A Fearful Political Tone

A Fearful Political Tone

A Fresh View by Jordan Barkin

Warm Springs is approximately an hour and a half south of Atlanta but feels a generation removed. The pace is slower, the air is cleaner, and hospitality prevails.

I walked through the quaint downtown and visited the summer home of FDR, also known as the Little White House. The Roosevelts spent many warm, restful days here away from the hubbub of Washington.

Jordan Barkin
Jordan Barkin

Franklin D. Roosevelt was one our nation’s most active presidents. During the Great Depression and the dawn of World War II, FDR implemented New Deal programs including the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Public Works Administration. Thousands of jobs were created, and, for better or worse, the role of the federal government was expanded. In the midst of this great change, FDR tried to expand the role of the executive branch.

After FDR won unprecedented third and fourth terms in office, his political adversaries drafted the 22nd Amendment, limiting presidents to two elected terms.

The most impressive exhibits at Roosevelt’s Little White House Historic Site are FDR’s letters and speeches. I have taken the liberty of presenting some of the 32nd president’s notable quotations below. And I have juxtaposed them with the remarks of some 2016 presidential candidates to show how the tone in Washington has become less civil.

  • FDR, April 1945: “We seek peace, enduring peace.” Sen. Harry Reid, February: “Donald Trump is the standard-bearer for the Republican Party. Republicans created him by spending seven years appealing to some of the darkest forces in America. … It’s time for Republicans to stop the Frankenstein they’ve created.”
  • FDR, October 1940: “Wherever men and women of good will gather to serve their community, there is America.” Donald Trump, July: Sen. John McCain is “not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
  • FDR, October 1940: “Human kindness has never weakened or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel in order to be tough.” Sen. Marco Rubio, February: “I don’t understand why (Trump’s) hands are the size of someone who is 5-foot-2. … And you know what they say about men with small hands.”

Civil discourse appears to be declining. But I will end this piece on a positive note by observing that FDR overcame his personal and professional struggles by maintaining his optimism. Let’s hope the only thing we have to fear this election is fear itself.

Jordan Barkin, a freelance writer for various Southern publications, is a former associate editor of Veranda, a Hearst magazine. He lives in Buckhead.

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