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Undoing the New Deal: Clinton Rolled Back the Deal, Obama Blew an FDR Moment (pt6)
Historian Gerald Horne says that President Clinton's "reforms" were a staggering blow to the social safety net; President Obama had a rare political moment where he could have created a modern New Deal, but he wouldn't do it.
Dr. Gerald Horne holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. His research has addressed issues of racism in a variety of relations involving labor, politics, civil rights, international relations and war. Dr. Horne has also written extensively about the film industry. His latest book is The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. Dr. Horne received his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and his B.A. from Princeton University.
Paul: Gerald is the John Jay and Rebecca Morris Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. He's the author of the Counterrevolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the united states of america. Thanks for joining us again, Gerald.
Gerald Horne: Thank you for inviting me.
Paul: So, before we kind of pick up again a bit of Reagan and then move into Clinton. You wanted to make a comment about FDR. Go ahead.
Gerald Horne: Well, I think that in our previous analysis, we were relatively charitable toward FDR, and I don't think that was necessarily misplaced. What I mean is we were trying to explain how and why it was that so many New Deal programs tended to exclude black workers, and can you lay that wholly at the doorstep of the occupant of the Oval Office or should you do a broader analysis of the race and class forces that he was confronting? That is to say, the opposition in Dixie, not only by Dixiecrats, that is to say political leaders within his own party, but also a mass movement amongst many white workers, who were upset about any uplifting of black workers.
Gerald Horne: What was interesting about FDR, what he was trying to do and run around that, by having a dual partnership with his spouse, Eleanor Roosevelt, who in many ways, was saying many progressive things that the president himself felt he was not able to say because of this relationship with the Dixiecrats. And I think that that same kind of political configuration that we're confronted with, which is really screwy in the United States, that is to say, we don't have a Labor Party that represents labor. Black, white, brown, etc.
Gerald Horne: We have these parties of mixed-class formations, a Democratic Party that unions at its base and has, at the elite level, has many Wall Street elements, who are not necessarily dependent upon an organized labor force, and then you have a Republican Party that has many white, working class and middle class folk at its base, but then has at its apex many bosses who are dependent upon a broad swath of working class labor.
Gerald Horne: As long as you have that rather dysfunctional class and political party configuration, you're gonna have difficulty pushing through any kind of social democratic measure.
Paul: Okay. So, let's move into ... in terms of Reagan, we talked about he takes advantage of this moment that the legislation of the 1960s sent a lot of what were Dixiecrats, southern racist members of the Democratic Party over to the Republican Party. There's resentment in the white working class about many of these reforms; Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty, which did benefit black workers, certainly more directly than New Deal measures in the 1930s. And in a time of globalization; it takes a great big leap, to my mind, it's a whole other conversation, but it has a lot to do with the development of digitization.
Paul: You can now rationalize international production in a way that you never could and in the 1980s, this really starts to take off, weakening the power of American workers and American unions. But big government, to a large extent, actually really means, undo social programs. When Reagan says, "Let's have smaller government," he doesn't mean let's have a smaller military. He means, let's get rid of social programs, those from the 30s and the 60s. And that message tends to resonate in his favor.