There was once a great soul who once walked this earth. The United States boasts of having great personalities like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln who both served as presidents but few historians will neglect the FDR’s contributions. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also known as FDR, is arguably the greatest and the most loved US president in the 20th century for leading the country through two perilous times – the Great Depression and World War II.
The world is still at a great loss in search of souls like Franklin.
What most people remember about this great man is the fact that he won four consecutive US presidential elections, but many have not bothered to ask why.
In 1932, FDR won, defeating incumbent Herbert Hoover, in the midst of the Great Depression which confused many classical economists and many appear not to have the antidote to this strange ailment that has befallen the American economy.
To address the immediate economic crises, in what is now known as Hundred Days, Roosevelt spearheaded unprecedented a major legislation and issued a profusion of executive orders that instituted the New Deal—a series of programmes designed to produce government jobs for the unemployed and achieve economic recovery and reforms through banking and financial market regulations. He created numerous programmes to support the unemployed and farmers, and to encourage labor union growth while more closely regulating business and high finance.
These pro-poor policies added to his popularity, helping him win re-election by a landslide in 1936. The economy reportedly improved rapidly from 1933 to 1937.
To aggressively pursue this policy, he, in 1937, prevented his packing the Supreme Court, and blocked almost all proposals for major liberal legislation (except the minimum wage, which did pass).
When the war began and unemployment ended, conservatives in Congress repealed the two major relief programs, like the Work Progress Administration (WPA). However, they kept most of the regulations on business.
Many will probably not forget the fact that blacks were originally supporters of the Republican party as a loyal reward for helping emancipate them from slavery. Blacks mostly voted Republicans after the Civil War and through the early part of the 20th century. That’s not surprising when one considers that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president and the white, segregationist politicians who governed Southern states in those days were Democrats. Most blacks lived in the South, where they were mostly prevented from voting at all. But FDR was to change all that!
He got 71 percent of the black votes for president in 1936 and did nearly that well in the next two elections, according to historical figures kept by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. But even then, the number of blacks identifying themselves as Republicans was about the same as the number who thought of themselves as Democrats. We have to accept the fact that Franklin was not as racist as many in his time were.
Before we are accused of praising the saint, let us be quick to add that FDR has his own weaknesses which only makes him human. His World War II effort and handlings may be one of his greatest undoing. Believing that Japanese Americans may be the cause for concern, FDR issued Executive Order 9066 which allowed local government/military leaders to imprison, without habeas corpus, Japanese members of our society. In his reasoning he figured out that similar to Lincoln’s imprisonment of some 20,000 Southern sympathizers during the Civil War, the nation was safe.
FDR likely feared the Empire of Japan would use Japanese-Americans to undermine the war effort. While FDR may be forgiven for being a victim of the beliefs of his time, forgetting the unlawful imprisonment of citizens based solely upon ethnic association must not be allowed to pass into our history without apology, recognition, and education.
Many of his critics have maintained the fact that he has dictatorial tendencies. Maybe this was why he is often referred to as The Lion and the Fox (quoting FDR’s biographer, James MacGregor Burns). Many of his critics never forgot his attempt to purge the Congress of his opponents during the 1938 mid-term election and the Court Packing incidence in desperate attempts to give the New Deal some legitimacy and familiarity with traditional Americans.
Many also recall the cunning devices he deployed in seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination (for a third term) in 1940 with some disgust. But in all, few can accuse Franklin of corruption.
On this day, 71 years ago when the end of World War II was very much in sight, US public expressed shock and grief on being told that their beloved leader had passed on. The world is still at a great loss of this great soul. Men like FDR come to this world, make their impact and leave a lasting legacy – a legacy of pitching their tent with, and helping, the poor.
Olalekan Adigun is the Managing Editor and Political Analyst with NewsBreakersNG.
Follow him on twitter @adgorwell.