Herbert Hoover’s Revenge?

Since 1932 there has been a part of the Republican Party that has consistently resisted the New Deal, the Great Society and whatever we have had for the last eight years. As Democratic administrations enacted Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, this faction fought the descent of the country into the pit of “socialism.” Their nadir came when the Eisenhower administration accepted the basics of the New Deal, but they roared back in 1964 with the Goldwater nomination. The Republican right-wing has continued to grow, and the once-plentiful Republican moderate has gone the way of the dodo. Today these reactionaries are on the verge of control of the three branches of the Federal government, and early indications are that they plan significant damage, and even destruction, to the great achievements of Democratic administrations since Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office. The super-wealthy 1% have already gained a share of the national wealth not seen since 1929, and destroying an already frayed safety net will take us closer to that halcyon year for the rich. Maybe Herbert Hoover will at last have his revenge.

The reactionaries have long held control of the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate,
but a new feature is Cabinet secretaries devoted to the destruction of the social programs administered by their departments. We will likely have an Attorney General who was rejected as a Federal judge because of a suspicion of racism, a Treasury Secretary who is a Goldman Sachs alumnus (big surprise!) and whose bank played fast and loose with California’s foreclosure laws, a Health and Human Services Secretary who has been the House Republicans’ expert on gutting the Affordable Care Act, a Labor Secretary who is a fast food executive, who opposes raising the minimum wage and who would prefer employing machines rather than people, an Environmental Protection Administrator who has sued the EPA, an Energy Secretary who, when enumerating agencies he wanted to abolish, forgot the name of the department he will now head, and so it goes. The leader of this assault on the safety web is a real estate billionaire who proposes a massive tax cut to aid the 1%.

While the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party is still stunned and largely silent, there are signs that progressives are girding for battle. Perhaps most important they have developed an attitude expressed by our comrade Don Seastrum: No retreat, no compromise, no
surrender. Had this attitude prevailed throughout President Obama’s administration, perhaps
the Congress would not have been lost in 2010 and the presidential election of 2016 would have had a different outcome. The President would have had to explain the Affordale Care Act on a class basis: millions of poor and middle class people were going to get the health care they deserved. Those who opposed the Act or who sabotaged its implementation, such as
the Republican governors who refused to allow expansion of Medicaid, were sentencing millions of poor people to poor health and even premature death. They should have been eviscerated, not placated. Now, with repeal of the Affordable Care Act as the number one Republican priority, it should be opposed on the same class basis. We may not have the numbers to stop the reactionaries but we should make crystal-clear just what was lost, just who lost it and just who was responsible. This may not be”cool,” but when was class war ever “cool?”

Another early battle will be the confirmations of the Trump cabinet. Progressives must show clearly what each confirmation will cost ordinary people. What do we lose by a Treasury Secretary who has drunk the supply-side kool aid and who will preside over a tax gift to those who already have too much? What does an anti-worker Labor Secretary cost the working people of this country? What is the cost in human lives and health of the plans of the proposed Health and Human Services Secretary? There is no place for politeness in this fight. The rhetoric must be blunt, and progressives must throw bricks, not cream puffs.

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