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From his own public comments and my reading of the record, it is apparent that Karl Rove has modeled the Bush presidency on that of William McKinley, who was in the White House from 1897 to 1901, and modeled himself on Mark Hanna, the man who virtually manufactured McKinley. Hanna had one consummate passion: to serve corporate and imperial power. government’s role in promoting and preserving inequality by favoring the rich. The Founding Fathers turned their backs on the idea of property qualifications for holding office under the Constitution because they wanted absolutely no “veneration for wealth” in the document. Thomas Jefferson, while claiming no interest in politics, built up a Democratic-Republican party to take the government back from the speculators and “stock-jobbers” who were in the saddle in 1800. Andrew Jackson slew the monster Second Bank of the United States, the six-hundred-pound gorilla of the credit system in the 1830s, in the name of the people versus the aristocrats who sat on the bank’s governing board. All these leaders were on record in favor of small government, but their opposition wasn’t simply to government as such. They objected to government’s power to confer privilege on the democracy’s equivalent of the royal favorites of monarchist days: on the rich, on the insiders, on what today we know as the crony capitalists. The Populists knew it was the government that granted millions of acres of public land to the railroad builders. It was the government that gave the manufacturers of farm machinery a monopoly of the domes tic market by a protective tariff that was no longer necessary to shelter infant industries. It was the government that contracted the national currency and sparked a deflationary cycle that crushed debtors and fattened the wallets of creditors. And those who made the great fortunes used them to buy the legislative and judicial favors that kept them on top. So the Populists recognized one great principle: the job of preserving equality of opportunity and democracy demanded the end of any unholy alliance between government and wealth. It was, to quote that platform again, “from the same womb of governmental injustice” that tramps and millionaires were bred The question remained, however: how was the democratic revolution to be revived, the promise of the Declaration reclaimed? How were Americans to restore government to its job of promoting the general welfare? And here the Populists made a breakthrough to another principle. In a modern, large-scale, industrial, and nationalized economy it wasn’t enough simply to curb the government’s outreach. Such a policy would simply leave power in the hands of the great corporations whose existence was inseparable from growth and progress. The answer was to turn government into an active player in the economy, at the very least enforcing fair play and when necessary being the friend, the helper, and the agent of the people at large in a contest against entrenched power. As a result, the Populist platform called for government loans to farmers about to lose their mortgaged homesteads, for government granaries to grade and store their crops fairly, for governmental inflation of the currency \(a classical plea of ernment ownership of the railroad, telephone, and telegraph ban on subsidies to “any private corporations’ Moreover, in order to ensure that the government stayed on the side of the people, the party called for two electoral reforms, the initiative and referendum and the direct election of senators. Predictably, the Populists were denounced, feared, and mocked as fanatical hayseeds ignorantly playing with socialist fire. They received twenty-two electoral votes for their 1892 candidate, plus some congressional seats and state houses, but this would prove to be the party’s peak. America wasn’tand probably still isn’tready for a new major party. The People’s Party was a spent rocket by 1904. At the same time, when political organizations perish, their key ideas endure, and this is a perspective of great importance to today’s progressives. Much of the Populist agenda would become law within a few years of the party’s extinction because their goals were generally shared by a rising generation of young Republicans and Democrats who, justly or not, were seen as less outrageously outdated than the embattled farmers. These were the Progressives, the intellectual forebears of those of us who today call ourselves by the same name. They were a diverse lot, held together by a common admiration of progresshence the nameand a shared dismay at the paradox of poverty stubbornly persisting in the midst of progress like an unwanted guest at a wedding. Of course they 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 8/13/04