FDR: The Real Dealmaker
America elected Donald Trump based on his reputation of being a great negotiator. A man who supposedly knew how to make deals, he was going to bring his business acumen to Washington and save us by draining the swamp. We put our faith in this “business” man, who was going to throw all the dirty politicians and lobbyists out of town.
At least, that’s the lie he ran on, and a certain percentage of voters bought into it. They still do, inconceivably, despite all the evidence to the contrary. He continues to wage war on the norms we hold dear in our United States of America. They are being shredded right before us; the eroding of government institutions, the Constitution, civil rights, economic equality, as well as other values we, for the most part, agree are important. Or, at least, we used to.
Our social contract, with our idealized version of America, is all we have. Its constant erosion by the GOP for the better part of 50 years has led to this moment, and here we are, facing the final nail in coffin. Republicans are now coming after Social Security, Medicare, the United States Postal Service and continuing their war on unions and labor rights. The America we have prospered in and need to fight to protect did not come about by some freak accident. It is by the design of this country's real dealmaker: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The people elected Roosevelt in one of the biggest landslides in American history at the depth of the Great Depression following four disastrous years of the Herbert Hoover administration. FDR, as we frequently refer to him, immediately helped the American people regain faith in themselves. He implemented policies that lifted millions of white Americans into the middle class for the first time. His “Art of the Deal,” led him to become the most transformative president of the 20th century. FDR led the country out of the Great Depression and to victory in World War II, although he didn't survive to see its conclusion, and he was beloved by a vast majority of Americans. He created the GI Bill, Social Security and Medicare. Under FDR, there was hope for the future for everyone in white America. He humanized the American industrial system. He didn't want to jettison capitalism or free enterprise, even though many Republicans accused him of being a socialist. This was nonsense. But he understood there needed to be change. He was also far ahead of his time when it came to gender equality. Eleanor Roosevelt had her own ambitions, and both FDR and the American people viewed her as an equal partner. By the time he left office, the United States had become a superpower, able and willing to exert its influence around the globe. He helped create the United Nations. It was a nation of newfound prosperity; a country where the federal government, with the people's support, had become the engine of change in nearly every sphere of national life for many years. In the process, FDR made the Democrats into a ruling party. And Democrats, unlike today’s GOP, believe in a sense of community. Future presidents built on FDR's vision. There was the development of affirmative action, the EEOC, the Better Business Bureau, equal rights, gender equality, anti-trust laws, the AFL-CIO, EPA, NEA and Supreme Court decisions that advanced equality, so Americans of all races could begin to enjoy prosperity. Our standing in the world was respected, and we were the envy of every other industrialized nation. We were moving steadily along on that path, with a social contract on which nearly everyone agreed. And then it ended. It didn’t just abruptly end on one cold day in January 2017. The GOP set it in motion years earlier with its relentless war on the middle class and the poor. The moment Donald J. Trump was sworn in to protect us from all enemies, foreign and domestic, it served as an almost biblical ending to that war. We need to pay attention. FDR’s success didn’t just depend on his ability and foresight to affect change. It relied on us all being good citizens. All of us fighting toward the common goal of economic equality. But the sense of community FDR fostered is long gone. It has been replaced with a me-generation exacerbated by the constant distractions of useless norms that we try to achieve at the expense of others. FDR knew that at our core we are about having a sense of shared purpose. He governed this way, and we paid attention. We went from that feeling of a sense of community into something insular. We no longer understand the concept of being a good neighbor or coming together for the greater good. We even find recycling a nuisance. Can you name your neighbors? Before the virus, did you really know them? Do you really know yourself? What’s important? I, for one, would rather live in FDR’s America then let the destruction of decent values continue under our current corporatized system of government. Unless we reverse this course, we are doomed to lose everything. A vote for today’s GOP is a vote for the death of everything he accomplished and America as we have known it. Full stop.