Levees Not War
Infrastructure. Environment. Peace.

Posts Tagged ‘FDR’

Obama Wins More Time to Repair, Lead America Forward

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Solid Victories for Progressive, Liberal Candidates, Reforms

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

“The task of perfecting our union moves forward”

“I have never been more hopeful about America. . . . I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. . . . 

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. . . . We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”

Barack Obama, Chicago, Nov. 6, 2012

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“[H]ere is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens . . . who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life. . . . I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. . . . The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little.

—Franklin D. Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address (1937)

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This Is Our Idea of “Morning in America”

Last night Barack Obama became only the second Democratic president since FDR (in 1936) to win a second term with more than 50 percent of the vote in both his elections.

In our humble opinion, a win for the Democrats is a win for the American people. Of course not every American person sees it that way, but when illness or disaster strikes, or food needs inspecting, or voting rights need protecting, it’s best to have a government managed by the party that fought for and established Medicare, Social Security, FEMA, the Voting Rights Act, and so on. The party that believes government can and should be a force for the public good. Not the only solution, but indispensable and more reliable than the profit sector.

And it is a good thing for the 47 percent (indeed, the 99 percent) that the man who said “[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives” is not going to be the next president of the United States. We do want to say, however, that Gov. Romney, after waiting nearly an hour and a half before calling the president to concede (Karl Rove live on Fox was not ready to give up on Ohio), gave an admirably gracious and dignified concession speech to his supporters in Boston (see photo below).

From the East Coast to the West, across the Rust Belt and Midwest, and in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico, President Obama held ground he won in 2008. With a weak economy—nearly drowned in Grover Norquist’s bathtub by Republicans intent on strangling Obama’s every initiative—and under relentless attack from hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of negative ads by “dark money” conservative interests, he lost only two states he’d won in 2008: North Carolina and Indiana. The critical battleground states of Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nevada stayed blue. (See maps below). As of this writing the president’s electoral vote margin is about 100 (303 to 206), and his popular vote margin is roughly 3 million: 60.4 million to Romney’s 57.6 million. Florida is still counting.

Professor Warren Goes to Capitol Hill

Besides our elation with the president’s victory, in this year of a “war on women”—or at least appallingly callous attitudes and legislative hostility—we are delighted to welcome new senators Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.Dak.), and Mazie K. Hirono (Hawaii), and congratulate senators Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) on their reelection. (More about women’s wins here and here.) The Senate races are not all decided, but the Democrats have gained at least one seat, and currently have a 55–45 majority, with Maine’s newly elected independent Angus King likely to caucus with the Dems. With more progressives in his ranks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is talking again about filibuster reform. Yes, please!

One of the best things about Elizabeth Warren’s election to the Senate is that, being so knowledgeable about financial institutions and law, and so committed to reform on behalf of protecting those who are not investment bankers, she will keep the discussion on a more serious and fact-based plane. It is especially sweet that the incumbent she defeated 54% to 46%, Scott Brown, was the senator most lavishly funded by Wall Street contributors. One of the MSNBC people last night (Chris Matthews?) said that Warren is the most intellectually substantive person elected to the U.S. Senate since the late Patrick Moynihan (D-NY). Not only that, but she’ll put a lot of energy and momentum into Wall Street and consumer protection reform, which has really only begun. Now Jon Stewart will really want to make out with her.

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Now Entering 2011: Wishes + Promises for the New Year

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

“Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls. 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 care 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.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, draft of “New Deal” speech accepting Democratic party nomination (1932); facsimile in When Art Worked: The New Deal, Art, and Democracy (Rizzoli, 2009), p. 20

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We wish you our readers a good new year in 2011: good luck, steady employment, safe travels, fun with family, and all those good things. We also wish for all a government both at the local and state level and at the national level that takes care of its people—particularly the poor and powerless. This is never the “given,” but the ideal we strive for.

Just as FDR in July 1932 pledged to the nation “a new deal for the American people” (see below), we on a much more modest level promise persistent efforts to push public officials to protect the people, the land, the nation with investments in infrastructure, environmental stewardship, public health and education programs, and so on—and to end the wars that are wasting our nation’s energies and resources, especially our human resources. (Yes, we have our work cut our for us, but we’re not alone.)

“We Must Rebuild Our Strength Here at Home”

So much remains to be done. As ever, we hold that “National Security Begins at Home.” We believe that deep down our president understands this, but he is pushed and driven by powerful forces insisting on War Forever. As Obama said at West Point in December 2009, “we must rebuild our strength here at home . . . . the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.” We’re not sure how sincerely he meant that—or his semi-pledge to draw down troops from Afghanistan in July 2011—but we mean to hold him to his words.

We also mean to support the president when we can (actively, vocally), to give him the progressive backing to be all he can be. We want to help him because the opposition he’ll be facing in the new 112th Congress is likely to be incessant, poisonous, and directly opposed to the humane ideals that the Democratic Party at its best represents—values expressed above by President Roosevelt and stated eloquently the official version of his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in July 1932:

As we enter this new battle, let us keep always present with us some of the ideals of the Party: The fact that the Democratic Party by tradition and by the continuing logic of history, past and present, is the bearer of liberalism and of progress and at the same time of safety to our institutions. And if this appeal fails, remember well, my friends, that a resentment against the failure of Republican leadership . . . to solve our troubles may degenerate into unreasoning radicalism. . . .

What do the people of America want more than anything else? To my mind, they want two things: work, with all the moral and spiritual values that go with it; and with work, a reasonable measure of security–security for themselves and for their wives and children. Work and security—these are more than words. They are more than facts. They are the spiritual values, the true goal toward which our efforts of reconstruction should lead. . . .

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FDR, Treehugger-in-Chief, Inspires Hopes for Coastal Conservation Corps

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

This past weekend we went to the 7th annual Roosevelt Reading Festival at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, that featured 21 authors of such works as FDR’s Alphabet Soup: New Deal America 1932–1939 (Tonya Bolden), Beyond the Bonus March and GI Bill: How Veteran Politics Shaped the New Deal Era (Stephen R. Ortiz), and The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America (Raymond Arsenault). See a complete list of authors here.

“I Propose to Create a Civilian Conservation Corps . . .”

The author we most wanted to see—introduced by FDR’s grandson David M. Roosevelt (see below)—was Neil M. Maher, author of Nature’s New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement (Oxford, 2008). Maher, an environmental historian at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, explained that Franklin Roosevelt’s conservationist credentials were strong even before he was governor of New York (1929–1932) and president of the United States; fittingly, while governor he was also president of the Boy Scout Foundation of Greater New York. As a young man Roosevelt became concerned about erosion on his family’s Hudson River estate, Springwood, and became “a tree-planting fiend” to prevent further soil loss and degradation and to restore his family’s farm to its former abundance. Roosevelt was stunned to learn that in the 1840s his ancestors had grown prizewinning corn; in the years since, the formerly rich topsoil had washed away. In the 1920s FDR launched an aggressive soil restoration program, directing the planting of about 20,000 to 50,000 trees per year on his estate. So committed was Roosevelt to trees’ restorative powers that once in the ’20s when he went to vote, he listed his occupation as “tree farmer.”

Only weeks after taking office, Franklin Roosevelt said in his “Relief of Unemployment” message to Congress on March 21, 1933:

“It is essential to our recovery program that measures immediately be enacted at unemployment relief. . . . The first step is the enrollment of workers now by the federal government for such public employment as can be quickly started. . . . I propose to create a Civilian Conservation Corps to be used in simple work, not interfering with normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control, and similar projects . . .”

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“Happy Days Are Here Again”

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Uplifted by the happy oyster video (below), we’re off to Hyde Park, New York, on Saturday 6/19 (taking a train, naturally!) for the seventh annual Roosevelt Reading Festival at the FDR Presidential Library—free and open to the public. The keynote address will be given by Alan Brinkley, New Deal scholar and Columbia University professor, and author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Oxford University Press, 2009). Along with Brinkley, one of the main attractions for us will be Neil M. Maher, author of Nature’s New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the Environmental Movement (Oxford, 2008). We hope to meet with Dr. Maher and geek out on the CCC—one of the most popular New Deal programs, that FDR designed himself and signed into law in March 1933, his first month in office.

Authors will read from and discuss their books on the New Deal’s “alphabet soup” of agencies, FDR and Churchill, the G. I. Bill, Marian Anderson’s great Lincoln Memorial concert (arranged by Eleanor Roosevelt), a new biography of FDR’s political adviser Louis Howe, the quest for civil rights in the Roosevelt era and the flight of refugee Jews from the Nazi Germany, and much more.

Participating in the Reading Festival will be FDR’s grandson David B. Roosevelt. The program notes that “Mr. Roosevelt authored a concept paper (based upon the Civilian Conservation Corps) for the Clinton Administration which eventually became the National Civilian Community Corps department of AmeriCorps. As a consequence David B. Roosevelt was appointed to serve on the national board for the National Civilian Community Corps.”

Click here for the Reading Festival’s full agenda and author list.

Click here to read about Nick Taylor’s American-Made, a fine history of the WPA.

Click here or the photo above to hear Ben Selvin and the Crooners play “Happy Days Are Here Again” (1930).

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Obama Sends Wall Streeters to “Reform School”

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

[ Ed. note: The following account of President Obama’s remarks on Wall Street reform yesterday are not, strictly speaking, part of Levees Not War’s usual portfolio (we do have many interests!), but then again it’s not every day that we get to personally attend a presidential address. A variant of this post appears at Daily Kos. ]

President Obama came within a few zip codes of Wall Street yesterday to speak to a gathering of prominent banking executives (including Lloyd “I’m Doing God’s Work” Blankfein of Goldman Sachs) and illustrious Empire State politicos at the fabled Great Hall of Manhattan’s Cooper Union. It was a privilege to sit in the Great Hall where over the last 150 years audiences have gathered to hear Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists; Susan B. Anthony and other advocates for woman suffrage; speakers for the NAACP and the American labor movement; and eight presidents including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Bill Clinton; and another illustrious (former) congressman from Illinois: Senator Obama the presidential candidate spoke at Cooper Union on “Renewing the American Economy” in March 2008, a half year before the crash.

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