Obama and FDR

Lenin’s Tomb

I was convinced we’d have a revolution in [the] US and I decided to be its leader and prevent it. I’m a rich man too and have run with your kind of people. I decided half a loaf was better than none – a half loaf for me and a half loaf for you and no revolution.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Moral of the story: if you really want Obama to be like FDR, threaten him with revolution.

However, the US is nowhere near a revolutionary or even pre-revolutionary situation like it was in the Great Depression. A cousin once told me that when she and her military husband returned from several years in China to the US at the beginning of the Depression, that friends told them to settle in D.C. because they were afraid there would be a revolution on the West Coast.

Much of that revolutionary fervor was spread by militant labor unions who had socialist and communist organizers, and who found a receptive ear. But there simply is little of that mass action and solidarity now in the States. Could there be if economic condition get really bad? Maybe, but it will probably emerge in far different form than back then. I doubt it could come from unions again because they haven’t got the numbers or the clout now.

Obama won’t need coaxing or threatening to do a FDR. And really, what part of the Left has the power to threaten him anyway? The economy needs a massive stimulus, and Obama plans major spending on renewable energy, infrastructure rebuilding, and education. This will create many new jobs, just like FDR did with the public works programs.

All of which riffs on a theme that I’ve mentioned here before. If major change does comes to the US, it almost certainly won’t happen like it has before, with huge masses of protesters in the streets. The Left makes a mistake by looking back to its presumed glory days and trying to use that as a template for tomorrow. The world is decentralized and much faster-moving now. March on a factory in Ohio, and the owners move it to Asia. Start a nationwide boycott and the opposition has websites, listservs, advertisements, and spokespersons refuting you a day or two later.

Capitalism and the Right continually reinvent themselves. Karl Rove was a genius at this for years, figuring how to appeal to voters by prsenting conservative views in new packages. The Left too often doesn’t do this. Instead it tries to make what happened in Lenin’s Russia or the 1930’s labor strikes in the US or the civil rights / antiwar era protests of the 60’s the model for what needs to be done in the future. But the world has changed, new tactics are needed

One comment

  1. “Capitalism and the Right continually reinvent themselves.”

    News flash: the so-called left has been reinvented too– it just doesn’t have any of the familiar terminology or faces. Check out Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka and India, the Common Society Movement based in Portland, OR, DISAC in Thailand, and even the Catholic Worker (the most vocal unit of which is probably the Los Angeles group).

    They don’t talk about Marx, Lenin, or Mao. The don’t call for violent revolution. They don’t even call for wholesale abandonment of capitalism and private ownership. But while self-titled Leftists argue in obscurity about doctrinal purity, their successors are re-thinking economic doctrine and working tirelessly to create (as Sharif Abdullah puts it) “a world that works for all.”

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