As Paul and I have both argued here the last few days, the notion, currently popular with liberals and their media echo chamber and careless talkers like Jeb Bush, that Ronald Reagan couldn’t be nominated today (while Mitt Romney can??) is fatuous nonsense.
But I wonder, why isn’t this turned around? There are at least three Democratic presidents of memory who couldn’t get the Democratic nomination today, and still one more, Lyndon Johnson, who actually didn’t. (Is there any doubt that the Democratic Party was on its way to turfing LBJ out in 1968 when he decided to withdraw?) Let’s make this a new series.
I’ll begin with Franklin Roosevelt. FDR couldn’t be nominated today. Not with his views on welfare. As he told Congress in 1935, “The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit… It is in violation of the traditions of America.” Liberals were not happy when Republicans quoted these words back to them in the debates on welfare reform in the 1980s and 1990s.
FDR was also against public employee unions. In a 1937 letter to a public employees association, FDR wrote: “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. . . Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees.”
FDR, an Episcopalian, made the kind of remarks about religion that send the American Civil Liberties Union into paroxysms of rage when someone like George W. Bush or Sarah Palin say the same thing today. Democracy and Christianity, he said, were “two phases of the same civilization.” “We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation,” he said, “without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic.” During World War II FDR wrote a preface for an edition of the New Testament that was distributed to American troops: “As Commander-in-Chief, I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States.” On the eve of the 1940 election, FDR said in a radio address: “Freedom of speech is of no use to a man who has nothing to say and freedom of worship is of no use to a man who has lost his God.” On June 6, 1944, FDR led the nation in prayer for our armed forces on live radio, and in his final inaugural address in 1945 he said, “So we pray to Him for the vision to see our way clearly … to achievement of His will.” Today’s liberals would regard these statements and acts as grounds for impeachment.
I’ll discuss the two other modern Democrats who’d also fail today’s Democratic Party litmus tests later today or tomorrow.
UPDATE: Additional installments in this series are on hold for the moment. Looks like I may turn this idea into a full blown article.