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FDR once tried to purge disloyal Democrats — would it work for Biden to do the same?

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26.09.2021

Allan Lichtman has a track record of accurately predicting presidential elections, and is generally an astute observer of the American political scene. So I paid attention when Lichtman, a political science professor at American University, told me it would be disastrous for President Biden to go war against Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and the other centrist Democrats jamming him up in Congress.

Lichtman was fully aware that progressives were eager to purge obstructionist Democrats, or at least punish them somehow for constricting or defeating Biden's legislative agenda. I had already spoken to a historian — Harvey J. Kaye, the editor of "FDR on Democracy" — who pithily summed up the logic behind that point of view.

"Look, there's two choices," Kaye said. "For the sake of the future, he should literally go after them, period." His "them" clearly referred to Manchin and Sinema. "But for the sake of democracy in the near term, what happens if the Republicans win?" Kaye added that he could not understand "why Biden hasn't called Manchin" and the others and told them that their political survival depended on toeing the line.

In my conversation with Lichtman, he quoted humorist Will Rogers' famous quip: "I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat. Kaye said basically the same thing. I reached out to both of them Salon about the most conspicuous example of a president turning against legislators from his own party: Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to purge right-wing Democrats in the 1938 midterm elections. My primary question was about what lessons Biden could learn from that moment, given that his own presidency may go down in flames because of intransigent "moderate" Democrats.

FDR certainly wasn't the first Democratic president to turn against members of his........

© Salon


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