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The modern conservative movement born in the 1950s had two main objects: It was anti-Communist, and anti-New Deal. Lately, however, some conservatives have warmed up to both FDR and the New Deal, which has to have Robert Taft rolling over in his grave—and maybe William F. Buckley, Jr. too. Conrad Black, an esteemed man of the right, has long championed FDR as a “champion of freedom” (the subtitle of his ginormous—and excellent—biography of FDR), but others on the Trumpian right have lately been thinking that perhaps FDR and the New Deal might be useable for conservative purposes today.
“Lucretia” and I aren’t so sure, and so in a return to our seminar format, we walk through one of Roosevelt’s most revealing speeches—the “Commonwealth Club Address” of September 1932, which we think reveals FDR to be a very clever and insidious preserver of Woodrow Wilson’s Progressivism, but the more artful FDR appears to be preserving the American Founding while re-interpreting it along Wilsonian lines. It was one of the great Brinks jobs in American politics, whose effects are still very very much with us today. (Footnote: For all of his admiration for FDR, Conrad Black gets the Commonwealth Club speech right in his FDR biography, and it is significant that most of the sympathetic liberal FDR biographers skip over this important speech entirely, because they don’t take ideas seriously.)
Then, along with some current whisky news, we review briefly Ibram X. Kendi’s struggle to define racism. It isn’t pretty. In fact the circular logic of his answer will leave you dizzy, even without a second and third whisky. Cheers!
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