September 19, 2012
MICHAEL BARONE ON OBAMA AND MEMORIES OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION:
Why did Roosevelt’s second term turn out so poorly? Basically, because his policies were so unpopular. His 1935 labor act led to violent sit-down strikes in auto, steel and rubber factories, in which union victories were resented by the wider public.
His high tax rates on high earners — the great white whale of the Ahab-like Obama — plus something called the excess profits tax and the threat of onerous new regulation discouraged business investment, leading to what some called a capital strike.
In that setting, many liberals, as historian Alan Brinkley writes, “reached the pessimistic conclusion that stagnation had become the normal condition of modern industrial economies.” Sounds like Bill Clinton’s argument: No one could do better.
Republicans gained 80 House seats in the 1938 off-year elections. A conservative coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats dominated Congress for most of the next 20 years.
Polling in the run-up to the 1940 election showed Roosevelt and the Democratic Party in nothing like the dominant position they held in his first term. Gallup polls showed that most voters wanted a Republican as the next president.
Roosevelt was saved by war. Will Obama be?