Monday, May 17, 2004

A Pioneer of Reform

People usually know my writing as mostly acerbic and critical. This is very easy to do in today’s world, and it’s also necessary because we often have to call peoples’ attention to the injustices and hypocrisy in the world. I would like to take this opportunity to try and point to something positive. I have chosen to do this by sharing with you whom I consider a figure in history to emulate, so we can take this county back.

That man could very well be Howard Dean as well, but Howard’s campaign was really inspired by a man that lived a century ago: Bob LaFollette. Here’s his bio:

Robert La Follette, the son of a small farmer, was born in Dane County, Wisconsin, on 14th June, 1855. He worked as a farm labourer before entering the University of Wisconsin in 1875. After graduating in 1879 he set up as a lawyer and the following year became District Attorney of Dane County.

Elected to Congress as a Republican, La Follette was extremely critical of the behaviour of some of the party bosses. In 1891, La Follette announced that the state Republican boss, Senator Philetus Sawyer, had offered him a bribe to fix a court case.

Over the next six years La Follette built up a loyal following within the Republican Party in opposition to the power of the official leadership. Proposing a programme of tax reform, corporation regulation and an extension of political democracy, La Follette was elected governor of Wisconsin in 1900. Once in power La Follette employed the academic staff of the University of Wisconsin to draft bills and administer the laws that he introduced.

La Follette was also successful in persuading the federal government to introduce much needed reforms. This included the regulation of the railway industry and equalized tax assessment. In 1906 La Follette was elected to the Senate and over the next few years argued that his main role was to "protect the people" from the "selfish interests". He claimed that the nation's economy was dominated by fewer than 100 industrialists. He went on to argue that these men then used this power to control the political process. La Follette supported the growth of trade unions as he saw them as a check on the power of large corporations.

Funny I had to get that from a European source.

I first read of Fightin’ Bob LaFollette in high school, and I have always found him a source of inspiration. Bob LaFollette helped build the entire progressive movement and history should praise him like Howard Dean should be praised for leading the Democratic Party out of the woods.

Here’s to what an exceptional public servant should be. To Fighting Bob.

Joe Bruemmer


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