December 17, 2012

Elephant Ghosts in the Room. ~ Tom Degan


Whenever the name Abraham Lincoln reenters our national conversation it always elevates us as a nation.

The new film Lincoln, based on Doris Kearns-Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals,” is doing quite well—critically and at the box office. Suddenly our 16th president is everywhere, even making the cover of Time magazine recently.

There’s a good reason that this man’s face is gracing the front of so many newspapers and periodicals nearly 150 years after his passing. He still matters. When was the last time you heard the name of his successor, Andrew Johnson, mentioned in any context?

President Lincoln was the first Republican to live in the Executive Mansion (as the White House was officially called in his time). He was also—unarguably—one of our greatest presidents. With his party imploding before our very eyes, the GOP is at the moment desperate for some positive publicity. You would think that they would be bending over backwards to point out to the masses that they are the political descendants of Abraham Lincoln, wouldn’t you?

And yet they barely acknowledge him. Why do you think that is?

I have a theory: from its founding in the 1830’s the Democratic party had the albatross of the southern racists hanging around its neck. Indeed, for slightly over a century after the end of the Civil War, relatively few whites in the old confederacy would register with the Republicans. It was, after all, the party of “that bearded bastard that freed our slaves”.

In 1964 and 1965 when President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil and Voting Rights Acts into law, there soon followed a mass-exodus of bigots who fled the Democrats.

Pop quiz: Which party did they flee to? Go on, take a wild guess! Prior to the 1960’s, Republicans took understandable pride in their connection to the Great Emancipator. That is not the case anymore. The ideological descendants of the Dixiecrats of old who now pollute the GOP would rather not be reminded of their connection to Abe Lincoln thank you very much.

They know damned well that if the people take a real close look, they’ll see quite clearly that the agenda of the modern-day Republican party is anathema to everything that President Lincoln stood for.

Don’t go there. And please never again refer to it as “the party of Abraham Lincoln.” His influence on the GOP ended at 7:22 on the morning of April 15, 1865 when he breathed his final breath.

Abraham Lincoln’s image is carved for all eternity onto the face of Mount Rushmore—as is Theodore Roosevelt’s. Think about that: two Republicans—and not a single freakin’ Democrat! Washington and Jefferson (the other two faces on Rushmore) were long-dead by the time the Democratic party was formed. The Republicans should be proud of that, don’cha think?

But no, Teddy Roosevelt, another president who deserves to be placed in the “great” category, is the invisible man as far as these knuckleheads are concerned—and with jolly good reason. 

We demand that big business give the people a square deal; in return we must insist that when anyone engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right he shall himself be given a square deal. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

If the Republicans of his day had their way, TR would never have been president. They made him William McKinley’s vice-president because he was causing so many headaches for them as the reform-minded governor of New York. They needed to find a place for him where he couldn’t do any harm. In that time the office of VP was without worth or power.

This was long before the invention of Dick Cheney.

Mark Hannah was to President McKinley what Karl Rove was to George W. Bush. He condescendingly dismissed Roosevelt as “that damned cowboy.” In September of 1901 McKinley was assassinated.

That damned cowboy was now president of the United States. Oops.

Were Theodore Roosevelt to rise from the dead tonight and announce his intention to run for the office of the President in 2016, he would most definitely be handed the nomination—from the Democrats. The Republicans wouldn’t nominate him to run as Sanitation commissioner of Oyster Bay, New York.

In fact, four years after he left the presidency he sought the office again. In 1912 Roosevelt was bitterly disappointed that his hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, had been wooed and won by the right-wing of the Republican party. He challenged Taft in the primaries and arrived at the convention in Chicago with more than enough delegates to rightfully claim the nomination.

The plutocrats who controlled the Republican party weren’t about to let that happen.  They had enough of Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive reform. The title of standard-bearer went to Taft.

Theodore Roosevelt bolted the Republicans at that moment and ran as a third-party candidate. He called it the “Progressive Party” but it was popularly known as the “Bull Moose Party”. During that campaign one-hundred years ago a madman fired a gun at Roosevelt, the bullet lodging near his left lung. Unbelievably he insisted on giving the hour-long speech he was scheduled to make at that moment.

“It takes more than a bullet to kill a bull moose!” he said. The guy was incredible.

Roosevelt’s insurgent candidacy ended up splitting the GOP vote that year. The White House would go to a former Princeton professor and New Jersey governor named Woodrow Wilson.

When Theodore Roosevelt died in the early morning hours of January 6, 1919, the progressive wing of the Republican party died with him. They’re gone forever.


Dwight David Eisenhower is another Republican whose name is never mentioned by his political heirs. I wonder why?

Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear from that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things…their number is negligible and they are stupid. ~ Dight D. Eisenhower

Oh, that’s why. Eisenhower can’t be accused of political pandering when he made that statement. It is quoted from a private letter he wrote to his brother Edgar and was never meant for public consumption. It only came to light decades after his death in 1969. 

That’s right, boys and girls, old Ike was a progressive Republican! Believe it or not, such a political animal did exist at one time in this country. They’re pretty much extinct now. Although his foreign policy left a bit to be desired, domestically he get’s a high grade.

When Dwight Eisenhower lived in the White House, he understood that investing in America was the key to its success—not reducing the taxes for a class of people who already had more money than they knew what to do with. In fact, in his time, some of the richest one percent were taxed at a ninety percent rate. Eisenhower never had the need—nor the desire—to change things.

The interstate highway system that we now take for granted was created under his watch. Before that, if you wanted to drive from Chicago to Los Angeles, you had to get your kicks on Route 66—a two lane highway! Can you imagine?

Thankful for this nation’s infrastructure, crumbling though it may be? Tip your hat to Republican president Eisenhower.

These three chiefs executive—Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower—are just three reasons the present-day Republican party have to feel justly proud. Isn’t it funny that not one of them are ever mentioned in the GOP’s campaign literature?

What’s even funnier is the fact that most of the grand old partiers who lived in the White House are remembered today as complete failures. Reading their propaganda you would think that Ronald Reagan was the first Republican president, wouldn’t you? History’s final judgement has yet to catch up to Reagan. It will, though. It will.

Suggested reading:

A Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns-Goodwin

 Afterthought: There has been talk in recent years of adding a fifth face to Mount Rushmore. I think that’s a dandy idea. Unfortunately the opinion of a lot of people is that it should be Reagan’s face up there. If that happens so help me I’m moving to Upper Volta. If there is any justice in this world it will be Franklin D. Roosevelt’s smiling face up there—minus the cigarette holder of course. That would be just a tad politically incorrect I think.





Tom Degan is a fifty-four year old video artist but now makes his name by writing about politics and current events on his blog, The Rant. “I was a Democrat, until they became GOP-lite. I am now nothing—a man without a party, as it were. That’s okay. I like the solitude. I am the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom….Okay, I’ll fess up. That’s a bald-faced lie. But I did get a ribbon of sorts when I was in the Cub Scouts.” Tom lives and resides in Goshen, NY, the most Republican little burg north of the Mason Dixon line. He’s “the most popular guy in town.” That’s also a lie. “I love children, little baby duckies and Glenn Miller’s recording of Moonlight Serenade. That’s the truth. So there.”


Editor: Jennifer Townsend

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