Thursday, November 10, 2011

"It is Preeminently the Province of Government to Protect the Weak:"
Me and Michele and Calvin

Michele Bachmann wants Calvin Coolidge on Mt. Rushmore.  I shouldn't judge; I've never actually seen Mt. Rushmore unless you count repeated viewings of HItchcock's North by Northwest; for all I know Coolidge is up there already.  But Michele and I do share an affinity: I think I have previously confessed to my soft spot for our 30th President.  Being a New Englander myself (though not that much of a New Englander), I enjoy his utter lack of pomposity and his self-deflationary sense of humor.

But I wonder if she knows exactly what she would be getting. The common soundbyte presents Coolidge in the full panoply of his (alleged) flinty indifference to human suffering.  A closer look suggests a more nuanced view. Here is Coolidge, for example, from (I believe) 1920,when he ran for vice-president,.
Government is not, must not be, a cold, impersonal machine, but a human and more human agency: appealing to the reason, satisfying the heart, full of mercy, assisting the good, resisting the wrong, delivering the weak from any impositions of the powerful. This is not paternalism. It is not a servitude imposed from without, but the freedom of a right to self-direction from within. 
Industry must be humanized, not destroyed. It must be the instrument not of selfishness, but of service.

Change not the law, but the attitude of the mind. Let our citizens look not to the false prophet but to the pilgrims. Let them fix their eyes on Plymouth Rock as well as Beacon Hill. The supreme choice must be not to things that are seen, but to things that are unseen.

Our government belongs to the people. Our property belongs to the people. It is distributed. They own it. The taxes are paid by the people. They bear the burden. The benefits of government must accrue to the people. Not to one class, but to all classes, to all the people. The functions, the power, the sovereignty of the government, must be kept where they have been placed by the Constitution and laws of the people. Not private will, but that public will, which speaks with a divine sanction, must prevail.
 Link (video below).

If  "delivering the weak from any impositions of the powerful" is too much for the modern Republican I suppose Michele might also choose to embrace  the move that thrust Coolidge into the national spotlight--his foursquare unwillingness to be shaken down by a public employee union.  Here, surely, is an issue a Republican get get her mind around.

Except she might want to remember: : the union that got crosswise with the Yankee president was the police union--I suspect that in Coolidge's day, the idea of a teaacher's union was no more than a gleam in Albert Shanker's father's eye.  It was a Boston Police Strike that prompted Coolidge's career-changing telegram (to the AFL leader Samuel Gompers): "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time."  Michele can embrace that one if she likes, but she might have trouble explaining it to her funding base.

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