The Weiner Component V.2 #28 – The Pattern of U.S. History & the Evolving Purpose of Government: Part 1

The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 178...

The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781. This was the format for the United States government until the Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The order in which the original 13 states rati...

The order in which the original 13 states ratified the constitution, then the order in which the others were admitted to the union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The issue here is to discern the pattern(s) of U.S. history and ascertain   the purpose of the Federal and State Governments?  For what are they or should they be responsible.  And how has this changed over the years?


Historically during America’s Colonial Period people came for religious freedom which they did not generally extend to those with different beliefs once they were established in their own colony or they came for economic opportunities in order to exist in a non-fixed society where they could achieve goals not possible in Europe.  Here one could gain ownership of land and possibly prosper.  Many also were brought as indentured servants or as slaves.


It was to most of these people a New World with new opportunities that did not exist in the Old World, Europe.  The Colonial Governments provided the opportunities and if the settlers could properly utilize them they could make a new life for themselves and for their families.


In time, going from the 16th Century to the late 18th Century the settlements and society became more complicated.  On the East coast, in the Americas, Great Britain had gained control of most of the colonies.  By the last quarter of the 18th Century the British Colonies below Canada and above Florida no longer wanted to be ruled as dependent colonies, totally relying upon the mother country.  The immediate problem was taxes decreed by King George III and his Parliament.  This protest brought about the Revolutionary War.


When it became clear to England, after the Battle at Yorktown in Virginia on October 19, 1781, that it was too expensive in both gold and men to occupy the American Colonies with an army perennially the British gave the 13 Colonies their independence.  It was cheaper and more practical to simply trade with them.  What was to develop from that was the United States of America.


The overall purpose of the new state governments, under the Articles of Confederation, was to allow their populations to develop as best they could with the governments essentially providing safety from foreign invasions and keeping order within the individual states.


Each state was virtually an independent nation with essentially a largely powerless Congress made up of representatives from all the different governments.  They each could print or mint their own money.  They agreed to cooperate but essentially kept their own sovereignty.  The members of the unified Congress had to go back to their individual state legislatures for decisions over major bills.  And all bills required unanimous approval in order to come into being.  There was no executive office; Congress also had this function. This period lasted from the end of the Revolutionary War until 1788, when the Constitution was ratified and a new government established.


What brought the Constitution into being was mainly Shay’s Rebellion, which lasted from 1786 through 1787.  The coastal mercantile class that controlled the government in the State of Massachusetts, in order to raise money, passed a tax to be paid by the small inland farmers who were not represented in the State Legislature and tended to be short of cash.  The tax was vigorously collected, causing tax collectors to seize and auction off land in payment of debts.  During this period many people argued that since the large plantation owners in the Southern states had refused to pay their debts to English merchants, that they had amassed before the Revolutionary War they, the small farmers, could do the same thing to the state of Massachusetts.  This tended to raise fears among the property owning class throughout the new country and brought about for many an awareness of a need for a strong central government that could enforce its will.  It brought about the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 which was chaired by George Washington.


In 12 of the 13 states a new government came into existence in 1789 with the election of George Washington as its first President.  In Massachusetts a year earlier the state government was reformed.  Shay’s Rebellion had been one of the major motivating forces for the formation of the Constitution.  Henceforth life, liberty, and the protection of property became the creed of the new government.


The Constitution came into effect after 9 states approved it.  12 of the 13 states actually voted for it.  Rhode Island did not send any delegates to the Constitutional Convention and did not approve it.  It held a number of conventions within the state and did not approve the new government in any of them.  Finally in 1790 the Congress of the New United States voted to exclude Rhode Island in the near future from any participation with the other 12 states, thus totally isolating them.  On May 18, 1790, before this bill could come into effect, Rhode Island approved the Constitution and joined the Union.


The new government that came into being under the Constitution was run by both the educated and mercantile class.  These people formed the Federalist Party.  They were the elite.  In this government only male property owners could vote.  This group constituted the first political party.  While they ran the country for everyone’s benefit they favored their own class.  The function of government was the same as it had been under the Articles of Confederation.


In 1800 a new political party was formed under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic Republican Party.  Jefferson favored the yeoman/small family farmer.  During a dramatic election with all sorts of denouncement from both sides the Democratic Party won; Jefferson was elected President.  It was still government by the elite; but mainly for the benefit of the small farmer.


In point of fact Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon and France.  The sale was technically illegal because the French had promised Spain, the original owner that they would not sell the territory; but there was nothing Spain could do about it since at that time she was ruled by one of Napoleon’s Marshalls and had been conquered by France.


To Jefferson the Louisiana Territory extended the new United States’ land area so that there would be land for yeoman farmers, in President Jefferson’s opinion, for the next hundred years.


After the War of 1812 the Federalist Party disappeared.  It backed the wrong side in that war, England.  It would not really appear again until 1860 under the new name of the Republican Party.


With the election of Andrew Jackson to the Presidency from 1828 to 1837 Democracy was spelt with a small d.  By then practically all males voted.  Land was cheap and practically all males owned some.  The vote was essentially universal for males.  In addition the Union had grown from the original 12 to 24 states.  And the Democratic Party had split into Jacksonian Democrats and Non-Jacksonian Democrats.


With Jackson the concept of rule by the elite disappeared.  President Jackson was considered by the population as one of their own.  He was the common man elevated to the Presidency and his government extended that concept with what was called the “spoils system,” whereby anyone could hold any government job.  It was now, to pre-quote Lincoln, “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  Its overall purpose remained the same as it had been before: the government provided what was necessary in the country to exist, the people had the opportunity to make use of what the government provided.


With the earlier invention and dissemination of the Cotton Gin slavery, which had been dying out, became the means for the Southern states to raise cotton.  Cotton became the chief export of the large Southern planters.  It fostered the new Industrial Revolution and made slavery again important in the Southern States.  Spinning thread and weaving inexpensive cloth became the first major industry of the new Industrial Revolution.


At first England controlled this new industry; then it spread to the rest of Europe and the Northern parts of the United States.  The new Industrial Revolution was begun by an industry based initially upon slavery in the Southern United States.  To them Cotton was King.  It reestablished slavery as an economic system.


Gradually the Non-Jacksonian Democrats became a myriad of political parties.  The largest pro-business party was the Whigs.  Another was the Abolitionists which consisted of those who were against slavery.  There were innumerable others; some lasted a short period of time and disappeared, others persisted.  By 1860 the Whig, the abolitionists, and innumerable other smaller parties coalesced into the Republican Party and because the Democratic Party split into two political parts, the Northern and Southern Democrats, the new Republican Party won the Presidential Election with 40% of the vote and Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican President of the United States.


Lincoln’s name was not on the ballot in any Southern state.  The election consisted of two separate elections; one in the Northern and Western States and one in the Southern States.


This began the Civil War and the one question that had never been settled when the nation was first established under the Constitution was resolved by the outcome of the war: Who was more powerful the States or the Central Government?  In addition slavery was ended.


After the Civil War America went rapidly through the Industrial Revolution.  The railroads covered the nation, industry rose rapidly, there was the very rapid rise of new cities and the phenomenal growth of the old ones.  The country underwent rapid change with the growth of monopolies and oligopolies.  Actually practically every industry by the end of the 19th Century had become a monopoly with one of its lawyers having a seat in the U.S. Senate.  Just about all the state legislatures were prone to bribery.  Rockefeller’s Standard oil not only had a reputation of refining oil it also refined state legislatures.


Initially the state legislatures elected the members of the Senate; they were to serve the needs of the individual states.  The 17th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1913.  It caused the members of the Senate to be elected by the direct vote of the people of the respective states.


It was during this period that the nation changed from a rural country with cities to an urban one with rural areas that produced the necessary food for the population.  The changes were so rapid that the support systems and support laws had to be developed with and after the changes.  Proper water for the people of the cities, evacuation of sewerage, building regulations, proper ventilation, a sane workday in the factories, rules for the employment of women and children, and so on.  All this and more had to be understood and laws had to be passed regulating these conditions.  All this would take an infinite amount of time to be done.  And all this would initially condone an infinite amount of corruption and bribery.


Initially the Populist Party came into existence to support the agrarian class.  Among other things the railroads were charging the farmers different rates to transport their crops.  The rule was to charge what the traffic would bare.  In most cases the trains were the only way to get the crops to market.


From 1892 to 1896 the Populist (People’s) Party, a U.S. agrarian political party came into existence.  It was hostile to cities, banks, railroads, and banks.  It contained the poor white cotton farmers of the South and the wheat farmers in the Plain States.  In 1896 it supported the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan.  The Republican candidate William McKinley won that election.  The Populists became part of the Democratic Party after that election.


The major change at the beginning of the 20th Century was the Progressive Movement.  Some of its leaders were Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, and Woodrow Wilson, both Republicans and Democrats.  Robert M. La Follett, Charles Evans Hughes, William Jennings Bryant, and Al Smith were also some of the reformers.  Efforts were made to reform local government, public education, industry, etc.  It was a local, state, and national movement.  It brought about financial reform with the establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913 and women’s suffrage in 1919 with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  The Presidential Election of 1920 that made the Republican, Warren G. Harding President of the United States, was the first time all the women in the country voted in a national election.


The Progressive Movement targeted political machines and their bosses.  They sought regulation of monopolies and corporations through antitrust laws.  They were essentially an urban movement which largely and successfully brought the country into the Twentieth Century.

The reform stopped when the United States entered World War I.  After the war with the refusal of the U.S. to sign the Versailles Treaty and join the League of Nations the country entered into a corrupt Republican period that in 1929 ended with the Great Depression.


In the early part of the 20th Century lawyers like Louis Brandeis, who later became a Supreme Court Justice, began using sociological facts as evidence.  This was a first, expanding the concept of what presented   proof.  The function of the government was still to provide a safe base for its people in which to live; they were still responsible for themselves and their families.  Basically, where the individual or family couldn’t handle the situation it was up to the local religious organization and/or neighbors to help the situation and provide aid.  This had worked up to now.


With the Great Depression, which was a world disaster, a good percentage of the population could no longer provide for their basic needs.  This was far beyond what local charitable organizations could handle.  In general all the neighbors were in the same deplorable situation.  Overnight the country changed, jobs disappeared and a fair percentage of the population could not handle the economic situation, but the Republic Government under President Herbert Hoover with the multi-millionaire, Andrew Mellon as his Secretary of the Treasury, could not adjust to the crisis.  There had been depressions and recessions in the past and in all cases the economy had eventually adjusted itself and come out of crisis after a period of time.  They expected that to also happen here.  Consequently they kept talking about prosperity being around the corner.  After three years the depression just got deeper and it was time to elect a new President.  The Candidates were Hoover for the Republicans and Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Democrats.


In addition, shortly before the election, the veterans from World War I, who had been promised a bonus in the future, organized a Bonus March and came to Washington, D.C., requesting that Congress give them their promised bonus then.  They set up a camp just outside the city.  Congress refused to vote the bonus and President Hoover ordered General Douglas MacArthur to clear the veterans out of the flats.  In the process of doing this several were killed.


When the election came the Democratic candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt won by an overwhelming majority, 57.4 percent of the vote.  It was with this administration that the United States expanded the purpose of government, adding the maxim that it was responsible for the welfare of the people who could not care for themselves.


What we’ve seen from the Colonial Period on was that the overall purpose of government was to provide a safe place for the citizen to get on with his life.  When the citizen ran into situations beyond his ability beyond his ability to deal with then the community and the religious organization would help him.  The government provided safety and security from foreign invasion and presumably a safe place to live.

The Weiner Component #169 – Part 2: The Presidencies & Political Parties in the United States

English: Partisan makeup of the Senate at the ...

English: Partisan makeup of the Senate at the beginning of the 107th United States Congress, January 3, 2001. Democratic Party – 50 Republican Party – 50 Tie broken by the Vice President of the United States (Al Gore to 2001-01-20, Dick Cheney thereafter) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

If you draw a horizontal line across a sheet of paper and put a mark in the center then the right side proceeding to the end of the line tends to be conservative getting more reactionary as you move farther toward the right end and the left side tends to be liberal, getting more radical as it moves to the left end.  Today the left side represents the Democratic Party and the right side is the Republican Party.


This model of right and left was initially created by the way the Chamber of Deputies placed themselves in the hall during the period of the French Revolution in late 18th Century.   The difference then was that the legislative body was divided into three groups, the right were the reactionaries who wanted to bring back the king and his form of government; the left were the radicals who wanted to get rid of the king and brought about the “Reign of Terror.”  They wanted a representative government, essentially led by a dictator.  The majority of the Chamber was called the Mountain.  It was the center which contained the majority of delegates.  They were the moderates.  France would eventually become a Representative Democracy.


Today in the United States legislature there is no center.  We have a right, the Republicans and a left side, the Democrats.  And between the two major groups, in the center, there is an empty space, which, in turn, makes it difficult for any type of compromise to be reached or even for any real communication to occur.  As far as the far right is concerned compromise is giving in to their position.


In 1797, when the Constitution was written, there were no thoughts of political parties.  By 1789, when it took effect, Alexander Hamilton, the First Secretary of the Treasury, had organized the Federalist Party, which basically supported the tidewater mercantilist groups rather than inland yeoman farmers.  Thomas Jefferson, who supported the latter group at the very tail end of the 18th Century organized the Republican Party as a solution to the Federalists and ran as its first candidate for the presidency in the year 1800.  The Federalists, as an insult, rechristened it as the Democratic-Republican Party.  This first name has stuck through the years and is still used today.  The Presidential campaign in the year 1800 was a very raucous one with Jefferson being denounced, among other things, as an atheist.


Jefferson won the election and the Federalists were never again able to win a Presidential Election.  They ceased to exist as a political party after the War of 1812.  In that war with England they had refused to support the government against Great Britain.


President Thomas Jefferson, following his philosophy of leading a country of small yeoman farmers, in 1803 bought the Louisiana Territory from France for $11,250,000, adding 828,000 square miles to the new United States and doubling its size.  He calculated that he had added enough land to allow it to freely grow with small farms for at least one hundred years.


The Federalist position had been favoring a strong central government, close ties with Great Britain, a centralized banking system and close links between the government and men of wealth.


What followed after the War of 1812 was the Era of Good Feelings which ended in 1824 when John Quincy Adams was appointed to the Presidency by the House of Representatives after an election in which none of the four regional candidates achieved enough of a majority to win the election.


In 1828 the Democratic-Republican Party split into Jacksonian Democrats and the Whig Party.  The Jacksonian Democratic Party became the modern Democratic Party.  They supported the primacy of the President over the other branches of government.  The Whig Party advocated the primacy of Congress over the executive branch.  In the 1850s the Whig Party declined.  Its leaders had died out and it split over the issue of slavery.  The Democratic Party also split into two section, Northern and Southern, anti-slave and pro-slave.


In the Election of 1860 the remnants of the Whig Party and remnants of other third parties like the Abolitionists and other dissatisfied groups coalesced into the new Republican Party while the Democrats split into two separate political parties, one Northern and Western and one Southern.  The Northern Democrats ran Stephen A. Douglas while the Southern Democrats put forth John C. Breckenridge.


Douglas and Breckenridge had over 50% of the vote together but neither one had as much as Lincoln.  Lincoln won the election with under 50% of the popular vote.  No one Southern State had his name on their ballot.  It was as though two totally separate elections had occurred.  In point of fact one can easily say that the Civil War actually began with this election.


At the end of the Civil War Radical Republicans dominated both Houses of Congress.  The President of the United States was a former Southern Democrat, Andrew Johnson.  He had been a senator from Tennessee who remained in Washington and refused to join in the Secession from the Union.  Johnson ran with Lincoln during his second term as the Vice-presidential candidate under the slogan of the National Unity Ticket.


Lincoln was assassinated early during his second term and Andrew Johnson became president from 1864 to 1867.  The Radical Republicans had a super majority in both Houses of Congress; consequently they were able to do whatever they wanted.  Johnson was unsuccessfully impeached toward the end of his term.  In 1868, the Republican, former General Ulysses S. Grant, became the 18th President of the United States.


In the election of 1876 the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes ran against the Democrat, Samuel J. Tilden.  The Republicans desperately wanted to retain the presidency.  Tilden had the greater number of popular votes.  Several states ended up electing two sets of electors, both Democratic and Republican.  The crisis was not resolved until the night before the new President was to take office.  A back-door deal was made by which the Republicans got the presidency and the Southern States had the Northern armies of occupation removed and became independent states again, ending all the remnants of the Civil War.  The United States reemerged as a two party nation.  At this time the Blacks systematically lost their rights as freedmen, although they kept that title.


The Republican Party adopted many of the economic policies of the Whigs: national banks, railroad expansion, and high tariffs.  They were the businessman’s political party.  Their anti-slave policy and the Civil War had brought the Black population, the freedmen, into their party and kept them dominant in Congress until this time.  The Southern States returned to the Democratic Party which maintained its traditional values.  The Republicans also attracted shop owners, skilled craftsmen, clerks, and professionals who were attracted to the party’s modernization policies.  These political coalitions lasted almost to the end of the 19th Century.


The Civil War expedited economic change in America.  From its end through the 1920s there was a rush of new immigration into the United States, mainly from Eastern Europe and Ireland.  The Industrial Revolution in all forms of rapid economic growth took hold of the country at this time generating a rapid settlement of the entire continental United States.  The late 19th Century was the period of the Gilded Age, rapid industrial growth, the confluence of money into the hands of a few brought about the rise of the “robber barons,” monopoly and oligopoly; phenomenal affluence for a small number and sweat-shops and twelve to fifteen hour shifts for large groups of children, women, and men in factories.  The country went from a rural nation to an urban one during this period.


Small towns became cities virtually overnight with almost no understanding or regulations about supplying clean water to large populations and housing or sewerage or food regulation laws.  The government performed no social services.  Political machines developed by both political parties in the urban areas.  Epidemics became common, particularly in warmer weather.  Death tolls, particularly in slum areas were inordinately high, especially among infants and young children.


Among this environment, within the urban areas, individual states, and the Federal Government the Progressive Movement developed and grew.  It would continue until the United States got involved in the Great War (World War I).  Both major political parties would at different times lead this movement, which, to a large extent, would be fed by magazine articles and books demonstrating the horrific conditions that existed in the factories, slums, and cities.


All the presidents from Lincoln’s death until Teddy Roosevelt’s accession were decent men but weak presidents.  They and Cabinet members were continually hounded by jobseekers and political machine operators looking to collect on campaign promises.


The major issues of this period were the protective tariff, currency reform, and civil service reform.  President James A. Garfield was shot by a dissatisfied job seeker.  Even with this civil service reform came slowly over the course of the late 19th Century.


Tariff and currency reform lasted throughout this period and led to the Progressive Movement.  Business interests supported protective tariffs and tight or hard money (gold).  They lobbied and spent freely to achieve these goals, which the Republicans tended to support.  The Democrats largely backed a loose money policy, using both gold and silver.


From 1876 through 1900, Congress was known for being rowdy and inefficient and the Presidents as more or less capable of doing their jobs but not much more.  The two major political parties tended to be similar in their outlook with the exception that the Republicans favored business and the Democrats vied slightly toward farmers.  And the government was considered highly corrupt.


With one exception, and that was Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate, who was twice elected to a four year term in 1884 and in 1892, all the other presidents had been Republicans.  All of them, from both political parties had served in the Civil War.


In addition, among the farmers, at this time, the Granger Movement gradually developed and it in turn become part of the Populist Movement, which pushed for Agrarian Reform in the United States.  The Populist Movement and urban conditions and corruption throughout the country gave birth to the Progressive Reform Movement which existed on the both the state levels and on the national level.


The early Progressive Movement rose on a grass root level.  It was supported by the farmers who wanted a loose money policy.  This would allow them to pay back their debts with less expensive currency.  The businessmen and bankers preferred a tight money policy.  They wanted the debts paid back with more expensive money than they had initially spent or loaned out.  Into this mix came magazine and book writers, the muckrakers, who tended to expose the corruption that existed on all levels of society.  Also at this time the giant industrial cities came into existence with no initial rules or regulations on how they had to be governed or function, in areas like hygiene, sanitation, and city government and social services to the newly arrived immigrants.


All this gradually ended with the accession of Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency after the assassination of William McKinley by an anarchist in 1901.  Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, would be the first of the Progressive Presidents.  He would be followed by William Howard Taft, another Republican.  The third Progressive President would be Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat.  This period would end with the First World War


During this period corruption was exposed in numerous aspects of the nation and a certain amount of regulation was promulgated throughout the various levels of the society: local, state, and national.  The Senate up to 1913 had been appointed by the different state legislatures and had become, usually by bribery, largely an extension of large corporations like Standard Oil’s attorneys.  It thereafter, through the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, was directly elected by the people within the individual states.  Oregon introduced in 1902 the initiative and the referendum process, which, in turn, was copied by numerous other states.  The recall election was also introduced whereby an elected official could be unelected from his office.  In addition Women Suffrage (the vote) came about at this period.  The tide of reforms ended with the World War.


At the end of the war Woodrow Wilson went to Europe to develop the Treaty of Versailles.  He brought the treaty to Washington where it was rejected by the Republicans in the Senate.  There was a struggle to pass the Treaty, and, during that time, President Wilson suffered a heart attack from which he never totally recovered.


The Treaty could have been modified to satisfy the Republicans but Wilson refused to compromise.  The United States never signed it.  Instead they eventually signed a separate treaty with Germany.  The major item in the Treaty was the establishment of a League of Nations, which the United States never joined.


At the end of his term the invalid, Woodrow Wilson, was replaced by the Republican, Warren Harding, who died in office after a number of corruption scandals emerged.  He was replaced by his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, who later ran on his own and won.  He, in turn, was replaced by Herbert Hoover.  These three Republican presidents fully believed Adam Smith’s theory that the market-place would make all the proper economic decisions for how the country should be run.


The motivating force according to Adam Smith was the “invisible hand,” the profit motive.  This brought the country in 1929 to the Great Depression.  Neither Hoover nor his staff knew how to really deal with this situation.  The United States and numerous other industrial nations went through periods of unbelievable misery with the governments trying to function in periods of massive unemployment and chaos.


In 1933, four years later, the new President, the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, working on almost an experimental basis saved capitalism and the country by adopting socialistic principles.  He called his policy “The New Deal,” a term taken from poker.  The Federal Government assumed responsibility for those who could not care for the mselves.  They created jobs and projects like Hoover Dam, which was originally called Boulder Dam, throughout the United States and he brought about social security.  It was a time of rapid experimentation, anything that worked and solved problems was utilized.


But even with all this many of the aspects of the Great Depression remained.  The country was better off but many still suffered.  What ended the last remnants of the Great Depression was World War II.  The spending required to fight and win the war and the army the U. S. raised ended the last remnants of the massive economic turndown.  In point of fact, the country entered the war in December of 1941 with the majority of the population being in the lower class and ended the war in 1945 with the majority of the population belonging to the middle class.  The economy had changed considerably.


During the Second World War both political parties concentrated on fighting the war.  Roosevelt died during the last year of the fighting and was replaced by his Vice President, the Democrat: Harry S. Truman.


Truman in 1945, after the war ended, sponsored, what he called, the Fair Deal, as a continuation of the prewar New Deal.  The Republicans derided Truman and his program as a poor man’s version Roosevelt’s politics.  In 1948 they ran Thomas E. Dewey against him.  They also passed the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, which limited presidential tenure to two terms in office.  While the Amendment did not affect Truman; it would come into being with the next president; still it gave him a strong hint.  Franklin D. Roosevelt had died in office during his fourth term in office.


In 1948 the Republicans were positive that they would win the election.  At that time, before television, victory celebrations were held on radio.  On the night of the election there was a victory celebration for Dewey.  The Chicago Tribune headline the next morning was “Dewey Wins.”  But when the votes were counted Harry S. Truman had won and was still President of the United States.  All the polls had predicted Dewey as the winner; they all ate crow that year.


For the next four years there were a lot of frustrated Republicans in both Houses of Congress; but Congress still worked.  The fear after the war was that with the massive return of the military to civilian life the country would go into a deep recession with massive unemployment as it did directly after World War I.  But with intense rationing, the continual sale of war bonds, and unlimited employment during the war there was lots of money available.  All the automobile factories had been producing only for the war effort for the last four years; they now converted to civilian production, everyone wanted a new car.  A new industry, television came into being.  Other positive things happened.  There was no recession.  The returning veterans found jobs, started their own small business, returned to school: finishing high school and colleges.  The country smoothly went back to peacetime.  In fact, veterans received a government allowance if they went back to school.


Unfortunately, even with the new Organization, The United Nations, to which all the allied nations now belonged, peace did not come.  On June 25, 1950 until July 27, 1953 the United States and other United Nation countries were involved in the Korean War, which ended at the 38th Parallel, where it had begun.  This was the line splitting Korea into two parts: Communist in the North and non-communist in the South.  It would seem that almost every succeeding president from Truman on would have their own specific war.


Truman was followed in the presidency in 1953 by Dwight David Eisenhower, the general who had led the war in Europe.  Eisenhower, initially had never voted in a presidential election.  He did not know which political party he belonged to.  Finally he decided he was a Republican and ran as their presidential candidate.


Eisenhower ended the Korean War by threatening to use atomic weapons.  It ended in a draw, which still continues to this day.


As a replacement for Truman the Democrats came up with Adlia Stevenson, the governor of Illinois.  Stevenson ran against Eisenhower twice and lost both times.  Eisenhower considered himself a middle-of-the-road Republican, that is, a moderate or liberal Republican.  The two parties functioned well together during his eight years in office.


In 1960 Richard M. Nixon, Eisenhower’s Vice President, ran against the Democrat, John F. Kennedy, who was a member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts.  Kennedy won that election by less than one per cent of the vote.  The two parties were able to function together and more or less pass all the necessary legislation.  /there were problems with his civil rights reform attempts.  In Viet Nam There was action, but not a major crisis.  It was during Kennedy’s presidency that the Bay of Pigs debacle occurred and later the Cuban Missile Crisis came about.  The Soviet Union had installed atomic missiles in Cuba.  Kennedy, short of war, got Russia to remove them.  His frustration came about in being limited in passing civil rights legislation.


Kennedy, while getting ready to run for a second term in 1963, was in a motorcade in downtown Dallas, Texas, when he was shot by an assassin.  His Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson became the next President of the United States.  President Johnson was reelected in 1964.  He ran against the arch-conservative Barry Goldwater and overwhelmingly defeated him.  Johnson attempted to force the war in Viet Nam toward an American victory by massively increasing U.S. forces there.  He was not successful.  In the United States he declared War on Poverty.  Again he was not successful.  As an essentially defeated man Johnson announced that he would not run for the presidency in 1968.


Where Johnson was eminently successful was in pushing through Congress both his and John F. Kennedy’s plan for civil rights reform in the nation.  Segregation was essentially legally ended throughout the South and in other parts of the country.  The statement that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence was expanded to include Blacks and Women.  It was a major achievement.


In the 1968 Election the Republican Richard M. Nixon ran against the Democratic Vice President, Hubert Humphrey.  A third party candidate, former Alabama Governor, George Wallace, ran representing the American Independent Party, which supported separation of the races in public education.  Nixon won with 43.4% of the vote; Humphrey got 42.7%, and Wallace received 13.5%.


The election year was tumultuous, being marked by the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy.  The Democratic Convention had open warfare between Viet Nam protestors and the Chicago police.  Nixon won the popular vote by .07 percentage points and the Electoral College vote by 301 to 191 for Humphrey.


Besides economic problems Nixon faced a massive protest throughout his presidency over the Viet Nam War.  He presumably had a secret plan to end the war.  This came down to a return of American prisoners of war and withdrawing with honor.  That was making a defeat in war not look like a defeat.


Negotiations were begun.  The initial problem was the shape of the Negotiating Table.  There were people from North Viet Nam, from South Viet Nam, and from the United States, and there was also the National Liberation Front, who were from South Viet Nam but favored the North.  The issue was resolved by using a round table with two smaller ones nearby.


Nixon’s strategy was to bring increasing pressure on Communist North Viet Nam by increasing the war so they would be willing to compromise.  He expanded the war to Cambodia and bombing along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Supplies were being brought into North Viet Nam into the South over this route.  There was both warfare and peace negotiations that would be going on during Nixon’s term as President.


In 1972 Nixon ran for a second term as the Republican candidate.  The Democratic candidate was the highly liberal senator from South Dakota, George McGovern.  The Republicans were so sure he could not win that they contributed money secretly to his campaign wanting to make sure he was the Democratic candidate.


McGovern ran on an Anti-War Campaign against the incumbent, Richard Nixon.  McGovern was perceived by many voters as a left-wing extremist.  Nixon won in a landslide, gaining 60.7% of the popular vote.  He received 18 million more votes than McGovern, carrying 49 states.


Unfortunately, during the election, because of some paranoid tendencies of Nixon, a group of his employees called the plumbers  burgled Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. several times in order to find out what the Democrats were doing and planning.  The final time they did this they were caught and arrested.


The question became: What did Nixon know?  And when did he know it?  It took two years for this to unravel.  And then the answer was that he knew about the burglary from the very beginning.  Nixon resigned from the presidency two years after being elected for a second term.  He resigned the day before a Bill of Impeachment was to be voted upon in the House of Representatives.


Interestingly his vice president, Spiro Agnew, had resigned earlier.  The government had an 80 page inditement against him for extortion, going back to when he was governor of Maryland.  Because of the Watergate controversy the Justice Department allowed him to plead, no contest, and resign from the vice-presidency.


The irony was that Nixon chose a new Vice-President, Senator Gerald Ford, who assumed the Presidency in 1974.  President Ford later issued a Proclamation on September 8, 1974 pardoning Richard Nixon from any crimes he may have committed.


President Gerald Ford ended the Viet Nam War.  This was the first war that the United States lost.  Today Viet Nam trades with the United States and is a relatively inexpensive tourist attraction.  It cost a lot less to visit Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) than to go to a city in Hawaii.


In 1978 Republican President Gerald Ford ran against the Democratic contender, James Earl (Jimmy) Carter.  Jimmy Carter won by a margin of 57 Electoral votes.  He had a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress during both congressional terms.  On his second day in office President Carter pardoned all evaders of the Viet Nam War.  He created the Departments of Energy and Education.  He brought about the Camp David Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.


The country suffered from Stagflation at this time, a combination of both high inflation and high unemployment.  Carter could not bring himself to allow the Draconian program that would solve this problem.  The next President, Ronald Reagan would do this and bring about a large homeless problem throughout the United States which still exists today.


President Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaties, giving the canal to Panama.  It was during his term in office that the Iranian Revolution occurred and the American Embassy personnel were held as captives by the new government of Iran.  They were returned to the U.S. shortly after the next president took office.  Carter was defeated in the 1980 Election by Ronald Reagan.


Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency on January 20, 1981 and served two terms through January 20, 1989.  He was a Republican and a conservative, bringing about changes that the conservatives had wanted for years.  He was also the oldest man elected to the presidency.


Forgetting the post-Civil-War Period when the Radical Republicans, wanting to punish the South and controlled Congress from 1865 to 1878 when Rutherford Hayes stole the presidency from the Democrat, Samuel Tilden.  At that time the Republicans had a super majority in both Houses of Congress and could and did pass any law they put forth without the President’s signature.


Outside of this relatively short period in the nation’s history the two major political parties essentially got along and, more or less, cooperated with one another in passing the necessary laws for the nation.  The point has been made in an earlier blog that Democratic President Jimmy Carter was more conservative that Gerald Ford’s Republican Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller.  On the political line mentioned at the beginning of this blog Rockefeller would be placed left of center and Carter would go right of center.


This was true of many Congressmen.  There have historically been many conservative Democrats and moderate or liberal Republicans.  There was no separate void between them in terms of political positions.  There was always a slight difference in basic philosophy but there was always open communication and the possibility of compromise.


This has been a fact of United States history.  There was generally cooperation between both political parties.  The Conference Committee, which met after a bill was passed in slightly different versions in the two Houses of Congress, has been able to continually come up with a compromise bill for both Houses of Congress to successfully vote upon.


This system has existed until Barack Obama became President of the United States.  What has occurred from that time on has essentially been the development of the Tea Party, an extreme right arm of the Republican Party that is largely uneducated in the function of government and modern economics.  In the House of Representatives they are the Freedom Coalition.  In point of fact their aim seems to be to do away with the Federal Government


The Weiner Component #123 – Part 1: A History of Iran and the Middle East

Long before Jesus Christ was born, Persia (Iran) had conquered most of what is today the Middle East.  In 539 B.C. they captured Ancient Babylon in Mesopotamia.  During the 5th Century B.C. Darius, their ruler, invaded the Greek mainland.  His armies were defeated in the Battle of Marathon.  The following century, in 330 B.C., Alexander the Great of Macedon conquered Persia and Mesopotamia.  With the death of Alexander his empire passed to his generals and the region came under the control of the Seleucids, who would rule until the Romans conquered them.         *******************************

In the late 6th Century Muhammad was born in the city of Medina in what is today Saudi Arabia.  He was considered by Muslims to be the last profit of God sent to restore the original monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.  To people of the West he is considered the founder of Islam.

During the early 7th Century Muhammad unified most of the Arabian Peninsula through religious warfare.  He destroyed all the pagan symbols that existed and declared that there is only one God and Allah is his name.  He died in 632 and was succeeded by Abu Bakr as the first Rashidun caliph.

With Muhammad’s death there also occurred the first major split in Islam with two major denominations coming into being: the Shia and the Sunni.   Approximately 90 to 96% of all Muslims are Sunni and 6 to 10% are Shia.  Sunnis are the majority in most Muslim communities.  Shia make up the majority population in Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, as well as being a large minority in Lebanon.

The split between the two occurred in 632, when the prophet Muhammad died, over his succession as caliph.  Today there are differences in religious practices, traditions, and customs.  Both groups consider the Quran to be divine.

Over the years Sunni-Shia relations have been both cooperative at times and marked by conflict at other times.  Sectarian violence exists from Pakistan to Yemen and is a major element of friction throughout the Middle East.  The tensions between communities have intensified during power struggles, such as the Iraqi War and recently during the Syrian Civil War.  The formation of ISIS and its advancement into Syria and Iraq have added to these tensions.

After Muhammad’s death Islam spread generally by conquest westward through North Africa to Spain and also Northward through the Middle East and then Westward toward Europe.


In 1299 A.D. the Ottoman Turkish Sunni Islamic Empire was established.  By 1389 it was transformed by further conquests into a transcontinental nation and claimant to the Islamic Caliphate.  In 1453 they overthrew the remnants of the Eastern Roman Empire and conquered Constantinople, which became their capital and thereafter was called Istanbul.

During the 16th and 17th Centuries the Ottoman Empire reached its height, controlling much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, the Caucasus, and North Africa.  By the year 1600 the Empire had 32 provinces and numerous vassal states.  It was the center of interactions between Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries.  Afterward it went into a period of gradual decline and was dissolved after World War I, where it supported the losing side.  It emerged after 1918 as the State of Turkey.

It’s Middle East and other possessions became spoils of war, which were taken over by the European victors of WWI as colonies under the term issued by the World War I Versailles Peace Conference as “mandates.”  The theory then being that since these states had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire they were not ready in 1918 to rule themselves; consequently they needed guidance by the victorious European nations.

After World War II many of these “mandates” were entitled “Trust Territories” by the United Nations and given or returned to their former colonizers.  But after World War II many of these “Trust Territories” revolted against their European colonizing countries and when it became too expensive to hold onto these colonies it was discovered that they had reached a state where they were ready for self-government.  Many, like Persia (Iran), became fully independent with ties to their former European elder relative (England).


This, of course, is a very thumb-nail sketch of several thousand years of history but it makes the relevant point that the European Industrial Nations colonized much of the non-industrial world well into the 20th Century and gave up those possessions only when they became too expensive to hold.  What I have not gone into but is equally relevant is that the citizens of these Mandate-Trust Territories were treated as second class citizens by their European masters and exploited by them for profit.  There is an historic chain of resentment that still exists from this behavior.


While Persia was separate from the Ottoman Empire prior to WWI it still came under European influences by Russia in the north and Great Britain in the south and east.  In 1901 oil was discovered in the country.  By 1907 there was an Anglo Russian agreement dividing Persia into two Spheres of Influence.  During WWI (1914-1918) Persia was occupied by Russian, British, and Ottoman troops.


While the countries surrounding Iran were eager for more land there were other important reasons for European nations wanting control in Iran.  These go back to a change that occurred in England around 1800.  It was called the Industrial Revolution. Manufacturing changed from hand-made items to machine-made products; when industrial production went from handicrafts to machine manufacture.  This process began in Great Britain in the cotton production industry and gradually spread to the rest of the world.  It required a constant, ever increasing supply of markets and a constant, ever increasing, supply of raw materials.  It set up a competitive race for colonies.  And it also ushered in the Age of Imperialism, which essentially lasted until after WWII.

The terminology underwent gradual changes, as we’ve seen, beginning with the term colonies and colonial empires, to Mandates, Trust Territories, and Spheres of Influence. Industrial nations ruling non-industrial countries.  Those that also manufactured guns and cannon against those who did not have the technology.  The English utilized such phrases as “The sun never set upon the British Empire.”

In some cases they were protective areas, supposedly independent states but run by European advisors.  The French had the French Foreign Legion to keep order; King Leopold II of Belgium owned and criminally exploited the Congo Free State; England used the locals as soldiers, officered by the British.  The Germans, when they began colonization in Africa, used their own military against the non-industrial peoples.

Each nation had a variation of the above. The United States, which came into this shortly before World War I, used its own military.  Whatever euphemism was used it all meant the same, these were colonies belonging to a better armed industrial nation with economic needs.

As we’ve seen after WWI the term colonies disappeared, all the possessions became “mandates.”  The term implies that these former colonies were the children being protected by adults, the mother countries, their former masters.  The term “Spheres of Influence,” which had existed earlier, also became dominant at this time.

Also, as stated earlier, after WWII the term was changed to “Trust Territories,” giving the process a slightly religious overtone.  But after W.W.II most of the so-called backward nations had had it with their colonial masters.  They revolted against them.  Most of the Trust Territories had their own independence movements.  And when it became more expensive for these industrial nations to keep their colonies than they could earn from having them, the colonizing countries discovered that their “Trust Territories” had reached the point where they could rule themselves as independent states, that it was more profitable to trade with them than to continue to exploit and rule them.

French Indo China became Vietnam and when the French Foreign Legion was finally defeated at the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu the United States replaced the French in Vietnam because of a fear of the spread of Communism and much later lost that war in 1975, and today, interestingly, the United States trades freely with Vietnam and Conrad Hilton has a hotel in Hanoi largely for American tourists who can have a very pleasant inexpensive vacation there.


In 1901 oil was discovered in Persia (Iran).  Today the oil discovery there is estimated to be nearly ten percent of the world’s oil reserves.  Great Britain early took control of the oil through the Anglo Persian (Iranian) Oil Company.  It is interesting to note that the taxes paid to the British government in the early 20th Century was greater than the royalties Persia/Iran received from the Anglo Iranian Oil Company.

In Persia (Iran) there was in the 20th Century a series of Shahs (rulers) with Reza Shah Pahlavi ruling from 1921 to 1941.  In 1925, after suppressing several rebellions, he became Shah ruling the country until 1941, modernizing it.  In 1935 the name of the nation was changed to Iran.  Reza Shah transformed Iran into an industrial and urbanized nation.

From 1949 on the movement for nationalization of Iran’s oil industry grew.  Many Iranians were well aware that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) was paying more in taxes to Great Britain than the Iranian Government got from royalties.  By February of 1951, when AIOC finally offered fifty-fifty profit sharing, it was too late.  Sentiment for nationalization had become widespread throughout the country.  On March 15th of that year the legislature voted to nationalize the oil industry.

Oil production came to a halt as the British left the country.  Great Britain imposed a world-wide embargo on the purchase of Iranian oil and froze Iran’s assets banked in their country.  It also banned the export of goods to Iran.

The British then questioned the legality of the nationalization and brought their case to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.  The Court’s verdict was in favor of Iran.  Still the dispute between Iran and the AIOC remained unsettled.   Iran’s economy underwent suffering from the loss of foreign exchange and oil revenues.

The 1950s was the time of the Cold War and the fear of the spread of communism.  Iran had a ruler, the Shah, an elected prime minister and a legislative body.

In 1953 the Eisenhower Administration approved a British plan for a joint Anglo-American operation to overthrow the popular Prime Minister who was at odds with the Shah.  A member of the U.S. CIA traveled secretly to Iran to coordinate plans with the Shah and the Iranian military.  On August 19th pro Shah Army units and street crowds defeated the forces of the Prime Minister and the plan was successfully carried out.

The coup earned the U.S. and Great Britain the lasting enmity of a large section of the Iranian population.  It united communists, nationalists, and Shia clerics against foreign meddling in Iran’s affairs.  The former Prime minister became a folk hero of Iranian nationalism.

One of the points that should have emerged is that the Iranian view of the Western nations, including the United States, is negatively tinged by the imperialistic practices which these nations practiced in exploiting them, particularly from the 20th Century on, actually with the lifetime of many Iranians still living..

They also have been caught between religious rule, traditional absolutistic rule, and an urge for democratic rule. Unfortunately the power has rested with both religious and absolute rule..  In addition the role of women varies throughout the Middle East nations. It is still in the process of being defined.

The Weiner Component #60 – The Duck Dynasty & Race in the United States

English: Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Mar...

The former controversy in late 2013 with Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the TV live action or unrehearsed program “Duck Dynasty” brought to my mind a number of issues about him and about race relations in the United States over the years.

In an interview he equated homosexuality with terrorism and he stated that he remembered his happy youthful days in backcountry Louisiana, before government programs and welfare, when the happy darkies lived there and sang all the time.  One wonders what Robertson’s definition of terrorism is?  And one wonders about his powers of observation, especially during his youth.  And why is he a patriarch rather that an old timer or senior citizen?

Robertson is 67 years old, which means he was born in 1946; one year after World War II ended.  His memories seem to be of an idealized past reminiscent of the period after World War I rather than that of the Second World War.  How far back in the backcountry did he live?

The scenes he talks about I remember from movies made in the 1930s, Like the Marx Brothers’ “A Day at the Races,” which is still occasionally shown on TV, where in one scene the happy “darkies,” who presumably took care of the horses at the Race Track, sat around singing songs and eating watermelons.  I don’t think that situation ever existed outside of the movies.

After the Civil War blacks were immediately given full civil rights.  They were protected by an army of Northern occupation.  They voted and even sent some of their members to Congress and the State legislatures.  This continued until 1876 when Samuel Tilden, a Democrat, ran against Rutherford Hayes, a Republican, for President of the United States. Even though Tilden received the majority of the votes the Republicans insisted that Hayes had won the election.  Three states, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, had two set of electoral returns, one for the Democratic candidate and one for the Republican candidate.  Oregon had one elector declared illegal and replaced by a Republican.  On the night before the inauguration was to be held the two parties reached a compromise agreement.  Hayes, the Republican, would be the next president and the occupation troops would be withdrawn from the Southern states.  All the questionable electoral votes were counted for the Republican candidate.

The Klu Klux Klan had come into being earlier.  From 1867 on it would operate freely throughout the Southern States.  The Jim Crow South now came into being, stripping from the blacks whatever rights they had and subjecting them to abject subservience.  This was then finalized.

In 1896 the Supreme Court of the United Stated rendered the Plessy v. Ferguson Decision that made so-called separate but equal Constitutional.  This legalized segregation in the nation and legally brought about all the “Jim Crow” laws.  Blacks from this point on legally became, what they had been before, second class citizens.  In the Southern States there was total segregation.  In the North there were black ghettos and equally restricted areas.  The two groups were kept separate within the society.  In fact, if I remember correctly, an early movie where a black man and a white woman danced together on a split screen (Two separate images of people dancing were brought together as a single image.) caused a minor riot when it was shown in a movie nickelodeon.

World War II, the war to keep the world free, inadvertently brought about change.  In order to meet war production goals in the Northern States blacks were hired to work in factories by 1943. Winning the war became more important than keeping the races separate.  In many instances they worked alongside whites.  There was a massive movement of blacks from the segregated South to the ghettoes in the North.  This brought about a rearranging of the wartime population of the United States.  It gave employment to people who had trouble finding decent jobs.  And once the war was over conditions had changed; there was no going back.

In the military backs were treated differently overseas, particularly in Europe, than they had been in the U.S.  The military was segregated in this war and for the first time blacks became officers in the air force.  All pilots in the military automatically became officers.  This created all sorts of problems. In military bases located in the South the soldiers were told that they salute the uniform and not the man wearing it.   Shortly after W.W.II President Truman desegregated the armed forces.

The nation was changing.  The U.S. entered W.W.II with the Great Depression still lingering and the bulk of the population being lower class, with, at best, a high school education.  We emerged from the war with the depression over and full employment.  The Federal Government offered free education or a business start to the returning veterans.  We emerged after the war as a middle class nation.  With the Supreme Court decision in 1954 of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, separate but equal became inherently unequal and unconstitutional.  Legally the Jim Crow Era was ended and segregation became illegal.

In the 1960s the Civil Rights Movement would begin with sit-ins and marches.  Rosa Parks would begin the bus boycott in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Martin Luther King, Jr. would become the leader of the movement.

The process was difficult and still has not been totally accepted throughout the United States.  The black is still essentially a second class citizen.

Throughout the United States there was and to a certain extent still is defacto segregation, separation which occurred because of where people lived.  I remember hearing or reading about an incident sometime in the late 60s where Lena Horne went to the restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.  She was seated and waited forty-five minutes for service before she left in disgust without being served.  In a sense that is still the situation with blacks throughout the United States.

From the 1970s on enterprising real estate entrepreneurs were able to desegregate expensive housing tracts by initially selling to a black family and then forcing the other white families out by telling them how their property values would drop if they stayed in the tract.  Conditions are somewhat better today.

Robinson was a teenager after W.W. II when many of these events took place and even growing up in rural backwater Louisiana glimmers of what was happening must have come down to him.  If they did and he didn’t understand them, then that tends to define what kind of patriarch he is.

The A&E channel that runs the unrehearsed “Duck Dynasty” cancelled the show, then after a short period of time changed its executive minds.  Profit, it seems, is more important than ignorance.  The program has several million watchers and is inexpensive to produce and highly profitable for the network.


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