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While Republicans protect the rich, Democrats always have stood with the common people


Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) was a United States Senator from the State of Missouri. One of the founders of the Democratic Party (along with his patron, the 7th president, Andrew Jackson), Benton, like Jackson a westerner, mistrusted easterners. He accused them of siphoning off the wealth of the west, to add to their own coffers—of being elitists—which led western farmers and settlers into bankruptcy and ruin. This led to his steadfast opposition to the Bank of the United States (the nation’s first national bank, chartered by Congress in 1791, under George Washington). In Benton’s view, the Bank existed simply to “abduct” the gold and silver so desperately needed by westerners; that specie ended up in the pockets of wealthy easterners, while the Bank issued worthless paper money to westerners.

When the Bank of the United States’ charter was up for renewal, in 1831, during Jackson’s first term, Benton spoke heatedly against it on the floor of the Senate. His fulmination against eastern money and the establishment of privilege that had coalesced around it, in the form of the Republican Party, could just as easily come today from the lips of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders: If the Bank of the United States were renewed, and the eastern elite allowed to accumulate even more wealth, Benton warned, in this “may be laid the foundation for the titles and estates of our future nobility—Duke of Cincinnati! Earl of Lexington! Marquis of Nashville! Count of St. Louis! Prince of New Orelans! Such may be the titles of the bank nobility…”. As for the charter renewal itself, Benton said, he would vote against “a bill for the establishment of lords and commons in this America, and for the eventual establishment of a King; for when the lords and commons are established, the King will come of himself!”

Americans had fought the Revolution to be freed from the tyranny of one King; Benton and Democrats did not want another Royal Court and King established, on the basis of wealth rather than blood. We hear distinct echoes of this fear in the modern Democratic Party; even after nearly two hundred years, one of the party’s bedrock principles is to discourage great concentrations of wealth. Instead of “the Count of St. Louis” and “the Duke of Cincinnati,” we might speak today of the Earl of Las Vegas (Sheldon Adelson), the Prince of Silicon Valley (Mark Zuckerberg), the Baron of Wichita ((Charles Koch), the Empress of Michigan (Betsy DeVos) and the rest of the Royal Court, most of whom are Republicans.

But think about Benton’s final warning: ”when the lords and commons are established, the King will come of himself!” What does this mean? The “lords” whose establishment Benton feared are upon us already; they always have been. America has always permitted the accumulation of vast wealth (which is one of the main reasons why the Republican Party has always resisted taxation), and the gap between the ultra-wealthy and everybody else has never been greater than it is today.

And who are the “commons”? You and me: the little people, the lower classes…the 99%, if you will. Who can doubt that Benton’s fear has come true: America is now comprised of a 1% class of “lords” and a 99% class of “commons.” These lords will not give up their power and money without a fight: indeed, we have lately seen them lining up to resist Warren and Sanders with all their collective might. Their “Resistance”, if we can call it that, even crosses party lines: even billionaire Democrats like Michael Bloomberg are sounding the alarm against higher taxes on their class.

And in 2016, Benton’s most alarming and dire warning came true: the King came “of himself.” The lords selected one of their own, Donald J. Trump, to be their ruler, and elevated him (with help from the Russians) to be their president. His job: to protect their interests. To cut their taxes even more than they had been reduced under Republican presidents, and to make sure that no future taxes would ever be levied upon them. To protect and strengthen their banks and corporations. And to do all the other things that Kings do, which is why the Founders rose up against King George III in the first place: to punish his “repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” (The Declaration of Independence spells out these “injuries and usurpations” in great detail.)

So we see History repeating itself. In one sense, therefore, the modern Republican Party—as rightwing, Orwellian and plutocratic as any party has ever been—is nothing but a more egregious rehash of the Republican Party’s historical conservatism. But in another, far more sinister sense, the accompanying rise of a “King”, in the form of Donald J. Trump, has confronted this nation with its most dangerous challenge since the Civil War. For, let us remember, by definition the King is above the law…and can do whatever he wants, with no repercussions.

Oh, that Bank of the United States charter renewal? President Jackson, an ardent Democrat, vetoed it. In words, once again, that could come from any Democrat today, he explained:

“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes…When the laws undertake…to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society…have a right to complain of the injustices to their Government.”

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