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welcomed, just as we do, the new marvels in the gift bag of technologythe telephones, the automobiles, the electrically powered urban transport and lighting systems, the indoor heating and plumbing, the processed foods and home appliances and machine-made clothing that reduced the sweat and drudgery of homemaking and were affordable to an ever-swelling number of people. At the same time, however, they saw the underside: the slums lurking in the shadows of the glittering cities; the exploited and unprotected workers whose low-paid labor filled the horn of plenty for others; the misery of those whom age, sickness, accident, or hard times condemned to servitude and poverty with no hope of comfort or security. Incredibly, in little more than a century, the still-young revolution of 1776 was being strangled by the hard grip of a merciless ruling class. The large corporations that were called into being by modern industrialism after 1865the end of the Civil Warhad combined into trusts capable of making minions of both politics and government. What Henry George called “an immense wedge” was being forced through American society by “the maldistribution of wealth, status, and opportunity.” We should pause here to consider that this is Karl Rove’s cherished period of American history; it was, as I read him, the seminal influence on the man who is said to be the mastermind of George W. Bush’s success. 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. He believed without compunction, according to a critic, that “the state of Ohio existed for property. It had no other function…. Great wealth was to be gained through monopoly, through using the State for private ends; it was axiomatic therefore that businessmen should run the government and run it for personal profit:’ Mark Hanna made William McKinley governor of Ohio by shaking down the corporate interests of the day. Fortunately, it was said, McKinley had the invaluable gift of emitting sonorous platitudes as though they were recently discovered truth. Behind his benign gaze the wily intrigues of Mark Hanna saw to it that first Ohio and then Washington were, in his words, “ruled by business … by bankers, railroads, and public utility corporations:’ Any who opposed the oligarchy were smeared as disturbers of the peace, socialists, anarchists, or worse. Back then they didn’t bother with hollow euphemisms such as “compassionate conservatism” to disguise the raw reactionary politics that produced government of, by, and for the ruling corporate class. They just saw the loot and went for it. The historian Clinton Rossiter describes this as the period of “the great train robbery of American intellectual history?’ Conservativesor, better, pro-corporate apologistshijacked the vocabulary of Jeffersonian liberalism and turned words such as progress, opportunity, and individualism into tools for making the plunder of America sound like divine right. This “degenerate and unlovely age,” as one historian calls it, seemingly exists in the mind of Karl Rove as the age of inspiration for the politics and governance of America today. It is no wonder, then, that what troubled our Progressive forebears was not only the miasma of poverty in their nostrils but also the sour stink of a political system for sale. The United States Senate was a millionaires’ club. Money given to the political machines that controlled nominations could buy controlling influence in city halls, statehouses, and even courtrooms. Reforms and improvements ran into the immovable resistance of the almighty dollar. What, Progressives wondered, would this do to the principles of popular government? All of them, whatever their political party, were inspired by the gospel of democracy. Inevitably, this swept them into the currents of politics, whether as active officeholders or persistent advocates. Here is a small but representative sampling of their ranks. Jane Addams forsook the comforts of a well-to-do college graduate’s life to live in Hull House in the midst of a disease-ridden and crowded Chicago immigrant neighborhood, determined to make it an educational and social center that would bring pride, health, and beauty into the lives of her poor neighbors. In her words, “an almost passionate devotion to the ideals of democracy” inspired Addams to combat the prevailing notion “that the well-being of a privileged few might justly be built upon the ignorance and sacrifice of the many.” Community and fellowship were the lessons she drew from her teachers, Jesus and Abraham Lincoln, but people simply helping one another couldn’t move mountains of disadvantage. She came to see that “private beneficence” was not enough. To bring justice to the poor would take more then just soup kitchens and fund-raising prayer meetings. “Social arrangements,” she wrote, “can be transformed through man’s conscious and deliberate effort.” Take note: she spoke not of individual regeneration or the magic of the market but of conscious, cooperative effort. Meet a couple of muckraking journalists. Jacob Riis lugged his heavy camera up and down the staircases of New York’s disease-ridden, firetrap tenements to photograph the unspeakable crowding, the inadequate toilets, the starved and holloweyed children, and the filth on the walls so thick that his crude flash equipment sometimes set it afire. Bound between hard covers, with Riis’s commentary, these images showed comfortable New Yorkers “how the other half lives?’ They were powerful ammunition for reformers who eventually brought an end to tenement housing by state legislation. For his part, Lincoln Steffens, collegeand graduate-school-educated, left his books to learn life from the bottom up as a police-beat reporter on New York’s streets. Then, as a magazine writer, he exposed the links between city bosses and businessmen that made it possible for builders and factory owners to ignore safety codes and get away with it. But the villain was neither the boodler nor the businessman. It was the indifference of a public that “deplore [d] our politics and laud [ed] our business; that transformed law, medicine, literature and religion into simply business:’ Steffens was out to slay the dragon of 8/13/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7