By Alfonso KC
The 32nd president of the United States, the one that brought us Social Security and The New Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, wanted us to criticize corporate Democrats from the very beginning. I’m not kidding.
In 1940, when he was running for his third term, he decided to drop his former Vice President, John Garner. He did this mostly because Garner was not progressive enough; Garner was opposed to a majority of The New Deal, and was opposed to FDR running for a third term. Ouch.
After FDR replaced him with former Secretary of Agriculture, Henry Wallace, Garner and other southern conservative Democrats tried to block FDR from nomination.
In response, he wrote a letter directed to the Democratic Convention, saying that he wouldn’t run for his third term if Democrats blocked Wallace. This letter was never sent because a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt at the convention turned the tide. It was basically unpublished and unknown, until Oliver Stone featured the letter in his Showtime series, Untold History of the United States.
Here is the letter…
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Letter to the Democratic Convention / July 18, 1940
Members of the Convention:
In the century in which we live, the Democratic Party has received the support of the electorate only when the party, with absolute clarity, has been the champion of progressive and liberal policies and principles of government.
The party has failed consistently when through political trading and chicanery it has fallen into the control of those interests, personal and financial, which think in terms of dollars instead of in terms of human values.
The Republican Party has made its nominations this year at the dictation of those who, we all know, always place money ahead of human progress.
The Democratic Convention, as appears clear from the events of today, is divided on this fundamental issue. Until the Democratic Party through this convention makes overwhelmingly clear its stand in favor of social progress and liberalism, and shakes off all the shackles of control fastened upon it by the forces of conservatism, reaction, and appeasement, it will not continue its march of victory.
It is without question that certain political influences pledged to reaction in domestic affairs and to appeasement in foreign affairs have been busily engaged behind the scenes in the promotion of discord since this Convention convened.
Under these circumstances, I cannot, in all honor, and will not, merely for political expediency, go along with the cheap bargaining and political maneuvering which have brought about party dissension in this convention.
It is best not to straddle ideals.
In these days of danger when democracy must be more than vigilant, there can be no connivance with the kind of politics which has internally weakened nations abroad before the enemy has struck from without.
It is best for America to have the fight out here and now.
I wish to give the Democratic Party the opportunity to make its historic decision clearly and without equivocation. The party must go wholly one way or wholly the other. It cannot face in both directions at the same time.
By declining the honor of the nomination for the presidency, I can restore that opportunity to the convention. I so do.
For more background and context on FDR’s letter and his showdown with Wall Street democrats check out: FDR Reminds Us To Criticize Corporate Democrats.