October 5, 2009


All the President’s Meddling (SUSAN DUNN, 10/05/09, NY Times)

In a fireside chat in June 1938, he carefully explained that as president, he would not intervene in Democratic primaries. But, as the head of the Democratic Party, he said, it was his right and duty to support liberal candidates who stood by the New Deal. In addition, he believed that the nation should have two effective and responsible political parties, one liberal, the other conservative, each ideologically consistent and united. Newspapers branded his tactic a “purge” — and the inflammatory label stuck.

Roosevelt spent the summer of 1938 zigzagging across the country, holding rallies, speaking out against some incumbents and campaigning for others. On the top of his hit list was Millard Tydings. “Take Tydings’s hide off and rub salt in it,” Roosevelt once snapped. Tydings had opposed nearly every New Deal measure — even on Social Security, which was approved by all but six senators, he demurred, voting only “present.” Yet, aware of the president’s extraordinary popularity among his constituents, Tydings improbably insisted that he embraced the “bone and sinew” of the New Deal.

But in Maryland as in other states in which the president spoke out against the incumbents, the purge failed. It succeeded in only one race, against John O’Connor, a New Yorker who was the reactionary chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee.

...it wasn't until '42, when he miscalculated and portrasyed the GOP as Nazis for wanting to fight Japan and stay out of the European War that he lost control of Congress (though not the majority, because Southern conservatives were Democrats back in the day).

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 5, 2009 6:15 AM
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