Radical ideas that were either great or terrible, depending on your view
While it is hard to imagine an America than the one we see today, there were opportunities in the past that would’ve radically changed our country.
Throughout the 200+ years of US history, there has been quite an assortment of unique ideas, movements, positions, and proposals. If only one of them had succeeded, we would be living in a different America today.
Here are 7 of those revolutionary ideas that came pretty close to taking hold.
FDR’s Proposed Second Bill Of Rights
In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt had a new vision for the country and believed the government needed to be reimagined. Knowing that his political colleagues would resist this new plan, he proposed his idea for a second bill of rights directly to the American people during a state of the union address.
While the original Bill of Rights provided Americans with a guarantee to have freedom without government intervention, FDR’s second bill of rights required government actions to provide economic and social stability to them. He appealed for freedom from poverty, the right to education, free access to health care, a suitable home, as well as a living wage.
FDR also called for small businesses to freely operate without pressure from monopolies and that all farmers be paid a federally backed price for their livestock and crops.
The German American Bund
During the years before World War II broke out, people with German ancestry that lived in other countries were encouraged to create groups throughout the world. In those groups, they would promote the Nazi cause along with German virtues.
In America, the Amerikadeutscher Volksbund, which was called the German American Bund, was one of those groups that were created in 1936. They claimed themselves to be an organization of patriotic Americans from German stock. At one time, they had built some 20 youth training camps and 70 regional divisions all over the nation. It is estimated that it had as many as 200,000 members at one time.
In February of 1939, the Bund promoted a rally in New York’s Madison Square Garden, where they denounced President Roosevelt and Jewish conspiracies. There were around 20,000 at that rally.
The Anti-Masonic Party
There are several of today’s business owners and politicians that are Freemasons. However, if this political movement from the 1820s had been a success; things would have been much different.
In 1826, a man named William Morgan vanished. This was followed by a slew of anti-Masonic activities because after Morgan was rejected for membership, he threatened to expose all the Masons’ secrets. Since this case wasn’t ever solved, everyone assumed that the Masons had silenced Morgan by killing him. Also, the public began believing that secret societies containing powerful men were a danger to their welfare.
The Anti-Masonic party was originally a religious movement to eliminate Freemasonry. It later became a political platform that stressed how Masons were using political power to enhance personal gains rather than national interests. The Anti-Mason party submitted a nominee named Mason William Wirt for the 1832 presidential election.
The Anti-Masonic party was not a flash in the pan; they inflicted severe damage to the Freemasons. Their membership fell by 60%, and around 400 lodges eventually closed in New York state. This Anti-Masonic movement left behind a bit of a stigma around these secret societies that can still be felt today.
The Alien And Sedition Acts
The Alien and Sedition Acts were originally enacted under President John Adams, and if they had survived beyond his presidency, things would have been much different in the United States.
When the US is at war, the Alien Act allowed the US government to capture and jail any non-citizen, and it could also seize their properties. It also restricted the naturalization of immigrants as it required them to spend 14 years in the country — rather than five years.
This law was particularly aimed at the French, who had become America’s newest enemy. It also sought to prevent radical groups like the Irish from migrating to the country to create unrest.
The Sedition Act stated that anyone caught organizing a movement against the US government, conspiring against the US government, or just speaking against the US government would be fined and arrested. And anyone writing or speaking lies about the government could be jailed for two years. Several newspaper editors received jail sentences over stories that were published in their newspapers.
Fortunately, these laws weren’t very popular. James Madison said they were disgraceful, and when Thomas Jefferson became President, the laws became history.
The Occupation Of Alcatraz
During the 1950s, President Eisenhower enacted bills that would place Native American reservations back under the control of the US government. This displaced countless people from what had been their homes for many years. Years later, as retaliation to these measures, angry groups of protesters attempted three times to take over the unused island of Alcatraz.
The first attempt was in 1964 and only lasted for four hours. However, it did set the tone with a list of demands. The occupiers demanded that Alcatraz be returned to the Sioux, referring to an 1868 treaty which stated that any unused federal land would return back to Indian control.
The second attempt ended almost as quickly when the Coast Guard intervened.
However, the third occupation attempt lasted quite a while. It began on November 20, 1969, and ended on June 10, 1971, when federal marshals finally stormed the island.
While this movement started as a symbolic statement from a few people, it evolved into a well –organized gathering; they were prepared for an extended occupation. It became a functioning community that demanded a university be established on the island along with a museum for Sioux culture and heritage.
The Republic Of Cascadia
Back when President Thomas Jefferson directed explorers Lewis and Clark to chart America, he might not have been looking for new American lands. Not many people are aware that Jefferson was thinking about creating a newly independent nation that would reside alongside the United States. This adjoining new country would be called the Republic of Cascadia, which would rule itself. It would become a devoted ally and share the same views and politics as the United States.
The term ‘Cascadia’ is a reference to the beautiful mountains and particularly their cascading waterfalls. The biggest motivation behind this vision was the natural barrier offered by the Rocky Mountains. It appeared that Mother Nature had already established a border that needed to be recognized.
Years later, there were attempts to fulfill Jefferson’s vision. The most recent came in the 1940s when some movements attempted tried to claim independence from the government. All of them were quickly put down.
The Know-Nothing Party
For years, many Americans have struggled with what their country stands for. Because of free speech, we get every side of that dialog. On the one hand, we proudly point out how America is a melting pot of various cultures, yet on the other hand, it can be exclusive of outsiders at times.
A perfect example of this two-sided outlook was the anti-immigration Know-Nothing Party, who was also opposed to slavery. Their name came about because when members were asked about the party’s secret activities, they claimed to ‘know-nothing.’
This political party wasn’t a small movement that fizzled out; they developed major influence in the governments of northern states like Delaware, Maryland, and Massachusetts. They had links to governors, mayors, judges, and other city officials.
Conversely, they also had links to gangs and other criminal elements. During the 1856 presidential election, they recruited former president Millard Fillmore to be a candidate on the Know-Nothing party ticket.
Oddly enough, the downfall of the party came when they attempted to establish supporters in the South. While the Know-Nothings wanted to purify America by removing immigrants, their anti-slavery stance failed miserably in the Southern states.