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Turning back the clock

"Turning back the clock" Continued...

Issue: "Unify and conquer," June 14, 2008

Combining religious rhetoric and power politics, Roosevelt consistently tried to show his followers that they could construct a stairway to heaven. To do that, however, he had to dump on the private efforts that apparently could build the stairway only halfway up: Bennington College professor James McCamy concluded that New Deal publicists were deliberately trying to discredit private institutions so as to promote a "shift of loyalty from private to public authority and decision."

MIT economist John Gruber last year confirmed that Roosevelt succeeded in having New Deal governmental programs crowd out private giving. "Church relief made up 90 percent of the income of the poor before the New Deal," he found out: "Government relief made up 90 percent of the income of the poor after the New Deal." Gruber found that church and charitable giving held up well in 1929 after the stock market crash and did not drop until 1933 when the New Deal began. Then and only then did church spending for charitable purposes fall by one-third.

But, due to a conservative Supreme Court, the federal government did not grow as fast as Roosevelt wished. The justices in 1935 found the NRA to be an unconstitutional depriving of liberty, and FDR temporarily backtracked-only to come out swinging in his reelection campaign. Throughout 1936 Roosevelt alternated fiery speeches with pastorals, such as the one he gave in North Carolina based on the 23rd Psalm's teaching: "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters."

Roosevelt argued that the declarations about God from 3,000 years ago could be replaced by declarations coming from Washington now: If wages were raised, those who "work in the mill or in the office" could have "a life in green pastures and beside still waters." Voters preferred that hope to the medicine GOP candidate Alf Landon offered, and Democratic domination of Capitol Hill became so great that only 88 Republicans were left to wander disconsolately through the House chamber.

How can today's Republicans, in their down year, preserve the checks and balances that often keep bad bills from becoming law? One way is for John McCain to win. Another way, if he seems headed for defeat, is for Republicans to stress the importance of a congressional check on presidential radicalism.

Columnist John Fund tells of what happened in 1996 when Bob Dole was clearly going to lose: "The Republican National Committee decided to take bold action by directly appealing to the public's fondness for divided government and fear of one-party rule. . . . The announcer warned what could happen if Democrats swept the elections: 'Remember the last time Democrats ran everything? The largest tax increase in history. Government-run health care. More wasteful spending. Who wants that again?'" Fund reports, "It worked. Republicans gained two seats in the Senate and lost only a handful in the House."

It's too early to resort to such a strategy now: McCain is running close to Obama in polls and leading in battleground states such as Ohio and Florida. But if Obama makes a slight bow to pro-life sentiment (and I would welcome such a move on his part), it's not too early to think through Plan B.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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