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MAIN Arrow to Society Society Arrow to Politics Elections Arrow to Election News Inauguration Day 2009 Arrow to Inauguraton Inauguration Luncheons

FDR & The Obama Inauguration... Is This
A Newer & Greener New Deal?

"Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people's money, and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency." (FDR's Inaugural Speech on March 4th, 1933)


Franklin D. Roosevelt
Addresses the Mortgage Crisis...

Deja Vu... all over again
FDR campaigns against Alf Landon

Does that phrase seem especially relevant to the conditions that face America as Obama begins his term as the 44th President?

“There are definite parallels between the Obama inauguration and the inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, “ says David Cingranelli, professor of political science at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Not a Great Depression

For all the angst we feel during these unstable times, America’s current economic woes don’t compare to the ones FDR faced.

“During the Great Depression, the national unemployment rate was 25 percent,” Dr. Kris McCusker, associate professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro notes, compared to the 6.7 percent rate posted for November 2008. “In heavy industrial centers like Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, it was 50 percent. In some industrial centers in Ohio, it was 80 percent.”

1933 & 2009 Crisis Factors Similar

Although the current deep recession is not as bad as the Great Depression, “In both cases, the new president faced factors such as rising unemployment and poverty, and championed the cause of the underclass.” The two new presidents inherited an economic crisis caused by unregulated capitalism.

According to Cingranelli, both Obama and FDR inherited domestic and foreign policy challenges:

  • In 1933, FDR took office with the domestic and international economy in chaos and faced rising global tensions that eventually led to World War II;

  • In 2009, Obama took office with the domestic and international economy in crisis — on the brink of chaos and faced rising global tensions — the Israel-Palestine conflict, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rise of Russia and China as challengers, rampant anti-Americanism abroad, and loss of faith in America's ability to lead by many of our international allies. The added factor of global warming and worldwide pollution was not recognized as a problem in the 1930s.

Realigning Elections

For both FDR and Obama, “The new president attained office after a period of substantial demographic change in the country and with the support of recent immigrants,” Cingranelli says.

“In both cases, the previous president (Hoover and Bush) had very low approval ratings, and his party was in disarray,” Cingranelli says. “In addition, the new president proposed major new social welfare programs to help ease the domestic crisis.”

According to Cingranelli, political scientists refer to the election of 1932 as a realigning election, partly because the election of FDR began a long period of Democratic Party control of the presidency, which lasted from 1933-1969, except for the 8-year presidency of Eisenhower.

“It may turn out that we will look back on the election of 2008 as another realigning election in American politics,” Cingranelli says. Magazine covers and op-ed pieces focus on the new New Deal President drawing striking parallels between Obama and FDR...

Comparing Obama & FDR

Dr. McCusker, says a one-for-one comparison is very tempting because of how scary the recession is for us. Stylistically, it’s even somewhat warranted.

“Obama, in some ways, is a new FDR in that he’s got that eloquent way of speaking,” McCusker says. “He’s able to use new media in really profound ways. In Obama’s case, it’s electronic media, particularly e-mail. In FDR’s case, it’s the use of radio and his ability to speak directly to his constituents.”

Not The Same Says Obama

There are others who disagree with the comparisons. Chief among them? Obama.

An article in The Economist states, "On November 16th Mr. Obama told an interviewer to be careful about pushing the FDR comparison too far (“no period is exactly the same”). He argued that government has a role in kick-starting a stalled economy, but he also noted that America is a free-market system that is characterized by innovation and risk-taking. He said that he would be happy to adopt ideas that work, whether they come from FDR or Reagan."

That sounds like a healthy attitude... one that would definitely gain the approval of FDR. Obama will need to be open to ideas that work, regardless of the source, to steer the USA back to solid ground.

This article is based on a Florida State University press release provided by Newswise.

also see -> Inauguration Luncheon - A Feast Fit for a President

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