Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"All liberty is individual."
Calvin Coolidge

In Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man, the author recounts Calvin Coolidge's 1924 landslide victory. Because of his natural aversion to publicity Coolidge "sent a clerk to read aloud his State of the Union address." (17) No 60-90 minute performance on network TV, Coolidge didn't crave the limelight, he had a job to do and he intended to do it. No fanfare, no applause. Coolidge maintained profound respect for the individual and the Constitution and believed his role was defined by both.

Enter Roosevelt.

If Rahm Emanuel is the modern day model of a politician who "never lets a good crisis go to waste," Franklin Roosevelt was the original master of that philosophy. The politician who created and mastered interest group politics. The president whose second inaugural address admitted he sought "unimagined power." Whose policies required "perpetual experimentation." The Depression was the ideal crisis for Roosevelt to create a constituency of dependent citizens. In doing so he found he had to make a scapegoat of others. So businessmen and and businesses became his target. According to Shlaes, "The polarization made the Depression feel worse."

Enter Obama. The parallels between then and now are chilling. On March 1st Rasmussen published a poll that reported "58% of Americans say the economy is causing more family stress." It isn't just the unemployment rate, it's everything. Global warming, health care, the cost of energy, terrorist trials in New York, terrorist attacks, rising taxes, partisan politics raised to a new level, no hope, no change, just gray skies as far as the eye can see. CEO's are bad, banks are bad, pharmaceutical companies are bad, Republicans are bad, public opinion is bad. No hope. No change. Just a great deal of bad news. And a great deal of polarization.

Enter a modern day Coolidge. Please.

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