[Marxism] Roosevelt's Brain Trust vs Obama's Brainiacs

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 2 07:43:22 MST 2008

Beyond the Bailout State
Roosevelt's Brain Trust vs Obama's Brainiacs
By Steve Fraser

On a December day in 1932, with the country prostrate under the weight 
of the Great Depression, ex-president Calvin Coolidge -- who had 
presided over the reckless stock market boom of the Jazz Age Twenties 
(and famously declaimed that "the business of America is business") -- 
confided to a friend: "We are in a new era to which I do not belong." He 
punctuated those words, a few weeks later, by dying.

A similar premonition grips the popular imagination today. A new era 
beckons. No person has been more responsible for arousing that 
expectation than President-elect Barack Obama. From beginning to end, 
his presidential campaign was born aloft by invocations of the "fierce 
urgency of now," by "change we can believe in," by "yes, we can!" and by 
the obvious significance of his race and generation. Not surprisingly 
then, as the gravity of the national economic calamity has become 
terrifyingly clearer, yearnings for salvation have attached themselves 
ever more firmly to the incoming administration.

This is as it should be -- and as it once was. When in March 1933, a few 
months after Coolidge gave up the ghost, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was 
inaugurated president, people looked forward to audacious changes, even 
if they had little or no idea just what, in concrete terms, that might 
mean. If Coolidge, an iconic representative of the old order, knew that 
the ancien régime was dead, millions of ordinary Americans had drawn the 
same conclusion years earlier. Full of fear, depressed and 
disillusioned, they nonetheless had an appetite for the untried. Like 
Obama, FDR had, during his campaign, encouraged feverish hopes with no 
less vaporous references to a "new deal" for Americans.

Brain Trust vs Brainiacs

Yet today, something is amiss. Even if everyone is now using the Great 
Depression and the New Deal as benchmarks for what we're living through, 
Act I of the new script has already veered away from the original.

A suffocating political and intellectual provincialism has captured the 
new administration in embryo. Instead of embracing a sense of 
adventurousness, a readiness to break with the past so enthusiastically 
promoted during the campaign, Obama seems overcome with inhibitions and 


More information about the Marxism mailing list