« Prototypes | Main | Happy New Year; and, a cautionary tale »

Praeses quondam et futurus

By Owen Paine on Monday December 31, 2007 11:51 AM

It is not unfair these days to suggest the warmer hearts among the American people are yearning for another great leader ... and it's likely, if a past leader could be attached to that yearning as its personification, it would be equally fair to claim America the small and many is waiting for... FDR.

Which is quite like waiting for King Arthur or Barbarossa or Jesus of Nazareth ... it's built more or less right into all of us to spend too much soul fuel in idle waiting on returning heroes, especially in moments of social crisis, needless to say.

The advent don't always turn out as expected, of course. One might note in passing post Kaiserian Germany. The better angels of the weimarvolksgeist probably wanted something quite a lot like a second secular Luther, a soul cleanser and babylonian whore swift sword exciser -- and they got what?

As to the here and now -- know it or not, believe it or not, the big "left" foot consensus is we the people crave an FDR, and so it seems fruitful to reconstruct the real FDR, before we just fly about willy-nilly, looking for this collective recovered figment called Franklin, this ghost of salvation past about to be made flesh again in the nick of time.

A rentier dilettante progressive... a boundlessly ambitious mamma's boy... a "feather duster" struck down by polio, who ran us from a wheel chair through the protracted zigzag upside of a global depression no one could comprehend, and from there to a world-dominating war machine -- that's what we are waiting for; but will we recognize his avatar when it arrives, or only after it reveals itself for the colossus it is in transformative acts of legendary proportions?

Hint: that FDR turned out to be Moses to the plain folks has an upside-down, king born in a manger quality to it -- albeit a silver manger. To belabor it some ... hardly the orgin of, say, failed yeoman redeemers like Billy Bryan or Huey Long.

Comments (7)

Stop me if I'm wrong, but along with the imprisonment of US-born citizens whose eyes weren't the right shape, wasn't he also responsible for creating the agency whose job it is to deliver the public airwaves into the hands of corporations and to stifle the voices of the People at every possible opportunity...uh, the FCC?

But, aaaa-aaaaaanyway...

The late, great Olga Corey was a very close friend and comrade of many in the Dem/Prog/Leftie communities of Chicago and -- when she moved here to work for EPA or some such, which is how my DW got to be pals with her -- Washington, DC.

Every year, she'd have an Abraham Lincoln's birthday party at her cozy flat down in Foggy Bottom, and invite all her old pals from Capitol Hill and the AFL-CIA...uh, CIO, and from Chicago/IL Donkeycratic politics. It wasn't enough that I didn't dare mention the NYC draft riots or the suspension of habeus corpus during the unCivil War, but I'd also have to hang out and drink and pretend to enjoy shooting the shit with scads of old liberals from Chicago and DC talking about what a wonderful, progressive old guy FDR was.

It was only the fact that Olga herself was the genuine article -- a real honest-to-lack-of-God "red diaper baby", a hard-boiled labor organizer of the old school whose grandfather was the model for the Warren Beatty character in "Reds", a woman who honored me deeply when she'd call our house at 11:30 sharp nearly every Sunday morning to crack off about some cartoon I'd done about the World Bank and ask me if I'd seen so-and-so on "Meet The Press" -- that kept me from throwing her to the wall and asking her how the hell she was able to put up with this lot of tired-assed, shit-scared old liberals of the kind Phil Ochs warned us about. They were her friends, she loved them, and that was good enough for me. In April of 2000, she offered space in her apartment to out-of-town Wobblie/anarchist troublemakers who showed up to shut down the World Bank and in September of 2001, she'd planned on doing it again. Olga died, in her 80s, on Sept. 10, 2001. That's right, September 10th.

Anyway, I guess the point of all this is that your long-overdue deconstruction of FDR somehow reminded me of Olga, and what a tough-assed old broad she was, and how much we all miss her down here.

But, I'm sorry, Olga; I love ya, old gal, but fuck FDR, anyway. For the FCC, and the internment camps, and for Frances Perkins And The Department Of Keeping The Workers In Line -- uhh, Department Of Labor, for Eleanor giving speeches about equal rights while the lynchings continued and black men flew bombing runs over Germany in segregated squadrons, fuck FDR anyway.

But I really do still love ya', Olga.


mike you got us off to a rip roaring
rodeo clown like start

i hope others
will share with ...us tooo

relate to ...us
their own inner most
deepest most passions

franklin-wise that is


but seriously folks
--- now departed grand daughters of john reed aside----
what need we say about pols
beyond opportunity when it knocks
take herr linkhorn there

apple anny williams
tries claiming
he was out to abolish slavery from jump street

such myth forging and mongering
degrades history

leaders in quest of
the limits of the possible
ready to push em

horse shit

its strictly pillar to post
running on wrestlers instinct
at least
in the absence
of divine providence
the self organizing
of necessary sequences of events
author the possibility of a hero

clinton that lill abner prez
closest of all our presidents
to the trashy origins
of the linkster
actually figures but for getting
pushed off
the time train
at the wrong birth portal....

give him a great depression and pearl harbor
he'd a been
the equal of fdr


I think Owen has got it right. FDR was certainly a sufficiently remarkable figure, but he couldn't transcend his times (and wouldn't have wanted to, particularly). The opportunity for little Franklin to become mythic FDR was created by circumstances. Ditto the clay feet of the heroic image -- on the race question, particularly.

A crisis of the kind that transmutes Franklins into FDRs, if it happened now, would certainly deify no one, but it would take place with a very different set of rules in place for the race game -- don't you think?

Perhaps the best thing you can adduce about FDR was the fury he aroused in the rentier class. I have a soft spot for him for that, if for no other reason.

But yeah, our transformation from new kid on the imperial block into global hegemon was very largely his doing. Ditto the creation of the imperial presidency.

Great premise for one of those imagined-past novels -- what if FDR had died of his polio?


in the 30's we got fdr
after hoover

and senile pax britannica
after ramsey macdonald

stanley baldwin
and neville chamberlin

i'd bet we got ..more like the brit ration
this time

okay so phase two looks beter

churchill vs fdr ...as war leader
fdr was riding a high tide indeed


Mike F's memoir of Olga was quite evocative for me -- it's amazing, just amazing, how all these naily old Reds ended up mesmerized by the Featherduster (and, alas, the Democratic party as a result). I wonder how that happened? Was it that they felt like they'd gotten inside, a little, during the New Deal, and just couldn't face that they were kicked out a few years later?

Wilderness. Been there, done that. Never again.

And FDR ran on a balance-the-budget platform in 1932!

Nevertheless, I think it is not entirely meaningless to talk about the guy as something better than what we've had ever since, even if the times forces all the cards into his hands. Certainly the idea of a New New Deal is not without it merits. This baby only shat up half the bathwater, unlike all his DP successors.

But that's one of the innumerable problems with the DP, isn't it? They insist we "crave a new FDR," when what we crave is a party with a updated New Deal _platform_ and anything but a big shaft for the working (and mostly non-voting) majority. Go there, and the FDRs will pour out of the woods...

But as somebody once said of the LBJ mini-version and the Nam, the promises of the New Deal exploded on the battlefields of the Cold War.

Apology for that would be the first sign of a do-over.

Perhaps circumstances military and petro-economic will once again raise that topic.

Not in 2008, alas.

Post a comment

Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Monday December 31, 2007 11:51 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Prototypes.

The next post in this blog is Happy New Year; and, a cautionary tale.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License

This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31