Bernie Sanders 2016 And Franklin D. Roosevelt 1936: Oh, How History Repeats Itself

Bernie Sanders 2016 And Franklin D. Roosevelt 1936: Oh, How History Repeats Itself

The 2016 Election is quite similar to the 1936 Election.

In ’36 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was running for re-election to continue his liberal efforts to pull America out of the Great Depression, just like Democrats are now running to continue President Obama’s liberal efforts to pull America out of the Great Recession.

“For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see nothing, do nothing Government,” Roosevelt said in a speech on the eve of the election at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

He was describing his laissez-faire Republican predecessors Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, who headed intentionally hands-off, business-friendly administrations even as the Great Depression begged for governmental intervention.

“The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. [… And p]owerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.”

In a parallel situation President Obama won election in 2008 and inherited a country in economic free fall after years of deregulation and laissez-faire Republican governance with which Roosevelt would have been very familiar. And like in 1936, Republicans today are trying to push more deregulation that helps monied interests profit off American economic destruction.

“For nearly four years you had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves, we will keep our sleeves rolled up. We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs.”

These enemies are apparently eternal, and though this speech was delivered nearly 80 years ago it could be spoken today with just as much relevance. America’s political and economic problems have seemingly not changed a bit since the 1930’s, or at least Republicans’ destructive economic policies have not changed.

“We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.”

Preaching against the oligarchy. Classic.

“I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.”

Of the Democratic candidates for president in 2016, Bernie Sanders best matches this Democratic, populist passion for fixing society’s great inequalities. And FDR’s speech only gets more Bernie-esque.

“Of course we will continue to seek to improve working conditions for the workers of America—to reduce hours over-long, to increase wages that spell starvation… to support collective bargaining, to stop unfair competition, to abolish dishonorable trade practices.”

Go on…

“Of course we will continue to work for… better and cheaper transportation… for sounder home financing, for better banking, for the regulation of security issues… we will provide useful work for the needy unemployed.”

And then Roosevelt starts to exemplify bleeding-heart liberal anger at Republicans’ philosophy of social Darwinism.

“Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls. They say that those on relief are not merely jobless—that they are worthless. Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief—to purge the rolls by starvation. To use the language of the stock broker, our needy unemployed would be cared for when, as, and if some fairy godmother should happen on the scene. You and I will continue to refuse to accept that estimate of our unemployed fellow Americans. Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side.”

The exact same liberal compassion and conservative coldness are guiding America’s politics today.

“Of course we will continue our efforts for young men and women so that they may obtain an education and an opportunity to put it to use. Of course we will continue our help for the crippled, for the blind, for the mothers, our insurance for the unemployed, our security for the aged. Of course we will continue to protect the consumer against unnecessary price spreads, against the costs that are added by monopoly and speculation. We will continue our successful efforts to increase his purchasing power and to keep it constant.”

History repeats itself so curiously.

“[This] is why the recovery we seek, the recovery we are winning, is more than economic. In it are included justice and love and humility, not for ourselves as individuals alone, but for our Nation.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt somewhere is feeling the Bern.

Levi Olson

Levi Olson

Senior political columnist here at Contemptor, and a political scientist proving that American conservatism is a sham. Follow me on Tumblr at or on Facebook & Twitter @theleviolson.