At its high-water mark, in the election year of 1912, everyone but Pitchfork Ben Tillman, Nelson Aldrich, and "Fat Bill" Taft pretty much joined the progs' reform bandwagon, or at least cleared out of its way. Why, TR and St Woodrow -- two men more unalike than Colonel Custer and Sitting Bull -- both wanted the label boldly stiitched on their ass. In fact, they both wanted it so much they tried burying their entire political careers under an avalanche of progspeak. The parlor cowboy and the pecksniffian prig both swanned about spewing anti-corporate venom like Ida Tarbell herself.
Now back in '96, these same future pillars of our socio-political legacy had also shared a bipartisan aspiration -- but this one was of a different stripe entirely. This one was not to be achieved by mere opportunism. No, this one came from the deepest wellsprings of their social souls. It amounted in each case to an unmitigated, full throttle expression of each one's class nature. To their own surprise, even, they both discovered within them not only opposition, but a visceral horror of all things... populist!
It was as if just the contemplation of Bryan's barefoot dirty-faced shambles of a backcountry crusade forming up on the southwestern horizon might cause ringworms to seep right through their shoes and up onto their cheeks.
Nothing gave them more pleasure than to beat down this social infection. Wilson even joined Cleveland's Gold Democrat breakaway movement, that backed a pair of horses' asses willing to hold high the banner of true sound-money democracy. Both breathed more easily when Bryan got whomped.
These two heroic Orthrians of yore moved "left", along with big chunks of each of their parties' core bases, between the Bryan uprising in '96 and the prog-gone-wild parade of '12. I submit we oughta prepare ourselves for another such shift in the big two party tectonics. I see John McCain mouthing anticorporate hogwash, and St Hillabama pulling off the same range of "major reforms" that Woody and company pulled together during his 8 year reign -- a short list:
- The Fed
- income taxes
- Woman suffrage
- Jim Crow II
- The Palmer raids
- And of course the great Democratic staple, a high-minded war.
Probably TR would have done 'em all too, maybe not in the same order -- the war might have moved up a few notches.