Mr. Obama and the tradition of the angry president

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933, he literally inherited an economic nightmare.  Learning the mistakes from his Republican predecessors, he faced a daunting task of trying to restore American confidence in the nation’s banking sector and to  stabilize the agricultural markets.  Many of his pet programs, such as the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act, and the Works Progress Administration easily won the support of politicians of both parties; however, the Supreme Court held many of the programs to be unconstitutional and by 1936, would set the president, Congress, and the federal judiciary on a collision course.  As an angry president, FDR would alienate many Democrats within his own party with his court packing scheme; it would be this that would actually force him to work with the Republicans and moderate Democrats that were uneasy with the concentration of power that had become a regular feature of the Roosevelt administration.  As national leadership passed from FDR to Harry S Truman, Truman faced constant battles from Republicans and Democrats, often working hand in hand to dismantle the pet projects and the political power structure that FDR had worked so hard to create.  To assure that it could never happen again, Congress, the States, and the citizens would respond in a clear response to FDR by ratifying the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution. An angry was now reacting to a man who had become an angry president.

With the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the presidency passed on to Lyndon B. Johnson.  In his attempt to destroy the Republican Party and any opposition to the progressive policies and his interests in expanding the war in Southeastern Asia, he began to press Congress for civil rights legislation, even remarking to two governors that “I’ll have those n***** voting Democratic for the next 200 years” as he began his “War on Poverty.”  Yes, he was willing to alienate many of the Southern Democratic voters in order to gain the largest voting block outside the South – that of the African-American voter.  In fact, in previous phone calls, LBJ even had acknowledged that blacks often turned out to the polls better than most whites since they had the most to lose.  As he waged a war in Vietnam and a war on American society, he did his best to politically assassinate any of his rivals – including the recently deceased and loved president John F. Kennedy.  The end result was nearly $64 billion spent in social programs, an increase in single parent black families, and no significant reduction of crime or poverty. Again, the alienation of the Southern Democrat was a small thing for the angry president and progressive LBJ who was determined to destroy the Republican Party before he left office.

When President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, he claimed that it was the start of a new era in American politics.  As a nation, we were entering a post-partisan politics phase where he and the Democrats were offering to reach across the table and work with Republicans in healing the nation.  Instead of that, we have seen the repeat of lessons that America should have already learned – the emergence of an imperial president.  While his party had the majority in both chambers of Congress, the Affordable Care Act was passed and signed into law without one Republican vote.  Since the beginning of this year the American public has again seen the results of hastily written and enacted legislation – premiums are actually doubling in some states while other citizens are losing their coverage. We have seen the economy stall as the national debt and borrowing by our government increases at a profound rate.

I often wonder how history will record the presidency of Barack H. Obama over the next twenty years.  I wonder if we will continue to only focus on the accomplishment of an African-American man who happened to be elected as president or if we will have an honest dialogue of the corruption and open hostility of the administration towards its critics.  This president, who claims to be a political visionary in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, actually comes off the stage sounding more like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt than Lincoln.  Even this afternoon, as I listen to the radio and President Obama’s recent speech is being played for all to hear, I do not hear any civility towards the opposition – the Tea Party conservative and the Republicans – but what I do hear are phrases that are designed to villainize it to his political base.  Yes, America, I do believe we have another angry president whose desire to destroy his opponents will be his and the Democratic Party’s undoing.

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Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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