We hear people compare Barack Obama to Franklin Delano Roosevelt quite a lot, usually in an unfavorable manner. We also hear people talk about 1937 as an object lesson on what not to repeat about the latter Roosevelt administration. In 1937, FDR embraced budget-balancing and stalled the recovery the country had been enjoying from the Great Depression. I just want to put things in some context. The 75th Congress, which served from 1937-1939 had 76 Democrats and 16 Republicans serving in the Senate. It also had two members of Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party, one member of the Wisconsin Progressive Party (Robert M. La Follette, Jr.), and one progressive independent (George W. Norris of Nebraska). In other words, the U.S. Senate had an 80-16 margin against the Republicans. The House of Representatives was similarly stacked 347-88 against the GOP.
These numbers can be very deceptive. The Democratic Party of the 1930’s was dominated by Jim Crow-supporting Southern segregationists. And they were even more culturally conservative than their modern-day Republican counterparts. In the 75th Congress, the only Republican senator serving anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line was John Townsend of Delaware. Still, President Roosevelt could count on his party members to support him in most things. He had immense power. You simply cannot compare the kind of power he had to any other president in history.
Imagine if Barack Obama was operating with more than 80 Democrats in the Senate, more than 340 seats in the House, and that his party controlled the entire South and all of Appalachia. Do you think he might behave a little differently than he is behaving now? Why, he might even try to stack the Supreme Court!!