Progress

By Jesse Crall

Nice Progressive Values didn’t begin with us.

If we look into history, we can find many brilliant people with admirable convictions & principles. Unfortunately, they seldom succeeded in shaping our nation.

One of these people was Thaddeus Stevens, a member of Congress from Pennsylvania and one of the leaders of the Radical Republican faction of the Republican Party during the 1860s. Stevens argued not just for abolition but for policies to integrate freed slaves economically.

It seems obvious to me that the smart move would have been to redistribute land to freed slaves who worked it and also to impoverished Southern whites, some of whom fought for the Union. This would have merged actual justice with a class unity to aid racial strife.

Stevens proposed this notion, with little support.

But we can’t pat ourselves on the back today because Stevens would still be a radical in 2021. We all know that slavery is bad but redistribution remains off the table politically.

Progress isn’t as linear as we might assume.

Progress means we elected a black president…who handled his financial crisis in a far more regressive fashion than the rich white guy who came into office 76 years earlier.

A realignment of black voters from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party proliferated during the New Deal era. Hoover won the black vote in 1932 but in 1936, FDR took 76% of the black vote and Democrats have held it by large margins ever since.

Of course, racism was still prevalent in that era, as was de jure segregation. But attempts to tie that to the New Deal, such as a commentary published by the CATO Institute (an organization that was started by Charles Koch, Ed Crane & Murray Rothbard, 3 of the most prominent and influential libertarians in U.S. history) in 2003 are obviously calculated.

Again, I believe that material redistribution; redistribution of wealth & power, is the most important domestic effort our government can undertake. Reconstruction was a brutally missed opportunity, as was the post-2008 crisis. However, the New Deal was far more successful.

Black poverty fell from 87% in 1940 to 47% in 1960. It was cut in half during the 1960s but hasn’t fallen any meaningful degree again since.

Are we more racially enlightened today? In terms of attitudes, absolutely. But you can’t pay for healthcare with attitudes.


Adapted from thoughts originally tweeted by Jesse Crall🕊 (@jessecrall) on November 7, 2021.


Jesse Crall

A Los Angeles native, Jesse Crall graduated from UCLA’s English Department before working as a copywriter, script reader and project manager for an engineering firm.

https://linktr.ee/jessecrall

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