Monday, July 14, 2008

At Least He Doesn't Look Up to Karl Marx

John McCain is making steady progress in his effort to completely alienate every conservative Republican voter. In an interview with the International Herald Tribune, McCain named Teddy Roosevelt as his "conservative model". The only problem is that Teddy Roosevelt isn't a conservative. In fact quite the opposite, he was a self described "progressive", i.e. a liberal. He was a foreign policy hawk to be sure, but progressives were much less dovish than modern day liberals.

Roosevelt crusaded against big business and was a zealous regulator. His "Square Deal" was the ancestor of the "New Deal" FDR would introduce 25 years later. The government took control of railroad shipping rates, which in part led to their downturn in later years as they faced competition from trucking and airplanes. Roosevelt took an active role in attacking major American corporations, pushing the courts to submit to the the wishes of the executive branch when it came to antitrust suits.

In 1912 Roosevelt formed the "Progressive Party" whose platform included heavy regulation of industry, required health care for industrial workers, regulation of campaign donations, and early forms of Medicare, unemployment programs, and social security. It advocated the Imperial German model of cooperation between the government and business. It called for government ownership of remaining coal and oil fields, and for a progressive income and inheritance tax. This is McCain's conservative model.

Does McCain actually admire him for the reasons I've listed? I know he agrees with at least some of what Roosevelt stood for (Damn Oil Companies! Patriotism over profits!), but more likely he's ignorant of most of Roosevelt's policies and proposals. He probably just knew Teddy was a conservationist and a hawk and thought to himself, "why that's me!" Still its disheartening to have the Republican candidate point to a big government liberal as his "conservative model". Its like pointing to Jenna Jameson as a model of chastity and virtue.


Eowyn said...

Excellent comparison, AM. I hadn't looked into it, but felt vaguely disquieted for some reason when I heard McCain was modeling himself after Roosevelt. Now you've pointed out why.

Few people remember that the Jimmy-Carter-precursor Woodrow Wilson got elected because of Roosevelt's Bull Moose party stunt (pulling Republican votes away from Taft).

Roosevelt was an interesting guy, no doubt about it. But McCain's no him, to mash up an expression.

A Missourian said...

I think Teddy Roosevelt was a very patriotic American and generally a good man, but conservative he was not. He was basically in at the ground floor of the progressive takeover of American political thought.