Where is MR. REPUBLICAN when we need him?

“I remember the day he died,” I told my students recently, speaking of Robert A. Taft.

It’s too late, of course to listen to Robert A. Taft, Republican Senator from Ohio, 1939-1953. And some would argue that his anti-union, anti-big government, anti-New Deal politics are not appropriate for today (although the Tea-Baggers and Mitch McConnell would say they are).

Imacon Color ScannerBut I wish he had been around to give George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld a piece of his mind in 2002, and I wish Barak Obama would read a few of his speeches now.

No one has ever suggested before that a single nation should range over the world, like a knight-errant, protecting democracy and ideals of good faith, and tilting, like Don Quixote, against the windmills of Fascism [read “terrorism”](1).

Senator Taft had good reason to be wary of this Knight-Errant. Even his understanding of the world sounds eerily modern.

But now it is suggested that the whole world is different. It is said that distances are so short we cannot possibly avoid being involved in a general war. I don’t believe it. I think if we are sufficiently determined not be become involved, we can stay out. We learned our lesson in 1917. We learned that modern war defeats its own purposes. A war to preserve democracy resulted in the destruction of more democracies that it preserved (2).

And he had a clear understanding of the effects of war on democracy.

Not only that, a war whether to preserve democracy or otherwise would almost certainly destroy democracy in the United States. We have moved far towards totalitarian government already. The additional powers sought by the President in case of war, the nationalization of all industry and all capital and all labor, already propose in bill before the Congress, would create a socialist dictatorship which it would be impossible to dissolve when the war ended (3).

I think Mr. Republican, as Taft was known, would have been equally distressed to discover the “[move] far towards totalitarian government [that has] already” taken place today; that is, the move toward a government that is but a shadow government beholden to the incredible domination of every aspect of all of our lives by corporations responsible to no one but the power of making money. We live in a totalitarian state controlled not by politicians, but by the ridiculously anti-human abstraction global capitalism. Mr. Republican would be aghast at the non-democratic state into which we have allowed ourselves to fall in order to “preserve democracy.”
____

(1), (2), (3) Taft, Robert A. “Let Us Stay Out Of War.” Vital Speeches of the Day 5.8 (1939): 254.

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