This excerpt is from Schlesinger's The Age of Roosevelt: The Politics of Upheaval. The whole trilogy, I think, should be read by all serious liberals and progressives. The New Deal set the stage for modern liberalism, and conservatives understand very well what was done (and hate it) while liberals appear clueless.
The excerpt refers to Roosevelt's thoughts on the 36 election.
His (Roosevelt's) main problem, as he saw it, was the business domination of the media of opinion. "If the Republicans should win or make enormous gains," he wrot, "it would prove that an 85% control of the Press and a very definite campaign of misinformation can be effective here just as it was in the early days of the Hitler rise to power. Democracy is verily on trial." But he had one great weapon to counter the opposition of the newspapers. That was his own capacity as President to make news, and this he proposed to use to the utmost....
...Roosevelt's main fear about the election had been the press. His own estimate that 85 per cent of newspapers were against him was an exaggeration. Study of 150 leading newspapers showed that Landon had a combined circulation of about 15 million as against slightly under 7 million for Roosevelt. Of the smaller circulation newspapers, Roosevelt may have even had something close to a majority. But in the larger cities he fell badly behind. Of the big dailies, about 75% were for Landon, about 20% for Roosevelt. In the Chicago Tribune, days went by at the height of the campaign in which Roosevelt did not make the front page (one day he did not even make the paper at all). A typical Tribune lead: "Governor Alfred M. Landon tonight brought his great crusade for the preservation of the American form of government into Los Angeles." A Tribune headline: Roosevelt Area in Wisconsin is Hotbed of Vice.
Though the President complained a good deal about this situation privately, he did little to dramatize it as an issue. Yet the people themselves seemed to understand and resent the attitude of newspapers. During the great demonstration in Chicago, for example, the crowd shouted eptithets at the Tribune and Hearts's Herald-Examiner as the press cars drove by ("Where's the Tribune! Down with the Tribune! To hell with the Tribune!"). "These people no longer had any respect for the press, or confidence in it," commented Jon Stokes, watching the scene. "The press had finally overreached itself."
All liberals and progressives should read this trilogy. So many things that we take for granted, like Social Security, unemployment compensation, labor rights, and public works simply didn't exist before FDR. His government was for the people, not the rich. And the people loved him, enought to elect him four times. The Republicans have been dismantling what Roosevelt created. It's important to see how it all came into being in the first place because there sure as shit isn't much left.
The Crisis of the Old Order: 1919-1933, The Age of Roosevelt, Volume I by Aurthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919-1933, volume one of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and biographer Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s Age of Roosevelt series, is the first of three books that interpret the political, economic, social, and intellectual history of the early twentieth century in terms of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the spokesman and symbol of the period. Portraying the United States from the Great War to the Great Depression, The Crisis of the Old Order covers the Jazz Age and the rise and fall of the cult of business. For a season, prosperity seemed permanent, but the illusion came to an end when Wall Street crashed in October 1929. Public trust in the wisdom of business leadership crashed too. With a dramatist's eye for vivid detail and a scholar's respect for accuracy, Schlesinger brings to life the era that gave rise to FDR and his New Deal and changed the public face of the United States forever.
The Coming of the New Deal: 1933-1935, The Age of Roosevelt, Volume II by Aurthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
The Coming of the New Deal, 1933-1935, volume two of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and biographer Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s Age of Roosevelt series, describes Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first tumultuous years in the White House. Coming into office at the bottom of the Great Depression, FDR told the American people that they have nothing to fear but fear itself. The conventional wisdom having failed, he tried unorthodox remedies to avert economic collapse. His first hundred days restored national morale, and his New Dealers filled Washington with new approaches to recovery and reform. Combining idealistic ends with realistic means, Roosevelt proposed to humanize, redeem, and rescue capitalism. The Coming of the New Deal, written with Schlesinger's customary verve, is a gripping account of critical years in the history of the republic.
The Politics of Upheaval: 1935-1936, The Age of Roosevelt, Volume III by Aurthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
The Politics of Upheaval, 1935-1936, volume three of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and biographer Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s Age of Roosevelt series, concentrates on the turbulent concluding years of Franklin D. Roosevelt's first term. A measure of economic recovery revived political conflict and emboldened FDR's critics to denounce "that man in the White house." To his left were demagogues — Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and Dr. Townsend. To his right were the champions of the old order — ex-president Herbert Hoover, the American Liberty League, and the august Supreme Court. For a time, the New Deal seemed to lose its momentum. But in 1935 FDR rallied and produced a legislative record even more impressive than the Hundred Days of 1933 — a set of statutes that transformed the social and economic landscape of American life. In 1936 FDR coasted to reelection on a landslide. Schlesinger has his usual touch with colorful personalities and draws a warmly sympathetic portrait of Alf M. Landon, the Republican candidate of 1936.
Ilive on both sides of the Atlantic--part of the year in the U.S.A. and the other part in Spain, where I was born. I had to leave Spain because of my active participation in the anti-fascist underground against the Franco dictatorship in the 1950s. I lived for a while in Sweden and Great Britain, and finally settled in the U.S.A., teaching (as I still do) at the Johns Hopkins University. I have been active in U.S. academic and political life for more than 35 years. I was senior advisor to Jesse Jackson Sr. during the Democratic Party primaries of 1984 and 1988. In 1993 I worked in the White House with the Task Force on Health Care Reform, chaired by Hillary Clinton. The Rainbow Coalition and the trade unions of the health care sector (1199 locals) asked Mrs. Clinton to include me on her task force to make sure that "single payer" (the progressive proposal for health care reform) got a hearing. (See my article "Why HillaryCare Failed: Getting the Facts Right" in Counterpunch, November 2007.)
On the European side of the Atlantic, I started spending time in Spain after Franco's death and the establishment of democracy, becoming active in academic and political life. I have been advisor to several socialist governments in Spain and to the President of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell.
As a result of these experiences, I believe I know the U.S.A. and the E.U. well, and I am particularly worried by the European press's poor coverage of what is happening in the U.S. presidential primaries--partly through their manipulation of the facts, but often through simple incompetence. I include among these news sources El Pais, Le Monde, and the Financial Times. In their defense, it must be said that the U.S.A. is not an easy country to understand from a European perspective. The political cultures of the two continents are very different, and sometimes even opposite in their terminology or symbols. For example, red has always been the color of the left in Europe. "Reds" are people who hold left-wing views. "Red cities" are cities like Bologna in Italy or Barcelona in Spain that have always been governed by left-wing parties. Blue is the right-wing color. In U.S.A., it's precisely the opposite: "red states" are states won by the Republican Party (defined as the right-wing party) in presidential elections, and "blue states" are those won by the Democratic Party (considered, erroneously, to be the center-left party).
But the differences in political culture are much larger than a matter of the colors assigned to the two major parties. They include the terminology of political discourse. For example, U.S. politicians--such as Jesse Jackson--who call for larger public social expenditures, higher and more progressive taxation, and a greater role for the federal government in expanding social and labor rights, and who favor federal redistributive policies, are called "liberals." On the contrary, in Europe, a liberal is a politician who calls for precisely the opposite: reduced public social expenditures, lower taxes, and elimination of redistributive policies. Liberal parties are very small parties in Europe, indicating people's limited support for those policies. Yet the European press (including the newspapers noted above) constantly mistranslate the term "liberal" as used in the U.S.A.--writing, for example, that liberals favor higher taxes for the rich, more redistributive policies, and expansions in public social expenditures. Sometimes this misreporting occurs through incompetence, but sometimes intentionally. The right-wing liberal (in the European sense) Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, writes in an article in El Pais (January 10, 2008) that the most progressive sectors of the U.S. population are liberals (without clarifying that, in European terms, these liberals should be called social democrats). He is fully aware of the distinction, but he does not feel the urge to clarify it.
This type of reporting creates enormous confusion in Europe. It's no wonder that many of my European friends are mystified and tell me they never quite understand the U.S.A. They beg the U.S.A. to join the community of nations and, besides adopting the metric system, to talk like everyone else in the world, where red is red, blue is blue, and a liberal is a right-winger. [...]
It was President Clinton (not Prime Minister Blair) who, in 1994, instituted the Third Way--a "middle" way between the New Deal and the Gingrich conservatism that had gained control of Congress. Since then, the leaders of the Democratic Party have been on the center-right on domestic policies, and clearly on the right on foreign policies--sensitive to the economic and financial interests that supported and financed their campaigns for office. The foreign policy of recent Democratic administrations has been more interventionist than that of Republican administrations. And on domestic policies, Europeans are not fully aware of how far to the right the entire political spectrum is in the U.S.A compared with Europe. For example, not one of the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates (except Kucinich, who has left the primary race) has called for a publicly funded national health program (such as exists in all E.U. countries). The proposals for "universal" heath care programs, espoused by most Democratic candidates (except Obama) and some Republicans, are basically a call to make health insurance compulsory for everyone. Just as everyone who drives a car must have car insurance, so everyone would have to buy health insurance. These programs would rely on giving people tax incentives and subsidies (that will primarily benefit the insurance companies), without resolving the major problem of health coverage: the high costs and limited benefits of available health insurance coverage. Health benefits undercoverage is the largest problem in U.S. medical care; not until they actually need it do most people realize that their insurance does not cover the costs of their medical care. In the E.U., no party would dare challenge public funding as the major source of health care funding--not even the liberal parties. This should give an idea of how far to the right the entire U.S. political system has moved.
A primary reason for this state of affairs is the privatization of the electoral process, a characteristic unique to the U.S. electoral system. Candidates must raise a lot of money to buy access to the media, especially television. The TV industry sells time (completely unregulated) to the highest bidders. Most of the money that finances the campaigns comes from corporate America and the top one-third (by income) of the U.S. population. This would be illegal in all E.U. countries. As a matter of fact, many ministers in European governments have had to resign when it became apparent that they received private funds for electoral purposes. Not so in the U.S.A. A major reason why not a single viable presidential candidate is calling for publicly funded, universal health care (which is favored by most Americans) is the enormous power and influence of health insurance companies in the electoral process. Both Clinton and Obama have received considerable funds from these financial interests. Again, in the E.U., such open financial support of candidates would be illegal and considered corrupt. In the U.S.A., it is both legal and untainted by hints of corruption. According to Common Cause, 94% of candidates who won reelection in the Congressional elections of 2006 were the best-funded candidates. Money is the milk of politics in the U.S.A. And people know it: in polls, 68 per cent of respondents do not consider themselves well-represented in Congress. In no country of the E.U. does the population feel such a high degree of alienation from its government. This explains the high voter absenteeism in the U.S. electoral process.