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Tea Partiers Remember Ike

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"I like Ike!"

The Tea Party seems to be dominated by people who remember and idealize the time when Eisenhower was President. They remember a time after World War II in the 50's when America was great and the financial security of our nation and families was taken for granted. A time when a clean-cut white male could travel in a car from one sea to shining sea without thought of personal safety. Life was good. The world made sense. There were challenges such as the U.S.S.R., communist China, and some rebel rousers here at home.

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But, to some Americans, this is the glorious past; just watch "Leave it to Beaver" or "Father Knows Best". If you were a white male, you had it made in the shade. I have actually heard people talk about the worst problems of the time being kids' chewing gum in the classroom. Another explained that in grade school she was told that America had unlimited resources.

If you made the equivalent of $3 million in today's currency, then every dollar over that was taxed at 90%. Tough to squeak by, but many of the rich at that time did well for themselves. During this time Americans built our Highway system, bridges, many of the schools, water treatment plants, and (until their dismantling) public transportation in the form of Trolleys and light rail. In short, the bulk of modern infrastructure was during this patriotic time.

We also had high union membership. Most workers were getting competitive benefits because of the unions. Our trade policy and the recovering world markets made the U.S. the largest exporter in the world. "What was good for GM was good for America." Thanks to the GI Bill, America enjoyed high college attendance. Families in America felt economically secure.

Now if you weren't a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) male, then you may have had a very different view of the time of Eisenhower. Many women have a fondness for this era's attitudes towards females like the fondness they have for breast cancer. African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans remember this time for how they were overlooked and impoverished.

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Then came that lead rebel rouser JFK; he really shocked the system. He looked like every other president, but he was not Protestant. Some had an inkling that the world was changing on them. Yet, European-American if not quite WASP was still running the country. President Johnson should have launched the "Great Society", but really he just could not win the war in Vietnam or keep the Negros and women in their place. The success of the rest of society coupled with the injustice of Jim Crow had given birth to the Civil Rights movement. The "other" Americans had finally broken out from under the thumb of the establishment.

Nixon was elected with a third party candidate who actually ran as an "Angry White Man" pulling 13% of the vote. The majority whites were still firmly in control and WASPs wanted to feel comforted. Just ask Pat Buchanan. Nixon's "Southern Strategy" started the great realignment of politics. Yet, he was also the last socialist President, i.e. EPA, something.

My generation has no memory of these events. We learned them as history. We grew up in a world of uncertainty. The Southern Presidents (Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II) have overseen the unsettling of America. From shifting the tax burden from the rich to the backs of working Americans, to allowing the financial sector to run rampant over our economy, to diverting spending on our infrastructure and society into the military. More Americans now have 401Ks than have pensions. The CEOs of multi-national corporations have been allowed to drop U.S. Citizens and replace them with foreign workers in far away countries with no Tariffs, with undocumented workers from our neighboring nations, or with other U.S. Citizens that are considered excess capacity. All of which has led to Americans either getting less pay after inflation than in the time of Eisenhower or being out of work.

Culturally the world has changed. My generation never grew up with associating marriage with child rearing. Divorce and single parents, possibly due to the economic stress of the Conservative agenda, made the nuclear family an alternative lifestyle. We watched reruns of "Father knows best" and "Gilligan's Island" as fantasies from a foreign era.

The Tea Partiers may have a fondness for a time when women and minorities did not have a place at the table. But, they are not remembering the economic policies that led to that fonder time. I am fine with going back to the good old days of democratizing the wealth in America. President Eisenhower reigned in a unique time. The tax and economic policies of Ike and the Great Society of LBJ should be models for Obama.

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I am a progressive liberal living in Dallas, Texas with my wife and two young daughters. I work as a computer programmer.

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