My husband graduated UT with an honor's degree in government. My undergraduate degree is a B.S. in political science. He has a law degree from SMU, which is where I earned my master's degree in public administration. Needless to say, we are both too knowledgeable for our own good when it comes to the world of politics and government, and when the Tea Party started becoming popular, it prompted a series of "what if?" conversations at our dinner table. They always become undone, however, by my need to erase history versus his insistence that we begin in the here and now and move forward. Let me explain.
My argument derives from the fact that for many a Tea Partier, our government should never have grown or changed since it began. Okay...I actually "give" them the first ten amendments to our Constitution, then stop. He doesn't. He doesn't believe we need to remove the Civil War or woman's suffrage and instead can defeat them simply if we start from 2010 and move forward, mostly because none of us are used to paying the true price for anything, be it milk or gasoline, and that if the federal government wasn't providing those subsidies, we'd experience such a lowering to our standard of living that either we'd be begging for increased federal input or the Tea Partiers would next set their sights on their individual state governments, which would have had to have increased taxes to make up the losses.
If the argument is that the federal government exists solely to provide for the public defense, they get a "gimme" in the national highway system; the impetus President Eisenhower gave for their creation of our interstates is the movement of troops. Of course, given the post WW-II migration from urban areas to the suburbs, that wasn't his only reason, but I'm feeling generous this afternoon.
That's because I have the New Deal on my side. I know it's become fashionable on the far right to decry FDR's New Deal as a bad thing, and, yes, I realize that it was a combination of the New Deal and WWII that lifted us out of the Great Depression, but even forgetting such New Deal creations as the FDIC, which today we hold as sacrosanct and which equally obviously does not contribute to our nation's defense, what about WWII itself? In my view, we would have entered into a war with Japan after Pearl Harbor, but would not have joined the Allies in Europe. And had we not stormed Normandy and taken part in battles across Europe, the Germans probably would have won, and as a Jew, I might not actually be alive today to blog about this.
I could go on and on...our dinner table discussions do, after all, but my point, and there is one, is that recent statements by Rand Paul, along with the Texas Board of Education's attempts to rewrite history through textbook changes, allow me to focus my ire. On the one hand, Rand Paul states that he likes the Civil Rights Act. And yet he then makes a statement that the federal government has overreached. How does somebody argue both and disconnect them as he attempts to do? Without federal involvement the South would not have been forced to desegregate as those at the forefront of maintaining the status quo - of segregated drinking fountains, lunch counters, and Jim Crow laws in general - were elected state and local officials. Of course, if there were no 14th Amendment to the Constitution, there would be no equal protection clause, and no reason to undo a century of "separate but equal." So is it the 14th Amendment or the CRA that featured federal overreaching?
And how about those textbook changes...wasn't it bad enough that the Virginia Governor "forgot" to include a mention of slavery in his Civil War proclamation? Should our textbooks be changed so that the Slave Trade becomes the "Atlantic Triangular Trade?" Should students study Jefferson Davis's inaugural as President of the Confederate States of America because they already study Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural? The board member who fought that argument won, and if the changes go through, you can look for Davis highlights in the future.
Did Phyllis Schlafly impact the U.S. as much or more so than Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whom the same board member wanted excised from textbooks altogether? That last one gets my dander up because I once actually heard Schlafly speak in person and my impression was that she only became as famous as she did because of the old "dancing dog" syndrome. In other words, because she was a woman with beliefs vastly different than other famous women, she was trotted out to dance. One could easily argue - and easily win, I think - that without Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Singer, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinham, and Bella Abzug, there would have been no Phyllis Schlafly, that without radical women forcing progress, women like Schlafly would never have been allowed to vote, let alone earned the chance to attend law school and become a darling of the right. Of course, if we took it back to the beginning, there would have been no 19th Amendment, and Barbara Cargill would likely not be sitting on the Texas Board of Education at all.
IIRC, no historians make up the elected Texas Board of Education, which meets today for a final vote on the proposed changes. Will this be yet another embarrassment for those of us who are thinking citizens of the state of Texas? And will Rand Paul's GOP nomination implode because logic demands it?