FDR’s 1930s Speeches Are Sadly Just As Relevant Today
And Republicans are just as opposed to a strong, capable, and popular government as they were then.
The following are quotes from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1936 “Madison Square Garden Speech” he gave just a few days before his second election victory.
Unfortunately, his words are pretty much a speech President Joe Biden could repeat verbatim with just as much relevance today:
“In 1932 the issue was the restoration of American democracy; and the American people were in a mood to win. They did win. In 1936 the issue is the preservation of their victory. Again they are in a mood to win. Again they will win.”
The stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression were pretty bad for American democracy, but January 6th and Donald Trump’s abject refusal to peacefully transfer power were a more acute threat to American democracy. Thanks for winning, Joe Biden!
“It is needless to repeat the details of the program which this Administration has been hammering out on the anvils of experience. No amount of misrepresentation or statistical contortion can conceal or blur or smear that record. Neither the attacks of unscrupulous enemies nor the exaggerations of over-zealous friends will serve to mislead the American people.”
Biden gets very little credit for his executive and legislative accomplishments, but his first two years rank pretty high in presidential history. Particularly because only Barack Obama faced as much mindlessly partisan opposition since perhaps Lyndon Johnson forced the South to finally recognize Black Americans’ civil rights.
“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. […] 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.”
This has pretty accurately described most Republican Party policies and campaign platforms since Teddy Roosevelt renounced his support of his successor William Taft and launched the “Bull Moose Party.” Starting with FDR’s years as president, most of the things Democrats have wanted to do to help preserve Americans’ life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness has been branded by Republicans as “communist,” “socialist,” or now “Woke.”
“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”
Eighty-seven years later, what’s new?
“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.”
FDR is lucky he didn’t have to live through the Trump presidency.
“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.”
FDR was a real trendsetter for Democratic presidents.
“Here is an amazing paradox! The very employers and politicians and publishers who talk most loudly of class antagonism and the destruction of the American system now undermine that system by this attempt to coerce the votes of the wage earners of this country. It is the 1936 version of the old threat to close down the factory or the office if a particular candidate does not win. It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them.”
“When they imply that… [government social spending] will be stolen by some future Congress, diverted to some wholly foreign purpose, they attack the integrity and honor of American Government itself. Those who suggest that, are already aliens to the spirit of American democracy. Let them emigrate and try their lot under some foreign flag in which they have more confidence.”
I’ve been saying for a long time that Republicans’ libertarian utopia already exists, and it’s called Somalia. I think Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Scott, Paul Ryan, and most Fox News hosts should emigrate.
“Of course we will continue to seek to improve working conditions for the workers of America — to reduce hours over-long, to increase wages that spell starvation, to end the labor of children, to wipe out sweatshops. Of course we will continue every effort to end monopoly in business, to support collective bargaining, to stop unfair competition, to abolish dishonorable trade practices. For all these we have only just begun to fight.”
The Republican platform, when they actually write one that isn’t just “Whatever Trump wants,” is basically all of this stuff.
“Of course we will continue to work for cheaper electricity in the homes and on the farms of America, for better and cheaper transportation, for low interest rates, for sounder home financing, for better banking, for the regulation of security issues, for reciprocal trade among nations, for the wiping out of slums. For all these we have only just begun to fight.”
Republican plans to recklessly gut regulations, lower taxes, and proclaim Social Darwinism will never fix the problems that have afflicted Americans forever.
“Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls [welfare/safety net spending]. They say that those on relief are not merely jobless — that they are worthless. Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief — to purge the rolls by starvation. To use the language of the stock broker, our needy unemployed would be cared for when, as, and if some fairy godmother should happen on the scene. You and I will continue to refuse to accept that estimate of our unemployed fellow Americans. Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side.”
For all the hot air Republicans blow about America being a Christian country, the GOP absolutely refuses to let the government act like a Christian government.
“Of course we will continue our efforts for young men and women so that they may obtain an education and an opportunity to put it to use. Of course we will continue our help for the crippled, for the blind, for the mothers, our insurance for the unemployed, our security for the aged. Of course we will continue to protect the consumer against unnecessary price spreads, against the costs that are added by monopoly and speculation. We will continue our successful efforts to increase his purchasing power and to keep it constant.”
The Democratic ideology to help promote equality is preferable to the Republican ideology of “fuck everyone who isn’t me.”
Thanks for your eyeballs!
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Today's politicians would be wise to borrow generously from FDR's campaign speeches - he was powerful and captivating. Yes, this speech is timeless and pertinent even today.