Theodore Roosevelt versus “Citizens United”
I have been reading Colonel Roosevelt the third in Edmond Morris’s series and was struck how 1910, on his return from African Safari and European tour Theodore was being drawn back into politics because it was his nature to respond to any challenge to his own code of morality.
From Morris:” Addressing both Houses of the Colorado Legislature in Denver the next day, Roosevelt gave Eastern Conservatives the first hint of radical oratory to come. He accused the Supreme Court of favoring big corporations and creating a judicial no-man’s- land around them, into which neither state nor federal government could trespass. A notorious case in point, he said was Lochner v. New York. By striking down as unconstitutional a state law against excessive workplace hours, the court had shown itself to be “against popular rights.”
This was a shock a hundred years ago, a time when the rights of the white man of popular were inviolate. Non white men had only been granted the right to vote in 1870 ( by the fourteenth Amendment which many in the Tea Party have called on to be repealed) and ten of the eleven states of the defeated Confederacy had passed poll taxes and literacy requirements which stayed in effect for two previous decades. The direct election of Senators was being hotly debated and would not been enacted until 1913 ( and many in Tea Party have called for its repeal). Women would not receive the vote until 1920 and Native Americans until 1924.
But Roosevelt was just beginning. He climbed up onto a kitchen table in Osawatomie, Kansas to address thirty thousand people. Again, directly from Edmond Morris quoting directly from TR:
“ The Constitution guarantees protections to property, and we must make the promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation. The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man’s making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being.”
…”I rank dividends below human character… if our political institutions were perfect, they would absolutely prevent the political domination of money in any part of our affairs. We need to make our political representatives more quickly and more sensitively responsive to the people whose servants they are….It is particularly important that all moneys received or expended for campaign purposes should be publicly accounted for, not only after election, but before election as well….
No matter how honest and decent we are in our private lives, if we do not have the right kind of ;law and the right kind of administration of the law, we cannot go forward as a nation. That is imperative, but it must be an addition to, and not a substitution for, the qualities that make us good citizens… The prime problem of our nation is to get the right type of good citizenship, and, to get it, we must have progress, and our public men must be genuinely progressive.”
Most of what I have here is straight from Morris but I was struck that so much is a battle continuing and I wanted to share. Since Morris won the Pulitzer for Theodore Rex my recommendation should be counted as a small thing but besides being a good read, it also reminds us that great men have great flaws as well as great deeds which I have no doubt that TR would readily acknowledge.