OK, his name might entice some chuckles but this Kermit is no puppet. In fact Kermit Roosevelt: is a very serious professor who clarifies our thoughts regarding American history, which will enrage some in society. Mr. Roosevelt reframes history using politically incorrect observations, like how we have had two dissimilar nations.
At first our nation was arranged around liberty, justice, but not even close to for all. For the chosen few; defined mostly as white and male, pre-Civil War. At first just for the land owners, eliminating quite a few possible worthy citizens: to be polite.
The second nation: a nation reborn post Civil War, was a new nation in many ways. One striving (poorly) to head down that yellow brick road to more liberty, more justice for all. The destination was far. Hopefully aided by former Confederate states, now less Articles of Confederation-like. States in a partnership with the federal government. No longer more like independent kingdoms. More like partners heading towards being a better, more Declaration-like, nation.
It has never quite worked out that way because there are many intent on dragging us back to some version confederate soldiers fought for.
Reconstruction did not last: destroyed because of Grant administration scandals and corruption via southern courts, former slave owners.
”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The more noble words of the Declaration offered us room to grow as “men.” Just to provide one example where in changing times no longer refers just to gender: has been, and can be, more inclusive. Not a legal document, but more telling of intent than the Constitution, which was methodical government construction. It’s kind of like self written marriage vows vs. legal documents.
While much of the nation wanted slavery to continue to enrich the rich, a nation’s trip down the better road had begun, due to a somewhat reluctant Lincoln. Once headed down the path we can hope that path will continue our journey towards liberty and justice for all. With the emphasis on ALL.
But what if history had been different?
Many times on our ragged timeline we have almost ended up at a vastly different destination. Working from our time backwards: what if Nancy and Mike had been hanged on 16? That certainly would have been a hammer to the nation’s head.
I think I know what would have followed. How can I know? Because we have already heard the answers to that in the many MAGA-ites tired of representative governance.
Going backwards to the 30’s and 40’s the intellectual parents of MAGA attempted to overthrow Roosevelt, the names Lundeen and Fish should echo down through history. Instead their names are forgotten except podcasts like Ultra. A time when Nazis gathered at Madison Square Garden to cheer create clone of fascist Germany including our own version of the Brownshirts: the Silvershirts.
Throughout history we have come within a hair’s width from becoming a dictatorship, even down to those who wanted Washington to be king.
What would have happened? Who knows: But I’d rather not find out what would have happened if Hitler fan Lucky Lindy became president and we fought with the Nazis.
The Worst Presidents
I record C-Span’s history documentaries on the weekends and let them put me to sleep. Some are so poignant I end up at the laptop or home stations typing like I am now. Jeremi Suri ‘s lecture and book: Civil War by Other Means, is another one of those. His statement that the worst presidents (my words) became president by electoral means (like the EC) struck me as beyond true, a more committed theist might call it “gospel,” or “the word.”
Rutherford B. Hayes?
I have deliberately left out more current examples: however you would get little acceptance from historians, or generations far past their presidency, claiming otherwise. Can they be influential? YES.
Harrison’s protection tariffs: as implemented, led to massive inflation, He did fight corporate trusts, but again implementation left that effort ineffective.
Hayes led the way to the return of a different form of slavery: reversing course, retracing our steps in other ways, towards blacks becoming second class citizens again and arguably worse. As bad as slavery was there were some kind, loving, slave masters. What we had after that was more open hunting season that slowed only when attacked by legislation and protests.
Suri’s statement, that a lot of our troubles can be traced back to institutions like gerrymandering, voter suppression by many means (my examples), ring true. Like his statement that wars never end. We are still dealing with the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, Iraq: all our wars. If WWII ended Hitler’s dreams Charlottesville wouldn’t have attracted so many.
While I am not a fan of election by Electoral College: too easy to game, I am also not a fan of popular vote election of the president. I AM a fan of a 55% or 60% threshold. Hey, if a candidate can’t get more than a majority he probably shouldn’t be a president.
I am a fan of imprisoning, even executing, those who interfere with voting. Harsh? Yes. Traitors need be discouraged.
But DOES it discourage them? History proves otherwise, referring back to Charlottesville, 1/ and various militias that day. Such movements always return in one form or another. What we went through with during the 30’s and 40’s the Madison Square Garden Nazi confab, Coughlin, Lundeen Fish and their cohorts before our time proves that.
Perhaps, as Suri suggests, making a better nation is best left to the next generation.
“Inspection” is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 50 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions.
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