Thursday, March 26, 2009

Patience IS a Virtue

If ever we needed a reminder that we live in an instant gratification society, we find full proof of it in our attitudes towards these troubled economic times. While it is true and absolutely irrefutable that people are hurting, unemployment is soaring, the Dow Jones is nowhere near stable, the banking system is in turmoil, and many large industries are utterly bankrupt, we would be well advised to heed the advice of our commander-in-chief and his inner circle. Be patient. Give us time. The change we need will not happen overnight. That in itself is not news. In short, it will take a good long while to pull ourselves out of this mess and we would be wise to pitch in and help, rather than stand on the sidelines and gripe.

Maybe it isn't the everyman or everywoman who misunderstands this basic fact of all economic crises. President Obama's still-soaring approval rating is evidence of that. Perhaps it's the talking heads, pundits, self-professed experts, and GOP legislators who look to find fault with everything to suit their own ends and justify their own existences. Perhaps I personally am sick of seeing alarmist tracts, defeatist articles, or opinion pieces masquerading as the God's honest truth in the mainstream media or on the twenty-four hour cable news networks.

It has been fashionable these days to draw the comparison between Obama's accomplishments in his first 100 days in office and FDR's reforms made in the same period of time. To an extent, this is a somewhat fatuous comparison, since the crisis that existed in 1932 is ten times as severe as that which exists now: twenty-five percent unemployment, a bank panic consuming every state in the nation, impotent, smugly sanctimonious leadership from the outgoing President, his staff, and his party, and a sense of paralyzing fear in everyone's mind that the country was quickly headed to the status of a third-world nation.

In reading Adam Cohen's new book, Nothing to Fear, which is a well-research summary of Franklin D. Roosevelt's first three months and ten days in office, I came across a fascinating passage which underscores the difference in attitudes between the right and the left. Nowadays, the GOP leadership believes that opposing Obama and the Democratic majority on every front is its only way to remain in the public psyche and, for that matter, stay relevant to the debate. In 1932, by contrast, only outgoing President Hoover maintained any belief whatsoever in the old ideas that had proven disastrous to the country and the world. His staff had been attempting, to the best of their ability, to get Hoover to enact even the most modest reforms to stem the bleeding. Hoover stubbornly wouldn't go along with any of it.

The nation expected Roosevelt to claim the powers of a dictator, or close to it. Senator William Borah, the legendary Progressive Republican from Idaho, had announced that he was willing to put aside partisanship and politics" and "agree to give our incoming President dictatorial powers within the Constitution for a certain period." Senator David Reed, a mainstream Republican from Pennsylvania, had declared, "I do not often envy other countries their governments, but I say that if this country every needed a Mussolini, it needs one now." Even Walter Lippmann, usually a voice of studied moderation, was insisting that the use of "'dictatorial powers,'" if that is the name for it---is essential."

While it is true that times then are not times now, I still find it incredible that anyone would propose with a straight-face that Democracy ought to be temporarily suspended in favor of a autocratic state. Today's Republicans may be true believers in failed policy, but good luck trying to get them to admit it. Back then, Republicans had lost faith in everything, even their own treasured ideals. As much as I would like to see that happen, if we have to have another Great Depression to arrive at that state, I'd rather pass.

1 comment:

Gail said...

Kevin is BACK - wow!

Well written, excellent over-view and real insight about political everything.

I feel enlightened by your stated views.

Love Gail