Franklin Roosevelt is Alive and Well

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By Richard Colman

Four-score and five (not seven) years ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt became president of the United States.  The date was March 4, 1933. 

(By 1937, inauguration day was moved to January 20.)

The importance of Roosevelt’s election has implications for the current era.  And the current era may bode ill for Republicans.

At the time of Roosevelt’s inauguration, the nation was devastated by the Great Depression.  By 1933, unemployment and underemployment reached 50 percent or more.

The New York Stock Exchange collapsed.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell from 300 in 1929 to 30 in 1932.

In 1932, Roosevelt, a Democrat, ran against incumbent president Herbert Hoover, a Republican.  Roosevelt received 472 electoral votes.  Hoover got 59.

This was quite a change from the vote in 1928, when Hoover ran against Al Smith, a Democrat who had been governor of New York State from 1919-1920 and from 1923 to 1928.  Hoover received 444 electoral votes.  Al Smith got 87.

The change from 1928 to 1932, in political terms, was the equivalent of a peaceful, political revolution.

FDR went on to win the presidency in 1936, 1940, and 1944.  He died in office in April 1945.

Roosevelt’s early years as president were marked by a commitment to ending the Great Depression.  Roosevelt talked about issues that matter to voters. 

Why is Roosevelt important today?

Currently, America is enjoying prosperity.  The nation has full employment and low inflation.  In December 2017, President Donald Trump, a Republican, signed an overhaul of the nation’s tax system.  Both house of Congress are controlled by Republican majorities.

But on March 13, 2018, something changed.  In a Republican Congressional district (the 18th district) in southwest Pennsylvania, a Democrat was, in a special election, voted into Congress.

How could this happen?  In 2014 and 2016, Tim Murphy, a Republican, won the seat in the 18th district.  Murphy was so popular that in 2014 and 2016 no Democrat ran against him.

Donald Trump, a Republican, beat Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, in the 2016 presidential election.  In this same Pennsylvania Congressional district, Trump got 60 percent of the vote.  Clinton got 40 percent.

However, in 2017, Murphy resigned his Congressional seat amidst allegations that he had a extra-marital affair.  Murphy left Congress in October 2017, creating a vacancy, a vacancy that was filled in the March 13, 2018, special election.

In the special election, Conor Lamb, a Democrat, beat Rick Saccone, a Republican, by 627 votes.  Lamb got 113,813 votes; Saccone got 113,186.

Lamb, like FDR, campaigned on so-called bread-and-butter issues.  He talked about jobs and job security.  He supported the local coal and steel industries and their union members.  He supported gun ownership.  He endorsed the tariffs proposed on imported steel and aluminum.

Lamb did not talk about such matters as gay marriage and abortion although Lamb did say that he is “pro-life.”  He also said the he opposed having Nancy Pelosi, a very liberal Democrat from San Francisco, as the House of Representative’s Democratic leader.  Lamb did not bring up such issues like trans-gender public bathrooms.

Lamb, also like FDR, was a very appealing candidate.  Lamb graduated from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania and, later, that university’s highly regarded law school.  He joined the U.S. Marine Corps.  While in the Marines, he worked as a prosecutor of criminals. 

Lamb, at age 33, proved to be a young, articulate Congressional candidate.  He was comfortable appearing on television.  He was able to raise campaign money.

Lamb was aided by President Trump’s unpopularity.  In 14 months as president, Trump has fired many top aids, including Gary Cohn, who was the White House’s chief economic adviser until early March 2018.  Since Trump’s inauguration, the president has given the impression that the management of the White House is chaotic.

On the day of the special election, Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. 

Undoubtedly, Lamb was helped by a large Democratic turnout.  It’s no secret that many Democrats loathe Trump and would do anything to embarrass him.

For Republicans, Lamb’s victory is a bitter lesson.  And that lesson is that a pragmatic Democrat who, like FDR, talks about what matters to voters, can win in Republican areas.

If, for 2018, Republicans don’t have a positive message for voters, Democrats, in November, might take control of one or both houses of Congress.

The Democrats need more Conor Lambs.

 

Richard Colman is the founder and president of Biomed Inc., a biotechnology, publishing, and informatics company.  He is a biochemist and earned masters and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.  He lives in Orinda, California.


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