Day 21: The “Dangerous” Democrats

The backbone of Republican rhetoric is that Democrats are dangerous. Republicans claim the Democratic party is filled with people who are going to destroy what you depend on and take it away.  It is nearer to the truth to say that Democrats want to give more to ordinary Americans. They want to lift up ordinary citizens and commit government to their general well-being.  That is what makes Democrats so “dangerous.”

Republicans don’t want you to vote your interests.  They assail reasonable, equitable, policy goals as somehow subversive, un-American.  Too good to be true.

The Democrats want to give you something. The Republicans want to demonize that aspiration; they have been doing it for years, acting as though, in the richest nation on the planet, there isn’t enough to go around.  Republicans want you to believe in scarcity, in the hardship that will follow if the government tries to “lift all boats,” even as the tide has crested to record highs for the nation’s most wealthy.  Two days ago, the Federal Reserve released data showing that the wealth of the fifty richest Americans is roughly equal to that of half of the population.  That’s right: just fifty people have as much wealth as the poorest 165 million Americans, combined.

Republicans want you to believe that the Democrats’ more generous vision for America is dangerous.  They want you to believe that the US can’t afford to a system of universal health care, that it’s too much to hope for coverage that continues when you lose your job.  They want you to believe that efforts to ensure that you can see a doctor more easily and cheaply will harm you: that you will be harmed, your freedom destroyed, if American policy so much as ventures that way.

Republicans want you to believe the US can’t afford to have a thriving economy while mitigating climate change.  They want you to believe that protecting vital natural resources is going to leave you broke or unemployed.  Trump has rolled back every protection he can, adding pollutants to the water you drink and the air you breathe.  The truth is that going green will safeguard your community, your health and your property while creating a gravy train of new and socially meaningful jobs.

Trump is a master at demonizing the Democrats, repeating lies about Biden over and over again, such as that Biden wants to defund the police and get rid of fracking.  Trump groundlessly claims Biden’s recovery plans will destroy the economy, whereas Moody Analytics says that Biden’s plans are far superior to Trump’s, that they will promote a faster economic recovery while creating an estimated 7 million jobs.

So don’t believe the Republicans. Let yourself believe in a better, fairer, and more vibrant America.  Vote for the “dangerous Democrats.”  It’s better for America, and it’s better for you.

Image: “The Ring of Thanks”
from this source.

 

Society

A street in Ireland, 1907 (Courtesy National Library of Ireland via the Commons on Flickr)

Among the hundreds of historical photographs I’ve looked at this week, this one stands out, jarring my sensibilities, its everydayness so strikingly at odds with ours.  Whereas many historical photographs appeal because of their near-resemblance to the life we know, others are fascinating in their strangeness, in their capacity to demand independent consideration.

So it is with this photograph from the National Library of Ireland.  It shows a muddy street in the port city of Waterford, where teamsters are conveying several carts of live turkeys up from the wharves.  Their destination may be a local poultry store, where the turkeys were likely to be sold to customers live, then kept at home and butchered by those in the kitchen for the holiday meal.  The date is December 16, 1907.  To have a rich turkey feast was then, as in Dickens’ time sixty years earlier, a singular joy and a sure token of prosperity.

There was a different appearance to a street.  The bricks of the gutter are evident, but the rest of the paving is scarcely visible beneath a thick layer of mud and animal waste, which night crews may have periodically combed smooth.  The only conveyances in sight are carts and wagons, though elsewhere, we know, automobiles were beginning to appear.  Besides teamsters hauling goods away from the harbor, the only other traffic is a pair of ladies in decent hats, driving themselves on their calls and errands.

The real point of interest, though, is along the curb, where we see a barefoot boy standing in the road.  He and his friend may be hoping to earn a few coins by helping the teamsters unload the turkeys.  Just a few feet away are a well-dressed lady and gentleman, and behind them are a trio of poorer, working-class women known as ‘shawlies.’  Whereas the lady has a proper overcoat or wrapper and a fur hat, the other women go about with their heads and bodies unceremoniously wrapped in shawls for warmth.  They carry baskets.

Class was different then, as clothing and shoes and manners marked out very visibly just how different one type of person was from the other.  Though the classes rubbed elbows much more intimately than they do today, the gulf between rich and poor was more evident and less was done to ameliorate it, to ease the suffering of the barefoot and hungry.

Image from this source.
Click on the image to enlarge it.

Big Bill Haywood

Union leaders Adolf Lessig and Big Bill Haywood (Courtesy Library of Congress via Flickr Commons)

There’s something raw about the history of the 1910s, a period of depression and unrest, when Americans were engaged in an anxious quest for alternatives.  It was a period of activism, when anti-capitalist sentiment and true human suffering allowed organized labor, still in its infancy, to make significant strides.  At the center of these trends were redoubtable labor leaders like Big Bill Haywood (right), shown here in 1913 with his fellow activist Adolph Lessig.

William Dudley Haywood (1869-1928) was one tough customer, a sometime socialist who helped found the radical labor organization known as the International Workers of the World (IWW), or ‘Wobblies.’  Founded in 1905, the IWW was radical in seeking to organize workers of all types and nationalities, even unskilled workers, in contrast to the other, more exclusive, ‘trade’ unions of the day.

Haywood was born in Utah and by age 15 was working in western copper mines.  By 1900, he had an invalid wife and two children and had gotten involved in the labor movement, skyrocketing to the top of the Western Federation of Miners, a militant union that in 1903 pitted itself against the Colorado mining industry and the state’s government in a bitter strike lasting nearly three years.

Aligned for a time with the fledgling Socialist Party, Haywood ultimately fell out with that group over strategy.  By 1910, his chief interest lay in directly mobilizing masses of people in IWW-led strikes and protests, believing this the surest path to structural change.Big Bill Haywood & followers in Paterson, NJ (Courtesy Library of Congress via Flickr Commons)

Haywood was involved, for instance, in the famous 1912 textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, also known as the Bread and Roses strike, whose centennial is now being commemorated.  Lawrence’s textile workers included large numbers of women and teens, and many persons of foreign birth.  Their protests aroused national sympathy, particularly when children of striking parents were sent to New York City for safekeeping.  The strike ended after three months, with workers gaining many concessions to their demands.

The 1912 textile strike in Lawrence (Courtesy of the Library of Congress via Flickr Commons)

Haywood’s star began to set during WWI, when the IWW’s on-going militancy and vision of international solidarity jarred with wartime industrial demands and an accompanying tide of national feeling.  In 1917, Haywood and 100 other IWW officials were arrested on charges of wartime sedition, found guilty, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.  Freed on bail while appealing conviction, Haywood fled to the Soviet Union, where he entered on an ignominious final chapter and died of alcoholism and diabetes a decade later.

His ashes are interred partly in a wall of the Kremlin, while others were sent back to Chicago to be buried in Waldheim Cemetery near the remains of the Haymarket martyrs.

Images: (top to bottom) Adolph Lessig and Big Bill Haywood, from this source;
Haywood and followers in Paterson, NJ (1913), from this source;
and a scene from
the Lawrence textile strike (1912), from this source.

RELATED ARTICLES:
May Day Meditations, Our Polity.
The Strike That Shook America 100 Years Ago, History.com.