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September 21, 2021 · OPINION

Stops Along the Way: The price of unlearned history

Stock Photo
The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
By Don Bachmann

Most of us are aware that, not too long ago, Democrats in the U.S. Congress honored a presidential campaign pledge to the American people. They voted to create a social safety net for those in need.

The Republicans saw it as an attack upon their core values and another step towards socialism. They called it radical, untested and vowed to dismantle it.

Republicans chose the special interest imperatives of their major donors over the welfare of the average citizen. Those imperatives allowed the wealthy and big business to maintain the status quo. It gave them the power to control people’s lives by making Americans dependent and beholden to them for their welfare and security.

Republicans were also quick to action. Relying upon traditional machine politics, they sought to stir up national dissent. They were confident in their ability to persuade, so confident that they made it part of their party’s platform in the upcoming presidential election. They argued that individual freedom was at stake, and big government was eroding their freedom of choice.

Democrats countered with, “What freedoms? … the freedom to go bankrupt, the freedom to be indentured, the freedom to watch corporate greed rule their lives ….” They argued that these freedoms were really not freedoms at all, but exploitations utilized by the wealthy and corporate elite in their own self-interests.

Democrats professed that it was the responsibility of government to safeguard the people, ensure basic needs were met and provide a “fair deal” to all.

The people, though not sure of the eventual success of this new program, chose to put their trust in the president and his party. They rejected the Republican argument that individual freedom was at stake. Instead, they decided that a new social contract between government and its citizens was necessary.

And thus in 1936, one year after the passage of the Social Security Act, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt won his second term in a landslide victory. The people had spoken and, consequentially, they would deny the presidency to the Republican Party for another 16 years.

History can be an inconvenient and annoying reminder. But, it can also offer multiple lessons of enlightenment to those who seek them.

One lesson is that there are instances when old beliefs must be discarded when proven no longer relevant to the times. Another lesson is that change is constant, and we must be responsive to that change. We must be flexible, creative and willing to experiment – after all, what is America other than a “great experiment.”

There is also a prophetic lesson to be learned … a lesson to the power elite among us who will not stand up for social justice. They believe the only way to maintain their power is by skewing the political system in their favor. This is a grave miscalculation.

There was a time when conservatives would win arguments through the power of their ideas … ideas that have since been corrupted by today’s power brokers and defended by indentured elected officials. Many are bound to publicly assert right-wing radicalism, while privately abhorring it.

Ironically, those who originally sought to obtain or hold power are powerless in the political storms they have unleashed. They are caught in the whirlwind, and all they can do is hold on; self-preservation demands it.

The real tragedy is failing to realize that suppression breeds resentment … a resentment that will eventually express itself. Think of the American, French and Russian revolutions as examples of movements that need not have occurred if those in power had only listened to the pleadings of their people.

The majority of the people, but regrettably not all the people, want justice and equity for all. They still believe in an America where our founding aspirations can eventually be realized.

I am a progressive conservative who believes all citizens are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. I also believe that individuals must have personal freedom to pursue their own happiness.

Both are professed in our founding documents and require a certain amount of balance in their application. I interpret this to mean that we must address the needs of the many, while preserving the individual liberties of us all.

PS: Our politicians and my fellow conservatives should pay attention; the people will only tolerate so much before they throw us on the trash heap of unlearned history.

The columnist lives near Orlean.
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