Monday, September 21, 2009

Don’t Fight the Future

Part 9 of 12: FDR to Ike

Perhaps by now, you’ve seen a pattern. The more reforming a president, Democrat or Republican, does, the more his successor backslides. The Whigs unraveled Jackson’s reforms. Lincoln’s successors took back presidential authority. Harrison tried to undo every reform from Hayes to Cleveland. Harding tried to undo every reform from Cleveland to Wilson. This time, though, the game finally changed for the better.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Governor, Democrat) 1933-1945 (re-elected 3 times, died) VP: John Garner (ended up hating him), Henry Wallace (kind of a dick), Harry Truman; FL: wife Eleanor

FDR was a dick. I’m just going to say it. He was an effete, New York asshole. He bullied his way into office, lied to and manipulated everyone while in office, and spit in the face of tradition by getting elected four fucking times. Lucky for us, as a president, Jerkface McGee was a brilliant reformer whose wise leadership carried us through Depression and War, thereby changing the fundamental relationship between government and the people. History has proven that when the shit hits the fan, not just anyone can do the job, and we were lucky to have his service. No wonder that, despite his sweeping reforms and social programs, he’s widely and actively hated still today.

Harry S. Truman (VP, Democrat) 1945-1953 (inherited then elected) VP: Alben Barkley; FL: wife Bess

Even though he was hated at the time, Truman earned his place as one of the great presidents by being FDR’s exact opposite. He was a good man, crappy politician. With the lowest approval ratings ever recorded, it's no wonder he almost lost to Dewey. Only because he operated in FDR’s shadow could he de-segregate the government, drop food aid on Germany, evolve FDR's New Deal into the Fair Deal, drop the bomb on a couple cities, got the ball rolling on NATO, and help establish Israel. For all your great accomplishments, arigato, Mr. Truman. Arigato.

Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower (General, Republican) 1953-1961 (2 full terms) VP: Richard Nixon; FL: wife Mamie

A funny thing happened with Ike. He didn’t backslide. After 20 years of nearly non-stop reform, the pattern would predict Ike, a member of the opposition party, would try to turn back the New Deal. He didn’t. He was a forward thinking Conservative. No major reforms. Just keep everything as it is. Sorry, no jokes on this one. Just think about that for a second, and think about how something as simple as putting country above party should be something we take for granted, but it isn't. Nowadays, it's all about vengeance for both sides, and it gets us nowhere. A man like Eisenhower can't get elected today (see: Colin Powell, Wesley Clark), so we swing back and forth in 4-8 year increments ultimately getting nowhere. You know whose fault that is? Nixon, Ike's VP. Even Ike can't be perfect.

Next Up – JFK to Ford: The Men Who Would Be King (even Leslie King)

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