Learn From FDR, Obama, and Show Some Backbone

Roosevelt biographer says president needs to block out GOP
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2009 7:20 AM CDT
President Barack Obama listens to a question as he speaks about health care during a town hall meeting at Central High School in Grand Junction, Colo. Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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(Newser) – As President Obama prepares to pull away from a public health care option, it shows not just that he's giving in to his opponents, writes Jean Edward Smith; worse, it "suggests that the Democratic Party has forgotten how to govern." In an op-ed for the New York Times, the FDR biographer writes that Roosevelt and his Democratic majorities passed the bulk of the New Deal over vociferous opposition. "Majority rule, as Roosevelt saw it, did not require his opponents’ permission," he writes.

"Roosevelt was a divider, not a uniter," Smith writes approvingly. FDR never called in Wall Street bankers before creating the SEC or signing the Glass-Steagall regulations; instead, he made sure he had the support of the American majority and ignored the "economic royalists" at the top. Roosevelt's greatness lay in an understanding that "governing involved choice and that choice engendered dissent"—a lesson Obama would be wise to learn.