Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Politics of Judgement and the Judgement of Politics

The attempted coup d'etat against US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has long been a part of United States political lore.

The argument is that a group of conspirators, magnates of big business, allegedly admiring the techniques adopted by Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, attempted to utilize a mid-depression movement of discontented World War One veterans to overthrow Roosevelt in an effort to head off the New Deal.

The players in the plot circled around an embittered Marine General, a disgruntled former Democrat Presidential candidate, and a collection of tycoons who allegedly intended to usher in a fascist regime in the United States.

The case brought against them is actually rather unconvincing. Despite the revelations offered by General Smedley Butler, no one was ever charged for the plot.

There seems to be little concrete evidence.

Yet many conservatives would argue that Roosevelt himself was exceeding the powers alotted to the government by the United States constitution. To this end -- not respecting the limits of government as defined by the highest, most fundamental law of the land -- many of them (such as Jonah Goldberg) would actually argue that it was Roosevelt who was leading the United States toward fascism.

It's a similar argument to the one currently playing itself out in relation to US President Barack Obama.

There may be some credence to the argument. It's limited credence, but it may well be there. After all, a rejection of the legally-defined powers of the government is one condition that is necessary for fascism to flourish.

What emerges is the dilemma of the politics of judgement, and how it affects the judgement of politics. Considering that communism and fascism were both movements very active in the Depression era, many find it believable to suggest that a fascist plot was underway. Many others may find it believable to suggest that the plotters were merely patriots resisting the implimentation of an allegedly-unconstitutional socialist and statist agenda (socialism and statism being central to both communism and fascism).

Many will simply read their own politics into the matter. If it's ideologically convenient to judge the plotters as fascists, they judge the alleged plotters as fascists. If it's ideologically convenient to brand them as patriots (if clearly self-interested patriots) and FDR as a soft tyrant (in the lexology offered by Mark Levin), they will do that instead.

The ultimate truth of the matter has long been taken to the grave by all of those involved. While it makes for interesting political intrigue, it makes for an even better case study in how we allow the politics judgement to effect the judgement of politics.