After visiting the beautiful memorial for Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the National Mall this past summer, my curiosity and appreciation was awakened to the great leadership and accomplishments of this President. Roosevelt has never been without detractors and haters. Sound similar? Obama has also encountered similar kinds of detraction and hatred, just from a different generation. Nothing new under the sun… As I read the inscriptions on the walls of the Roosevelt memorial, I was inspired by the compassion of a President (and First Lady) who led this country for 14 years. Wow! The guy was elected for four terms and died in office during his fourth term. I guess that’s why we have term limits now. Anyway… My mom was with me on that day we visited the memorial, and she shared her thoughts and memories of President Roosevelt who was leading the nation while she was coming of age. She holds great admiration for him and I would have to agree with her.
As I reflected on this great memorial to Roosevelt, I couldn’t help but think that Barack Obama has so much in common with our 32nd President of the United States. Both men assumed leadership in the midst of economic decline in America, both leaders came to power after Republican Presidents and both leaders are pretty much hated by ultra conservative Republicans. Roosevelt assumed leadership after Herbert Hoover (in 1929, the stock market had crashed, many Americans lost jobs and the Great Depression ensued). Similarly in 2008, the economy tanked after eight years of George W. Bush, and the United States suffered the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression plus we were waging two wars (an even more complex situation). Similarly, business hated Roosevelt as much as they appear to hate Obama today.
By 1935 the Nation had achieved some measure of recovery, but businessmen and bankers were turning more and more against Roosevelt’s New Deal program. They feared his experiments, were appalled because he had taken the Nation off the gold standard and allowed deficits in the budget, and disliked the concessions to labor. Roosevelt responded with a new program of reform: Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities, and an enormous work relief program for the unemployed.
So, you’ve noticed the patterns here, right? Roosevelt was elected in 1932, but by 1935 (only three years later) business leaders in America were turned against him. Similarly, Obama is elected in 2008, but by 2009 (a whole lot sooner, wonder why? Rhetorical…) chambers of commerce and business leaders are turned against Obama. See my Plutocrat Alert post where I detail some of Obama’s accomplishments while in office. The parallels are astounding. Under both leaders, middle class Americans were of major concern, not just the wealthy and the elite. In both cases, business leaders aka Wall Street have problems with so-called concessions to labor. In both cases, the President enacts reforms to “promote the general welfare” of the country.
Let history be our teacher. When Republicans are in power, it’s anything goes. Laissez-faire capitalism is the rule and the actions of the Republican plutocrats lead the country to the brink of economic ruin. How many times does the country have to go through this cycle before people realize what’s really going on. The hope here and the silver lining is that in the midst of these great challenges, the landscape is ripe for true leaders to come forth who really care about the people. In both Roosevelt and Obama, we have been fortunate to have such leadership.
What concerns me is our collective amnesia as a nation. No, I’m not talking about Romnesia, that’s a form of mendacity and a pre-existing condition. I’m talking about how quickly we forget what was and what now is. In 2008, the U.S. economy was in a free fall, credit markets were dried up and we were on the brink of economic disaster. Let me remind folks of who lead the way out of that deep economic hole that we were dumped into by George W. Bush. Barack Obama.