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Minnich: Connecting the dots of history

The Associated Press feature Today in History is one of my stops each morning when I open the Carroll County Times. It’s a tether between events of the past and the news of today, and is sometimes a little ironic.

Monday, for example, included the notation that on Sept. 2, 2004, President George W. Bush accepted his party’s nomination for a second term with the pledge of, “a safer world and a more hopeful America.”

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Five years later, however, the voters, in their wisdom, brought to Washington the Politics of Anger, as it was called in a recent New York Times story about the flash of success of the Tea Party. The headline noted that the rabid right didn’t get what it wanted, but it did unleash the toxicity of public rage at big government.

There had been a recession, if you recall. People were ticked off at foreclosures, inflation, taxation, and what was camouflaged as government tolerance for the sins of liberalism and overspending on social causes.

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And not only that, but the first black American to be elected president was spending taxpayer dollars and running a socialist gambit toward free medical care for everyone. Not that there was any latent racism in the upheavals under way.

The politics of anger wasn’t born just because of Obamacare, or even distrust of the banking and financial manipulations that led the nation to the brink of a depression. It was general frustration by people who were fed up with how complicated things had become. They now had been given permission to speak their minds, no matter how inappropriate the language, with the arrival on the scene 30 years earlier by a Georgia Republican named Newt Gingrich.

He arrived in Washington in 1979 and became Speaker of the House and speak he did. He spoke for the disgruntled, mostly white, mostly poor conservatives who were fed up with the civil rights movement and everything else connected to the idea of civility, particularly an obnoxious new trend called Political Correctness.

To the American raised on John Wayne movies celebrating America’s Manifest Destiny and a view of the nation as the anointed leader of the world’s value systems, Gingrich represented a return to the no-nonsense approach to getting things done — or undone, in the areas of social change.

And a hustler in the New York real estate jungle was watching.

Gingrich could say anything and get headlines and a round of applause. As a bonus, his churning of the media waters agitated the liberals and feminists and commies and homosexuals and all the others who were deemed disrespectful of the American way.

Gingrich was going to cut the deficit, lower taxes and roll back some of the lefty programs that were weakening the foundations of the Christian American culture.

Well, Gingrich was better at taking pot shots at perceived problems than he was at fixing anything. The budget deficit increased, tax cuts were insignificant events to the average paycheck, and the changes kept evolving in society. On top of that, Gingrich the moralist ran into some unfortunate personal misadventures that took him off his podium.

But the American anger continued to boil. Terrorists attacks, Middle East wars, economic uncertainty, jobs erosion to overseas factories where American corporations could find labor more attractive to the American investors in what were no longer made in America products.

Back to the Today in History page on Tuesday: On Sept. 2, 1945, Japan formally surrendered (less than 20 years later most U.S. television sets were made in Japan).

And in 1963, Walter Cronkite’s nightly report, “The CBS Evening News,” was expanded from 15 minutes to half an hour, the first televised newscast to run that long (today we have news on TV 24/7 and most people can’t tell which shows are newscasts and which are opinion/talk shows).

That day in history in 1969, the beginnings of the internet began with two computers connected by a 15-foot cable to pass data from one to the other, and now nobody knows who to believe.

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History, like news, can be good and bad at the same time.

Dean Minnich retired from journalism and served two terms as county commissioner. His column appears on Thursdays. Emails may be sent to dminnichwestm@gmail.com

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