Last night, I read the speech FDR gave in which that famous line, "I ask you judge me by the enemies I have made," comes up, at the very end of his remarks.
It is a little eerie reading that speech today, because it was delivered in 1932, 73 years ago, and yet it is so current--it could be given, almost for the same reasons, today.
He was speaking in Portland, Oregon about efforts to make the electric companies into utilities and he was laying down the justification for the creation of utilities and the concept of utilities. When you think about it, the idea of a utility is sort of an anti capitalistic thing. You are taking a private company and saying, "You can produce your electricity, you can run your railroad, you can provide your water to the public but you cannot charge whatever you like and you will be controlled and regulated by the government."
What a socialistic, communistic idea! Donald Trump would be turning crimson. Rush Limbaugh would be fulminating and frothing at the mouth. The very idea! Here you have that highest of all economic forms, the private corporation being told it cannot charge what it likes for its products and services.
Roosevelt begins by going back to King James of England and his problem with ferry services at English rivers. Roads at the time of his reign ran to the river's edge but then a ferry was needed to allow travelers and commerce to proceed. The service of ferrying was vital to the economy and to functioning of the people. But the ferry services constituted a monopoly, just as, in 19th century America, the railroads did. The land the railroads traversed was sold to oligarchs at fire sale prices and then the railroad barons had the American traveling public by the throat. So the railroads were, eventually, brought under control of anti monopoly, anti trust law.
Now, Roosevelt was arguing, electricity was in the same position. He pointed out that in Canada each household used three times as much electricity as in America because the people in Canada controlled access to electric power but in America progress was being thwarted by the strangle hold the electric power companies held to control the costs, delivery and development of electricity and the electric grid. He argued that whenever the interests of the many came into conflict with the interests of the few, the principle should be the greatest good for the greatest number.
Bernie Sanders, who Donald Trump calls a "communist" is arguing the same thing. He is a direct descendant of FDR.
Roosevelt carefully constructs his argument, about something which seems so self evident today--that the good of the whole is more important than serving the narrow interest of the few--you wonder why he even needed to make the point. But, as someone once said, if you are going to lie, the big lie is easiest to sell. So if you are Rush or Donald, you say it's more important, on principle, to mold your rules to the benefit of the upper 1% than it is to serve the interests of the lower 90%. This is, after all, a matter of "playing by the rules."
Of course, as Bernie Sanders has noted, the rules are rigged. Rigged by the rule makers who are bought and owned by the 1%.
Liberals now call themselves "progressives." But oh, how little progress we have made, when it comes to thought.
Fortunately, FDR persuaded the nation electricity was too important to be left in the hands of a few rich men. Can you imagine what our nation would be like today if FDR had lost that argument?
Can you imagine what America will be like in 73 years if Donald Trump or any of the Republican bullies wins the argument today?