Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
I took some time over the last week to watch Ken Burns’ epic biopic “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History”, specifically focusing on the episodes surrounding the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR). Democrat. President. Leader. Champion of working people. I contrasted this in my mind with current Democratic Party leaders such as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). They may be full of fight, but they appear to be short on cross-party appeal and the ability to reach across the aisle to reach a compromise. Ronald Reagan famously cast his ballot all four times for FDR. Considering all of this, I have come to one conclusion: for the Democratic Party to find itself, it must go back to the roots of its rebirth.
First, the Democrats need to find a modern day FDR to lead their party out of the political wilderness. President Roosevelt was principled, yet extremely affable. He was charismatic, charming, and garrulous in public. He used all of his innate talents and gifts to help rebuild and revive the Democratic Party in the 1930s. This is the kind of leader that the Democratic Party currently needs and craves. After all, opposing every single thing President Trump does and says is not a leadership strategy, it is a political strategy and one that has shown in the past, most recently in the Georgia 6th Congressional District race, to be futile and ineffective. The Democrats need a leader who can remind them what they are for, not just what they are against; a leader with a solid moral compass and the ability to appeal to Independents and Republicans in order to form a coalition for legislative progress.
Second, the Democrats need to stop litigating the constant Russia investigation on cable television (that is what we have a Special Counselor Mueller for) and start generating ideas of their own on how to address the economic anxiety of Americans. The reason FDR was the longest serving president in American history is owed, in large part, to the fact that he was a champion of working people. His ideas and policies led to the revival of the American economy and, perhaps more importantly, the American spirit. He was the first president to address economic inequality by establishing a national minimum wage through the Fair Labor Standards Act. He established a national social security system and a Public Words Administration (PWA) that put millions of lower income Americans back to work. He was the first president to tackle worker’s rights by implementing the first federal action to prohibit employment discrimination. He did not just give speeches about it. He did not pontificate endlessly on cable news on how to address economic and social inequality. Rather, he rolled up his sleeves and worked with Republicans to get it done, knowing full well he was not going to get everything for which he asked. FDR fully understood the art of compromise. And he was rewarded handsomely by Americans at the polls for it. Because Americans felt the progress and prosperity for which he fought so hard; because he led by his actions and example, not his words.
Lastly, the Democrats need a strong, optimistic leader who can be effective and produce tangible results that improve the lives of Americans across the nation. Right now, all that we here from Democrats is doom and gloom; how poorly we are doing as a country, how dark our future seems, and how poor our current leadership is. But FDR’s greatest political weapon was his optimism. And his record speaks for itself: he helped America win World War II, he played a major role in the creation of the United Nations (UN), and the policies for which he advocated and enacted helped pull America out of the Great Depression, such as the Emergency Banking Act and the creation of the FDIC. Even when the future seemed bleak, FDR always maintained his confidence in America’s future and the American people. And it helped Americans to believe in themselves. He showed the world that an unwavering, unyielding optimism could lead a meandering nation from the cold depths of darkness and despair into the warm blinding light of progress, purpose, and prosperity. The Democratic Party, now more than ever, deserves a leader like FDR whose infectious optimism can help pull Americans out of the moral depression under President Trump and help us to believe in ourselves and in each other once again. This will help rebuild the Democratic Party and our nation.
Written By: Brett Zografos (@BrettZografos)