History Lesson

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON

Outside the venue where Rep. Paul Ryan recently spoke in Madison, Wis., a university town never lacking protesters, one product of America's education system shouted that Ryan's budget proposal would return America to the bad old days of the "18th-century robber barons." The young man, full of zeal and destitute of information, does not know that those capitalists of whom he disapproves -- the ones who built the railroads and other sinews of the nation's industrial might -- operated in the second half of the 19th century, not in 18th-century agrarian America.

Last month, Barack Obama was asked by an interviewer from Texas why he is so unpopular there. Obama replied: "Texas has always been a pretty Republican state, for, you know, historic reasons." Well, yes, "always" -- if you believe, as many baby boomers seem to, that the world began when they became sentient. For the record:

Texas, one of the 11 states of the Confederacy, was, for historic reasons, part of the solidly Democrat South for almost a century after the Civil War. Deeply Protestant Texas voted for Republican Herbert Hoover against Al Smith, a Catholic New Yorker, for president in 1928, but it did not vote for a Republican presidential candidate again until Dwight Eisenhower carried the state in 1952 and 1956. It did not do so again until Richard Nixon in 1972. Four years later, it embraced Jimmy Carter. Other than during Reconstruction, Texas did not elect a Republican senator until 1961 (John Tower) and did not elect a second one (Phil Gramm) until 1984. Republicans were not a majority of the state's congressional delegation until 2005.

Responding to Ryan's budget proposal, Obama said it "would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we've known certainly in my lifetime. In fact, I think it would be fundamentally different than what we've known throughout our history. …