Thursday, June 16, 2011

FDR and the Liberty League -- and Modern Parallels Best Left Unsaid

Interesting, the things you can learn when you read a book. And then go to the Internets for further information.

I’m reading (well, got back to reading after a few readerly interruptions) book called “FDR My Boss,’ by Grace Tully, one of the Democratic president’s full-time secretaries. In it, Tully excerpts part of a speech given by FDR in New York’s Madison Square Garden on Oct. 31, 1936 (full text available here, thank you Internet):
For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.
What makes this speech interesting is that it was, in part, delivered to refute allegations made by the so-called Liberty League – which Roosevelt and others panned as a Republican organization but was in fact founded by Democrats opposed to his New Deal policies – that Roosevelt was taking the nation down the road of Socialist ruin. (Kinda sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

The Liberty League, however, died out just after FDR was re-elected in ’36 with a landslide vote.

No particular reason to post all of this, aside from wanting to point out that it’s fun to read history and draw parallels from then to now (either former president George W. Bush or current president Barack Obama could make a similar speech today and have it fit in pretty well with current political thought). Guess the partisan nature of politics isn’t as new today as many would like us to believe.

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