A history lesson for Karl Rove
Author: Norman Markowitz
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 12/09/04 14:48
Karl Rove, Bush's chief propagandist, likes to think of himself as a
new Mark Hanna. Who was Mark Hanna, and is Rove right?
Karl Marx once wrote that the U.S. represented a "pure" form of
capitalism, without the feudal hangovers that would hinder class
development. Mark Hanna was an example of the "pure" form of
capitalism. Hanna, a prominent Cleveland industrialist, became
involved in politics to protect his interests and those of his
class. And he did so by organizing first the Ohio and then the
national Republican Party as a political machine, selling candidates
the way the newly emerging giant businesses sold beer or soap.
In 1896, Hanna managed the presidential campaign of his protégé
William McKinley against William Jennings Bryan, the candidate of
debt-ridden farmers, who used left-wing evangelical rhetoric to
appeal to the poor (typified by Bryan's speech at the Democratic
convention that year, which included the famous lines: "You shall
not impress upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall
not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.")
In Chicago, Hanna's men called Bryan an anti-Catholic Irish
Protestant in Catholic districts, an anti-Semite in Jewish
districts, and a secret Catholic whose real name was O'Bryan in
Protestant districts! Hanna also played on the divisions within the
Democratic Party, which had essentially been a minority party since
the Civil War. Standing for segregation in the South, machine
politics and a live-and-let-live attitude toward immigrants in the
East, and whatever the Republicans were against in the West, the
Democrats had no national program.
The conservative leaders of the American Federation of Labor in the
early 20th century endorsed candidates of both parties based on what
they would do for labor, and resisted the formation of a labor
party, while labor militants supported the new Socialist Party. Both
Republicans and Democrats united in working-class areas to fight the
Mark Hanna's GOP was the party most closely associated with an
ascendant monopoly capitalism, the preferred party of big business
and the rich. The slogan associated with Hanna and conservative
Republicans was "stand pat," don't interfere with big business.
Karl Rove today is no Mark Hanna, but a petty servant of monopoly,
following in the footsteps of Lee Atwater, the late GOP national
chair under Bush's father. Atwater's "strategy" in effect was to red-
bait liberal Democrats the way McCarthyites red-baited Communists
and the broad left in the 1950s, portraying liberals as "weak"
on "national security," "soft on crime" and "big spenders" who would
tax the "middle class" into poverty. Atwater's legacy to the GOP was
the infamous Willie Horton campaign commercial in 1988, the most
crudely racist appeal in a national presidential election since
Abraham Lincoln was denounced in 1860 as the candidate of "Black
Unlike the triumphant monopoly capitalism that Hanna represented
over a hundred years ago, today's Rove/Bush Republicans represent,
and exacerbate, capitalism's decay and weakness, much more directly
than the Democrats. Whereas U.S. finance capital was on its way to
becoming the leading creditor nation in the world in the early 20th
century, the Bush administration has made the U.S. the world's
leading debtor nation, the center of a runaway national debt and a
crippling consumer debt that the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
sees as a danger to global capitalist stability.
In a world in which the U.S. is the global center of imperialism,
the Bush administration is committed to a destabilizing policy of
unrestricted export of capital, unrestricted state and consumer
debt, and unchecked military-industrial-complex profiteering.
Karl Rove and the Bush administration are trying to conserve a
decaying capitalism, and are seeking to eliminate all of the gains
that working people made through the 20th century. Thus, in the
tradition of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi minister of propaganda (today
it's called "spin"), Karl Rove uses racism, homophobia, and a large
religious right feeding on these issues, to divide and divert our
working- class majority.
There is no Republican or conservative political majority in the
U.S. today, no matter how much Bush and Rove may wish for one. There
is an administration that resembles a sinister version of the Wizard
of Oz, manipulating fear and hatred through illusions and lies to
maintain its power. Our mission is to expose its illusions and lies
and mobilize and unify our working-class majority against it on
every issue until we have driven it from power.
Norman Markowitz is a history professor at Rutgers University. He
can be reached at pww@...