Wednesday, June 12, 2013


The roaring 20’s, not so roaring.  Flappers, shorter skirts, prohibition, bootleggers, speak easies, popular jazz, cars everywhere, radio becoming available to those of modest incomes. Booming economy in industry, but not in agriculture was a defining phenomenon. Wild speculation in a highly profitable but risky stock market led to insider trading, top executives purposefully wrecking companies to drive down stock to buy it up, on the cheap. All of this was legal at the time that was why later in the 1930’s laws were created to try and stop this kind of actions. Super profits in the short run, led many speculators to believe there would never be another depression. At the same time unions were at an all time low, and with very little power industrial workers mostly immigrants and the children of immigrants, were struggling to survive in jobs that were hard, hours long, working conditions were pitiless and dangerous, wages low and very little hope for the future. Farming communities were in the Great Depression a good ten years before it hit the cities. Europe’s economy was already in trouble. Hate groups were on the rise in America and in Europe. When the famous stock market crash of 1929 hit we already gone to far to pull it out. Everywhere the economy simply stopped worldwide.

The strong belief in the invisible hand of Adam Smith, the self-regulating market, is but a cover for what was really happening. Wild speculation on get rich quick and super profits replaced the fact that success comes from years of hard work. On the other hand too much success is a bad thing in that profits led to over production and glutted markets. Too much of something is even worse than not enough because you can sell only so many radios or cars and then the remaining supply is useless. The twin offenders of over production and speculation also led to the economic collapse.

Henry Wallace was typical of what was the progressive wing of the Republican Party. They felt betrayed by the Republican Party. Until Franklin Roosevelt they would never considered supporting a Democrat. The Democratic Party was dominated by two very powerful wings the large urban political machine that ruled with an iron fist and the Southern Democrats of plantation owners and white racism. Republicans Progressives represented small towns, farms and social responsibility in which neighbors took care of neighbors. In a Democracy government should be a reflection of this. Big business had long before gained control of the Republican Party to force their will on everyone else. The brilliance of Roosevelt was that he put together a coalition including labor, Progressive Republicans, social reformers, children of immigrants, young people, social gospel people, and radicals. He did this while trying at least in the beginning keeping old guard Democrats loyal to the party.

As vice President during World War II. Wallace was the man closest to Roosevelt. He was the major spokesperson for the progressive cause. This social liberalism looked to not only winning the War against the fascists, but to look to a Post War of peace and prosperity. Finally the Soviets and the US were allies and the deep distrust between Washington and the Soviets was replaced with close cooperation in fighting the Germans. Wallace hoped to keep peaceful cooperation alive after the War. He also wanted to encourage the US not become too closely ally with Britain at the expense of maintaining close ties with other nations. He wanted the US to avoid the temptation of replacing Great Britain as the center of a global empire. He always opposed imperialism at all costs. He saw a world economy founded on global trade among equals. The US would join the world community as an equal, not the first among equals but an equal among equals. He hope the American people would embrace the spirit of the American Revolution and join the democratic and anti-colonial struggles he believed would become a dominant theme worldwide after the War. The Days of the British, French and Dutch Empires were numbered. In Europe, Asia and the Americas farmers, workers and small business families would be demanding more equality and more democracy. This he called the century of the common man. However, most in Washington look to a Post War in which the US being the sole remaining super power could look forward to remaking the world into an American asset benefiting the American economy, this was publicly known as the American century. The debate between these positions would define the near civil war between and among liberal Democrats following World War II.

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