Rep. Andrew Brenner is notorious for blocking his constituents on social media for expressing their disagreements with his policies. Photo from ohiohouse.gov

Some folks might think it’s a bit crazy to drive 11 hours and travel 700 miles to Missouri just to visit a library. As someone who no doubt spent too much time in libraries during graduate school pursuing three different degree programs, I can certainly understand that sentiment. But what I found within the space of a few hours in that library’s research area could provide some people with a mini-course in American history.

Libraries are all about learning and discovery, to be sure. But when you visit a place like the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, as Plunderbund readers discovered last week, the learning opportunities are multiplied to an unimaginable level.  After only an hour there examining historical documents from the White House created during the late 1940s and early 1950s, I felt that I should have invited someone else to come with me.

Andrew Brenner.

Yes, that Andrew Brenner. The Tea Party guy who loves to promote the Second Amendment, but has big problems with those who express their First Amendment rights. The same Andrew Brenner, Chair of the Ohio House Education Committee, who is certainly in need of an expanded education in American history.

It might have been a tough assignment tearing Brenner away from his rigorous studies at Liberty University, aka Jerry Falwell U, so that he might have been able to travel with me to Independence, MO. But there is no doubt that the Education Committee head would have received an education in just a few hours, surely a learning experience which might have turned out to be quite different from the standard fare offered up at the Falwellian school in Lynchburg.

In 2014, Brenner received national attention when he wrote that public education represents a “socialist system,” and that a proper remedy would be to move to a privatized system of education. Notwithstanding his anti-public education bias, Brenner was nevertheless appointed as Chair of the Ohio House Education Committee the following year.

A few weeks ago, as reported previously in Plunderbund, this writer went on a long journey to Missouri, with stops also in Kansas and Oklahoma, to better understand the period when Harry Truman served as President of the United States. It was felt that this would be best accomplished by examining the archived papers of Dr. Kenneth Hechler, a historian and U.S. Army combat veteran, who interrogated top Nazis Herman Goering and Karl Doenitz at Nuremberg and later served as a special assistant and researcher in the Truman White House.

As I examined his papers in the Truman Library, I was affirmed in the belief that Hechler served the president well. Indeed, two years after his death at the age of 102, Hechler’s scholarship continues to inform us in the present era. In fact, there is no better way to fathom one part of the enormity of our challenging times than to compare the research of Dr. Hechler with the delusional utterings of Andrew Brenner, the present-day anti-public education chair of the education committee.

In contrast with Brenner’s mumbling about socialism, the scholarly Hechler amply shows that we’ve been there before in dealing with the simplistic and tired views of the Brenners of the world. One of Hechler’s research projects found in the Truman Library, aptly titled “Scare Words,” was completed in April 1950, at the very time that Senator Joseph McCarthy was looking for communists and socialists under every bed.

Comic from Fitzsimmons at Arizona Daily Star

Hmmm. According to several Internet websites, Brenner was born in 1971. He must have had a few tutors to teach him those threadbare scare words from the past that he uses in campaign after campaign and in his attacks on those who oppose him on social media sites.

Hechler documents that Republicans and others of the extreme right thought that there must be socialism behind every piece of proposed legislation, from measures to promote soil conservation, provide a minimum wage, establish a safe workplace, and initiate rural electrification.

One of the earliest examples of the term socialism used as a pejorative was found in 1911 when worker compensation proposals were deemed “purely socialistic.” Two years later, Hechler found that a Republican congressman of that era referred to the Federal Reserve Act as “socialistic and dangerous.” In 1915, when minimum wage legislation was introduced, it was “pure socialism in its origin,” while the Farm Loan Act the next year was also labeled “paternally socialistic.”

Indeed, to many Republicans, the terms socialism and communism were used interchangeably. Even projects that benefited the arid southwest were not immune. Hoover Dam, which impounds Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, was labeled as the “first long step toward Communism” by another Republican congressman.

Yes, even small steps to provide relief at the beginning of the Great Depression were depicted as socialism. There was this classic found in the Hechler Papers:

Increasing reliance by individual citizens upon state support creates a state of mind which will facilitate adoption of government-ownership measures and ultimate socialistic control of life and industry.
– National Association of Manufacturers  – 1930

The time-worn socialism pejorative and prophecies of doom output generated by Republicans only increased with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, and the Republican scare words messaging campaign is amply documented in the Hechler Papers.

“American civilization is in danger,” the Republican National Committee proclaimed in 1934, and with the passage of the Soil Conservation and Domestic Alottment Act in 1936, a few GOP congressmen called the new law “Communistic.” Never mind that soil erosion on the plains was decreased nearly 21% in just three years with this supposedly socialistic legislation.

Then, with Republicans like Alf Landon, and now with Brenner and his far-right compatriots, it’s all about socialism and communism, communism and socialism.

Beat that drum loudly, Andrew. Round up the usual socialist communist pinko Democrat suspects.

Scare Words Index, 1950. Photo from Kenneth Hechler Papers at Truman Library and Museum

In targeting the Truman Administration, former President Herbert Hoover in 1946 called some Fair Deal programs as being a “mixture of fascism and socialism,” while Ohio Senator Robert Taft shouted that the Democrats were hell-bent to “socialize all.”

Somehow, the country has been able to survive the so-called socialist assault by the Democrats, even with such supposedly subversive legislation they proposed over the years like minimum wage, worker compensation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. But it should be no surprise that Republicans being what they are – as documented in Ken Hechler’s 1950 research and continuing today – every one of these legacy programs continues to be under assault.

So, after 70 years, does that mean the wrecking crew and socialist hunters that Ken Hechler observed and so meticulously chronicled long ago have somehow returned?

No. It means they never left.

It is today’s Republican wrecking crew which wants to ensure the survival of only the fittest, featuring true believers who want to eliminate or greatly diminish any government role in workplace safety, minimum wage requirements, environmental protection, healthcare and, Andrew Brenner’s favorite area – public education.

Voters this year need to be reminded that the Chair of the House Education Committee thinks that public education, the very engine that fuels our democracy from generation to generation and produces our informed citizenry, the arsenal of democracy which our founders envisioned, is a “socialist system.”

How Orwellian is it, a la the Ministry of Truth, that the Chair of the House Education Committee wants to destroy public education? Consider that Brenner enrolled in Jerry Falwell’s private Liberty University, is back in school, according to his website,  pursuing a “Masters of Education (M.Ed.) in Teaching and Learning with an emphasis in Leadership.”

Even George Orwell could not foretell the Falwell in all of this.

But Brenner’s political philosophy was mirrored in an earlier Ohio figure. Discerning voters need to be reminded that it was Senator Robert Taft of Ohio who said in 1939 that Democratic policies would result in “national bankruptcy … civil war.”

If Republican tax cuts that benefit only the very wealthy result in massive cuts in government programs – which many predict, maybe Taft’s prediction of national bankruptcy and civil war will come to fruition. But not because of the Democratic policies that Taft abhorred.

Certainly, tax cuts and program elimination, including Brenner’s cherished goal, the privatization of public education, is the antithesis of socialism. So what would we call that? Then again, maybe Brenner thinks that in addition to public schools, public libraries, public safety departments, public parks, public highways, and anything that has the word public in front of it is yet another example of socialism.

Could you call this Brennerism, perhaps? Where you afflict the afflicted? Maybe.

If pejoratives like socialism and collectivism were shopworn in 1950, as my friend Dr. Ken Hechler demonstrated in his thoroughly researched papers on file at the Truman Library, is it possible that the Chair of the House Education Committee might somehow be capable of being educated to the fact that his line of buzzwords, including his all-time fave – socialism – are so, so old and tired?

Nope.

Like Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy, who was relentless in seeing enemies lurking under every bed, Brenner likes to demonstrate a similar combativeness by his constant mission to hunt down socialism. But the best way to deal with this modern-day tail gunner who likes to display his my-way-or-the-highway mentality is to pre-empt his mission to destroy public institutions.

I sure wish that Education Chair Andrew Brenner could somehow have been educated by Dr. Kenneth Hechler of Columbia and Marshall University. Yes, I even wish he could have accompanied me to that library near Kansas City, where everything is up to date in those archives.

Keeping all of this in mind, Delaware County voters need to do themselves a favor in shooting down Tail Gunner Andy on November 6.  In doing so, please remember Louise Friend Valentine, Brenner’s most worthy opponent, to serve the people in State Senate District 19. Unlike Brenner, she brings a clear voice and proactive nature to public service and stands for election to build and improve our democracy, not destroy it by attacking those who have a different point of view.

Vote. Yes, vote to turn the tables on Tail Gunner Andrew Brenner, who doesn’t like an opposing point of view, as ably chronicled on the new Facebook page, Blocked Constituents of Andrew Brenner. The public good requires no less than to retire him so that he will have more time to spend in public libraries, and better yet, more time to volunteer in public schools.

 

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