Nihil novi sub sole. "There's nothing new under the sun". It's one of the first phrases I had to translate in 9th grade Latin class. For a teacher who used to put declentions on a blackboard with chalk and then stand back and declare "you see, it couldn't be simpler!".
This diary is not about Latin, however. But it is about nothing being new under the sun. It's about Republicans. And, about one famous Democrat's willingness to call them out for what they are: a fraud. Follow me over the break for more.....
The old quip about Senator Henry Cabot Lodge's mind being "like his native New England: naturally barren but highly cultivated" recalls a very different Republican Party. Today, one could call many Republican minds "naturally barren but highly disciplined". Nihil novi. Republicans have been scampering around like rats running from the exterminator trying to distance themselves from the hateful, crypto-racist, violent rhetoric they have used to trash our President and our Democratic representatives in Congress and elsewhere. Democrats, on the other hand, most notably my own Representative Chellie Pingree, have been bending over backwards in awkward (and untruthful) attempts to show that the left has been doing it, too. No one wants to take responsibility. Nihil novi.
Here's what a real Democrat, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to say about Republicans in a speech to the Teamsters Union on September 23, 1944 at the Statler Hotel in Washington, DC. I quote here from the venerable Doris Kearns Goodwin's
No Ordinary Time:
The President had to prove to the electorate that he possessed the strength and resilience to rise to the Republican challenge...The President began smoothly with a joking reference to his advancing age. "Well, here we are together again--after four years--and what years they have been. You now, I am actually four years older, which is a fact that seems to annoy some people. In fact, in the mathematical field there are millions of Americans who are more than eleven years older than when we started in to clear up the mess that was dumped in our laps in 1933.
The President continued:
DKG: Roosevelt proceeded, with a voice that purred softly and then struck hard, to ridicule Republicans for trying to pass themselves off every four years as friends of labor after attacking labor for three years and six months.
FDR: "The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels. The object is to persuade the American people that the Democratic Party was responsible for the 1929 crash and the depression, and that the Republican Party was responsible for all social progress under the New Deal."
Nihil novi, right? Read on...
FDR: "Now, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery--but I am afraid that in this case it is the most obvious common or garden variety of fraud.
Does this characterization of the Republican Party sound familiar? It should. What sounds a bit off is a sitting President calling them out for their behavior.
The Republican Party has a long history of "fraud". It will co-opt anything available or potentially useful: economics, guns, racial hatred ("Southern Strategy, anyone?), and ignorance to gain power. Republicans like power. That is their goal. Democrats tend to use power. There is a difference.
Today's Democrats, and our President, need to learn how to take a page from FDR. How to call out Republicans, and to do it in a classy but firm way. To believe that there is some kind of moral equivalency between the two parties is an easy, if not falsely polite, opt-out from telling the unvarnished truth. Not all Democrats are perfect. Not all Republicans are evil. But--given that there is nihil novi--don't call spades when you're holding hearts.