The Democratic president was furious. He considered Republicans fascists who colluded with foreign autocrats and tyrants to impose a right-wing dictatorship upon Americans. Attuned to his whims, members of his administration and fellow Democrats echoed his view and denounced the GOP as fascists.
The word began to circulate that [the GOP nominee] was nothing but a stalking horse for reactionary, big business Republicans who planned a Fascist-style takeover of the government…
“[The GOP nominee] is distinctly dangerous,” [a cabinet member wrote]. “With him in the White House, the monied interests would be in full control and we could expect an American brand of fascism as soon as he could set it up…”
[The Democrats’] vice president nominee said… “But you can be sure that every Nazi, every Hitlerite, and every appeaser is a Republican.”
Coming to believe his own campaign’s mudslinging smears, the paranoid president accused his opponents of undermining national security; and, despite a congressional ban upheld by the Supreme Court, nevertheless directed the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to surveille, investigate, and compile files upon the millions of citizens who disagreed with the president and his administration by, in significant part, through the illegal means of spying upon their communications.
[The president] to his press secretary a stack of more than a hundred telegrams, all of them critical of his speech. Their senders, the president said, were clearly opposed to a strong national defense, and he wanted the [FBI Director] “to go over these, noting the names and addresses” of the people who had dispatched them. [The FBI Director] did more than that, checking out each name and reporting back to the White House on what he had found. If no information could be found on a critic, the FBI opened a new file.
Not long afterward, another sheaf of negative telegrams was sent to the FBI for investigation.
The FBI Director was more than happy to comply. For years, he had been investigating his own political opponents – real, prospective, or imagined – as a guard against ever being removed from his powerful position. Further, he had assiduously courted large swaths of the media, which also fawned over the president and his party and loathed the GOP, particularly its most conservative wing. Consequently, these media members either ignored the FBI Director and the President’s violations of civil liberties or, worse, abetted these crimes by colluding with them in leaking illegally obtained information to destroy the bureau and administration’s enemies.
As it turned out, [the FBI Director] had no need to resort to blackmail. He had passed on his concerns about [the] wiretapping ban to the columnists…both of whom wrote pieces and delivered…broadcasts about how the ban had hampered FBI investigations.
Still, it was all for a noble cause, wasn’t it? As would become their wont, the Democrats rationalized their destruction of American democracy to save it – so long as they stayed in power.
[The president] asked an aide to “prepare a nice letter to [the FBI Director] thanking him for all the reports on the investigations he has made and tell him I appreciate the fine job he is doing.”
Of course, the Left will try to excuse the autocratic excesses of President Franklin Roosevelt, his administration, party, and FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, for their zeal in stifling bipartisan isolationist dissent on the eve of America’s ultimate entry into World War II. But this would belie the historical record.
As Lynne Olson writes in her splendid – and, evidently, prescient – history of Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight over World War II, 1939-1941
, the public was already moving from isolationism and toward aiding Great Britain. And it was occurring through the legal
democratic process. In fact, the 1940 GOP presidential nominee, Wendell Willkie, supported the interventionist position despite the old guard, isolationist GOP. After he lost a bitter general election, he later was instrumental in the lobbying that helped President Roosevelt pass the critical Lend-Lease legislation. It was an impressive display of prioritizing country above party by Willkie, who as Ms. Olson correctly records:
No evidence has ever come to light to support the idea that corporate leaders were planning a putsch or that Wendell Willkie was anything but a liberal who opposed the reactionaries in his own party as strongly as he did Roosevelt.
But FDR was seeking an unprecedented third term. It was he who was being labeled an aspiring autocrat – and with some justification. In the 1940 campaign, he left nothing to chance; and, conflating his political future with that of the country, unnecessarily damaged American democracy for decades to come. Remember, J. Edgar Hoover’s unwarranted, illegal, and unconstitutional investigations continued for decades. As Ms. Olson reminds:
Until the 1970s, FDR’s directive on wiretapping and [Attorney General] Jackson’s compliance with it were used as the legal basis for the thousands of warrantless FBI wiretaps placed during that three-decade period on scores of targets, including embassies, civil rights leaders, political groups, journalists, and government officials. In 1976, a Senate Intelligence Committee report noted that “factors of political belief and association, group membership, and national affiliation became the criteria for intelligence investigations before the war.” The purpose of such investigations, the report added, “was not to assist in the enforcement of criminal laws,” but to provide top administration officials with political information. Such probes, the Senate committee observed, continued throughout World War II and into the Cold War.
In sum, what FDR and his administration allowed Hoover and his FBI to do was patently illegal; but, because the former refused to not only follow the law, but aided and abetted for partisan gain his underling’s illegal behavior, the shredding of the constitution, federal statutes, and civil liberties continued for over thirty years.
Today, the Biden administration, the Democratic Party, and the FBI have engaged in the very practices employed by the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Arguing that autocracy is on the march around the world, the Biden administration and his party have ensured it is on the march in America, as well. The Left has endeavored to silence all dissent; branded millions of their fellow Americans as fascists and racists; and declared them prospective national security threats and/or domestic terrorists for disagreeing with them. This is the despicable pretext the Democrats have employed to weaponize the FBI, Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Intelligence Community, among others, to attack their political opponents, including duly elected officials
; to collude with Big Tech to unconstitutionally impair Americans’ civil rights, especially free speech; and to directly interfere in elections on behalf of Democrats.
But, just as in FDR’s time, the alleged justification for the destruction of the civil rights of dissenting Americans is the claim that roving hordes of faceless, hateful enemies are conspiring to commit violent acts upon Americans and/or incite an insurrection to overthrow the United States government. As then, the extent of the threat is a knowing lie:
The United States never faced any serious threat of internal subversion before or during the war. But the American people never knew that; in fact, they were told the opposite. According to the FBI and the White House, the roundup of the German spies was incontrovertible proof that swarms of fifth columnists and enemy agents were busily at work throughout the country.
The irony is biting. It is not the imaginary hordes that are destroying the Constitution. It is the government. Yet, far from revealing this monstrous lie, let alone decrying it, large swaths of today’s corporate media abet and benefit from it. Indeed, after the Russia-gate lie was exposed by elected officials and intrepid “new media” journalists, the corporate media did not demand indictments for those governmental officials and political actors who crafted this vile lie and, further, trampled on Americans’ civil rights. No, the corporate media gave themselves awards for spreading this seditious disinformation and facilitating the persecution of the Democrats’ opponents.
Some may consider sending Ms. Olson’s book to the present Democratic administration and its partisans as an example of what must never be done in a democracy. Don’t bother. The Democrats already have it. They’re using it as a DIY manual for building an autocracy.
A Human Events contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Radio Show," among sundry media appearances.