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Posts Tagged ‘FDR’

It was a messy neighborhood quarrel spread across the United States at a time of great suffering for most and insufferable intolerance by a fortunate few.  It was not just FDR fighting six reactionary Supreme Court Justices.  The nation was getting louder and louder in protest.  The New Deal faced a total wipeout by the Justices.

Jeff Shesol, Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court is a fresh take on a fracas that left everyone sullied who took part in it.  FDR did not act without provocation and there were many who supported him.  He brilliantly understood that a Constitutional amendment against the powers of the Court was dangerous and unnecessary.  Where he was not smart was letting his self-confidence and political finesse cloud his decision to make a frontal attack by packing the court.

The reactionary Justices were so out of touch with Depression Americans there is no excuse for their behavior.  So satisfied with privilege they felt their social, political, and economic views were written in the Constitution.  It was their mission to save the old America.

The opposition to FDR were wealthy and controlled large segments of the economic structure of America.  Because they feared the New Deal would lessen their economic freedom, they hated FDR.  Their paid allies in the conservative wings of both parties were happy to join the fight.  They too needed to protect vested interests in their states.  They feared there would be nothing left for them once FDR finished consuming political America.

The media made little to less positive contribution, but they did sell magazines and papers.  They were the paid street thugs.

The foolish plan to pack the Court failed for many reasons, not the least was the lack of statesmanship in the White House and the Senate.  If FDR had simply circled the wagons around the Court, protecting the Constitution and Court while letting the circling hungry grow in number and volume, he would have won much sooner without any loss of political power.  The Supreme Court reactionaries were never going to win, so why did he fight?  Age and fear were angels sitting on the Justices’ shoulders.

Shesol does not use my ill-tempered tone, keeps an even hand in presenting all the participants, and adds depth to the story.  If FDR, the New Deal, the Depression, the Supreme Court, or Constitutional history are among your favorite desserts, pig out.  Charles Marlin

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perkins2There is nothing witty or catchy you can say about Frances Perkins.  She was everyone’s grandmother in her felt hat, black coat, black strap purse, sensible shoes, and no makeup.  Who fully knew that she was the social conscience of FDR, that without her he would not have had enough of a domestic program to call “A Little Deal” let alone The New Deal?  Unfortunately for her it was a time of straight white chauvinist domination in everything, so her contributions were belittled or claimed by others.  She birthed, nurtured, and toilet trained what we consider the domestic achievements of the era, a better and more secure working career and retirement for the average American.

Kirstin Downey has written The Woman Behind The New Deal: The Life Of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary Of Labor And His Moral Conscience, a biography that makes you wonder how we ever achieve anything in Washington given whom we normally appoint and elect in office.  FDR, bless his political soul, knew he had a classy jumper in her even if he treated her like a wagon mule.  So if you want to know how a woman can make it in New York politics, then move on to become a historic cabinet secretary in Washington, read this book.

I did not get the feeling she was the most likable person in any room but she had many loyal friends and associates although they never matched the mass of her detractors.  Added to that imbalance she was burdened with a mentally unstable husband as well as a disfunctional and unstable daughter.  She when she found a friend she kept them if at all possible.  If you read the book you will agree that she deserves more than a postage stamp, a federal building, or the fledgling Frances Perkins Center at The Brick House, her ancestral homestead in Newcastle ME.  I say put her face on our Social Security checks.

For more information about the Center and its future, go to www.francesperkinscenter.org/  If you have Perkins ephemera this is the perfect place to receive it before you or your heirs lose  or scatter it.  They will also not decline a cash donation.  Charles Marlin

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