Sunday, March 8, 2009

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose*


Frank Rich's column this week on parallels between Thornton Wilder's 1937 play Our Town and Depression 2009, to be frank, confuses me. One loses any sense of what he is trying to say by the double-loop history "lesson". (The play is about some small fictional New Hampshire town of Grover's Corners between the years of 1901 and 1913. And the play has to do with what is going on now ... how again?)

But I think I get his point, which I would have preferred much blunter.

How is 2009 like 1933? is the punditry's prompt du jour. Is Barack Hussein Obama Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and 2009's GOP the 1930's Party ex Herbert Hoover redux (which, as some may remember from history class, went on to lose in 1936 and 1940)?

From The New York Times, Sunday, January 30, 1938:
DR. FRANK DECLARES NEW DEAL 'FASCIST'; He Calls on Republicans to Fight Program Threatening to 'Hitlerize' Nation

Dr. Glenn Frank told the nation's Republicans tonight that their party "must be more faithfully expressive of the American spirit than the fascist program of the New Deal," which, he declared, "threatens to Hitlerize what was once democratic self-government."

Glenn Frank, a former president of the University of Wisconsin, was something like the Newt Gingrich — who, like Glenn Frank, likes bittering his commentary with a twist-of-"fascist" — of his day: he was considered one of the intellectual gurus of the 1930s GOP and played a fairly significant role as the leader of the 1938 RNC "Program Committee". (Rush Limbaugh may be considered a blowhard "entertainer", even by many conservative Republicans, but Newt is somehow considered to be their professorial "theorist".)

The Hooverites remained in control of the post-1932 GOP. (And Hoover, an intellectual in his own right, who founded Stanford University's Hoover Institute — it's also the home-base of Condoleezza Rice — kept waving his not-so-magic wand from the sidelines.) Their intellectual guru called the New Deal "fascist". The 1930s GOP was the party of "economic" libertarians and "cultural" conservatives. They lost in 1936 and 1940. Today's GOP is as clueless as they were. (And they are especially clueless when they say, in essence, "Bring Hooverism back in 2009! The New Deal was a failure!")

OK. I get it, Frank!


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*plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose : the more things change, the more they stay the same (more or less)