Why Obama Could Never Be An FDR

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Although they emerged into the Presidency seventy-six years apart, at first glance, the similarities are there: two cosmopolitan Presidents from large cities coming to power in the midst of widespread economic catastrophe, on the heels of deeply unpopular, corporatist RepubliCon predecessors. Surely President Obama’s tenure will be judged by some of the same historical precedents set up by FDR, right? Both needed to create jobs, move the country out of economic malaise, and rebuild a sense of American unity that had been deeply damaged on the heels of long-term conservative and corporate dominance alluded to in the term “gilded age.”  

Forgetting, for the purposes of this post, whether or not Obama actually WANTS to be the new FDR – a question upon which I believe the jury is still somewhat “out” – I will gingerly propose here that there is no way on God’s green earth that Barack Obama could ever be the next Franklin Roosevelt, even if he put the entire power of his considerable will and intellect into working towards this wild fantasy.

And why not? Well basically I don’t think comparisons between the two are fair, and here’s the crux of the issue. President Obama is a black man from lower-middle class background. And FDR was a white man from a rich and powerful family.

No I didn’t turn racist overnight. I don’t believe that a black President is less capable of enacting transformational change, or less capable of governing in hard times. The facts here have nothing to do with capacity, and everything to do with the tenacity and sheer vehemence of the opposition.

The second President Roosevelt was a rich white man from a patrician family . . . a man whose uncle had served as President, a man as familiar to the upper crust of the American power elite as was the practice of keeping servants and second homes upstate, and personal ownership of vast swaths of capital and real estate. The simple fact is that Obama has none of these advantages. When Roosevelt became President in 1932 after his stint as Governor of America’s most populous state at the time, New York, the American power elite had been dealing, for better or for worse, with Roosevelts for forty years already, if not much longer. His paternal Grandfather, Warren Delano II, was directly related to Pilgrims who had come on The Mayflower; and his paternal grandmother, Sara Ann Delano, was a cousin of President James Monroe’s wife. And need we even mention FDR’s swashbuckling uncle, Teddy, who became the first Roosevelt president in 1901?

Comparing the performance of Barack Obama to FDR is like comparing the college  performance of an academically high-end kid from the inner city to the an equally academically high-end kid from the wealthiest suburb in America. Sure, they may both be academically high-end, but one has been given every advantage in life, and one has been given every disadvantage.

FDR NEVER faced the shrieking racism of America’s institutionalized reactionaries. Sure there were the Father Coughlins of FDR’s day, but even the most outrageous of FDR’s critics, as far as I’m aware, never questioned whether or not FDR was legally qualified to serve as President, as the thinly-veiled racists in Obama’s opposition have repeatedly been known to do with their seemingly ENDLESS demands for the the “original birth certificate . . .” an item which by the way, roughly 95 out of 100 Americans, including yours truly, probably do not have laying around the house. (In fact, given their set-your-watch-by-it penchant for rank hypocrisy, I’d be willing to personally guarantee that 99% (not 95%) of the Tea Party hate-mongers demanding to see the President’s original, paper-copy birth certificate don’t have theirs either.)

With their shady insinuations that Obama is a Muslim, and their vague allusions to the President’s Kenyan father, his “anti-colonialist leanings” – as if anti-colonialism were such a bad thing – the President’s many enemies have used their propagandists at Fox News to propagate outrageous lies, smears, and misinformation that a white man from a rich family would NEVER have had to endure. Indeed, we can safely assume that FDR – having dealt and perhaps dined with wealthy corporatists his entire life – probably spoke their language, knew their customs, could talk yachting if necessary, etc. While FDR was a good man with great intentions who was able to use his family name and his inherent connections to the power elite to propel himself to the Presidency, Barack Obama simply had none of these advantages.

Now as I am not a professional historian, this gets to a realm of some speculation; but once President, it’s quite rational to suppose that FDR may have been able to cajole and coax his opposition along in a way that President Obama could never hope to do. FDR spoke the language and knew the customs of wealthy corporatists . . . he may have known some of his opponents as equals for his entire life. Can the same really be said for President Obama?

No, these two men are coming from entirely different circumstances, and comparing the two Presidencies is unfair. Dealing with the mega-wealthy power elite is an entirely different matter when you’re one of them. You can’t expect an average citizen, no matter how talented, no matter how eloquent or intelligent – and a black man, no less, whose powerful opposition practically owns the media and is running a despicably racist, nationwide smear campaign – to be able to affect meaningful progressive change in the same way that a well-meaning millionaire from an ultra-powerful family can. Our top-down society simply doesn’t work that way.

So where does that leave us?  With diminished expectations I suppose . . . but then . . . what else is new? We live in an era of diminished expectations. I suppose we can only hope that the President’s heart is in the right place and that, to the maximum extent possible, he’s trying to wring progressive droplets out of this incredibly difficult situation. With the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the attempt to pass the DREAM Act, the success of the new START Nuclear Arms reduction treaty, and the recent passage of the 9-11 First Responders’ Health Care bill, I guess there is some reason to hope.

But only history will tell us if Obama is really going to be able to live up to even a fraction of kind the of transformational change he spoke of . . . the odds against this are of course impossibly high. But looking for an FDR-type of sea change out of this President . . . well I just don’t think it’s fair, or logical.


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  1. for expansion of two bogus neo-con PNAC wars and the continuation of the American Nazi Homeboy Stupidity project for corporate profit margins and the naming of Islam as the Russia replacement enemy because Larry Silverstein convieniently had an asbestos abatement problem and the CIA archive about the JFK assasination had to be destroyed along with the architectural plans of the engineered 2008 financial crash for a global currency.  

    Not mentioned are the depopulation efforts from the mandatory unicorn flu shots, please tazer me bro and or sex at an American (Colorado) New World Order Airport.

  2. Obama’s lack of interest in driving economic equity, the rule of law, a sane, peaceful approach to our Foreign Policy, civil liberties, and government transparency has nothing to do with him just being ‘black’, or ‘poor’ (which he never was), or ‘disadvantaged’.

    This is a man who grew up in a largely white household, with mostly white relatives, and was indoctrinated in a mostly right-wing Kansas-Hawaii upbringing (and also in a Military setting, as his mother worked for the Military). This is a man who had the money for a free Havard Law education just handed over to him (no economic worries), and who traveled in well-to-do circles as a teenager (post-High School). He was an early recruit into the elitist “Council On Foreign Relations” at the very dawn of his political career — and from that was then fast-tracked and bankrolled for political success. He never knew nor ever experienced any personal hardship, or any ‘disadvantage’ in his life.  

    Obama’s problem is that he is an empty vessel by which the Robber Barons and Neocons, that he happily chooses to surround himself with, mold and shape to their liking. He may be articulate, but he is every bit as much of a follow-what-they-tell-me-to-do robot and puppet as the likes of a George W. Bush or Daniel Quayle. This is the biggest character difference from FDR.

    Obama’s inspiring 2008 Campaign rhetoric, made (only) when speaking to live crowds, always conflicted with his button-down, cautious, don’t-rock-the-boat, pro-Establishment, pro-beltway language and demeanor when interviewed on Sunday TV Shows, or during the Primary debates, or when speaking or voting on the Senate floor. In all those other settings we would see and hear status-quo babble, and not change.

    It was always just a game for him, just a gimmick, a “whip up the crowd technique” disguise. His boring book “The Audicity of Hope” was a largely ghost-written pile of controvesry-free, George Will-ish conventional-thinking, beltway-approved viewpoints about past Presidents, with some vague “one Nation” platitudes — that neither said nor proposed anything remotely audacious or progresive or revolutionary.

    The reason Barry Obama never wanted to be an FDR is because he really has no personal passion, or investment in, or commitment to making any serious reforms or policy changes — that would ever rock any boats. He believes that the Neocons and the scorched-earth right-wingers are mostly correct  — correct enough at least to be rewarded with being promoted as his personal choice of policy advisors and Cabinet picks (due to their infinite wisdom I presume). He sincerely believes that Dick Cheney is a good man, whom the Government and American taxpayers must spend their own money on to protect and clear his ‘good name’. He sincerely believes, like Richard Nixon, that it is not a crime if the CIA or the Pentagon or the State Department, or the President does it. However, the peaceful act of telling the truth..like Bradley Manning or WikiLeaks…now that’s Terrorism.

    Someone who had experienced real disadvanatge in life would never have that worldview.

    This is also why Obama always frames the issues using the very language of the Neocons and the Right and uses their dishonest terminology from the very outset, and the policies then follow exclusively and predictably in that direction (on all the major issues) — take it or leave it! In Obama’s worldview, Goldman Sachs are well-intentioned folks, NAFTA trade deals are the correct policy, and perpetual Trillion dollar Wars (based upon lies, and more lies) are prudent actions.

    You see people confuse Obama’s well-spoken articulate manner, and his graceful poise, elegance, (and charm) with “brains“. But Obama is not a very smart man at all. He is a totally empty suit lacking the intellectual framework to ever challenge or dispute the ‘beltway’ political orthodoxy — even as the whole Country collaspes and goes bankrupt around him, and the futility and immorality of all our corrupt Foreign Occupations & mass-violence is plainly obvious. He’s a dolt. Obama is just not smart enough to ever get it…or to see through the disguise…or to recognize and possibly care about all the evil corruption (which he himself has perpetuated and legitimized).


    FDR, on the contrary, was a very smart man who really knew and understood the struggle of American History and Liberty. FDR also had a genuine, heartfelt commitment to core principles that Barry Obama simply does not have, never did have, nor ever will have. And FDR’s wealth was probably a factor in one respect. He wasn’t impressed with money, and couldn’t just be bought off.

    FDR utilized his legendary Presidency to propose a “Second Bill Of Rights” for our Nation, which became known as the “Four Freedoms” speech. Our Country was robbed of its destiny when he died, and all we were left with was the easily duped Atom-Bomb-Dropping-National-Warfare-State Harry Truman. The transformation of our once shinning land of liberty into an Orwellian nightmere (organized solely around waging perpetual global Warfare as its primary function) began right then.  

    Oh Damn – The Country That Could Have Been

  3. That is the best description of Obama I have seen. You have caught him perfectly. Thank you so much.  

    • RUKind on December 24, 2010 at 06:03

    Obama is all three point land.

  4. Theodore was Franklin’s fifth cousin, and…

    Comparing the performance of Barack Obama to FDR is like comparing the college  performance of an academically high-end kid from the inner city to the an equally academically high-end kid from the wealthiest suburb in America.

    But Abe Lincoln was infinitely less privileged than Obama, and yet he managed to acquire a few principles somewhere in the wilderness, instead of growing up to be a stinking con-man like Barry.

  5. …. you ignore that FDR had polio, and a steely will to overcome it, and an amazing wife who was his best eyes and legs.  He was never photographed for the general public in his wheelchair.  

    FDR also set up the beginnings of our social safety net so there, ideally, would not be another Great Depression.

    FDR, altho he did not see the end of WWII, certainly must have had an inkling of its eventual outcome.  The plan was to win the war and end it, not run perpetual low level occupation conflicts to benefit the wealthiest in this country and their very best business investor friends overseas.

    Poor Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor must be rolling in their graves, if that is possible, watching our nation now, the foreclosures, the number of unemployed, the number who still cannot afford medical care,  and the Third Way Triangulating POS Deficit (Catfood) Commission appointed by the President, and the cut in Social Security taxes and the continuing tax cuts for the wealthiest.  The rich in this country expect this war to be paid for by the foreclosures, bankruptcies, and job losses of the working class.

    Now on to Barack Obama.  I disagree with your assertion that his background was “lower class.”  Both of his parents were academics. His Kenyan father had a master’s degree from Harvard, after being given a scholarship to attend upper education in another country. You don’t see many Americans doing that.   His father ended up in government in Kenya.  His mother had a PhD from the Univ of Hawaii and worked internationally for the USAID.  He grew up in Hawaii attending private schools and got an Ivy League education.  Grandma in Hawaii was a bank VP.  “One has been given every disadvantage ?”   What planet are you on ?   These are not the resum├ęs of the working class.  

    This makes him relatively rare, no matter what his skin color or parental background.

    So we are supposed to use this as an excuse that he can’t do anything, because….  the other party is unreasonable ?

    He also had a Chicago social and church network.  Damn shame he had to ditch the church network to be able to counteract the Democrats who were making a big issue of his not being wingnutty enough on Sundays.

    I see plenty of mediocre people who are driving the national conversation now (and this past election) who were selected to drive that national conversation, by the MSM,  based on how 1. dumb they were  2. how nasty they could get 3. their ability to be photogenic 4. the willingness to accept money from the most powerful to be a conduit for things that the Wealthy People Do Not Say In Public Within Earshot of a Microphone.

    smears “that a white man from a rich family would never have to endure….”  Oh, what bunk.  Look what they did to Caroline Kennedy.

    We don’t need another FDR.  We merely needed another real Democrat, and some party discipline in the Senate with the supermajorities, and we didn’t get either.   We (ignoring his race, I know it’s difficult, but somebody has to do it)  got some sort of Republican- Lite deal maker who is trying to pass off this Third Way triangulation crap on us.  Like Romneycare.   Let me remind you what “third way” is –  it’s a think tank group fronted by Wall Street that says since Democratic principles and ideas are always “too leftist” for this country, the Dems must compromise with the Republicans to be taken seriously.  Self fulfilling prophesy of failure.  Nothing the Beltway DNC likes better than for getting along with the lobbyists and the TradMedia.

    So the regular Democrats have precious little to “follow” at this point.  Neither do the disillusioned Independents.  The Republicans love having a Dem implement their fondest wishes without having to take any blame, while they continue to bash him.

    The mid east wars and the massive deficit spending on them continue.  We still have horrendous job losses and NO NEW DEAL nor WPA.   Let’s see them try to pass that one off on southern racism.  What a horrible waste of a supermajority mandate.


  6. …the influences of Eleanor and of Labor Secretary Francis Perkins.

    I think Michelle could act more like Eleanor.  But where, amongst his sad cabinet appointees, could we find a Francis Perkins?  

    • mplo on January 4, 2011 at 13:39

    because he’s not made that way!  

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