“For twelve years, our nation was afflicted with ‘see nothing, hear nothing, do nothing’ government.” That is what President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared in a campaign speech at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on this day, Halloween, in 1936. Make that “eight years,” and a presidential nominee could give the speech today. Count the previous Bush administration and you got those twelve years, an era that the majority of those polled—and the majority of those looking on beyond US borders—are anxious to consider bygone next January.
“The nation looked to that government, but that government looked away,” FDR continued. It had been “nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadline. Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair.” Checking that Wall Street ticker lately, I have come to suspect that those years of despair and breadlines may well lie ahead. They will be a test for the candidate who succeeds next Tuesday.
FDR, who had pulled America out of that crisis, warned that “powerful influences” were “trying to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that government is best which is most indifferent to mankind.” That, to me, sums up Republican politics, the kind of politics that count on the voters’ lowest impulse, individual greed, to sell its idea of carrying on at the expense of all else, be it nature or the future of mankind.
“For four years now,” FDR reminded his listeners,
you have had an administration, which instead of twirling its thumbs, has rolled up its sleeves. And I assure you that we keep our sleeves rolled up. We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace, business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs; and we know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.
I am sure that many Republicans fear nothing more tonight than the impending end of politics as usual; and they have as good a reason to be afraid as do those who dread the prospect of having to endure such politics for another four, devastating years. Whatever your mask or affiliations, this is the night to be scared together. Happy Halloween!