2017-04-21 / School News

The More We Know About Democratic Party History, the Uglier They Look

School Scope
By Norm Scott


School Scope’s Norm Scott says President Woodrow Wilson may not be the champion of democracy you think he is. School Scope’s Norm Scott says President Woodrow Wilson may not be the champion of democracy you think he is. I write this as a left critic of the Democratic Party which pulled to the center under Carter, Clinton and Obama, all of whom abandoned the progressive FDR/Kennedy/LBJ policies during relative brief period of time (1933-1965) that the party leadership was somewhat progressive and in power.

I was taught early on by family members who survived the great depression that the Democratic Party was better for working people than the Republicans. The fact that some of my older relatives became rabid racists and right wingers later in life is beside the point.

They loved FDR who instituted a safety net for the majority of the population, including being possibly the only truly pro-union president in history, Republican or Democrat. FDR, other than LBJ (until the war brought him down), looks like an anomaly for progressive Democrats. Democrats were the party of slavery and after Lincoln’s election in 1860 the Dems rarely held power until FDR in 1932. Grover Cleveland was elected to two separate terms. But he was no progressive and in fact a conservative on many areas. (en.wiki- pedia.org/wiki/Grover_ Cleveland).

The very first edition of the NY Times magazine in August 1896 featured an article on Democratic Party history preceding the civil war. In 1896 when the party was also undergoing divisions due to the populist movement led by religious fundamentalist

William Jennings Bryan who ran for president in 1896, 1900 and 1908. Imagine, the religious left at that time instead of the current religious right. (See ednotesonline.- blogspot.com/2017/04/ny-times-on-di- visions-in-democratic.html.)

But what I want to talk about is Woodrow Wilson, a man of supposedly high ideals but low in every other way. I had assumed Wilson as a Democrat was the better alternative to the Republican domination and was a progressive. But that is far from the reality. I watched the wonderful three part series on PBS on the Great War and Wilson, after winning the 1916 election on an anti-war agenda, reversed himself soon after and manipulated us into that war under his concept of making us the arbiter of the world, the first president to have a global view of our role which has often led to so many disasters - the architect in many ways of us being the policemen of the world – an interventionist mentality. Until Wilson we mostly intervened in our own hemisphere. He was also a major racist who brought Jim Crow to Washington that lasted through the 1960s.

Wilson also brought us the Alien and Sedition acts where if you spoke out against the war you were arrested. Imagine Wilson saying we have to make the world safe for democracy slogan while destroying democracy at home. Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs, who re- ceived millions of votes, was arrested for opposing the war, the Woodrow Wilson version of “lock him up.” When you think about how people see Trump as being an authoritarian threat to democracy, Wilson makes Trump look like a pussycat.

Now I say all of the above from the perspective of someone with a BA and 30 grad credits in history. The lesson is that historical perspectives change over time. I do remember that history was presented with a certain America-centric viewpoint in public school and college – the old rah, rah spirit, though a few teachers pulled against the grain. In an age of altfacts, we must remain conscious that even real facts can be interpreted in numerous ways, all of which may have some merit.

Norm spews his version of alt-reality at ednotesonline.com.

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