Wednesday, October 20, 2004


A number of bloggers have embraced the charge that Bush is not part of the reality based community (Yglesias, TPM, Atrios, TAPPED). We agree that much of what Bush does is not reality based, but saying so does not give the listener an idea of what Bush is for. A better charge, in our view, is calling the president 19th Century Bush. It's a snappy phrase (matches the well known "20th Century Fox") and it discribes where Bush is heading this country. Bush is trying to dismantle many of the developments that made the last hundred years The American Century.

We make our case below:

Nineteenth Century Bush - President Bush and his party wants to take America back to the nineteenth century by undoing the following achievements of the Twentieth Century:

  • Anti-trust action: Applied with vigor by Teddy Roosevelt during his administration (1901-1909)

Roosevelt emerged spectacularly as a "trust buster" by forcing the dissolution of a great railroad combination in the Northwest. Other antitrust suits under the Sherman Act followed.

Opposed by

Bush supporter and Club for Growth president Stephen Moore 2004: Now is the time for the Bush administration to lighten the enforcement burden of antitrust law and for Congress to do what it should have done long ago: repeal the Sherman antitrust laws.
  • Progressive income tax: Following the ratification of the 16th amendment (in 1913), the income tax was progressive from the beginning.

In 1913 the tax rate was 1 percent on taxable net income above $3,000 ($4,000 for married couples), less deductions and exemptions. It rose to a rate of 7 percent on incomes above $500,000.

Opposed by

President Bush 2004: President Bush reasserted his call Sunday for a simpler tax system, and aides said he is considering pushing for a flat tax, which would set the same income-tax rate for most taxpayers, as a major priority if he were to win a second term.
  • Direct election of senators: 17th amendment - ratified in 1913

Opposed by

Supreme Court Justice, and George Bush fave Anton Scalia 2004: While Scalia’s prepared speech—which lasted less than half an hour—was narrowly focused, his remarks in the 20-minute question-and-answer question spanned a broad range of topics. In one of the more bizarre moments of the evening, Scalia mentioned—in passing—that he thought the 17th Amendment was “a bad idea.”
GOP-approved senate candidate Alan Keyes 2004: "The balance is utterly destroyed when the senators are directly elected, because the state government as such no longer plays any role in the deliberations at the federal level," Keyes said at a taping of WBBM Newsradio's "At Issue" program.
GOP-approved convention speaker Zell Miller Senator Miller ... introduced his own amendment to repeal the Seventeenth, contends that the direct election of senators “was the death of the careful balance between state and federal governments.”
  • Estate tax: Established in 1916 with the enthusiastic support of Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft

Roosevelt said in 1907 that an inheritance tax on "such enormous fortunes as have been accumulated in America would be one of the methods by which we should try to preserve a measurable equality of opportunity..."

Also: The Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives explained that a new type of tax was needed, because the "consumption taxes" in effect at that time bore most heavily upon those least able to pay them.

Opposed by

President Bush 2002: "One of the worst taxes that we have on the books that we're trying to get rid of, and won't get rid of unless we have a senator and senators who vote to make it permanent, is the death tax. "
  • Regulation of energy: Began in 1920 as the Federal Power Commission (FPC), expanded to current scope in 1935 and 1938, reorganized in 1977 as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Not used to enforce its mandate to "ensure just and reasonable rates" by

President Bush 2001: California's electricity shortages should be solved "in California by Californians"
Vice-president Cheney 2001: "They've got a whole complex of problems that are caused by relying only on conservation ..."
  • Regulation of the public airwaves: Began with the creation in 1934 of the Federal Communications Commission

Not used to enforce its mandate to make sure the "public interest" is served by broadcasters by

Republican stalwart and current FCC chair Michael Powell When asked in 2001 what he thought the term public interest meant in the FCC's mission, the current FCC chairman responded, "I have no idea...
  • Regulation of securities market: Federal role established with the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934.

Not used to crack down on Wall Street by

Bush appointmed SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt 2001: ... he pledged to make the SEC “a kinder, gentler place for everyone”.
  • Social Security: Legislation signed in 1935.

Current program opposed by

President Bush 2003/4: Wants to "overhaul" the program, privatize it
  • Bipartisan foreign policy: Firmly established by Truman and Vandenberg in 1947, leading to the success of the Cold War

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs (1947–49), Vandenberg was the leading proponent of bipartisan support for President Truman's foreign policy. He was instrumental in securing Senate approval of the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Dismissed by

President Bush 2002: "... the [Democratic controlled] Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people."
  • Separation of Church and State: One significant ruling in this matter was the Supreme Court's decision on school prayer in 1962.

Opposed by

President Bush 2001: Established White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
House Minority Leader Tom DeLay 2004: ... Tom DeLay has announced plans to remove the federal courts' jurisdiction to rule on the constitutionality of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

  • Right to privacy: Significant development in this area established in Griswold vs Connecticut (1965)

Opposed by

President Bush's nominee to the court: Bill Pryor 2003: Pryor believes no right to privacy exists in the Constitution
  • Abortion rights: From the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973.

Opposed by

President Bush 1994: "I will do everything in my power to restrict abortions."
  • Operate within multi-national framework: Promoted by Woodrow Wilson, fully adopted by Franklin Roosevelt (1945) and subsequent administrations.

Opposed by

President Bush: Withdrew from the ABM Treaty (established in 1972) 2001: "America is withdrawing from this almost 30-year-old treaty ..."
President Bush: Opposed the Kyoto Protocol (established in 1997) 2001: "I oppose the Kyoto Protocol"
President Bush: Refuses to participate in the Internation Criminal Court (established in 1998) 2004: "I made a decision not to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague"


I remember reading something that included the line "...Bush wants to roll back the entire 20th century." I cannot for the life of me figure out where that line came from, and Google was not helpful. I'm pretty sure the quote is correct, and so maybe someone else has read it and can give it a source.

But yes, you're exactly right. But there's more. Don't forget about Lochner.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/20/2004 7:12 AM  

Ah, it's from "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Tom Frank. Page 8:

"Having rolled back the landmark economic reforms of the sixties (the war on poverty) and those of the thirties (labor law, agricultural price supports, banking regulation), its leaders now turn their guns on the accomplishments of the earliest years of progressivism (Woodrow Wilson's estate tax; Theodore Roosevelt's antitrust measures). With a little more effort, the backlash may well repeal the entire twentieth century."


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/20/2004 10:55 AM  

You could call it 19th century thinking, if you want to... but it might be 21st century thinking, too. Notions like "free market environmentalism" or "faith-based initiatives" may be more post-modern than pre-modern. Bush's "federalism" strikes some as a stealth return to Dred Scott and "State's Rights," but it could be a renewed decentralization that fits the distributed paradigm of the world wide web.

In an ever more deeply divided nation, decentralized and distributed government might give us new ways of breaking our current impasse. A robust twenty-first century federalism would focus the federal government on doing a few things well (protecting our borders, killing our enemies, integrating our economy), while leaving divisive social issues up to the states.

Suppose New York and California want to be metrosexual while Alabama and Arkansas want to be retrosexual. Why is this a problem? Twentieth century nationalism turns this into a constitutional crisis, with legions of lawyers nitpicking every hanging chad. Twenty-first century federalism could care less.

You saw twenty-first century federalism at the GOP Convention, when metrosexual Arnold and Rudy stood up to support Bush's war on terror, ignoring his retrosexual positions on abortion and same-sex marriage. In my opinion, that represented the wave of the future, not a retreat to the past.

By Blogger Anselm's Apprentice, at 10/20/2004 12:17 PM  

So, when Rove was repeatedly harping on him being the reincarnation of William McKinley's money-man Mark Hanna, you just thought he was joking?

McKinley was also the initiator of the Spanish-American War, which started, in large part, because of Hearst's outrageous journalists.

By Blogger josh narins, at 10/20/2004 1:53 PM  

Very informative. Thanks.

By Blogger brainhell, at 10/21/2004 11:51 AM  

You don't get nearly enough credit, I think.

This post is simply brilliant. The idea that Bush wants to return us to the 19th century has been bandied about by others, but you're the only one who has actually laid out the simple, but devastating truth.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/21/2004 10:17 PM  

A totally excellent post. Bush tries to conceal this from the public, like by posing as a "compassionate conservative," unprecedented government secrecy, and mislabling legislation.

The goal of conservatism has always been to roll back the new deal and the rest of 20th century legislation. They are perfectly clear about this in their publications. However, the public has never been sold on this, so Bush has resorted to deception.

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By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/28/2005 6:14 AM  

Nineteenth Century Bush? That view is as true in foreign affairs as it is in domestic. MORE ON THAT HERE

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By Blogger 6sec, at 10/04/2005 1:10 PM  

Your wrong he wants to back to feudalism with knights, barons, counts and other goodies for his base. Maybe reinstate the royalites perq as the right to the first night but maybe that wouldnt be christian

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/10/2005 10:51 AM  


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By Anonymous residual income, at 2/25/2006 3:03 PM  

Bush is actually more 18th century than 19th century. For years now, I've been arguing that the Republicans need to adopt the battle cry "Forward—to the 18th century!"

By Anonymous Scott, at 4/26/2006 3:26 PM  

Very good info. Thx.

By Anonymous electronic circuits, at 5/06/2006 2:17 PM  

You saw twenty-first century federalism at the GOP Convention, when metrosexual Arnold and Rudy stood up to support Bush's war on terror, ignoring his retrosexual positions on abortion and same-sex marriage. In my opinion, that represented the wave of the future, not a retreat to the past.

Anonymous... I'd take this vision a lot more seriously if those very same 'retrosexuals' and their allies weren't hellbent to force their beliefs on the rest of us.

Distributed federalism could very well be one of the ways out of this mess... but let's not pretend that the GOP represents this vision. It doesn't.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/18/2006 8:23 PM  

... don't forget about him wanting to teach the Christian creationist myth along side evolution.

By Anonymous ajw, at 5/23/2006 12:38 AM  

All of you are out of your mind and a bunch of liars yourself. I can not wait to see what happen in 2008. This country is going down the tubes not because of the war that believe was the correct thing to do but because of the morals. Look at history and the bible if you believe in it. The morals in this country are worst than I ever imagined they would be. It makes me sick that my grand-children and great grand-children will have to deal with the future. But they are christians and they may be the minority but at least they will be with our Lord and Saviour in the end. God Bless America and God Bless all of you that turn your head away from him.

By Anonymous C. Gambrell, at 6/20/2006 12:12 PM  

Gambrell, what about the loose morals of the BushCo? War whenever they want? Rising abortion rates due to lack of women's health care? Declining environmental controls? Increasing the gap between rich and poor even more?

Go read the sermon on the mount and see what if any can be applied to Bush.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/07/2006 6:02 PM  

18th century? Try 14th century. Bush and his fellow travellers want to junk the Renaissance and the Enlightenment and return us to the good old days when the Church put Galileo on trial for science.

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