Monday, October 15, 2012

FDR's Post-Crash 1936 Speech Provides Surprising Parallel to 2012 Election

The parallels between the recovery in 1936 and in 2012 are unexpectedly surprising. In many ways, FDR could have been describing the circumstances of the past 4 years and the current political climate . . .

[note: the following introduction is taken from David Remnick's 10/13/12 New Yorker blog]:

In 1936, Franklin Roosevelt was faced with a vicious reelection campaign. He was vilified for the New Deal reforms. The word “boondoggle” was popularized in the U.S. the year before to describe alleged abuses of the New Deal. Opposition politicians and critics compared F.D.R. to Lenin. The Depression was still on, and unemployment, which had dropped significantly, was still high, over fourteen per cent. What Roosevelt had going for himself was a real set of policies and the capacity to speak on their behalf—a willed capacity to state things plainly, forcefully, and effectively. Never more so than on September 29, 1936, at the New York Democratic State Convention, in Syracuse.

Excerpts from FDR's speech to the New York Democratic State Convention 9/29/1936:

The task on our part is twofold: First, as simple patriotism requires, to separate the false from the real issues; and, secondly, with facts and without rancor, to clarify the real problems for the American public.

There will be—there are—many false issues. In that respect, this will be no different from other campaigns. Partisans, not willing to face realities, will drag out red herrings as they have always done—to divert attention from the trail of their own weaknesses.

This practice is as old as our democracy. Avoiding the facts—fearful of the truth—a malicious opposition charged that George Washington planned to make himself king under a British form of government; that Thomas Jefferson planned to set up a guillotine under a French Revolutionary form of government; that Andrew Jackson soaked the rich of the Eastern seaboard and planned to surrender American democracy to the dictatorship of a frontier mob. They called Abraham Lincoln a Roman Emperor; Theodore Roosevelt a Destroyer; Woodrow Wilson a self-constituted Messiah.

In the spring of 1933 we faced a crisis which was the ugly fruit of twelve years of neglect of the causes of economic and social unrest.

Most people in the United States remember today the fact that starvation was averted, that homes and farms were saved, that banks were reopened, that crop prices rose, that industry revived, and that the dangerous forces subversive of our form of government were turned aside.

A few people- a few only—unwilling to remember, seem to have forgotten those days.

Why did that crisis of 1929 to 1933 pass without disaster?

The answer is found in the record of what we did.

We met the emergency with emergency action.

Let me warn you and let me warn the Nation against the smooth evasion which says, "Of course we believe all these things; we believe in social security; we believe in work for the unemployed; we believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things; but we do not like the way the present Administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us. We will do all of them- we will do more of them we will do them better; and, most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything."

But, my friends, these evaders are banking too heavily on the shortness of our memories. No one will forget that they had their golden opportunity—twelve long years of it.

Remember, too, that the first essential of doing a job well is to want to see the job done. Make no mistake about this: the Republican leadership today is not against the way we have done the job. The Republican leadership is against the job's being done.

You cannot promise to repeal taxes before one audience and promise to spend more of the taxpayers' money before another audience. You cannot promise tax relief for those who can afford to pay, and, at the same time, promise more of the taxpayers' money for those who are in need. You simply cannot make good on both promises at the same time.

Who is there in America who believes that we can run the risk of turning back our Government to the old leadership which brought it to the brink of 1933?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

You can watch or read FDR's entire speech here: 

Here is a link to Davdi Remnick's New Yorker article which brought FDR's 1936 speech to everyone's attention: