Noemie Emery: Farewell to All That ... There Will Never Be Another FDR

Roundup: Media's Take

Noemie Emery is a contributing editor of The Weekly Standard and writes a weekly column for the Washington Examiner.

Barack Obama, who was hailed by the Left in 2008 as the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a four-term-winning liberal icon, is struggling to avoid becoming the second coming of one-term-and-done Jimmy Carter, and thereby hangs a tale. The tale is the Democrats’ endless quest for the next FDR — which began the day after the first one expired — and the moral is that this quest will always be hopeless. The fact is that Roosevelt — not the war leader and father of the Manhattan Project (who would be impeached by today’s Left as a war criminal), but the great and groundbreaking expander of government — cannot and will not come again.
The hope of the Left in 2008 was that he had come again, but this hope was gone by July 2010, just months after the health-care bill was passed by them with such celebration, and met by the public with so much disgust. “A big disappointment,” said Eric Alterman. Progressives were “gripped by gloom,” as Paul Waldman put it, and Michael Tomasky found “profound despair among liberals” about more than the angry reception that was given the president’s bills: “The storyline is much larger than merely that the stimulus has failed. It is that government is a failure. . . . The great bottom-line hope back in November 2008 was that Obama was going to restore trust in government and prove it could solve problems. That hasn’t happened. . . . That’s not an argument about the midterm elections. It’s about the party of government’s very raison d’etre.” “Remember when Barack Obama’s presidency was going to wash over the capital like a cleansing tide, renewing both the government’s ability to accomplish great things and restoring the people’s faith in that ability?” lamented Waldman. “It seems so much longer than a year and a half ago.”
Answers were sought as to how this had happened, but none seemed convincing, at least not to rational people. “The system is rigged, and it’s rigged against us,” said Eric Alterman. Hendrik Hertzberg said FDR was one lucky dog in that he inherited the Great Depression when it was three years old and such a calamity that no one could blame him for anything. Peter Beinart said that Obama was unlucky in that he lacked someone like the firebrand Huey Long, who “scared the crap out of the American establishment and sent some of its denizens scurrying into the arms of reformers like FDR.” (One wonders whether FDR, who confronted a social implosion, dangerous demagogues, and a world conflict, appreciated his good luck.) Put aside the fact that FDR was a great politician, who would no more have dreamed of passing a game-changing bill without strong and bipartisan backing than he would have thrown himself off a tall building in the belief he could levitate; he still had an advantage that no modern progressive will ever replicate: He became president at the one time in our history when the federal government was too small for its burdens and truly cried out to be expanded...

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