As Donald Trump goes back on his promises to help working families, many feel betrayed. But Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned us about him way back in 1936.
He was giving an address to delegates at New York state’s Democratic State Convention in Syracuse on Sept. 29 of that year. Like Barack Obama in 2012, FDR was facing a tough re-election campaign. As with Obamacare, his New Deal agenda had rattled a lot of cages, but many hadn’t yet seen the benefits.
Harvey J. Kaye from Bill Moyers wrote in 2016 that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had put our nation on what was then seen as a radical path.
By 1936 we were well on the way to subjecting big business to public account and regulation, raising taxes on corporations and the rich, empowering the federal government to address the needs of working people, mobilizing and organizing labor unions, establishing a social security system, expanding the nation’s public infrastructure, improving the environment, cultivating the arts and imbuing ourselves with fresh democratic convictions, hopes and aspirations, broadening the “We” in “We the People.”
Handing more power to labor unions and making government jobs open to blacks stirred up the kind of hate and inchoate rage we saw throughout the Obama years. Yet Franklin Delano Roosevelt was still able to win the majority of voters over for the 1936 presidential election, and the two after that.
Fast forward 80 years later. Obama didn’t get his “third term” through Hillary Clinton. This happened for many reasons, including the GOP’s voter ID laws and gerrymandering, Russian interference, the Electoral College overriding the popular vote, and a sluggish economic recovery that bypassed entire parts of the country. The Great Recession may not have been as bad as the Great Depression in FDR’s time, but it wasn’t a picnic either.
There was also another reason. Aside from appealing to people’s underlying racism, Donald Trump also made a lot of promises he had no intention of keeping. He promised to protect our Medicare and our Social Security. He promised jobs and prosperity for U.S. workers. He vowed to replace Obamacare with something better and cheaper. The problem is, Republicans don’t do those things, Democrats do those things.
In other words, Trump sounded exactly like the Republican Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned about back in his Syracuse speech. After appealing to voters’ patriotism and noting all the “red herrings” conservatives throw out to distract us, he declared:
“Let me warn you and let me warn the nation against the smooth evasion that says, ‘Of course we believe all these things; we believe in social security; we believe in work for the unemployed; we believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things. But we do not like the way the present administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us. We will do all of them, we will do more of them, we will do them better, and — most important of all — the doing of them will not cost anybody anything.'”
Most of us want to have a social safety net, access to healthcare, and other public amenities. The problem is, Republicans keep saying we can cut taxes and still have all these things. How? By letting the private sector run them “more efficiently.” But there’s no way a company can provide public services in a cost effective manner when they’re skimming millions off the top to pay the CEOs and other top brass. As the past 30 years have shown, “trickle down” simply doesn’t work.