Monday, April 30, 2012

Obama Can Learn From FDR

I'm sure that folks around Obama have read No Ordinary Time, in which I now have about 80 pages left for tonight.  (I'm 50 pages from my scheduled 100 per day for the last three days, but I didn't count the 36 pages past page 600.) 

There are many similarities between Roosevelt facing the 1944 election and Obama facing the 2012 election.  (There are many dissimilarities as well.) 

Race - A lot of Southerners (and Northerners) are incensed over racial issues.  FDR's  [I usually don't use acronyms without spelling them out, but I figure that people should know this stands for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but there's no reason everyone should, so there it is.] constant push to get the navy and other services to treat all military men equally regardless of race is a big issue.  Eleanor's constant championing of equity gets her many hateful letters.  It seems that Obama's being half black by itself has stirred similar strong feelings in a very vocal minority. 

Economy - FDR came into office with a huge economic crisis he inherited from his Republican pro-business predecessor, much like Obama. 

War and returning veterans - FDR, in 1944, was in a war in Europe and Asia and Africa that was winding down.  The US had been officially in that war since Dec. 7, 1941.  Obama finds himself waging two, maybe three if you count Yemen, wars in the Middle East, which are also supposed to be winding down.  Roosevelt was pushing hard to prepare the economy for returning GI's - with housing, unemployment insurance, the GI bill for college funding, and other issues.  Obama has as well and has to let people know this in the campaign. 

Here's part of a speech Doris Kearns Goodwin offers, that FDR gave to Teamsters in Washington DC, which apparently was broadcast to the nation.

After joking a bit about his advancing age,

Roosevelt proceeded, with a voice that purred softly and then struck hard to ridicule the Republicans for trying to pass themselves off every four years as friends of labor after attacking labor for three years and six months.  "The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels.  The object is to persuade the American people that the Democratic Party was responsible for the 1929 crash and the depression, and that the Republican Party was responsible for all the social progress under the New Deal.
"Now,"  he said drawing out his words, "imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery - but I am afraid that in this case it is the most obvious common or garden variety of fraud."  Indeed, he went on, when he first heard the Republicans blaming the Democrats for the Depression, he rubbed his eyes and recalled an old adage: " 'Never speak of rope in the house of a man who has been hanged.'  In the same way, if I were a Republican leader speaking to a mixed audience, the last word in the whole dictionary that I think I would use is the word 'depression.'
The audience loved it.  They howled, clapped, and cheered. . .   (p. 548)
It seems to me that Obama, when he's talking genuinely from his heart about what he believes, can be just as charming and convincing as FDR.  I'd like to see him come out in this campaign, not defensive, but offensive.  We somehow seem to think that Fox news and modern talk radio invented political hit men.  But they've been alive and well in FDR's time and earlier.  

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