A New New Deal?

Lawrence Goodwyn, a historian of democratic and social movements, retired from the history department of Duke University, argues that a divorce from reality will propel a “large-scale party realignment with historic implications” for the progressive movement, comparable to that which led to the New Deal.

The time is 1930. Democrats have just found themselves in control of the House under conditions they did not create and could not have imagined even two years earlier. They have essentially been bystanders at the instant of their ascendancy. The decisive political fact is that something fundamental has gone terribly awry. The disaster has come upon the nation with great speed, the consequences have gotten more severe with every passing day and the President is doing nothing in response. Instead he makes pious speeches that depress people because they do not address reality. A testy minority has long seen him as a complacent man nursing a penchant for pomposity. To them, his posture comes across as disdain for the suffering of millions, not to mention the mounting anxiety of almost everybody else. He has begun to be hated by many people and is no longer trusted by most. The disaster that generates all this is called the Great Depression. The President who does not act but speaks in slogans is named Herbert Hoover. Though the Civil War had conferred great prestige on the Republican Party, suddenly, after many decades, grave peril looms.

Much here rests on a widespread popular perception that something is indeed fundamentally wrong; this is a conviction I do not yet see as gaining traction.

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