As the George W. Bush Era comes to a merciful close, and we bid farewell to his many appointees, there are plenty of retrospectives being written and published, mostly negative, a few more mixed or even hilariously positive.
But one of the most eerily consonant assessments was actually published more than three-quarters of a century ago, by The Nation, in an editorial goodbye to Herbert Hoover and the GOP ascendancy he represented, entitled “A Farewell to Republicans” (republished this week). Here is one very pertinent excerpt:
[W]e are taking leave not merely of a single Administration. For twelve years the Republican Party has been in power. During ten of those years it controlled the executive and legislative branches of the government. When, a few years hence, an attempt is made to minimize the disaster of this last quadrennium, and to point to a preceding eight year period of material development and growth, let it be noted that in a purely material sense the American people are much worse off today than they were twelve years ago. Far more than was gained has been swept away. Savings have been dissipated, lives have been blasted, families disintegrated. Misery and insecurity exist to a degree unprecedented in our national life. And spiritually the American people have been debauched by the materialism which made dollar-chasing the accepted way of life and accumulation of riches the goal of earthly existence.
And the editorial concludes with an observation about the new administration that should sound familiar to many contemporary readers of The Nation:
Have these captains and kings departed—not to return? The epoch of their wanton and repulsive leadership is ending. Their incompetence and their betrayal are manifest. But much of the evil they have done lives after them. The coming years will see the struggle to purge America, to reassert the promise of American life, to validate, in consonance with the changed times and conditions, the high aspirations of the founders of the nation. Mr. Roosevelt has the opportunity to be the leader of this renaissance, but he will have to forge as his instrument a wholly different Democratic Party from that which so long has been indistinguishable from the Republican.
I think it’s reasonably safe to say that the New Deal made it a lot easier to distinguish Democrats from Republicans (unless you were an African-American living in the Solid South, of course), and I think the same will be true of the two parties during the Obama administration, the talk of “bipartisanship” notwithstanding. It’s less clear that today’s Republicans will go through the gradual transformation that eventually, and for a time, discredited laissez-fair domestic policies and isolationism in the GOP. But in any event, it’s fascinating how much the transition of power looked the same in 1933 as in 2009.