Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Conservative Movement and the Progressive Era

Daily Kos has a little piece quoting Glenn Beck:

I’ve done a lot of reading on history in the last few years and I was amazed to find that what we’re experiencing now is really a ticking time bomb that they designed about 100 years ago, beginning in the progressive movement. And they thought, "you know what, if we just do this and this and this and this, over time if we do it in both the Republican and Democratic parties, we will have our socialist utopia." Well, I say again, two can play at that game. I am drafting plans now to bring us back to an America that our founders would understand. ... We need to start thinking like the Chinese. I’m developing a 100-year plan for America. A 100-year plan. We will plant this idea and it will sprout roots.

The original post doesn't emphasize this, but what's interesting to me here is the idea of the Progressive Era as where every thing went wrong. I've seen this repeatedly in right-wing rhetoric in the last decade. Karl Rove read Robert Wiebe's The Search for Order and saw in it the roots of everything he hates about America. In a New Yorker article several years ago, Rove stressed how the Gilded Age was America's golden age and Progressivism started the ball of socialism rolling. Never mind that Progressivism was more connected to the Republican Party than the Democrats and that no one was more important to this movement than Republican hero Theodore Roosevelt. Rove, Beck, and others are happy to trot Roosevelt out every time they want to invade a country of brown people or make spurious claims that the modern Republican Party really cares about the environment, but they want to forget about the regulatory state he helped build.

It seems quite clear that Rove and especially Beck have no real understanding of Progressivism; in fact, I'd bet Beck couldn't even tell you that Roosevelt was a Progressive. And the fact that these people think the Gilded Age was a wonderful time tells you a whole lot about what these people want this nation to become. If anyone knew anything about the Gilded Age, the Republicans would never win another election, but, alas, they don't. In any case, it's interesting to glimpse the conservative view of history and to see where they think everything went wrong.

Oh for the halcyon days of the U.S. military crushing labor strikes, 14 hour days, child labor, cities without sanitation, women ineligible to vote, lynching, no Chinese immigration, and so many other awesome aspects of the late 19th century!

Also, Obamacare is totally part of a century long conspiracy hatched by Jane Addams, Jacob Riis, and Woodrow Wilson.