Becoming an Engaged Citizen: What a Difference a Century Makes!

Independent Commentary, Opinion & Political Anaylsis by local activist & community organizer, Michael McCue.


You may not realize it, but 2012 is the centennial anniversary of what many consider to be the healthiest American election ever held, which was the United States Presidential Election of 1912.

Yep.  It was one hundred years ago this year American voters were fed up with our morbidly obese, incumbent president, William Howard Taft, who was re-nominated by the Republican Party, with the party’s ultra-conservative wing (Tea Party?) blocking the former moderate U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, from claiming the nomination for himself.  (Mitt Romney?)

But, that didn’t stop our Rough Rider, Teddy. After his unsuccessful challenge to Taft’s nomination at the Republican convention, maverick that he was, Teddy called
his own convention
and created the Progressive Party, (aka: the Bull Moose Party) who nominated T.R. for President, along with many other candidates for other
offices in several major states.  (Ron Paul?)

And yes, Virginia….there really were Progressive Republicans back in 1912!

The Democratic convention was gridlocked that year, too.  Perennial presidential wannabe, William Jennings Bryan, the oft-nominated former Democratic Party candidate, finally threw his support behind New Jersey governor, Woodrow Wilson,
and thus, resolved one of the most contentious Democratic Conventions in
history. Wilson didn’t secure the nomination until the 46th ballot of the delegates!

The term “Socialism” was not bantered about as though it was a dirty word back then and The Socialist Party of America was a major player on the American
ballot for many decades in the early 20th century.  Back then, millions of Americans were Socialists and proud of it

In 1912, the Socialist Party easily nominated their best man, Eugene Debs,
absent the infighting and party-splitting that the Democrats and Republicans
were experiencing at their conventions.

Why would our having four major candidates for president be considered healthy for the American electorate? 

Because a century ago, no matter where you stood in our political spectrum; Left
(Socialists), Center-Left (Bull Moose Progressives), Center-Right (Democrats),
or Right (Republicans)….voters had solid choices…and with four candidates, chances were overwhelming that at least one of them matched your own personal point of view politically

Democracy thrives on clear, distinctive choices…something we really don’t have today in 2012. 

In 1912, all of the presidential candidates had a specific vision for our nation as we fully entered the totally amazing, occasionally-frightening and yet unchartered 20th century. 

Not only were all four candidates rooted in clearly-defined party platforms, but each also had major appeal to large sections of the American populous, even though women didn’t even have the right to vote at that time!

And most importantly of all…each candidate had a real shot at winning the office of U.S. president because the voters were totally fed up with corporate rule—just like
today!  The Presidency was truly up for grabs!

Now…compare this to our situation today, exactly one century later in 2012.  What are the similarities?  What are the differences?

Like it or not, there are duties and obligations that we, as individual citizens, simply must fulfill if we are to avoid the disasters, both economic and otherwise, that our nation has experienced in the past 100 years….and even more importantly, to avoid the new calamities that are headed our way. 

Can we return to the wealth of political choices from a century ago?  That’s the sort of topic we’ll be talking about in this blog.

My personal mission is to get our Valley communities and all of our Valley voters engaged in our democracy.  That’s why I’m out there at Farmer’s Markets, Libraries and events registering voters of all political stripes.  That’s the first step to becoming an engaged citizen…registering to vote!

We’ve learned the hard way that living in a democracy is not a spectator sport.  One must participate and get in the game. 

And in 2012, everyone will need to be on board for the bumpy ride of our next presidential election.

And…maybe even join a political party like it’s 1912.

© 2012 –
Michael McCue

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael McCue January 15, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Yes, as was stated, T.R. was a Progressive Republican...Taft was backed by the ultra-right Republicans (like the Tea Party). Sorry if I wasn't clear. But Danielle, we've already seen "third" party candidates GREATLY influencing our elections in our lifetimes. Strom Thurmond in 1948, George Wallace in 1968 and Ross Perot in 1992 spring to mind immediately. One famously misinformed opinion maintains that Ralph Nader's run as a Green Party presidential nominee in 2000, cost Al Gore the election in Florida and put George W. Bush in office as a result. An oft-repeated tale, but one that's completely erroneous. So you have seen and will continue to see Independent "Third" party candidates swaying our elections and policies from Left to Right several times in recent years. You must be very young, Danielle, to not remember these events...and that's okay. We're here to bring our younger voters, and voters of all ages up to speed and get them engaged. You may be a victim of the Two-Party Tyranny's blackout of all independent political party information. FYI -There will probably be at least SIX candidates for president on the California ballot in 2012, so stay alive and you'll see it! The Democratic Party is the only party who knows who their candidate will be. Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, Socialists, and others are still deciding upon their nominees for president in 2012.
Chris Ziegler January 15, 2012 at 06:54 PM
About the banks, keep in mind this is a very complex topic and I am limited on time: Before you shoot all of us in the financial services sector, keep in mind that banks are somewhat at the mercy of lawmakers. Onerous regulations are hugely expensive to banks and thus become a massive motivating tool for lawmakers to influence the banking industry. So if lawmakers want to see home ownership rise under their tenure, they have lunch with the bankers and discuss their lending practices and make it clear that if the banks don't lend to more people then they will have to fight or live with additional unfun legislation. In hind sight, home ownership isn't for everyone and buying when many did, while the market had been hot for a very long time, was not prudent. For a period of time the mentality in the banking industry was, "Who cares if the buyer can't pay us back, the property will be worth X amount more by then and we'll make X thousands if we foreclose". This was the most significant error made by the banks. The banks failed because the repayment of their loans failed and the value of the property decreased so the banks lost their capital. We would do best to learn that the next time the real estate market shoots up by double-digit percentages for multiple years, without a corresponding increase in personal income or other factor to substantiate the notion that the trend is sustainable, think twice before buying in to the market - The simplest fix is usually the best. Cont.
Chris Ziegler January 15, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Keep in mind that many banking stocks have almost completely crashed. One that is important to me went from $140+ to $14. Big ouch! So to paint a picture of the banks wining from the economic tailspin is not accurate. Another reality of that fact is, I am half as wealthy as I was just a few years ago so I am not as desirable a borrower, for me to expect the same wonderful interest rate and ease of access to money is not a reasonable expectation to have of my bank. What scares me most about the bailout is the fact that we may have prevented the most influential segment of our society from feeling the true pain of our actions and fully learning from the event and I fear that will doom us to a repeat.
Thomas Equality Leavitt January 15, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Excellent historical perspective. It's important to note, as well, that the early 1900's was another time in which untrammeled corporate power was being (relatively successfully) challenged by grassroots resistance, when important public institutions (such as the National Parks system) were being established to preserve resources for future generations, and when a vast wave of immigration was being translated into real political power (and provoking strong reactions as a result). The challenges we face today are very similar to those we faced a hundred years ago, and hopefully, the diversity of political choices, and the dynamicism of that era's political systems, will be mirrored in this upcoming decade. T.R.'s efforts to "bust the trusts" launched a wave of "progressive" reforms across the country.
Michael McCue January 15, 2012 at 08:03 PM
I feel your pain, Chris! I was hit pretty hard, too! You are beautifully articulating the danger we face in the next election cycle if we don't avoid a repeat of the doom you speak of...thank you for your insights! Be sure to vote and be sure to get any non-voters you know to register ASAP! It may be time for you to get out there and share your message of Accountability/Personal Responsibility (another Key Value of the Green Party), but more on expressing yourself politically in Monday's column...
Michael McCue January 15, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Thank you, Chris! Glad to hear that you are on board with the Green Party's Key Value of Future Focus/Sustainability. We have consensus! The one important question we must pose to ourselves as voters, and to any candidate seeking office is..."Was the Mortgage Fraud/Financial Meltdown of 2008 caused by LACK OF REGULATIONS on finacial institution practices, or by OVER REGULATION of financial institution practices?"
Michael McCue January 15, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Thank you, Thomas! Yes, the power of the people can overcome the power of Big Money politics...just look at the Meg Whitman campaign for proof! I'm so pleased that this article has inspired such a lively, informed discussion. Our readers are articulate and passionate...engaged, which is what this new blog is all about...becoming more engaged as citizens, and as voters who are preaparing themselves for the next election cycle, which promises to be explosive. I hope that you become a regular reader of "Engaged Citizen" and that you will comment as often as you wish! Thanks, again!
Michael McCue January 15, 2012 at 08:34 PM
“If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands and elect bad men to make and administer the laws.” ~ Noah Webster, 1833, Preface to the “History of the United States”
Richard Falzone January 15, 2012 at 09:53 PM
The Wall Street stage show has managed to roll back our access to the tools required for freedom by many decades. With the corporate media puppet we might as well not have Television when it comes to politics. If we could elect a progressive, their job requirements would be enormous. Get money out of politics, reinstate the truth doctrine to journalism, revamp the allocation of tax money to more appropriate programs, and reinstate the 4th, 5th and other amendments to assure our civil liberties. If we didn't have the internet it would be like living without radio or TV with no credible source of information. We also have decades of misinformation polluting the minds of many hordes of voters. So far I believe I am seeing too many people saying the same thing they’ve said for decades. A vote for a third party is a vote for Republicans. No amount of bickering with them can break through the brainwashing. When most elections go 51% to the winner and 49% to the looser between two choices how many people would need to change their behavior to elect that Green Party candidate? I think that one difference between 1912 and 2012 politically speaking is that people weren't so effectively brainwashed and severely misinformed back then due to the lack of Television and the politicians were less skilled at shaping their message with false promises than they are now. I tried to post this on the blog but don't know my password and the password reset didn't work.
Vote Green Party January 15, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Great article, Michael! As the U.S. Supreme Court in Illinois State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party had the wisdom and foresight to observe, "the States' interest in screening out frivolous candidates must be considered in light of the significant role that third parties have played in the political development of the Nation. Abolitionists, Progressives, and Populists have undeniably had influence, if not always electoral success. As the records of such parties demonstrate, an election campaign is a means of disseminating ideas as well as attaining political office. [Citations.] Overbroad restrictions on ballot access jeopardize this form of political expression." Illinois State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173, 185-186, 99 S.Ct. 983, 990 (1979)
Danielle Corona January 15, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Sir, you must have misunderstood my comment. I did not say there hasn't been an impact by a 3rd or 4th party candidate, I said I didn't believe there would be one as President in our lifetime. I am well aware of the history of 3rd and 4th party candidates. However, at this time in history, the majority of Americans do not lean as far left or as far right as the 3rd parties tend to. Willim H. Taft also was not a far right candidate. Perhaps to a member of the Green Party today he appears as "far right", but he really he was a centrist. He in fact considered himself a Progressive; Teddy Roosevelt didn't think he was Progressive "enough". Taft was more of a Constitutionalist then Roosevelt, often causing the two to diverge, but Taft didn't always toe the party line. Hello... he instituted Corporate Income Tax! Anyway, appreciate your article and comments. Danielle
Michael McCue January 15, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Thank you, Richard! Great comment! Please contact the Patch editor if you experience any technical diffculties getting your comments submitted. We want to here from you whenever you have something to say...especially thoughtful and intelligent comments like this one. Thanks!
Michael McCue January 16, 2012 at 04:42 PM
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction....The chain reaction of evil--hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love, 1963.
Dave January 16, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Our political system is a scam. it doesn't matter how involved you are; it doesn't matter that you vote; it doesn't matter who runs; it doesn't matter who is elected. the same power structure prevails no matter what we do or don't do. and who is this power structure? it is the private central banking system, family owned and operated. need proof? in 2000 there were but 7 nations in the world without a private Rothschild owned central bank. they were: Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya, N. Korea, Cuba, and Iran. check this decades wars and "terrorist" nations list and compare them. our governement is owned. our government responds not to us, but the people who pay them. our government follows orders, they do not give them. participate all you want: the choice has been made for you. all you get to do is select which puppett is put on stage.
Michael McCue January 17, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Dave's cynicism is one of the outcomes of decades of voter suppression and discouragement that is heaped upon us by the Two-Party Tyranny that is running our nation into the ground. He is certainly not alone is his misery. However, it does us all well to remember that in any democracy there is always a remedy for any wrong, and those remedies have a lucky habit of surfacing, no matter how long it takes. Abolitionists, Suffragettes, Civil Rights workers, Freedom Riders, and those standing up for Marraige Equality have all been there before, and all were brought about by organized groups of people united in the belief of their cause, and dedicated to Truth and Justice, which are much more powerful than the helplessness that dejected cynicism provides. Constitutionally, the people still have the power, not the banks, not the multi-national corporations, not the Military-Industrial complex. See today's blog post about MLK Day, Dave, and let us know what you think. The next post after that, later this week, will address the issues you raise more directly. I hope you feel better soon, and that you are registered to vote. We need all hands on deck in this crisis we are facing. Don't secede from the Union! The prescription for what ails you is on the way!
Dave January 18, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Mr. McCue's rather prosaic retort to my post displays a very familiar lack of knowledge, and literary adroitness. It's a last refuge of those, if you will, who lack the facts to respond, and the indolence to edify themselves. Instead of adjectives such as misery and cynicism, and a call to "feel better," (all insulting) why not answer the substance of my post? If you feel i am in error in my analysis, challenge it, don't attach perjoratives to me. Please explain to all the readers why I am incorrect in my assertion. Why don't you start by distinguishing Misters Bush and Obama. Why don't you explain how Richard Nixon would considered a flaming liberal by todays standard. Why don't you explain why we are in perpetual war. Why don't you explain the income inequality situation. why don't you explain why 45 million Americans are on food stamps. why don't you explain the shredding of the constitution. why don't you explain the lawlessness that prevails among the elites. why don't you explain the coup that occurred when Bush Jr. was installed as president. if voting matters, explain it all.
Robert D. Skeels January 18, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Thank you for mentioning Debs, a figure rarely discussed by the dominant narrative. There's a parallel to the state's treatment of the Pullman strikers that Debs struggled alongside, and the brutal fashion Villaraigosa, Bloomberg, Quan, et al have treated the Occupy! movements. Here's Debs' words on his experience: "In the gleam of every bayonet and flash of every rifle the class struggle was revealed. This was my first practical lesson in socialism, though wholly unaware that it was called by that name." When we see how the bipartisan consensus treats those standing up for social justice, perhaps we too can see class struggle revealed.
Greg Minahan January 21, 2012 at 02:42 AM
So, Michael... In any of your political wanderings, does anyone discuss the destructive influence of the bond market on our national, political and economic balance? We tend to think of the bond market as investing in America, but isn't it more accurate to think of it as the government borrowing money (...necessarily from those who have more than they need)? The bond market has become an alternative to taxation as a source of short-term governmental revenue, but unlike taxes it must be paid back ...with interest! As such, it is pretty much a national credit card, which our government has over-used to pay for "entitlements" that we can't really afford. The truly destructive part of all this is that we have been seduced into thinking that our relatively modest tax burden is high - even though it is grossly insufficient to pay for all the services we all need and want. In this way, the money party holds us hostage. They subsidize our social benefits, (...for profit, which only adds to our long term tax burden), while at the same time fighting for lower taxes, which in turn keeps us even more dependent on their subsidy-for-profit scheme. We are like spoiled rich kids who feel entitled to all the things our parent pay for us to have, and then wonder why those parents try to dictate our choices. The irony is that more realistic taxes would free us from the credit card debt that weighs us down, AND keep us more aware of the actual cost of the benefits we think we need.
Greg Minahan January 21, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Am I being simplistic? If we were to virtually close down the bond market, we would eliminate an expensive and unnecessary middleman in our national budget. The shock value would be high when we realized just how expensive it is to pay (with taxes) for all the things to which we are accustomed. Once we paid off the debt, however, we would end up with a year-to-year national budget that accurately reflected our national needs and what we are willing to pay for them - be they health coverage, infrastructure, education, or war. Just as large shareholders "own" a corporation, bondholders quite literally own America ...and clearly are not above dictating policy. Just as a corporation will often feel more obligation to its shareholders than to its customer base, so does our government end up owing more allegiance to its bondholders than to its citizenry. By whittling down the bond market, or at least returning it to its historical status as a short-term stop gap in times of exceptional need, we would go a long way toward returning the nation to its citizens. It would also serve to enforce upon our spoiled generations a realistic awareness of the cost of our "entitlements", and how much we really need them.
Michael McCue January 21, 2012 at 03:08 AM
I find your nuanced statement to be enlightening and agree with your position, Greg. When you said, "The truly destructive part of all this is that we have been seduced into thinking that our relatively modest tax burden is high - even though it is grossly insufficient to pay for all the services we all need and want..." I think you nailed it precisely and crystallized (at least for me...) the overall political tactic that blocks and prevents messages like yours, (which speak Truth to Power), from being grasped, or even heard by the voting public. (Full disclosure for our readers: Greg is a friend from my school days whom I have always admired and haven't heard from in decades until this very day.) Great to hear from you, Greg, and I hope you will continue to touch bases with "Engaged Citizen" and share your thoughts. You are more than welcome!
Michael McCue January 21, 2012 at 03:24 AM
I never disagreed with anything you said, Dave, and won't challenge it because I think you are correct about shifting Republican base, perpetual war, lawlessness among the Wall Street set, etc... In fact, all of the topics that you request I explain taken together would take quite some time, so know that many of your topics will be addressed in future posts. I can't explain all of these issues, but I hope to be able to raise the consciousness of our readers by asking the right questions and stimulating discussion, just as you have done in your comments, in which I cannot find fault. However, I am truly an optimist and have been throughout my entire life. This has irritated and annoyed those who work with me to no end. Please don't give up on me. Underneath my sunny surface, I am just as angry with our national situation as you are...(just got back from "Occupy the Courts" event earlier today), but I let my steam off by doing something about it, so that I am not crippled into non-action by negative emotions. Thank you, Dave, and please keep reading, no matter how annoyed with me you are...our comment section needs you.
Michael McCue January 21, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Yes, Robert...Eugene Debs is an overlooked American figure...almost as much as General Smedley Butler. "Engaged Citizen" hopes to look at the flip side of things as often as possible...the rarely-mentioned historical facts that may, perhaps, have immense bearing on today's world...or at least give our readers something to think about. Thanks, for your comment, Robert! Keep in touch!
Michael McCue January 21, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Thank you, Green Party, for your insightful comments. Yes, the importance of disseminating ideas during the election process IS as important as who wins the race. Case in point, the City of Los Angeles now has a Rate-Payer Advocate...an idea that came from the "outsider" City Council candidates and one that had such strong consensus with the voters that it couldn't be blocked by the Downtown Machine, no matter how hard they tried to ignore the overwhelming call for Accountability to We, the People.
Michael McCue January 21, 2012 at 03:59 AM
I hope that Greg's comments about the bond markets have turned on the lightbulb for our readers. Reading this comment I had what Oprah calls an "Aha!" moment. You have added another arrow to my quiver of arguments when discussing Economic Justice, Greg, and, frankly, your insight has blown my mind...which is a great feeling! Thanks! I feel smarter!
Greg Minahan January 21, 2012 at 04:29 AM
I'm glad my thoughts hit home, Michael. When I read through articles regarding the economic waves that are hurling us about, I keep looking for the underlying currents. I was "enlightened" recently by reading Niel Stephenson's trilogy "The Baroque Cycle". In addition to being an entertaining romp through the 17th century, it painted a wonderful picture of the emergence of modern finance. When royalty ruled the world, they would periodically call in financial support from the lords who owed them fealty ...to fight a war, etc. According to Stephenson, this was the birth of the bond market. I believe it survived as just this sort of temporary stopgap all the way through WWII when we were all encouraged to "buy bonds". It has since degenerated into yet one more table at the Wall Street casino, for speculators who see the our government as a sure thing, backed by the American taxpayer. It worked well while the overall growth of our economy was sufficient to mask our increasing debt to the bondholders. Now that times are tough, the debt weighs heavily upon us. This is made absurdly obvious by what is happening in Greece. They are owned by bondholders to the extent that any bailout will go to the bondholders before any of it reaches the Greeks. On top of that, the hedge funds have the audacity to sue the Greek government for putting Greece before them. I would welcome any further education your bloggers might have to offer about the history of the bond market.
Michael McCue January 21, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Your natural curiousity and intelligence have enabled you to connect a lot of dots, Greg, with historic basis and current application particularly. Yes, please do weigh in any time you wish. We are all, hopefully, as diligent citizens, educating ourselves as we respond to the national crisis we are facing...and that is what "Engaged Citizen" is all about. Keep those insights coming! And readers...do any of you care to respond to Greg's invitation?
Elliot S! Maggin February 02, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Please allow me to interject a thought on banking ... In the Eighties when banking regulation on the part of the federal government was effectively withdrawn and restrictions on interstate banking and the merging of multiple financial functions in the same institution in the name of efficiency presented a nightmare of conflict of interest, all the banks in the little New England town where I lived were bought by larger institutions. Eventually these institutions were bought by larger ones, those larger ones were bought or merged with others and about a dozen or fewer super-national banks emerged to create roughly the structure under whose fiscal sway we live today. So back in those days a bunch of the businesspeople in town got together and, as they had a hundred or two hundred years earlier, founded a new local bank. I didn't puty all my business there right away but I did buy a couple of blocks of shares - really more to support a community intiative than to make an investment. My thought at the time was that two scenarios were likely: (1) the bank could fail and all I was out was the money I put into the initial stock or (2) the bank could conceivably be successful and one of these dys I could sell the stock to help with my kids' college fund. At the time my son was a toddler and my daughter was a leer in my eye ...
Elliot S! Maggin February 02, 2012 at 05:48 PM
... Since then, to my surprise, that little bank has been more successful than anyone thought it could be. It got self-sustaining really fast and has never been otherwise. It never staged an IPO, the stock I hold is still a private issue and not saleable at anything but its original face value, and my kids are both dealing with college and graduate school through other means. When we moved to California we used the conventional commercial banks for a long while but they continued to disappear or chnge their names. Finally about two years ago we all opened accounts in a local credit union where the tellers say hi and smile - much as they did in that tiny northern town - and the owners of the institution are its depositors. They have a cooperative network with credit unions all over the country andf you can make withdrawals and deposits for free at other credit unions and thousands of retail stores from here to Houlton Maine. I recommend it highly. Maybe someday the little bank in the woods will need a few bucks and will be forced to ask the outside world to determine a real market value for its stock and I'll be able to kick in something for the grandchildren's college. Maybe not.
Michael McCue February 02, 2012 at 06:29 PM
What Elliot is talking about here is a perfect example of the Key Value of "Community-Based Economics," one of the 10 Key Values of the Green Party. When our economy is not based on Centralized Banking Power (Too-Big-To-Fail Banks), it is strengthened and made more flexible and secure. "Decentralization of Power" is very important for a healthier democracy, and is also one of the 10 Key Values of the Green Party.
Karen Davis February 14, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Thank you for the welcomed history reminder! Great piece. Let's not forget however that in 1912 it wasn't just women who could not vote, but Blacks as well. It wasn't until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Blacks were entitled to vote throughout the US. So in 1912, more than 50% of the population was disenfranchised. Maybe we have it wrong by thinking all citizens should be participating. Maybe it goes back to what our Founding Fathers actually believed: that only a select number of white, land-owning male family members should be participating in democracy in order for it to work properly? Maybe democracy is too complicated for most of us.


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