“If Obama’s liberal critics paused, they would see the most liberal reforms in more than 40 years”

Good stuff from Bill Scher in the NYT, under the headline “How Liberals Win”:

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…Roosevelt may be remembered for his combativeness toward corporations; he famously said, “I welcome their hatred.” But he said that in 1936, only after key New Deal legislation had passed with the help of the United States Chamber of Commerce and the American Bankers Association.

Early on, Roosevelt was quite adept at bargaining with corporations. In his first 100 days, to attract corporate support for the National Industrial Recovery Act, he won collective bargaining, minimum wages and maximum hours in exchange for a temporary suspension of antitrust law, so businesses could fix prices. To establish the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934, he made concessions to Wall Street that scrapped statutory requirements in favor of regulatory flexibility. The following year, to allow the Federal Reserve to better conduct monetary policy, he gave bankers representation on the policy committee.

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The necessity of forging coalitions with corporations is understandably difficult for progressives to accept. Every time it happens, corporations seem to quickly go back to their usual tricks. They lobby to weaken enforcement. They litigate to have rules overturned. They abandon politicians who risked compromise for them. Corporations are exasperating, irritating and untrustworthy partners.

But most of the time politics is exasperating and irritating, not euphoric and cathartic. As Roosevelt himself told a group of dissatisfied youth activists in 1940, “if you ever sit here you will learn that you cannot, just by shouting from the housetops, get what you want all the time.”

As much as Roosevelt enjoyed pugnacity, he also understood its limits. Because Mr. Obama heeded this lesson of liberal history, there was a health care law for the Supreme Court to uphold.

 

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