Unlike A Purgin’

October 5th, 2009at 08:49pm Posted by Eli

Um, what was the point of this?

Concerned about his progressive agenda as well as about the next presidential election in 1940, Roosevelt decided to intervene in state primaries — tantamount to the November election in the one-party Democratic South — and support challengers to the conservative incumbents.

In a fireside chat in June 1938, he carefully explained that as president, he would not intervene in Democratic primaries. But, as the head of the Democratic Party, he said, it was his right and duty to support liberal candidates who stood by the New Deal. In addition, he believed that the nation should have two effective and responsible political parties, one liberal, the other conservative, each ideologically consistent and united. Newspapers branded his tactic a “purge” — and the inflammatory label stuck.


In the end, the purge was one of the few glaring political missteps in Roosevelt’s long career, and afterward he had to struggle to make amends and repair relations with the men he had tried to oust. As it turned out, many of the Democratic conservatives — especially those from the South — whom Roosevelt had sought to banish were staunch internationalists who would soon become his loyal allies as he battled isolationists over America’s role in World War II.

Will President Obama and his White House team learn the lessons of the purge of 1938? Franklin Roosevelt’s political vision of party realignment was compelling; and yet the purge was hastily contrived and its execution amateurish.


It is not yet clear how extensive President Obama’s plans are for intervening in party primaries. Nor is it yet clear if his criteria for picking favorites are based on ideology, as Roosevelt’s were, or if the White House is simply focused on choosing the most popular candidates and winning a few more elections. So far, the president’s support for Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and his desire to dump Governor Paterson would seem to indicate that his approach is purely pragmatic. But in either case, by meddling in state and local politics, he risks fueling the same indignation that Roosevelt did in 1938.

So… basically Dunn is warning Obama against repeating FDR’s “mistake” of taking on incumbents in his own party who oppose his policies, despite the fact that there is absolutely zero evidence that Obama intends to do anything other than protect Democratic incumbents, with the exception of a massively unpopular governor who is an electoral albatross rather than ideological obstacle.

It’s a fascinating history lesson about the political limitations of even a popular and successful president, but it really does not have any bearing at all on Obama.

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Media,Obama,Politics

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