In 1932 a new president came to office, and there was an attempt to grab power from him via a coup. It was never as realized as the present assault on January 6. That president was seen as a clear and present danger to the corporations of his age. And they did what they could to slow things like the implementation of the social services, or the Works Progress Administration. Don’t get me started on social security and the minimum wage.
All these, to a one, were referred as radical, and communist. In fact, the GOP has been fighting these initiatives for over seventy years.
What is impressive though is the response from the progressive left. During the FDR administration, there were critics from the left as well. They thought the president was moving too slow and in some respects lying to the American people.
Joe Biden’s presidency has a similar impetus. In fact, his first hundred days look remarkably like those of Roosevelt. This is why he is pushing Congress to pass a $1.9 T bill that will help to revive economic activity. It is called the American Rescue Bill with good reason.
For FDR there was a similar reason:
The First New Deal began almost immediately upon Roosevelt’s assumption of the presidency. FDR invoked the “analogue of war” as he spurred Congress towards a flurry of legislative activity that became known as the “Hundred Days” — from March to June 1933 — in which the new President won passage of numerous bills designed to end the nation’s economic troubles. In general, the First New Deal looked to stabilize the U.S. financial system, provide relief and jobs to the suffering, and reenergize America’s capitalist economy. He sought to achieve this last objective by building partnerships between business and government to resuscitate industrial production. In carrying forward this agenda, FDR began to recreate the role of the federal government in American economic and political life.
Yet, the activist base on the left of the Democratic Party is accusing the newly inaugurated president of snowing people and lying to people. Why? He is not being as aggressive as they would like him to be.
FDR had more solid majorities in both the House and Senate. Biden has a bare majority in the House and a razor-thin one in the Senate. Unlike Republicans in his first term, our present band of revolutionaries is even more committed to stopping him. FDR faced a radical right court, which Biden will have to contend with. It was that court that turned against him early on. But FDR still had a Congress he could work with.
Imposing a minimum wage law was one of the largest battles of the age, even worse than Social Security. Conservatives, then and now, argued that this should be a matter between employers and employees and it was an invasion in that relation. They also said that it would lead to job losses and that it would be bad for the economy. Activists on the other side argued it did not go far enough.
A product of the New Deal is also the ability of workers to organize, which the GOP went to war with, and continues to with right-to-work laws.
FDR was not a progressive firebrand, to use current terms. (Progressives were very different then.) He was a middle-of-the-road politician, who came to power full of pragmatic ideas. He knew that is something did not work, he would change to make sure that Americans were lifted from the crisis of the Great Depression.
Biden is coming with the same goals and personality. He is not a progressive firebrand. He is a middle-of-the-road, moderate politician, who has engaged people of multiple ideologies and walks of life. He will do all he can to lift Americans from the current double disaster of a global pandemic and economic depression. Yes, in my view we are in one, and the K-Shaped recovery is not that different from what happened after the 1929 crash.
His progressive left continues to demand the kind of action that would be reckless, and for which there is no political will. I wish I could wave a wand, and could give Democrats the kinds of majorities they need for a more aggressive program. But for the moment that does not exist.
FDR explained this to voters and asked them to give him the Congress he needed. Voters did, and it is then, and only then, that the more far-reaching parts of the program were even attempted. We of course live in a far more polarized era, with far more Americans who have been radicalized.
These are mere echoes but do point to what needs to happen. While it is difficult to ask people to be patient, we all must be. However, patience must be tempted with work. If you want some of these policies you want, you need to advocate for politicians who will carry them out and primary those who will not. However, we must also contend with the kind of gerrymandered districts that make it very difficult to change party representation.
We also live in an age of disinformation and propaganda, as well as echo chambers. That is somewhat different from the country of the 1930s. And by that, it is just somewhat. That was the country of the America First Party and the Bund.