This Week in Red-Baiting

A new chain e-mail making its way around the internet cites to a political cartoon from the Chicago Tribune which, in 1934, made the same allegations against President Franklin Roosevelt that the “tea parties” make against President Obama.

Click to enlarge. You don't want to miss a thing.

It’s all there. The nasty, senseless anti-elitism (“Young pinkies from Columbia and Harvard”); obligatory reference to Stalin, at the time history’s most recent monster (it would be Hitler, but he wasn’t around yet); the pathos-laced reverence for constitutional restraints that had already been dead for 35 years (“Junk the Constitution and declare a dictatorship”); and the notion that every dollar spent improving our country somehow brings us one step closer to socialism and monarchy. Truly, all it’s missing is a tea partier standing athwart the carriage, decked out in Revolutionary War garb, waving a Gadsden Flag or “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” sign, and shouting,  “I JUST LOVE MY COUNTRY.”

The e-mail closes with a grim foreboding, in obligatory blue font:

Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. Santayana

Apparently, the lesson we’re to take is that the same fears adhere with equal force today. But that’s not the conclusion I draw. This comic is from 1934; seventy-six years and one massive New Deal later, we’re no closer to socialism, Communism, or tyranny, and the Constitution is doing quite fine, thank-you-very-much. Might we instead take the cue that red-baiting back then was about as based in fact as red-baiting is today, which is to say, not at all?



  1. Aww, isn’t that the cutest little Trotsky ever? ^_^

    Stalin looks nothing like Stalin, though. Good thing they put a label on him.

  2. The hell of it is, I’ve been in online arguments with people who seriously think we did slide into (presumably mild) socialism under FDR.

  3. Academically speaking, we did abandon pure laissez-faire long, long ago — so concerns about it are either overblown, or more than a century late!

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