Similarly, “When the Roosevelt administration got into rough waters over its court-packing schemes, Secretary of the Interior Ickes invoked It Can’t Happen Here to brand FDR’s critics as fascists,” Siegel writes. As late as 1948, Harry Truman smeared Thomas Dewey as a Nazi. Four years earlier, in his final State of the Union speech, FDR thundered:
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. All clear-thinking businessmen share his 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 1920′s—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.
As Jonah Goldberg noted in 2010:
Keep in mind that the 1920s was a decade of roaring economic growth. The return to “normalcy” FDR referred to was the return to a more limited form of government (not counting Prohibition). The Republicans released Woodrow Wilson’s political prisoners. They shuttered the Democrats’ propaganda ministry (the Committee for Public Information). They called off the censorship and the “war socialism” of the Wilson years. And they helped usher in roaring economic growth.
Pres. Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge, the poster boy for the ’20s, was once asked what he thought of his achievements in office. He replied: “Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.”
That was the return to normalcy FDR was talking about. A government minding its own business, according to FDR, amounted to the spirit of fascism.
Hey, America must remain on constant vigil: Those Rotarians could rise up and seize the levers of power any day now.
Any day now. Really, it could happen here!
All kidding aside, as we noted at the start of the post, the “Progressives’” attack on small business and suburbia has had repercussions that ripple to the present day. As Christopher Caldwell wrote over a decade ago in the Weekly Standard, “At some point, Democrats became the party of small-town people who think they’re too big for their small towns”:
It is hard to say how it happened: Perhaps it is that Republicans’ primary appeal is to something small-towners take for granted (tradition), while Democrats’ is to something that small-towners are condemned for lacking (diversity). Both appeals can be effective, but it is only the latter that incites people to repudiate the culture in which they grew up. Perhaps it is that at universities–through which pass all small-town people aiming to climb to a higher social class–Democratic party affiliation is the sine qua non of being taken for a serious, non-hayseed human being.
For these people, liberalism is not a belief at all. No, it’s something more important: a badge of certain social aspirations. That is why the laments of the small-town leftists get voiced with such intemperance and desperation. As if those who voice them are fighting off the nagging thought: If the Republicans aren’t particularly evil, then maybe I’m not particularly special.
In-frickin’-deed. But it’s no longer “hard to say how it happened”; Siegel’s new book (especially when read as a double-feature with Jonah’s Liberal Fascism) does a thorough job of explaining how it happened here.
Update: From Slate in 2006: “The Rotarian Menace: What does Osama have against Rotary clubs?”
Muslim fundamentalists aren’t shy about naming their enemies. They’ve identified Zionists and secularists as particular foes of Islam; picked out apostates, Americans, and Jews for scorn; disparaged “crusaders” and imperialists; and even—like conspiracists everywhere—warned against the Freemasons.
But Islamists have selected one enemy that’s entirely baffling: Rotary clubs.
To make sense of the connection, I’d ask “Mohamed Atta, Socialist Critic of Capitalism,” not to mention an Osama bin Laden, whom the Washington Post noted had “embraced his inner Al Gore” shortly before OBL was declared DOA, but wasn’t able to leave a message with their answering service in Hell.
(H/T on OBL’s Rotarian obsession: Glenn Reynolds.)