The late Franklin Delano Roosevelt is one of the more popular presidents that the United States ever had. We see him featured on television and many of his famous speeches are immortalized in books and on mainstream and social media.
It was President Roosevelt who said the following in 1933: “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Fast forward to 2016 and Donald Trump was elected45th president of the U.S. The 2016 election allowed the Republican Party to gain the majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. President Barack Obama was an inspirational head of state and his eight-years in the White House moved the nation beyond our expectations. How did this happen? Iwondered and thought hardas I saw the nationwide election returns on television.
“It’s the economy, stupid,” was candidate Bill Clinton’s campaign message and he used thissuccessfully to unseat George H.W. Bush because of the prevailing recessionwhen he (Clinton) was campaigning for the White House.
In 1992, “the economy, stupid” made sense but it did not in 2016. What then propelled Trump and the Republican Party to the seat of power?
I believe it was the use of F-E-A-R and nothing else.
The “fear itself quote”from FDR was first heard during hisinaugural address on March 4, 1933. By 1933 depression in the U.S. reached its peak. Hopelessness and economic uncertainties overwhelmed the American people and the whole nation. FDR’sspeech sought to reverse the trend and the corresponding mindset of the people byoutlining in very broad terms how he planned to lead and to govern. FDR reminded Americans that the nation’s “common difficulties” were related only to “material things.”
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper,” said FDR as he started his speech. He spoke with raised voice, talked forcefully, but with sincerityas he said “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself— nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”
In 2016, President Trump’s campaign slogan“Make America Great Again” was formulated based on fear, as in “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
It was based on fear Muslims and refugees. He did not talk about the economy but about the fear that immigrants, including the undocumented that he called “illegals” were taking away jobs and stealing the nation’s prosperity by being on welfare and taking other benefits from the government.
It was also about fear that diversity is abolishing the “white privilege” of being superior and dominant in all aspects of life in America and in the world.
What happens when leaders say and propagate these lines? People are divided. The nation gets divided. Instead of looking at our neighbors as our allies in promoting a common agenda for the nation, we view one another with suspicion. Trust erodes and the nation is in trouble. Fears, phobias, and danger when emphasized shape very unreasonable thinking and opinion.
Let’s stop fear from ruling over us. It’s time to dig deeper inside us and find reason and truth as we go to the precincts to vote this coming mid-term election.
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio “Jojo” Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.