Four More Years? Obama and the Third Term that Will Never Be.
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An Election Of Extraordinary Circumstances
“To us there has come a time, in the midst of swift happenings, to pause for a moment and take stock—to recall what our place in history has been, and to rediscover what we are and what we may be. If we do not, we risk the real peril of inaction.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during his third inaugural speech.
It was the 20th of January, 1941. British sailors aboard The Florian, a merchant ship bound for New York City, encountered a German U-Boat stalking prey in the Atlantic. All the Crown’s citizens, even humble merchants, were considered part of the war effort—and fair game for enemy submarines. A torpedo rocked the 3,000 ton Florian, which sunk and took all forty-one crewmen with her. And while countless servicemen and civilians perished across shrapnel-ridden Europe and Asia, a rebirth was taking place across the sea—as the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlived the traditional two-terms a Commander-in-Chief was expected to serve.
It was politeness, in those days, that kept presidents from seeking more time in office. A sense of propriety established by honest George himself. But Roosevelt knew this was an election of extraordinary circumstances, and he trusted no one with the country’s stewardship more than himself. The American people agreed.
“During the spring of 1939,” he said, accepting his party’s nomination, “world events made it clear to all but the blind or the partisan that a great war in Europe had become not merely a possibility but a probability, and that such a war would of necessity deeply affect the future of this nation.”
“When, in 1936, I was chosen by the voters for a second time as President, it was my firm intention to turn over the responsibilities of Government to other hands at the end of my term. That conviction remained with me. Eight years in the Presidency, following a period of bleak depression, and covering one world crisis after another, would normally entitle any man to the relaxation that comes from honorable retirement.”
Roosevelt was right, of course, to expect the world’s bout with fascism would escalate. His contemporary critics be damned; the American people loved him, as did they the entire Roosevelt family. This admiration earned him not just a third, but a fourth (if short-lived) term in office.
When Barack Hussein Obama took the oath sixty-eight years later, many on the Left feared (and on the Right dreamed) the fresh-faced progressive wouldn’t survive to see re-election. The JFK parallels were there. Both men were young, and popular with the young, and both men made history for their respective demographics (Kennedy was a Catholic, Obama is a black man). But it seems Obama’s true legacy is that of a would-be Franklin Roosevelt: the majority of Democrats, so pleased with his performance, want to see him take the oath for a third time.
And is this not an election of extraordinary circumstances? From the global rise of fringe-right populism to the stagnation of wages and deepening of poverty—the world could use a steady-hand for another four years. Given the choice, as the audacious Trey Parker resurrected, between a douche and turd, the country is ready for a None of the Above option to appear on the ballot.
They won’t get that option, thanks to the post-Roosevelt 22nd Amendment. But it is in the public imagination, the enamored minds of the populi, that President Obama enjoys third-term status.
The presidential parallels are apparent even in the negative aspects of both administrations. Like Obama, Roosevelt’s unwavering confidence and charisma served to hide the uglier aspects of his policy. And like Michelle, First Lady Eleanor was well-liked by those inclined to view the self-aware bourgeoisie favorably, and much-maligned by those inclined to judge literature before reading it. “[Franklin was] perfectly secure”, she recalls. “While I was perfectly insecure.”
The Obama Administration’s war on whistleblowers, and capitulation to cronies and quagmire-profiteers, are in some ways analogous to the blight on Roosevelt’s record—the autocratic concentration of Japanese Americans in internment camps.
What’s missing from President Obama’s record, and the parallel to FDR, is a sincere effort to relieve the burdens of the poor. The economic recovery has been significant but slow, and Obama’s love affair with free trade stands in stark contrast to Roosevelt’s worker-oriented economic policies. But these differences will fade from the public imagination after Obama leaves office—pesky historical details that American folk history obscures.
So too will the private lives of the Obamas prove less and less romantic—to the care and attention of few. Roosevelt’s affair with a young secretary crushed Eleanor, and their marriage became an entirely political partnership thereafter. Great leaders are remembered for their terms, not the private lives which quickly disprove their reputation as moral exemplars.
The great irony of the Hillary Clinton candidacy, which too often goes unmentioned, is that it aims to serve Obama’s third term for him. The public distaste for the former Secretary of State highlights the dichotomy between a popular president and the status-quo his Administration helped to bring about. It is Obama the man whom Democrats wish to reelect, but not necessarily his vision for America.
Poll: Would You Vote For Obama All Over Again?
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
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Timothy Bertrand is an author and journalist from Houston, Texas. He is the Associate Editor at Reverb Press and splits his time between covering breaking news and penning thoughtful literary essays.