21 October 2007

The More Things Change . . .

The NYT has opened up their archives, sort of. Stuff from 1851 to 1922 is free, as is stuff after 1986, between you have to pay. Bill at So Quoted complains about this turn of events, here.

Out of curiosity, I checked articles about Warren Harding during the election year 1920. Election coverage was a bit lighter back then compared to now, to say the least. Here's Harding's answer to the NYT regarding why he should be elected, printed on Oct 31st 1920, along with his opponent's reply as well (PDF at this link). I've eliminated references to party affiliation (in brackets), for reasons that will become obvious as you read further:

You have asked me to state the reasons of [my party] for asking the nation's approval on Election day; I prefer with your permission, to state why the American people will give that approval. They will give it because long ago they turned away from an Administration and its proposal to continue its wastes, follies and perversion of constitutional government, by an extreme and undemocratic centralization of authority. The American people are now thoroughly alarmed by a regime of reckless waste, leading business toward chaos, and the American laborer toward unemployment. Unpreparedness for war and for peace has resulted in hideous losses, with the national burden upon the taxpayer. Throughout the campaign no admission has come from the [other] side of the grotesque errors for distended power misused for nearly eight years. No constructive suggestion for restoring America to firm prosperity or for uniting her people upon a program of going forward has come from the [other] party, nor from its representatives. Most of their attention has been spent upon an insolent suggestion that America shall accept without change of form a membership in a particular [foreign entanglement], as to which Americans were not consulted, and which they have long ago rejected. The election of a [President from the other party], provided he kept faith with his program, would mean four more years in which a President and the representatives of the people would each be able to block action upon the part of the other.

The American people, therefore, will turn to [my party] because it offers assurance of an end of wasteful, willful, and inefficient government, which has menaced our prosperity and the safety of our national institutions. They will turn to it because it offers a plan of peace in industry, a rehabilitation of our agriculture, and because its policies are based upon social justice and a united America. They will turn to it with relief from anxiety and gratitude for a common-sense future and assurance that only under [my party] may they expect America to work out her part in an association of nations which shall not wipe out the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, but which shall represent in full our obligations to ourselves and to mankind.

Partisanship is nothing new. Fear of an overcharged executive branch is nothing new. For those playing along at home [my party]=Republican Party, [other party]=Democratic Party, and [foreign entanglement]=joining the League of Nations.

The more things change . . .

I wonder how much of this script will Sen. Clinton pick up? Will she suggest ending 'divided government' be a good thing? Will she suggest that she will rein in the executive branch? Will she offer a foreign policy that gives "peace in industry"? Will she offer the people "relief from anxiety and gratitude for a common-sense future"?

I think any of the potential GOP candidates this time around will have an easier time than Cox did in distancing themselves from the previous administration and run as an agent of change even as they run to extend the control of the executive branch under their party for another 4 years. And given that much of Sen. Clinton's appeal is as being deeply enmeshed in 'the establishment' for her to run as a DC outsider will be impossible, so the choice in 2008 is very different than the one in 1920, but there are a few interesting resonances between then and now, anyway.

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