News From Terre Haute, Indiana


August 28, 2012

READERS’ FORUM: Aug. 28, 2012

Who wants to step backward?

My commentary is being offered in response to the comments by Mr. Dan Burkett, published in this space on Monday, Aug. 13.

In his rather excellent and well-written commentary, Mr. Burkett, who in the interest of appropriate disclosure should be identified as the president of the Indiana State University Young Republican Organization, has done a mostly acceptable job of highlighting some of the differences between classic Republicans and progressive, socially engaged Democrats.

He then, with evident sincerity, laments a commonly held national concern, that in the upper and lower houses of Congress both Republicans and Democrats seem incapable, in even the smallest and most insignificant matters, to achieve any compromise at all.

What Mr. Burkett fails to do is to discuss any of the stark differences in the vision of members of both parties for the future of our country. These differences of vision are revealed not only in future plans, but in the ways, in the past, members of both parties have contributed to the advancement of American life, at least since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

At the dawn of the industrial age, and thereafter, life in America offered great opportunity for a few, and great peril and disaster for many. For most, life was filled with non-mitigated risk, at least until the beginning of the Union movement, led by such giants as Samuel Gompers, and the early beginning of the 20th century government involvement in our daily lives, represented by such great acts as the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, instigated by Theodore Roosevelt.

Who among us wants to go back to the days of the early Industrial Revolution, when hundreds of thousands of American breadwinners and their families were regarded by the very few multimillionaire industrialists as nothing more than easily disposed of ants living in easily crushed ant hills?

Who wants to go back to the early days of the 20th century when, before Social Security, older people, particularly older people with little or no income, were left to live and die in the wretched hovels of our major and smaller (perhaps like Terre Haute) cities?

Who, especially, among today’s students who come from working class families, among us wants to go back to pre-World War II days, before the enactment of the Democratically inspired and enacted G.I. Bill, when college was only for the select few, olde and nouveau riche? (I dare to suggest here that, if it was 1912, that Mr. Burkett himself, bright and intelligent as he might be, would be apprenticing for a day laborer trade rather then being a presidential scholar of ISU.)

Yes, life for a minute few at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, before governmentally inspired, created, developed and maintained social programs forming the foundation of today’s safety net were put into place, was full of opportunity and possibility for the elite few, and the good Messrs. Romney and Ryan, who probably view them as what they might term as the “good ole’ days of yesteryear.”

On the one hand, Mr. Romney by word (“On my first day in office as president, I will repeal Obamacare”) and by action (“I now choose as my runningmate a man sworn to roll back all of the great societal reforms of the 20th Century including Social Security”) has clearly indicated his vision of a dog-eat-dog America. (Funny that neither one of this pair has targeted the Pure Food and Drug Act, so we could all go back to the days of rancid meats and spoiled dairy products sold from not-so-cool, broken down grocery coolers, oleo margarine laced with finel, ground sawdust (yes, it was made that way, sold that way, and eaten that way) and over-the-counter drugs liberally laced with opium and alcohol, sold to whomever for whatever. At least, those ingesting such drugs felt good — they felt real good.

As imperfect as you may think the National Stage Democrats are, as inadequate as you might think our statewide and local Democratic Party may be, remember the derring-do and sheer guts it took to pass such acts as Social Security, as controversial in its day as “Obamacare” is today.

Remember the great and historic alliances built by Republicans and Democrats (but always inspired and led by visionary Democrats).

Remember the past Democratic visions of the future which led to the great and historic social reforms of yesterday, and today, and which will lead us into an enlightened tomorrow. And then go and vote for the greater good of our great Republic.

— Earle L. Harvey

Terre Haute

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