Ken Thomas rightly takes some relief in the fact that last night’s SOTU wasn’t as bad as FDR’s in 1944. Here’s how he wrapped it up:
One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis—recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this nation. Any clear-thinking business men share that concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of fascism here at home.
I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights—for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do, and the country knows it. Many of these problems are already before committees of the Congress in the form of proposed legislation. I shall from time to time communicate with the Congress with respect to these and further proposals. In the event that no adequate program of progress is evolved, I am certain that the nation will be conscious of the fact.
Our fighting men abroad—and their families at home—expect such a program and have the right to insist on it. It is to their demands that this government should pay heed, rather than to the whining demands of selfish pressure groups who seek to feather their nests while young Americans are dying.
I have often said that there are no two fronts for America in this war. There is only one front. There is one line of unity that extends from the hearts of people at home to the men of our attacking forces in our farthest outposts. When we speak of our total effort, we speak of the factory and the field and the mine as well as the battlefield—we speak of the soldier and the civilian, the citizen and his government.
Each and every one of them has a solemn obligation under God to serve this nation in its most critical hour—to keep this nation great—to make this nation greater in a better world.
Somehow that line didn’t make it into my book, but it’s a great illustration of many of my arguments. First of all, the argument is wrong and disgusting and the whole speech marked one of the great low-points of FDR’s presidency and his war leadership (contrary to many contemporary liberals like Cass Sunstein who think it was among FDR’s finest moments). It should also reassure those who think today’s politics are uglier and nastier than ever.
Second, it’s a good reminder that for generations of liberals, the “return to normalcy” in the 1920s was America’s real moment of fascist temptation. But the “return to normalcy” slogan was actually a rebuke against the fascistic regime and policies of Woodrow Wilson (the thought crimes, the propaganda ministry, censorship, the economic rationing, the corporatism etc.) FDR, a Wilson retread, shared the view that all it took for fascism to succeed is for progressives like him to lose control of the state. That idea endures to this day.