Paul Begala: Can the GOP Escape from 1955?





Paul Begala is a Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist, a CNN contributor, an affiliated professor of public policy at Georgetown, and a senior adviser to Priorities USA Action, a progressive PAC.

...To be a conservative today is to fear tomorrow. But most Americans don’t want to go back to 1955. There was no Medicare—and one in four seniors were impoverished. There was no integration in the South—and Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi. Rosa Parks was arrested for sitting in the front of a bus. There were no oral contraceptives, much less abortion rights. The Supreme Court was 100 percent male, 100 percent white. The Senate was 100 percent white and 99 percent male. There were some good things that happened in 1955: rock and roll is generally thought to have been born that year, with Bill Haley and His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock”; the Salk vaccine was approved; and Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.

Of course, I rather doubt Roger Ailes would like to pay 1955’s top marginal tax rate of 91 percent. I also doubt that my right-wing friends would like to see the labor movement return to its 1955 strength. The AFL and the CIO merged in 1955, and membership in unions was about 300 percent higher than it is today.

Seems to me a few things were better, many things were worse. I was not yet born, but I don’t think I’d trade our messy, imperfect, Obama-led democracy today for Mr. Ailes’s supposedly halcyon days of 1955. The truth is, as Carly Simon said back when I was young: “These are the good old days.”



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