Friday, Feb. 04, 2011

Franklin Roosevelt

The reverence for which America reserved for Franklin Roosevelt over the course of his presidency would simply be impossible to replicate in the America of 2011. During the 12 years of his presidency, FDR was credited with not just personally saving the global economy, but also facing down the worst thug the world has ever known. As such, he was spoken of as either a family member or as a handyman neighbor who could swing by to solve problems on demand. Roosevelt's standing as a national guardian of sorts was strengthened by his famous fireside chats, during which Roosevelt referred to his countrymen as "friends." In those chats Roosevelt also chose to deliberately speak in a slow cadence to create a sense of calm in spite of the chaos he discussed.

Aware of his unique hold on the nation, Roosevelt couldn't resist the temptation to try and maximize his political capital. While he was rebuffed on his plan to pack the Supreme Court with New Deal sympathizers, he was swiftly reelected to unprecedented third and fourth terms, the latter of which when he was plainly not physically up to the job. Indeed, Roosevelt was the beneficiary of an organic grassroots cult of personality not unlike the one autocrats often aim to force upon their unwitting subjects. Photos of Roosevelt were plastered throughout American homes and public spaces including barber shops. The press even respected his disability, and only photographed him from the waist up. When Roosevelt was clearly dying in office in 1945, the idea his vice president might actually take over was so inconceivable that Harry Truman wasn't even briefed on the plan to develop the atomic bomb until after he took office.