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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Blueprint for America's Future (Part Two)

(Editor's note:  This is the second segment in a multi-part series titled A Blueprint for America's Future. The underlying theme highlights the iconic presidential election of 1912, which some believe contains the true blueprint for America's future. The first segment traces Theodore Roosevelt's exit from the Republican Party and the foundation of his new "Progressive" or "Bull Moose" Party.)

Many times, over the years, T.R. compares the machinery of politics to the workings of a kaleidoscope. 
At times brilliant colors and harmonious patterns can be seen, sometimes carefully shaken into shape, sometimes forming of their own accord.  At the slightest hitch, however, brilliance and harmony can fall into jagged disarray, leaving the viewer with clashing colors, shapes and shafts of impenetrable black.

T.R. knows that his third party candidacy is a long shot and that he would not likely win.  But he sees it as his duty.  “My public career will end next election day,” T.R. tells a visitor in the days preceding his new party’s own nominating convention.

He asks his wife to say what she thought of his situation.  A house guest relates that “She was quite radiant with trust and affection, as she expressed her faith that the path through honor to defeat was the one to take.”

T.R.’s transformational embrace of faith cause critics to suggest at the Progressive National Convention in August 1912 that Progressivism is a religion.  He nurtures the theme that he is engaged in Holy Work.

Familiar church hymns ring through the course of the proceedings, which are also held in Chicago, as the delegates sing and chant, surging the religiosity in the hall to the point of delirium.

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

In his acceptance speech for the party nomination, entitled A Confession of Faith, T.R. repeats what he had stated earlier at the Republican National Convention, to a tumultuous response: “I say in closing what in that speech I said in closing: We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.”  A New York Times reporter writes that “It was not a convention at all.  It was an assemblage of religious enthusiasts.”

The mocking prophecy of Eliju Root, US Senator, R-NY, and formerly T.R.’s Secretary of War and then Secretary of State, appears to have been fulfilled: “He aims at a leadership far in the future, as a sort of Moses and Messiah for a vast progressive tide of a rising humanity.”

Jane Addams, a proponent of women’s suffrage, says that “I have been fighting for progressive principles for thirty years.  This is the biggest day in my life.”  The convention commits the Progressive Party to a vast program of social, economic and environmental reform.  T.R. has made Progressivism a “moral” issue, entitled to use a superlative when he calls the program “much the most important public document promulgated in this country since the death of Abraham Lincoln.”  The Progressive motto is to be “Pass prosperity around.”

In his vision of a moral society, ethically based, T.R. poses that the

Material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens.  Just in proportion as the average man and woman are honest, capable of sound judgment and high ideals, active in public affairs, --- but, first of all, sound in their home, and the father and mother of healthy children whom they bring up well, --- just so far, and not farther, we may count on civilization a success.

The soldier, or ordinary citizen, has to have the right stuff in him.  He has to have “the fighting edge, the right character.  The most important elements in any man’s career must be the sum of those qualities which, in the aggregate, we speak of as character.”

We must have the right kind of character --- character that makes a man, first of all, a good man in the home, a good father, and a good husband --- that makes a man a good neighbor.  You must have that, and, then, in addition, you must have the (right) kind of law and the (right) kind of administration of the law which will give to those qualities in the private citizen the best possible chance for development.

It comes as no surprise that the platform of the Progressive Party of 1912 amounts to a re-drafting of T.R.’s New Nationalism program.  It is not matched again for initiative and specificity in detail until the platform of the Democratic Party in 1964.

-Michael D'Angelo

(Editor's note: The third segment in this multi-part series takes the reader on a spiritual journey, as events --- which may only be described here as psychic --- unfold in the weeks leading up to the 1912 general election ...).

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Blueprint for America's Future (Part One)

(Editor's note:  This is the first segment in a multi-part series under title of A Blueprint for America's Future. The underlying series theme highlights the iconic presidential election of 1912, which some believe serves as the true blueprint for America's future.)

2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated by a major national political party for the American presidency, has invested her campaign with the slogan: “Stronger Together: A Blueprint for America’s Future.”

Some students of US history do well to trace this blueprint to the platform of the Democratic Party in 1964.  Others may take it back further to 1932 and Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” agenda.  Still others link the blueprint to its genesis in the iconic three-way presidential election of 1912, Theodore Roosevelt challenging the democratic process to higher ideals.

Several twists and turns bring America to the place it is then situated, as the political calendar turns to 1912.  By the end of his presidency in 1908, T.R. is the Republican heir to Abraham Lincoln’s grand old party and champion of Progressive Era reform.  But against this responsibility he views with consternation the presidency of his hand-picked successor, President Taft, who has ominously transformed into the nation’s top reactionary in the ensuing period between 1908 and 1912.

A series of articles which can be reviewed here traces T.R.’s political transformation to a more spiritual basis during Mr. Taft’s presidency.  Alarmed by Mr. Taft’s passiveness and political about-face, T.R. is compelled to renew the contest, seeking the Republican Party nomination once again in the 1912 election.

The 1912 Republican primary contest is vicious on every level.  It pits President Taft, the conservative, whose powerful base champions the status quo, against T.R., the upstart, whose base favors the continuation of progressive change.

T.R finishes the Republican primary contest in strong fashion, about as well as can be hoped for.  He sweeps through and wins each of the last five voter primaries, including Mr. Taft’s home state of Ohio.  But T.R. finds, as is typically the case, that it is nearly impossible to wrest the nomination from an incumbent president.  At the nominating convention in Chicago, the Republican Party wages an epic, internal civil war battle, whose effects reverberate to the present day.

T.R. concludes his speech at the Republican national convention in an attempt to sway the delegates with the following language:

Assuredly the fight will go on whether we win or lose.  What happens to me is not of the slightest consequence; I am to be used, as in a doubtful battle any man is used, to his hurt or not, so long as he is useful and then cast aside or left to die.    We fight in honorable fashion for the good of mankind; fearless for the future; unheeding of our individual fates; with unflinching hearts and undimmed eyes; we stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.

Never before has T.R. used such evangelical language, or dared to present himself as a holy warrior.  It is also said that never before has he heard such cheering.  Intended or not, he invests progressivism with a divine aura.

But obtaining the Republican Party’s nomination is not to be, coming as no surprise when President Taft’s conservative base carries the day to secure the nomination, beating back the progressive tide.  But the Republican Party that T.R. knew has lost the liberal conscience of Abraham Lincoln’s party.  And everyone knows that the Republican National Committee has decided to field a losing candidate (Mr. Taft) in November (1912), rather than gamble on one (T.R.) who would “radicalize” its “traditional” platform.

In turn, T.R. makes a monumental decision.  He precipitously bolts from the Republican National Convention --- and the Republican Party --- to form the new Progressive Party or “Bull Moose” Party.  The decision is occasioned by what T.R. sees as his compelling sense of duty, his conscience and his station.  Progressive would now contain a capital “P.”

-Michael D'Angelo

(Editor's note: The second segment in this multi-part series covers the 1912 Progressive Party --- or "Bull Moose" --- National Convention and the drafting of its historic progressive platform for the ensuing general election.)