There Is No Roose(velt) Of Such Vertu

Stella kindly supplied me with a copy of The Coming of the New Deal, the second volume of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s three-volume series The Age of Roosevelt (which I am happy to report she acquired for only $5 at a used miscellany shop). As today’s liberals and progressives tend to venerate FDR above practically all other presidents in modern times, it is interesting to read about the people with whom he surrounded himself to join him in implementing the New Deal. The real surprise for me, and I suppose for most 21st-century readers, is that as a group, including the president, they were informal, openly enthusiastic, bright, creative, willing to listen, at ease with themselves, politically aggressive when necessary but seldom mean-spirited, and obsessively hard workers.

Contrast all that with President Hopey Changey. Times are quite similar: banks are on the edge; businesses lack customers because unemployment is pervasive, and so on. But Obama’s administration, for which all of us held great hopes in 2008, is closed and secretive, rejecting all advice “not invented here” (including advice from Obama’s electoral base), outrageously classist in a way that only banksters can be, obsessed with an almost Hooverian approach to economics, and apparently willing to work hard only in behalf of people they seem to perceive as their owners.

Oh, how we need another FDR!


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  • Bryan  On Sunday October 16, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    The big thing with FDR, based on what I’ve read, and the memories of older family members, was that he was willing to give anything a chance. If it worked he kept it, but if failed to produce results, he dumped it and tried something else. He really didn’t invest himself into a program until it was shown to work.

    Today, we keep repeating the failures, no matter how often they have been tried and failed. We have gone into ‘faith-based economics’, matters of belief, not reality.

    • Steve  On Sunday October 16, 2011 at 10:54 pm

      Precisely, Bryan. Lately I’ve thought that Republican ideology is a kind of religion run amuck, a faith in things that are not true and cannot be made true by any stretching or hammering. But Republicans seem willing to continue the beatings until the complaining stops. Ain’t gonna happen… there will be another revolution before people will acquiesce to an ideology that requires them to be poor and hungry and to live in squalid conditions while others grow seemingly boundlessly wealthy.

      Things were on the point of that kind of rebellion when FDR took office. In response, he made a priority list: stabilize the banks first, then deal with the failure of agricultural markets to keep farmers solvent. He surrounded himself with people willing to contemplate truly new ideas and try one after another until the right one was discovered. And FDR drove confidence; it was his primary message from an exceptionally communicative White House.

      Obama is not intrinsically a bad guy (said with fingers crossed). But between the deliberate obstacles the GOP has laid out for him and his own failures to follow through when tough confrontations were called for, Obama’s first hundred days of accomplishment were a minuscule fraction of FDR’s. And his apparent Chicago school understanding of economics guarantees that he can only inflict more misery on the American people. Will we get through these times without a violent uprising? Hell if I know, but if we do, it will be by blind luck.

      • MandT  On Monday October 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm

        ‘Obama’s not a bad guy” This brings up an interesting transition point we must all grow through to reach the truth. What is real is not always true. The perfect example in my experience came from facilitating ‘Death and Dying’ groups in the past, wherein someone would say. My family things being gay is evil, they vote against any civil rights or hate crime legislation, I am ostracized from larger family gathering and ex-communicated from my church, BUT, they say they love me. No Virginia they don’t love you, they are harming you with every decision they make regarding your human dignity and basic human rights. Same with Obama. He is not a good guy, he’s an authoritarian tyrant sacrificing basic democratic values and justice to serve his place in power.

        • Steve  On Monday October 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm

          Aooarently my crossed fingers were appropriate! 🙂 I don’t think Obama reveals enough of his inner workings to allow mere citizens to evaluate his intentions… maybe they’re good, or maybe they’re bad, or maybe he’s just a coward unwilling to offend anyone in the process of making the sausage.

          I suspect Obama would be very surprised to know some people think of him as “an authoritarian tyrant sacrificing basic democratic values and justice”; it may go right over his head that when he puts out a secret hit contract on an American citizen without any sort of due process, that’s precisely how he’s acting. Obama’s self-image and our image of him (yours or mine, either one) are not sufficiently in registration to make a single portrait. Perhaps I could learn to forgive him his sins, but I know I couldn’t learn to vote for him… he’s already crossed that bridge.

  • MandT  On Sunday October 16, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    FDR’s greatest asset was being a born aristocrat having little concept the vicious bourgeois crimes of social ascendency. His own instincts for justice found fertile soil in a destiny he recognized. Eleanor was the fire that set that vision and set America on a half century of genuine democracy. In comparison Obama is a pathetic shadow.

    • Steve  On Sunday October 16, 2011 at 11:02 pm

      MandT, Eleanor deserves a great deal of credit, but so does FDR. Both were born aristocrats; they wouldn’t have married otherwise. Eleanor’s virtues were in direct confrontations, e.g., stalking through a muddy field to talk to farmworkers on the verge of financial collapse. FDR was more a picture of serenity in the face of every sort of adversity; I think he must have had a copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy beside his bed, with the friendly slogan on the cover: “Don’t Panic!” Both strengths were needed to save the faltering nation.

      • MandT  On Monday October 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm

        He was certainly the greatest among us. Just his battle alone with polio and its lifelong effects was heroic.


  • By The History Of The FDR Years — Why Now? on Sunday October 16, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    […] Bates is recommending the The Coming of the New Deal by Arthur Schlesinger, part of Mr. Schlesinger series on […]

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