Franklin D. Roosevelt

Campaign Address at Brooklyn, New York

November 01, 1940

Mrs. Burke, Governor Lehman, Mr. Kelly:

Sentiment is a very wonderful and continuing thing in the human race. It has brought me back again to this old Brooklyn Academy of Music on the Friday night before election.

This is a funny campaign. It is a strange campaign. Here it is almost the day of election and it is still impossible to determine what are the principles of the opposition party. What is it that the Republican leaders would do during the next four years if they were given a chance?

They have made campaign speeches on all sides of all questions.

On a Monday we hear that this Administration has done a good job in its foreign policy; but on Tuesday we hear the foreign policies of the United States condemned.

On a Wednesday we understand that our policy toward agriculture should not be changed; and on Thursday we learn to our amazement that the farmers have been the victims of the New Deal and are forced to exist on a dole.

And so it goes. On a Friday we are treated to the encouraging thought that the social gains of labor during the past seven years should be continued; and on Saturday we are told to weep because labor has been the principal sufferer under the New Deal. (Laughter)

To one group, further and bigger relief is held out; and to the big taxpayers, cuts in expenditures are promised.

One day they say they would continue our good neighbor policy; the next day they hurl insults at certain of our good neighbors to the south.

That is the way they seek to catch a vote here and catch a vote there and pick one out of the air.

There is, however, one explanation for these contradictions, rather a sad explanation. It is found in the very strange assortment of political bedfellows who have been brought together in the Republican political dormitory.

Many conflicting interests, many irreconcilable social outlooks, many fundamentally opposite economic attitudes, have been thrown together under one political roof.

The only common philosophy and the only common purpose they have is to get wholly rid of all the New Deal—lock, stock and barrel—and to get control of Government in their own hands for their own purposes.

Just as they have not been able to foist their falsifications on the American people, they will never be able to foist this only common purpose of theirs upon the American people now.

We will all see to that next Tuesday.

We all know the story of the unfortunate chameleon which turned brown when placed on a brown rug, and turned red when placed on a red rug, but who died a tragic death when they put him on a Scotch plaid. We all know what would happen to Government if it tried to fulfill all the secret understandings and promises made between the conflicting groups which are now backing the Republican Party.

There is something very ominous in this combination that has been forming within the Republican Party between the extreme reactionary and the extreme radical elements of this country.

There is no common ground upon which they can unite—we know that-unless it be their common will to power, and their impatience with the normal democratic processes to produce overnight the inconsistent dictatorial ends that they, each of them, seek.

No elements in American public life have made such vicious attacks upon each other in recent years as have the members of this new unholy alliance against each other.

I do not think that some of the men, even some of the leaders, who have been drawn into this unholy alliance realize what a threat that sort of an alliance may bring to the future of democracy in this country.

I am certain that the rank and file of patriotic Republicans do not realize the nature of this threat.

They should remember, and we must remember, what the collaborative understanding between Communism and Naziism has done to the processes of democracy abroad.

Something evil is happening in this country when a full page advertisement against this Administration, paid for by Republican supporters, appears—where, of all places?— in the Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party.

Something evil is happening in this country when vast quantities of Republican campaign literature are distributed by organizations that make no secret of their admiration for the dictatorship form of government.

Those forces hate democracy and Christianity as two phases of the same civilization. They oppose democracy because it is Christian. They oppose Christianity because it preaches democracy.

Their objective is to prevent democracy from becoming strong and purposeful. We are strong and purposeful now and intend to remain so.

Back in the 20's, in the years after the last World War, Americans worked and built many things, but few of our people then stopped to think why they were working and why they were building and whither they were tending.

Those were the days when prosperity was measured only by the stock ticker.

There were the factory workers forced to labor long hours at low wages in sweat-shop conditions. They could look forward to no security in their old age. They could look forward to no insurance during periods of unemployment.

There were the farmers of the Nation, overburdened with debt and with farm surpluses, their income vanishing, their farms threatened with foreclosure.

There were the natural resources of the land, being wasted-soil, forests, minerals and water power.

There were millions of workers, unable to organize to protect their livelihoods, unable to form trade unions.

There were the small businesses of the Nation, threatened by the monopolies of concentrated wealth.

The savings of the many were entrusted to supposedly great financiers, who were to lose those savings in fantastic adventures of giant holding companies and giant investment trusts.

The crash came as it had to come. And then for three years the American people waited and suffered. For three years the American Government did nothing to help.

In 1933, the American people began to bestir themselves. They had come to learn that inaction offered no escape from the problems of a troubled and changing world.

The American people determined then and there that what could not be done by individual effort could be done through joint effort; that what the industrial and financial leaders could not do, or would not do, a democratic Government could do and would do!

You all know the history of recovery, beginning in 1933, and progressing ever since.

Our economic system began again to function. Then came the suggestion from monopolistic finance that while the Government had done a good rescue job, the best thing it could do at that point was to forget all about it, and to turn the whole economic system back to Wall Street to run again.

But they little knew the temper of the American people. The New Deal was no mere rescue party to restore to a chosen few their old power over the people's savings, the people's labor, the people's lives.

We had seen social unrest at home and abroad— the frustrated hopes of common men and women, the apathy which is the forerunner of cynicism, the despair which dissolves civilization. What this Administration was determined to do was to save America from that frustration and from that despair.

We all remember how negligible was the opposition that this Administration met in the early days when it was cleaning up the wreckage, which had come from the era of speculation.

The bitter opposition from Republican leaders did not come until a little later. It came when this Administration made it clear that we were not merely salvaging a few things from the past, but that we were determined to make our system of private enterprise and private profit work more efficiently, more democratically, to fill the demands and needs of all the people of this land.

We understand the philosophy of those who offer resistance, of those who conduct a counter offensive against the American people's march of social progress. It is not an opposition which comes necessarily from wickedness—it is an opposition that comes from subconscious resistance to any measure that disturbs the position of privilege.

It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach.

I am, as you know, a firm believer in private enterprise and in private property. I am a firm believer in the American opportunity of men and women to rise in private enterprise.

But, of course, if private opportunity is to remain safe, average men and women must be able to have it as a part of their own individual satisfaction in life and their own stake in democracy.

With that in view, we have pushed ahead with social and economic reforms, determined that this period in American life should be written down as an heroic era—an era in which men fought not merely to preserve a past, but to build a future.

You and I have seen nations great and small go down in ruin, or get backed up against the wall, because the reactionary men who led them could not see the real danger that threatened. They were afraid of losing their own selfish privilege and power. They feared the legitimate forward surge of their own common people, more than they feared the menacing might of foreign dictators.
From them, we in the United States take warning.

Most Republican leaders in our own country for the last seven years have bitterly fought and blocked that forward surge of average men and women in their pursuit of happiness. And let us not be deluded that overnight those leaders have suddenly become the real friends of these average men and women.

Do you believe that the bulk of the money to finance this vast Republican campaign is being provided by people who have the interests of the common man at heart? You know, very few of us are that gullible.

Oh, they may say at election time that they approve the social gains and social objectives of the last seven years. But I say that these men have not yet proven that they even understand what these social gains or social objectives have been.

The people throughout this country know how many and how difficult were the battles that we have fought and won in the last seven years.

Do you want to abandon the protection of people's savings from fraudulent manipulators, the curbing of giant holding companies that despoiled investors and consumers alike, by delivering them into the hands of those who have fought those reforms?

Do you want to abandon the responsibility for the well-being of those who live and work on the farms of the Nation to those who fought against the farm program every inch of the way?

Do you want to abandon collective bargaining, the outlawing of child labor, the minimum wage, the time-and-a-half for overtime, the elimination of sweat-shop conditions, by turning them over to the proven enemies of labor?

Do you want to hamstring the old-age pension system, or unemployment insurance, or aid for children, or maternity welfare, or vocational training for the physically handicapped, or financial aid to the blind by delivering them into the hands of those who have fought and misrepresented those reforms?

Do you want to abandon slum clearance to those Republican leaders who have fought against every appropriation for decent housing?

Do you want to turn over your Government to those who failed to have confidence in the future of America and who now preach fear for the future of America? As an example of that doctrine of fear, certain insurance companies are now sending letters to their policyholders, warning them that if this Administration is retained in office, their policies will shrink in value.

That is just another form of things we have seen before, another form, for instance, of that pay-envelope campaign—that campaign of fear of the last week of 1936.

The fact is that the very existence of most of these insurance companies I speak of was saved by this Administration in 1933. They are today more solvent than they ever were before.

If there were a vestige of truth in these dangerous forebodings, the bonds of the United States Government would be selling at a very low price, instead of well above par. Why, it was only last week that the Treasury of the United States sold some one-year bonds, to pay for public housing—one hundred million dollars worth of them at an interest rate of only one-quarter of one per cent.

And I must not forget to mention that that bond issue was over-subscribed eighteen times. That certainly indicates the solidity of the credit of the United States. And if you need further proof, take a look at the statement of the Commonwealth and Southern System. There you will find that they have bought and hold twenty-one million dollars of United States Government bonds!

Our program in the past, our program for the future, is, as you know, equality of economic opportunity. Such a program calls for many things. It requires an orderly settlement of industrial disputes not by those devoted to company unions, but by agencies alert to the requirements of labor and mindful of the responsibilities of industry.

This program entails old-age insurance and unemployment insurance, operating on an increasingly wider base, so that eventually it will include every man and woman in the country.

It makes available cheap credit to impoverished tenants, to consumers, and to small business. In fact, it has always seemed to me that our program starts with small business, so that it may grow and flourish.

It curbs the old predatory activities of high finance and monopoly practices.

It guarantees that our national resources are used for the benefit of the whole people—and not exploited for the benefit of a few.

It provides for the resettlement of farmers from marginal lands to richer lands, and for farm ownership for enslaved tenants.

Monopoly does not like this program. Certain types of high finance do not like it. Most of the American plutocracy do not like it.

But the vast majority of American business, the backbone of American business, continues to grow and flourish under it. For that business is interested in reasonable profits, not in promoters' tribute. That business is interested in freedom from monopolistic restraints and economic imperialism. That business knows that the farmers and the workers, the great mass of our citizens, have never asked for more than equality and fair play.

We are a nation of many nationalities, many races, many religions-bound together by a single unity, the unity of freedom and equality.

Whoever seeks to set one nationality against another, seeks to degrade all nationalities.

Whoever seeks to set one race against another seeks to enslave all races.

Whoever seeks to set one religion against another, seeks to destroy all religion.

So-called racial and religious voting blocs are the creation of designing politicians who profess to be able to deliver them on Election Day. But every American citizen—realizing how precious is his right to the sacred secret ballot—does scorn and will scorn such unpatriotic politicians. The vote of Americans will be American—and only American.

The true attitude of some leaders of the Republican party toward the common man is not frequently revealed, but occasionally their true feelings break through the restraints which a political campaign places upon their tongues, and suddenly they misspeak themselves. We can then see their true sentiments in all their naked unloveliness.

In a Republican campaign speech the other day, a prominent leader of the Philadelphia bar delivered himself in these words, quoted in The New York Times.

"The President's only supporters," he said, "are paupers, those who earn less than $1,200 a year and aren't worth that, and the Roosevelt family."

I think we might just as well forget the Roosevelt family, but these Americans whom this man calls "paupers," these Americans who, in his view, are not worth the income they receive, small though it is—who are they? They are only millions and millions of American families, constituting a very large part of the Nation! They are only the common men and women who have helped build this country, who have made it great, and who would defend it with their lives if the need arose.

The demand for social and economic justice comes from those who receive less than $1,200 a year, but not from them alone. For I believe that when Americans cross this dividing line of $100 a month, they do not lose their devotion to social and economic justice.

They do not suddenly become greedy and selfish. And I count among my supporters millions of other men and women who vote by the dictates of their hearts and minds, and not by the size of their bank accounts.

"Paupers" who are not worth their salt—there speaks the true sentiment of the Republican leadership in this year of grace.

Can the Republican leaders deny that all this all-too-prevailing Republican sentiment is a direct, vicious, unpatriotic appeal to class hatred and class contempt?

That, my friends, is just what I am fighting against with all my heart and soul.

I am only fighting for a free America—for a country in which all men and women have equal rights to liberty and justice.

I am fighting against the revival of Government by special privilege- Government by lobbyists- Government vested in the hands of those who favor and who would have us imitate the foreign dictatorships.

I am fighting, as I always have fought, for the rights of the little man as well as the big man—for the weak as well as the strong, for those who are helpless as well as for those who can help themselves.

I am fighting to keep this Nation prosperous and at peace. I am fighting to keep our people out of foreign wars, and to keep foreign conceptions of Government out of our own United States.

I am fighting for these great and good causes. I am fighting to defend them against the power and might of those who now rise up to challenge them.
And I will not stop fighting.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Campaign Address at Brooklyn, New York Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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