Source: The Nation
John Kinsman with his cows.
(image by (Photo courtesy of prwatch.org))
The roots of today's outcry against corporate control of just about everything can be traced to the countryside -- all the way back to the agrarian populist uprisings that reached their pinnacle with the 1896 presidential campaign of Nebraskan William Jennings Bryan. In the "Cross of Gold" speech that electrified the Democratic National Convention on that year, Bryan declared that "the farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day -- who begins in the spring and toils all summer -- and who by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of the country creates wealth, is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the board of trade and bets upon the price of grain."
Rejecting the fantasy that prosperity extended from "the few financial magnates who in a backroom corner the money of the world," Bryan dared to argue that the great economic, social and political contest "was a struggle between the idle holders of idle capital and the struggling masses who produce the wealth and pay the taxes of the country."
The clarity that Bryan brought to the discourse was grounded in the frustration of farmers and small-town merchants with the unreasonable demands of distant bankers and grain processors. It transformed American politics, clearing the way for progressive reforms and a New Deal moment in which Franklin Roosevelt would announce: "We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob."