Somehow seems apt to cap this depressing budgetary/health care week with the last stretch of American Betrayal:
Then again, is this a democratic republic?
That, too, becomes a trick question after peering past history’s mirrors. In 1955, journalist and author John T. Flynn, one of the most famous and prolific critics of statism, collectivism, and Roosevelt (not necessarily in that order), argued in The Decline of the American Republic that following the Depression-triggered, war-entrenched Roosevelt-Truman revolution in spending, taxation, regimentation, and centralization known as the New Deal, and, later, less mem- orably, as the Fair Deal, the essential character of American society changed beyond recognition. The USA, Flynn wrote in that formative year of McDonald’s, “Rock Around the Clock,” and Disneyland, bore only “an external and superficial resemblance” to the republic that had existed for 144 years until 1933—and who even knew the difference by 1955 when Americans forty years of age (b. 1915) had no adult memory of anything different? The Constitution, of course, remained officially unchanged, Flynn noted. “It has been done by sheer usurpation of power by the federal government.”35
As if to agree, Norman Thomas, perennial Socialist candidate for president, was moved to write in 1953, “Here in America more measures once praised or denounced as socialist have been adopted than once I should have thought possible short of a Socialist victory at the polls.”36
Are you saying everyone who voted for X, Y, and Z were or are Socialists?
No, because I doubt that was the case. These legislators, however, almost without pause, voted for law after law that increased our reliance on, and our subservience to, the burgeoning state. Whether liberal-, Marxist-, Communist-, Socialist-, or Fascist-inspired—and there are strong parallels among these totalitarian systems, as Jonah Goldberg has argued compellingly in Liberal Fascism—our history since Roosevelt has been one of an expanding central government. (Even under Ronald Reagan, the federal government spending grew more than 3 percent.37) A state that took on the guise of paternalism in the early 1930s has become increasingly authoritarian, thuggish, even, and the citizens who sought or accepted that “helping hand” have become both wardlike and less free.
As far back as 1934, The New York Times trumpeted NEW DEAL PATERNALISM IMPERILS ALL INDIVIDUALISM.38 The article describes a speech by Massachusetts governor Joseph Ely at a conference of America’s governors. “There is no stopping short of the end of the road,” Ely said, “and at the end of the road we shall have a socialistic state.” Invoking Stalin in Russia, Mussolini in Italy, and Hitler in Germany—all newly minted dictators—Ely pointed out that where these despots ruled, “individualism had passed from the people to dictators making the people the ‘children of government.’ ”
Echoes of de Tocqueville. One century earlier, the French visionary de- scribed the infantilizing effect of a paternalistic despotism in America. Imagin- ing the “immense, protective power” of a state with “absolute” power, and likening such power to “parental authority,” which keeps citizens in “perpetual childhood,” he wondered, “Why should it not entirely relieve them from the trouble of thinking and all the cares of living?”39 It would seem that the mortal blow against the “grown-up”—the free citizen—was struck, softly, once liberty was no longer paramount in this country, once ideology began to take precedence over facts, once we traded in the American ideal of “rugged individual- ism” for the material markers of “the American dream.” If once upon a time Americans subscribed to our Founders’ belief that our Creator endowed us with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, there came a time when we expected a package of perks—car, house, Play Station—to sweeten the deal. Suddenly, those perks became darn near an entitlement, an attitude entirely befitting the subjects in Tocqueville’s absolute state. In fact, measured in material goods as it is, the contemporary “American dream” is a vision driven by the Marxist belief in the primacy of the economic.
From recognition to convergence.
No wonder Norman Thomas was tickled by the direction of the country in the Eisenhower years. By 1958, he was beside himself. “The United States is making greater strides toward socialism under Eisenhower than even under Roosevelt,” he enthused.40 By 1962, the man who had run for president on the Socialist ticket six times had concluded that “the difference between Democrats and Republicans is: Democrats have accepted the ideas of socialism cheer- fully, while Republicans have accepted them reluctantly.”41 Just not by name. As Upton Sinclair put it in a 1951 letter to Thomas, “The American People will take Socialism, but they won’t take the label.”42
We take the Big Lie instead. Euphemism. Official vocabulary. Language of ideology. The “PC” pact with the devil. The Big Lie as big con. The narrative of authority. How to stand athwart false history and yell “Stop!”? The answer finally seems clear. If once it was vitally important to shore up America’s bastions, something else is called for now. What’s needed is a full-scale assault on those bastions of unreality, those safe houses of secrets, all in a painful but re- storative effort to upend the narratives of authority, to break open the conspiracies of silence, which have endured through too many lifetimes. Put another way, it’s time to avenge the victims and the truth tellers, the voiceless and the voices of one. It’s time to avenge the American betrayal of Liberty herself.