s grandiosity and narcissism was expanding exponentially, like one of those parade balloons on Thanksgiving morning.  Pretty soon there was no stopping it.  So they began meeting, and in order to appear ethical and moral to themselves, they began mapping out the high tone of the enterprise almost immediately, calling on concepts of liberty and tradition and all kinds of very noble stuff.  In this effort, they were immesurably helped by the participation of several big sheets whose notion of their role in the world were scarcely less elevated than Caesar’s.  In particular, there was Brutus, whose life Caesar once saved on at least one dramatic occasion, and whose mother was a great friend of the great man.  Once Brutus was on board, there was no question in anybody’s mind that they were all doing the right thing.

— Stanley Bing
Rome, Inc.
pgs 118-124

The Federalist Party never got a chance to put the “Every generation of partisan has the need to revamp their reverred president” rule into effect

Monday, February 28th, 2011

That Republican leaders sought to encourage a feeling of popular participation in the affairs of the party and to keep alive popular enthusiasm for the party was well demonstrated by the frequency of party celebrations held throughout the country.  Many of the Republican celebrations which accompanied the inauguration of Jefferson on March 4, 1801, were well-planned, elaborate demonstrations which featured parades, dinners, orations, balls, and other festivities.  These celebrations were repeated in many places in March of each year throughout Jefferson’s administration.  “The 4th of March forms an epoch in the political history of the United States, which ought always to awaken the purest sensations of the American Patriot,” declared a Richmond Republican meeting in announcing “the celebration of that day, which restored to us the genuine principles of ’76, and removed the alarms which had clouded the fairest prospects of American Liberty and Independence.”  Reporting the Republican celebration in New Haven in March 1803, Abraham Bishop enthusiastically pointed out that “the procession extended in close columns through two sides of the public square and consisted of 1108 men.  The whole company far exceeded that on commencements and elections.” […]

In addition to the March 4th Celebrations, there were also the July 4th festivities which came to be separately observed by the two parties in many places.  A July 4th celebration planned and controlled by Republicans meant, as explained by Levi Lincoln, “a republican orator, republican prayers, republican music, republican toasts, and republican songs.”  Special celebrations were also held, the most elaborate and extensive being the celebration of the acquisition of Louisiana.  From Washington, Federalist Congressman Manasseh Cutler reported in January 1804:  “There is a Jubilee proclaimed here by the Democrats. … There is to be such a feast, it is said, as was never known in America, an account of taking possession of Louisiana.  There is to be diners — suppers — balls — assemblies, dances, and I know not what. … The Jubilee is to begin here — but they expect it will run, like wildfire, to every dark and benighted corner of America.”  And spread it did.  Republican newspapers called for a national festival, and Republicans in many parts of the country organized celebrations.  So tremendous was the Philadephia celebration that it must have dominated the life of the city for days, even weeks, before the May 12 Festival.

Federalists replied to the Republican celebrations by observing Washington’s birthday, just before the March 4th festivals, and in other ways calling attention to the first President.  The Worcester Massachusetts Spy, obviously trying to counteract recent Republican demonstrations, devoted most of the issue of March 7, 1804, to publishing Washington’s farewell address. […]

First of all, the Republicans who had successfully turned out John Adams in 1900 campaigned against Adams as long as they could keep alive the memories of the unpopular measures of the administration. […]  Although the Republicans were anxious to keep the name of John Adams associated with the Federalists, they were unwilling to allow the Federalists to claim President Washington.  Federalists made repeated efforts to keep Washington’s name before the public in connection with their party.  They conspicuously celebrated Washington’s birthday.  Federalist party tickets were labelled the “Washington Ticket”, the “Washington and Anti-Embargo Ticket”, and “Washington and Adams Nominations.” […] Republicans in Vermont reacted to Federalist use of Washington’s name by designating their ticket the “Washington and Jefferson Ticket” and referring to the Federalist slate as the “Adams and Hamilton Ticket.”

— Noble E Cunningham, Jr.  The Jefferson Republicans in Power:  Party Operations 1801-1809, yr 1963


What strikes me from this passage (or series of passages, I guess) is we see the earliest example of the theory of Political Party Over-heroship: The Federalist Party reached back to Washington because that’s who they’ve got as the Republican Party today reach back to Reagan because that’s who they’ve got — subsequent politicians have to be dealt with and nodded to pro forma but not too obsequitiously.  Meantime, the opposing party claims the mantle, as much as they can get away with, of the other party’s last hero and claims that “Today’s Federalist Party is not the Party of Washington” or “Today’s Republican Party is not the Party of Reagan” (Good lord, this has to be the most narrowly selected for political purposes thrown up for  for Reagan , though I suppose the same could be said for Reagan in charging the Soviets with breaking this Precious Right… also then again Reagan did the same with Roosevelt with his “Today’s Democratic Party is not the Party of Roosevelt” bravados).

Also, tendencies to see through partisan lenses “the real America”, blocking out the other faction from the picture, the totality of the “republican experience”, and etc.

Get to know a Depression Era Political Demagouge: JR Brinkley

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010


Vote total:
1930 Write-In Campaign for Governor of Kansas
Harry Woodring 217,171
Frank Huacke  216,914
JR Brinkley 183,278 — by a strict count of properly filling in the bubble and writing in name “J R Brinkley”.  From the “Intent of the voter” measure, he would have had 50,000 more votes — and won the election.

Alfred Landon 278,581
Harry Woodring 272,944
JR Brinkley 244,607
(And with Brinkley taking more votes from the Democrat to allow one of the few Republican wins in the anti-Hoover landslide, Landon became “Presidential Timber” enough for the Republican nomination in 1936.)

After settling in tiny Milford, Kansas, in 1917, Brinkley devloped the operation that earned him the title “the goat gland doctor.”  As Brinkley told it, a farmer came to the doctor complaining of impotency.  Looking at several goats mounting each other, Brinkley joked that the patient would have no trouble with sex with those goat sex glands in him.  The patient insisted that Brinkley perform the transplant.  He did, and within a year the farmer’s wife gave birth to a boy, Billy.  For years afterword, Brinkley offered his goat gland transplant for nearly any problem that could be classified as “failing manhood.”  In the mid 1930s Brinkley abondoned transplantation for other, equally questionable procedures, but the goat gland reputation stuck with him.
Bruce Lenthal Radio’s America, 122

Quacks and Crsuaders, Eric S Juhnke, page 18-19, 22
Brinkley also catered to religious voters.  As a committed Methodist and outspoken antievolutionist, he had earned a reputation as a fundamentalist.  His KFKB broadcasts had often combined medicine and religion.  And he took his Bible with him on the campaign trail.  With his Van Dyke beard, totoise shell spectacles, white suit, and diamond rings, he seemed the precursor of some of today’s televangelists.  His words helped complete the costume.  “I don’t talk politics on Sunday,” he announced to a crowd of twenty thousand Kansans convened in a pasture outside Wichita.  Instead, he preached a Sermon.  “”The men in power wanted to do away with Jesus before the common people woke up.  Are you awake here?” he asked.  “I too have walked up the path Jesus walked to calvary, … I know how Jesus felt.”
Brinkley embraced such criticism as further evidence of his martyrdom.  In a campaign flyer, he suggested that his enemies had become “desparate” in their attempt to derail his campaign.  He revealed that he had discovered a conspiracy to kidnap and kill Johnny Boy in order to “break [his] morale and cause [him] to give up in despair.”  Others, Brinkley reported, had “decided that [the doctor] himself must be disposed of at all costs.”  He claimed that Governor Woodring had “extended executive clemency to certain inmates of the Lansing Prison” if they killed him before the 8 November election.  Although the rumors had no basis, Brinkley was frightened enough to order a bulletproof vest for his protection.

Gerald Carson, The Roguish World of Dr. Brinkley, 1960
With his radio slogan: “Let’s pasture the goats on the statehouse lawn,” Dr. Brinkley became a powerful focus for underground sentiment.  If he wasn’t a political pro, he certainly was a gifted amateur and he promised plenty — free schoolbooks, free auto tags, lower taxes, a good housecleaning at the statehouse, better times for the working people, an open door to the governor’s office, and a lake in every county.  The water evaporated from the lakes would be precipitated on Kansas and the state would become Canaan.  It was a program of uplift, happiness, clean-up, good health, lower taxes, higher property values and more migratory game birds.

A startling hodgepodge of a newspaper, Publicity, with a strong political bent, plunked for Brinkley.  It was frequently asserted, and always denied by Doctor, that he had bought the publication to advance his political, and indeed, medical activities.  To Publicity Doc was the “Lincoln of Kansas.”  It serialized The Life of a Man, and also sold the hard covered book.  Publicity also approved of naturopaths, electrotherapy, chiros, Pernuna, and W.W. Cooper, the Altoona, Pennsylvania Cancer Man.  Later in the decade, the sheet became violenty isolationist, and supported Hitlerian race theories. — 169

(At which time, Dr. Brinkley formed a working relationship with Gerald Winrod, and was credited with inspiring a revival of the KKK in Kansas.)
(I assume the broadcasts at this time are available in this fine assemblage.)

Dr. Brinkley’s appeal at the ballot box, viewed now in historical perspective, thrived on the Depression.  His popularity was an expression of radical discontent with the two major parties.  Some citizens — as a kind of Rabelasian outburst — voted for Doctor without fully swallowing his panaceas.  His exploitation of his “persecution” won him the sympathy vote.  His counter-attack on the medical profession rallied all the popular prejudices against Scientific Medicine as opposed to the appeal of Brinkley’s own surgical mysteries and patent medicines.  Brinkley used the language of the Lodge, appealed to the same gullibles who supported Huey Long, Cole Blease, and “Big Bill” Thompson. […]
William Allen White had a theory to explain the support of the Brinkley, Longs, and Thompsons.  About 20 percent of the population is permanently gullible, any time, in any place, White said.  “In  every civilization there is a moronic underworld which cannot be civilized.  It can be taught to read and write, but not to think, and it lives upon the level of its emotions and prejudices.”

(Undoubtedly This book has more on the “Brinkley Act“.  Always good when your actions inspire a law.)

Theodore Roosevelt’s failure to reform the English language

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Some weeks back, an amusing story popped into the “Oddball” corner of the news media.  There was a small group of protesters marching and waving angry signs in front of the National Spelling Bee Championships, favoring Phoenetic Spelling.

The protesters believe English is mired by too many spellings for identical sounds and too many sounds for identical spellings. If they got their way, “you” would become “yoo,” “believe” would become “beleev” and “said” would become “sed.”

The cost of clinging to traditional spellings, they say, is millions of illiterate English speakers who struggle to read signs or get good jobs, and billions of dollars in lost productivity.

The campaign for simple spelling, which activists say started more than 100 years ago, is experiencing a revival with kids who have taken wholeheartedly to phonetic spelling in electronic messages.

Laugh all you want, but there is a tradition here.  One of the big Champions of their cause was President Theodore Roosevelt.  But that was part of the problem.

The Simplified Spelling Board was founded on March 11, 1906 in New York. Included among the Board’s original 26 members were such notables as author Samuel Clemens (“Mark Twain”), library organizer Melvil Dewey, U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Brewer, publisher Henry Holt, and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lyman Gage. Brander Matthews, professor of dramatic literature at Columbia University, was made chairman of the Board. […]

The cause of throwing out the “gh”s in words such as “through” faltered due to the classic problems of incrementalist causes dying on the vine, and the power-fights of different branches of the government.

So as not to overwhelm the country with an entire new way of spelling at once, the Board recognized that some of these changes should be made over time. To focus their push for adaptation of new spelling rules, the Board created a list of 300 words whose spelling could be changed immediately.

The idea of simplified spelling caught on quickly, with even some schools beginning to implement the 300-word list within months of it being created. As the excitement grew around simplified spelling, one person in particular became a huge fan of the concept – President Teddy Roosevelt.

Unbeknownst to the Simplified Spelling Board, President Theodore Roosevelt sent a letter to the United States Government Printing Office on August 27, 1906. In this letter, Roosevelt ordered the Government Printing Office to use the new spellings of the 300 words detailed in the Simplified Spelling Board’s circular in all documents emanating from the executive department.

President Roosevelt’s public acceptance of simplified spelling caused a wave of reaction. Although there was public support in a few quarters, most of it was negative. Many newspapers began to ridicule the movement and lambasted the President in political cartoons. Congress was especially offended at the change, most likely because they had not been consulted. On December 13, 1906, the House of Representatives passed a resolution stating that it would use the spelling found in most dictionaries and not the new, simplified spelling in all official documents. With public sentiment against him, Roosevelt decided to rescind his order to the Government Printing Office.

Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidential Papers are full of what at first appears to be misspellings, but really are examples of his fight toward “Simplified Spelling”.


As with many a matter, I don’t quite know if Theodore Roosevelt should be considered as perpetuating Anti-Intellectualism or if he was onto something (ahead of his time in the spelling Revolution to come with the advent of text-messaging)– but maybe my equivocation is due to wanting to maintain a line of ridicule if Sarah Palin picked up on the cause.  Tactically speaking, today’s incarnation of the “Simplified Spelling” cause would do well to hold an alternate Spelling Bee and see what happens.

Freaks of the Past

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
One more thing to add to  — oh, Guardians of America‘s cause, and the Selah man who threatened Patty Murray, and then there’s also Hutaree particularly with the last paragraph I’m posting here.  A tad bit of historical reference.
George Thayer, The Farther Shores of Politics: The Political Fringe in America Today  , 1968, from p 127-137

Robert Bolivar DePugh, a forty-four-year-old businessman from Norbourne, Missouri, is the leader of the most publicized and perhaps the largest Minuteman group in the country.  The impetus for such an organization grew out of a duck-hunting trip in 1960 when one member of the party said jokingly, refering to the interational political scene, that if worse came to worst and the Russians invaded, they — the duck hunters — could at least take to the hills and fight as a guerilla band.  DePugh and his friends took the remarks seriously. […]

DePugh records that “it came as a shock to suddenly realize that in the seventeen previous years the Communists had succeeded in taking over seventeen soveriegn nations.  We were surprised also to learn that only one had been taken over by military conquest.  The other sixteen were lost to Coummunism by internal subversion or negotations.”  Eventually DePugh and the others came to the following conclusions.  […]

4.  A Pro-American government could no longer be established by normal political means. …
5.  The minority blocs, controlled labor unions and corrupt political machines so completely monopolize the American political scene that there is no chance for the average American citizen to regain control of his own destiny at the ballot box. …
6. … any further effort, time or money spent in trying to save our country by political means would be wasted. […]
Therefore the objectives of the Minutement are to abandon useless efforts and begin immediately to prepare for the day when Americans will once again fight in the streets for their lives and their liberty.  We feel there is overwhelming evidence to prove that this day must come.

DuPugh heightens this stark pessimistic view of the political situation by larding his rhetoric and prose with a deep strain of potential violence.  The most celebrated example, and the one that brought DuPugh’s Minutemen to national attention, appeared in the 15 March 1963 issue of On Target, the group’s newssheet.  The story was directed to twenty US Congressmen who had voted against an appropriation for the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and read, in part.:

See the old man at the corner where you buy your papers?  He may have a silencer equipped pistol under his coat.  That extra fountain pen in the pocket of the insurance salesman that calls on you might be a cyanide gas gun.  What about your milkman?  Arsenic works slow but sure.  Your automobile mechanic may stay up nights studying your booby traps.
These patriots are not going to let you take your freedom away from them.  They have learned the silent knife, the strangler’s cord, the rifle that hits sparrows at 200 yeards.  Only their leaders restrain them.
Traitors beware!  Even now the cross-hairs are on the back of your necks.

Once the Communists have taken over, he sees a long internal struggle between the left and the right.  “In other words, this may be a long period of assassination and counter-assassination, of terror and counter-terror.  In this I feel we have one big edge because we feel that our knowledge of the left wing is far greater than their knowledge of the right wing, so far as identities are concerned.” […]

As for security, DePugh has many suggestions.  “Use deceptive measures,” he advises: subscribe to left-wing periodicals to keep an eye on your opposition (this, adds DuPugh, “will keep the postal inspector guessing as to which side you are really on”); use two envelopes in sending mail, never put a return address on the outside one, send the letter indirectly, perferably through a friend; place opaque material such as tin foil inside the envelope to keep the letter “from being read by infra-red cameras”; prepare telephone codes in advance; make sure a prospective recruit is not an infiltrator before identifying yourself as a member; undercover Minutemen should not fraternize with known Minutemen; do not write patriotic letters to newspapers; classify all correspondence “top secret,: “secret,” or “restricted”; prepare rendezvous points and mail drops and change them frequently; contribute money to Minutemen with cash; observe the “need to know” rule; keep records in code; avoid being followed, take evasive action if necessary; and so on. […]

When it comes to guerilla exercises in the woods, DePugh turns silent.  His reticence is due to a combination of factors: he no doubt revels in the mystery which he can draw, he quite justifiably fears legal reprisals; and finally, and most important of all, he fears ridicule that would destroy his group for good.

Forgotten Political History, a demonstration of just how flaky our Democracy has been

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

An odd element of the manners of Black History Month which I thought I’d get to after that month ended.  We meet up with some of the great Black Political Activists in American History.  Frederick Douglas, even Booker T Washington, W E B Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr.  People who have read books you need to read.
But you know what?  Let’s give up to the Political Hacks!  Vilified in the most hypocritical of matters through the first half of the last century, called “venal” and “corrupt”, and “locusts”, they are responsible for the nomination and presidency of William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Herbert Hoover.  They functioned as any political party whose voting base had been systematically kicked off the voting rolls would.

A quick note from a book from Sarah Vowell, to note that I don’t think it’s quite accurate.

McKinley and Mark Hanna, already innovators in corporate campaign contributions, were the first Republicans to actively woo white (male) southern Democrats.  (The two made a point of vacationing in Thomasville, Georgia — where Hanna’s brother Mel had bought a plantation for cheap — in 1895, where they planned the ’96 campaign and courted local pols.)
Another milestone in the history of how the party of Lincoln became the party of, say, late South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond
[…] — Sarah Vowell, Assassination Vacation, page 201

Nay, the disruption away from the “Party of Lincoln” and to the — well, Party of James Blaine, actually — probably best is pointed at the end of the Grant Administration.  1874 mid-term elections.  The Democratic Party in the South forced into place a one party state with the instrument of the Ku Klux Klan, and the North quit caring.

A funny thing about this wikipedia article on “lily-whites“.  There is no “Black and Tans” article, sequestered into the disambiguation page.

Black and Tans, a faction within the Republican Party (U.S. political party) based in the Southern United States and comprised primarily of African-Americans generally dependent upon the national party for patronage appointments from Reconstruction and continuing into the 1950s.[citation needed] The Black and Tans provided the only significant opposition to the white Democratic Party of the so-called Solid South.

The Republican nominees picked up whoever would give them the votes.  The factions veered into the Republican Convention every four years moving into floor debate for who gets to be seated.  Mark Hanna started the trend of selecting whichever delegation selection would give them the votes.

At the 1916 convention, the last one before state delegations were reapportioned on the basis of the number of votes cast in the last election, “Southern delegates occupied 348 of 987 seats, or 36.3 per cent of the total number of delegates.”  This had been generally the case since 1876, the last year that Southern States gaave any electoral votes to a Republican Presidential candidate.  Possessing one-third of the delegates in almost all conventions until 1916, the Lily-white and Black and Tan factions thus became crucial to any Presidential aspirant.
Even after 196, when the national convention moved to reduce southern representation because of its lack of vote-getting power, southern delegations still comprised nearly one-fifth of each successive national convention.

Such is the existence of a political party when organized terrorism disenfranchises its voting electorate.

“Many of the parting scenes,” states John Lynch, a Black politician in Mississippi during Reconstruction, “that took place between the colored men and the whites who decided to return to the fold were both affecting and pathetic in the extreme.”

Describing one such parting, Lynch says that the Black president of a local Republican club, Sam Henry, was urging a white ex-confederate Colonel James Lusk to stay within the party ranks for the benefit of all.:
“Oh!  No, Colonel,” Henry cried.  “I beg of you do not leave us.  If you leave us, hundreds of others in your immediate neighborhood will follow your lead.  We will thus be left without solid and substantial friends.  I admit that with you party affiliation is optional, with me it is different.  I must remain a Republican whether I want to or not.  I plead with you, don’t go.”
“The statement you made, Henry, that party affiliation with me is optional,” the Colonel answered, “is presumed to be true; but in point of act it is not.  No white man can live in the South in the future and act with any other than the Democratic Party unless he is willing to live a life of social isolation and remain in political oblivion. … Besides, I have two grown sons.  There is, no doubt, a bright, brilliant, and successful future before them if they are Democrats; otherwise, not.  If I remain in the Republican Party — which can hereafter exist in the South only in name — I will thereby retard, if not more, and possibly destroy their future.”
[John R Lynch The Facts of Reconstruction]

The wikipedia missive might have been off.

134 – 135  In 1928 Presidential hopeful Hebert Hoover used Black and Tan factions in various southern states to secure his nomination.  After obtaining the nomination, he then “created, under the chairmanship of separate campaign committee “to drum up the white southern vote independently of the regular Black and Tan state organizations.”  After his inauguration, Hoover praised the existing lily-white Republican organizations in the South and announced his full support for them.  He removed such Black and Tan leaders as Ben Davis of Georgia, William (Goose Neck Bill) McDonald in Texas and Walter L. Cohen in Louisiana, turning their top state party positions over to whites.  He also launched an investigation of Perry Howard, the head of the Mississippi Black and Tans, and Howard was subsequently removed from his position and shorn of party power under charges of bribery and sale of federal offices.

[…] White Democrats in Mississippi came to Howard’s aid and testified in his behalf.  The chief justice and associate justice and the clerk of the state Supreme Court, some of the major newspapers in the South wrote editorials and numerous Democratic politicians wrote glowing letters and made speeches in his behalf.  The basic reason for this support was that federal jobs obtained by Howard as patronage (or any other Black and Tan Leader) were often sold to White Democrats.  Blacks could not hold positions like third and fourth class postmasterships in the South, so such positions and other jobs which could only be held by whites were sold to them by Black Republicans.  There were never enough “White Republicans” to go around for all the available federal jobs in the South so they went to the Democrats.  Hence, the gratitude and support for Howard.

WE Du Bois made the point that Perry Howard did just about the same thing, and played the same function, that the Lily White function Herbert Hoover was now favoring had been doing.  Yet, the fight went on after Hoover won several southern states against his Catholic opponent.

Sadly, here is wikipedia’s stubby article on Perry Howard.  The paucity of information isn’t the problem.  The problem is it’s not linked up to the other Patronage Kings that were the Republican Party of the South, such as “Tireless Joe Tolbert” of South Carolina.  Excerpts from Black Republicans: the Politics of the Black and Tans, Hanes Walton, Jr…. 1975.

However, in 1900, a white man, Joseph W Tolbert (nicknamed Tireless Joe or Fighting Joe– because he was a delegate or a contestant for a seat at every Republican national convention from 1900 to 1944) rebuilt the Republican Party in the state, organizing it into a unit which “consisted of himself, a few other whites, and several hand-picked negroes over the state”.  The purpose of the Tolbert organization was to choose delegates to the national convention and to distribute patronage to its members, particularly to Tolbert.  Tolbert added several blacks to ensure his group a seat at the national Republican Convention — racial composition was a major argument at credentials hearings and a mixed delegation usually fared better than a Lily-White one/ […]

Tolbert’s Black and Tan Republicans didn’t go unchallenged.  Another white South Carolinian, seeing the befits accruing to Tolbert’s Black and Tans and understanding that occasionally the national convention seated lily white delegations, organized such a group for his own enrichment.  This man, Joe Hambright of Rock Hill, in October 1930 organized his Republican group along the lines similar to Tolbert’s with only one exception — Hambright excluded Blacks.  Hambright’s Lily – Whites, like Tolbert’s Black and Tans, made no effort to attract supporters or participate in state politics.  They only challenged the Black and Tans at the national convention.

The efforts of Tireless Joe and Hambright made the South Carolina Republican Party a national joke and in 1938, J Bates Gerald, a wealthy lumberman, formed another Republican group to challenge the old Black and Tan and Lily White Groups.  Gerald, understanding the importance of delegation composition, got three white “approved” blacks, all from the middle class, to dispose of Tolbert’s main argument at the national convention — that of racial composition.  Moreover, while Tolbert’s Blacks were handpicked and considered safe and loyal to him, the Gerald – led Republicans selected their blacks to a convention or executive convention fashion.  This strengthened their case and in 1940 […]

Beat Tolbert, 12 years later kicked out the blacks.

The “Heated Rhetoric” card and the attempted assassination of Andrew Jackson

Monday, September 21st, 2009

No incident of this session so well illustrates the partisan bitterness and the venomous nature of the hates engendered by the struggles of the preceding years as the attempt on the life of Jackson at the Capitol on January 30, 1835.  Under normal conditions and in ordinary times the incident would have been dismissed, and, properly, ascribed to the insanity of the assailant.  But it was the first time an attempt had been made upon the life of a President — and it was a President who had been intermperately denounced as a tyrant, despot and wrecker of American institutions and liberties.  Just as John Tyler had instantly thought of “political effect,” the ardent friends of Jackson caught the same idea from the opposite angle.  And two days later, Frank Blair in the “Globe” threw out the suggestion of a conspiracy.  “Whether Lawrence [the assailant] has caught, in his visits to the Capitol, the mania which has prevailed the last two sessions of the Senate,” he wrote, “whether he has become infatuated with the chimeras which have troubled the brains of the disappointed and ambitious orators who have depicted the President as a Caesar who ought to have a Brutus; as a Cromwell, a Nero, a Tiberius, we know not.  If no secret conspiracy has prompted the perpetration of the horrid deed, we think it not improbable that some delusion of intellect has grown out of his visits to the Capitol, and that hearing despotism and every horrible mischief threatened to the Republic, and revolution and all its train of calamities imputed as the necessary consequence of the President’s measures, it may be that the infatuated man fancied that he had reason to become his country’s avenger.  If he had heard and believed Mr. Calhourn’s speech of day before yesterday, he would have found in it ample justification for his attempt on one who was represented as the cause of the most dreadful calamities of the Nation; as one who made perfect rottonness and corruption to pervade the vitals of the Government, insomuch that it was scarcely worth preserving, it it were possible.”

The intimation here thrown out was bitterly resented by the Opposition leaders, and particularly Calhourn, who was mentioned.  The very fact that the intemperate and insincere denunciations of high officials as responsible for the distress of the people, acting upon the diseased brain, can very easily persuade the madman to constitute himself the executioner, served to infuriate the orators who had given themselves full play.  Stung to the quick, Calhourn denounced the “Globe” as “base and prostitute” and described it as “the authentic and established organ” of Jackson, “sustained by his power and pampered by his hands.”  “To what was are we coming?” he exclaimed.  “We are told that to denounce the abuse of the Administration even in general terms, without personal reference, is to instigate the assassination of the Chief Executive. . . . I have made up my mind as to my duty.  I am no candidate for any office — I neither seek nor desire place — nothing shall intimidate — nothing shall prevent me from doing what I believe is due to my conscience and my country.”  Mr. Calhourn sat down — and Mr. Leigh immediately rose to present a report from the Committee on Revolutionary Claims.

But Mr. Calhourn’s attack on the “Globe” was not unnoticed by Blair, who replied by quoting from the most venomous portions of Calhourn’s and Preston’s tirades on the Post-Office report.  A week later the Administration organ was still harping on conspiracy.  “Every hour,” wrote Blair, “brings new proof to show that Lawrence has been operated on to seek the President’s life, precisely as we had supposed from the moment we learned that he had been an attenant on the debates in Congress.”

Very soon the capital was startled with the connection of Senator Poindexter’s name with that of the assailant.  The obsession took possession of Jackson that his Mississippi enemy had instigated the attempt at assassination.  The examination of Lawrence had clearly established his insanity; just as clearly shown that he had taken to heart the charges of Jackson’s enemies that he was responsible for the distress of the people.  Finding himself hard pressed by fate , and ascribing his unhappiness to the tyranny of Jackson, he had determined to kill him.  That explanation was convincing and sufficient.  But the suggestion that Poindexter had planned the deed fell on receptive soil.  Affadivits had been placed in Jackson’s hands to the effect that “a gentleman who boarded in the same house informed him that Mr. Poindexter had interviews with Lawrence but a few days before the attempt on the President’s life.”  Some time before the attack, “a captain in high standing in the navy” had said that Poindexter, on a voyage to New Orleans, had threatened
(etc etc)

The Party Battles of the Jackson Period
Claude Bowers, 1922
pages 376 – 379

dissembling roosevelt

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

In 1937, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader — Joseph Robinson — passed away, opening up a contest to fill that spot between Alben Barkley and Pat Harrison.  Barkley won by a vote of 38 to 37 — Roosevelt favoring the more reliable Barkley, playing a two-faced game of “impartiality” in the manner but offering the key assistance.  Everyone immediately posed for “Party Unity” photographs, shaking hands, praises all around, publicized conferences.

And Pat Harrison used the opportunity to separate himself more fully from the president.  The anti-New Deal Democrat nucleus for the Senate that consisted of Joshiah Bailey, Millard Tydings, Carter Glass, and Harry Byrd expanded as Roosevelt’s Court Fight went under way.  When Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts bowed to political pressures and switched his judicial decisions from conservative to liberal — a bullwark of opposition that some skeptical Conservative (largely Dixiecrat) Democrats had leaned on to serve as a line of Obstructionism they would not have to force themselves – served to move them further afield — during the War period, opposing every Domestic policy of the Roosevelt administration en masse.

 How this plays in terms of modern day politics and the sudden comparisons to needing act like Roosevelt, I can’t say.  Perhaps there is a “Use It or Lose It” lesson for Obama, or rather a “Watch your back”.  Or perhaps there is a lesson there in getting around devolved and artificial political procedural norms.  But when dis-sembling Roosevelt,…

Garfield’s Assassination, part 2

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

This is Garfield’s congregation.  Which puts into perspective Garfield’s diary excerpt the week before calling a sermon “a very stupid sermon on a very great subject”.

He who studies the movement of American society cannot fail to see that we are under a reign of selfishness in striking contrast to 40 years ago.  As one newspaper said this morning, office-seeking, office-hunting, and looking after spoils have become the main object of life.  Each man is trying his best to crowd the others out.  We are having disgraceful political fights, and we may expect to see these scenes intensified.  Money, money is the craze all over the land; get money, no matter how, is the popular cry.  Why?  Because pleasure is the chief end of man.  Such is the tone of American society today, and it grieves me to say it.  Its apostles are lionized.  The men who are stabbing American morals and constitutional government to the vitals are held up as emamples to follow and admire.  I say to you that the President’s assassination is directly chargeable to this philosophy of good living that is pervading the minds of the public today, and assassinations will be multiplied unless we call a halt.  I predict that in less than 25 years, if matters go as they are going, we will have the Roman Arena in this country, and I do not think it improbable that gladiatorial combat will be restored.

I have thought proper, my dear friends, to make these remarks to you today to call your attention to the calamity which has occurred, and to the real reason for it.  Under the utterances of the assassin we discover the principles of epicurean philosophy.  May be the God, in His goodness, intended to awaken them.  One reason I had hoped against hope for the President’s restoration to health is that I cannot help but think he has a great work to perform.  Still, it may be taht more can be accomplished by his death than by his recovery.  I doubt not that a great work was accomplished by the death of Abraham Lincoln.  I never doubted that his murder was providential.  Even the assassin who stuck with such vengeful fury yesterday may have brought good which could not have been secured in any other way.  Let us pray, if God wishes, that he will continue the life of James A Garfield.   [Amen]  It is right in any event that our prayers should go up to that end.  But if God in his providence thinks it better to take James A Garfield to himself, we may be content to see him die.

— Rev. M. Harbison, visiting for Rev Power, Church of Disciples


Our much boasted universal suffrage, our power and our shield, as in our enthusiasm we are want to term it, is not without its drawbacks, not without its dangers to our Nation.  I believe in popular suffrage to the full; but in the name of intelligence and virtue and common honesty, not say decency, I am against the system that places unrestricted power in the hands of the paupers and criminals whom Europe is pouring upon our shores by tens of thousands.
— Reverend Dr. JP Newman

Philadelphia Press
We have not yet become so Mexicanized that assassination is employed as a political weapon.  This crime, which plunges a whole Nation into sorrow, is the deed of one maddened fanatic, crzed it may be, by political excitement and wrought into a morbid state by imaginary wrongs, but representing nothing but his own insanity.
Pastors through, some more news items.
Washington Star
Laying aside its effects upon the incumbent of that high place and those immediately connected with him, and without attaching much importance to the character or purpose of the murderer, the fat that two Presidents have fallen by the bullet of an assassin, raises the question whether the simple surroundings and quiet modes of life heretofor adopted by our Presidents are consistent with the genious of our institutions and becoming to the head of a Republican form of government are, after all, wise and sufficiently safe.  If the Chief Executive of the Nation is to be a target for the bullet of lunatics, disappointed aspirants for office, or political malcontents, it will be necessary to surround the office and its incumbent by more formal and efficient means of protection than have yet been devised or thought necessary.

And you got to love the British Tories!

London Standard
It would almost seem as if a wave of revolutionary ruffianism is passing over the world.  We are not alone in suffering from its violence.  It is not England only, nor yet only Russia, only Germany, only Italy, that feels the shock.  The American Republic itself has just experienced its malevolence in a peculiarly painful manner.  It matters not whether the assassin of President Garfield had or had not associates in his hateful enterprise.  His act was revolutionary, was ruffianly, and was stamped with that vicious character of personal vengeance which marks all the attempts of the party of disorder.  They do not even aim at a rough sort of justice.  All they seek to do is to kill somebody or other, to alarm a great number of persons, and to disconnect society.  They seek to establish a reign of terror by spasmodic explosions, by irregularly recurring strokes of the dagger, by all and every of the fitful expedients of vague and general vengeance.  The American people are much too shrewd to be the dupes of the blatant adventurers who seek to raise a skirmishing fund to put an end to the tyranny of Great Britain.  They know thoroughly well that if England is suffering from any disease or any cause whatever, it is not from too little liberty, but from too much; not from the cankor of tyrnny, but from the enfeeblement of that just authority and those legitimate restraints, without the cooperation of which society never yet was held together.  Knowing this, and reflecting upon it, they will hardly refrain from drawing the conclusion that what is our case today may be theirs tomorrow.