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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lessons from 100 years ago

      This weekend I thought I would recommend a couple of books which I have recently read. My first recommendation for a good book to read is "The Bully Pulpit" by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  The over 700 page book on the progressive agenda of Theodore Roosevelt and his relationship with William Howard Taft has many parallels to what we are seeing today in our political discourse.  A significant part of the book examines the relationship of the progressive media, especially McClure's magazine, of that time laying the groundwork for the progressive legislation promoted by Roosevelt.  Without the media's attention to the issues of political corruption, unsafe work conditions and unsafe food production the public sentiment for change would not have been possible.
      Up to the presidency of Roosevelt the moneyed interest of the "Gilded Age" had created a situation where political bosses had been able to thwart most progressive legislation.  This battle between the policies of the moneyed interests and their political counterparts with their progressive elements played out in the Republican Party of the early 20th Century.  Many progressives today see a similar Gilded Age developing with the increasing power of moneyed lobbyists now having reduced limits on campaign contributions.  The days of public financing seems to be a campaign reform that now longer controls our election.  It is only a matter of time before the next Watergate-type scandal is makes campaign reform possible again.  
     Ironically the book points out how a speech of Roosevelt's decrying the over reach of his named "muckrakers" provided a platform for conservatives in the Republican Party to fight back on some of his progressive legislation.  The book concludes by describing the disillusionment of of the progressives and Roosevelt with the administration of Taft and setting the scene for Roosevelt's presidential run in 1912 with the Bull Moose Party.

     I am not sure why authors of this type of political history feel the need to produce a 700 page book.   The story could have been told just as well in 250 pages.  Maybe after spending years researching a book like this the author has to justify the time commitment with a book of this length.  Maybe an editor should have recognized the need to condense this story for the readers.

    The partnership between Roosevelt and the progressive media does remind you of the partnership between Fox News and the Tea Party.  It is not hard to believe that the Tea Party is largely sustained, if not created by the Fox News Network.

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