Papa got a job with the TVA

Former RNC chair Mike Duncan quits bashing the nanny state, becomes the nanny state.

By Gabriel Winant

Published February 12, 2009 7:55PM (EST)

If there’s one thing we’ve learned lately about the Republicans, it’s that they just hate the nanny state. That goes for your socialized medicine proposals, your Great Societies, your Fair Deals and your New Deals. Just ask former Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan. As he sought reelection to his job last month, Duncan said this:

The Democrats mean to use this opportunity of unchallenged power to explode the size and scope of the federal government, to take control of entire sectors of our economy, to crush the conservative opposition through parliamentary procedure and redistricting. The goal is to indoctrinate a generation of American children to the gentle comforts of the nanny state ... The only thing standing between their agenda and success is the Republican Party.

So, naturally, now that Duncan's out at the RNC, he'll be taking a job running one of the premier New Deal legacy agencies. On Thursday, the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority voted, 4-3, to make Duncan its new chairman. (If you were wondering, he's from Kentucky.) Duncan promises, “I’m more than a partisan animal.”

The TVA, generally considered one of the New Deal's greatest triumphs, brought the area it serves -- which in the 1930's was still a malarial zone -- into the 20th century. Remember what landing a job at the TVA did for the family in 1989’s number one country hit, “Song of the South?" “Papa got a job with the TVA, we bought a washing machine, and then a Chevrolet.” See? This is exactly the kind of wealth-spreading Mike Duncan tried to warn us about.

Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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