Instead, I'm going to dust off my Audacity of Hope and show that this November doesn't have to end with an establishment candidate being bested by an outsider, but rather the political Prodigal Son story revolving around two of our most Progressive Presidents of the 20th century. There is reason to hope, despite everything we've learned to the contrary, that upon reaching the highest office in the land a candidate can undergo a transformation. No longer do the deep pockets of donors or the shrill demands of political bosses matter, because you literally can't go any higher in America, maybe even in the world. Indeed, reaching the White House can cause a formerly conservatively minded Democrat to look at things in an entirely different way when the responsibilities of 300 million souls lay within your very hands.
I want to speak about two such conservative, moderate Democrats: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson.
The Miller Center at the University of Virginia speaks of FDR's 1932 campaign as follows:
Many leaders of the Democratic Party saw in Roosevelt an attractive mixture of experience (as governor of New York and as a former vice presidential candidate) and appeal (the Roosevelt name itself, which immediately associated FDR with his remote cousin, former President Theodore Roosevelt.)
It's almost as if he and Mrs. Clinton could have shared a hot dog at the Harvard-Yale game. For more evidence, the Miller Center goes on:
Roosevelt's campaign for president was necessarily cautious. His opponent, President Herbert Hoover, was so unpopular that FDR's main strategy was not to commit any gaffes that might take the public's attention away from Hoover's inadequacies and the nation's troubles.As shocking as it may seem, FDR ran a rather conservative campaign, much different from the Democratic Socialism he became known for with the New Deal programs. It was in the time between his election and his inauguration (which had been moved up to January specifically to get him working on fixing the problems earlier than previous Presidents) that he realized the amazing burden and responsibility placed on him, and he became that great liberal, progressive bastion we know and honor today.
|FDR meets LBJ, 1937.|
In 1937, FDR met a young man named Lyndon B. Johnson, a fellow New Deal Democrat who was just starting out on what became a long career in government. Twenty-three years later, LBJ would find himself as a Vice Presidential candidate to another in a long line of charismatic, starry-eyed young Democrats named John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was a candidate that promised pie-in-the-sky reforms and made promises no one thought he could keep, including Johnson. Johnson even formed a "Stop Kennedy" coalition before eventually agreeing to be the more established, conservative member on the ticket.
And we all know what happened after three years of Vice Presidential frustration. Dallas, 1963, John F. Kennedy, the dreamer from Camelot, was slain. Onboard Air Force One, Lyndon Johnson became President of the United States. The more conservative, more establishment part of the ticket now found himself in the driver's seat... and he proceeded to force through, with all of his cunning and experience, every pie-in-the-sky idea JFK had envisioned. Sitting in that office, being given that responsibility... it can change a person.
So it is all right to have hope as a Progressive, even though all may seem lost to a New Gilded Age of big donors, big money and big corruption. There is no shame in supporting the establishment candidate, especially when the major competition is America's latest flirtation with fascism. But it is always important to remember who changes that person when they assume the office. It isn't the donors, or the money, or the political machine. It is 300 million Americans who that President suddenly is responsible for, and it is our job to not only hold their feet to the fire, but to bring the fire to them, blazing on a torch, if need be. We are STILL a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, damn it, and the people will be heard.
The people were heard when FDR took on the banks to rescue people starving in the streets.
The people were heard when LBJ kept our seniors from freezing to death in their tenements.
The people were heard when Jimmy Carter served four years without corruption or war.
The people were heard when Bernie Sanders spoke of a political revolution.
It can't end here. It won't end here. It's our country, and we have the power. All we need to do is exercise it. America is a center-left, progressive nation, and its time we made our voices heard. Our voices have changed the minds of conservative Democrats for nearly a century now, and it will happen again, of that there can be no doubt.
At Your Service,