It’s a sad reality of modern life, but a reality nonetheless, that more young people get their political cues from celebrities than from actual thought leaders or intellectuals. One such celebrity whose political takes regularly go viral is rap star Cardi B—but her latest viral opinion is deeply misguided and misinformed.
During an interview on the wildly popular “Hot Ones” podcast, Cardi B spoke about how and why she “loves FDR,” referring, of course, to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who occupied the Oval Office from 1933 to 1945.
Here’s that clip:
Cardi B’s admiration for FDR is on full display. And it’s not just her: it’s incredibly common for American liberals and progressives to cite FDR as a role model and icon. There’s just one problem: FDR was a vicious tyrant who committed atrocities these people never seem to reckon with.
One wonders whether Cardi B is aware of the fact that FDR carried out the horrifying practice of forcing “Japanese” (read: Asian-looking people, even US citizens) into internment camps during World War II. As History.com recounts:
“On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, initiating a controversial World War II policy with lasting consequences for Japanese Americans. The document ordered the forced removal of resident ‘enemy aliens’ from parts of the West vaguely identified as military areas.
Japanese immigrants and their descendants, regardless of American citizenship status or length of residence, were systematically rounded up and placed in prison camps. Evacuees, as they were sometimes called, could take only as many possessions as they could carry and were forcibly placed in crude, cramped quarters. In the western states, camps on remote and barren sites such as Manzanar and Tule Lake housed thousands of families whose lives were interrupted and in some cases destroyed by Executive Order 9066. Many lost businesses, farms and loved ones as a result.”
Of course, we can still grapple with the nuanced legacies of political figures from the past. (Although progressives often argue that we can’t, demanding the removal of statues of people like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson because they owned slaves). Someone can admire FDR’s policies or presidency yet acknowledge the atrocity that was Japanese internment—but intellectual honesty demands they at least acknowledge it. Cardi B and other FDR fans simply sweep it under the rug instead.
“As the 1930s progressed, rising anti-Semitism in Adolf Hitler’s Germany caused new headaches for Roosevelt. By 1939, the U.S. immigration quota allowed fewer than 30,000 Germans to come to the United States—a tenth of the number seeking admission as Hitler’s repression became more violent. The quota also banned the admission of anyone likely to become a public charge. That meant that many Jewish refugees, stripped of their assets before fleeing, couldn’t come to the U.S. legally, unless Roosevelt intervened.
But the president didn’t follow the advice of his Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, who suggested he sign an executive order giving priority to refugees fleeing persecution. Later, the president again failed to intervene by allowing any of the 900-plus refugees aboard the German ocean liner St. Louis to land in the United States. (About a third of its passengers later perished in the Holocaust after being forced back to Europe.) It wasn’t until 1944, as the full horror of the Holocaust was becoming clear, that F.D.R. created the War Refugee Board to aid civilian victims of Nazi persecution.”
FDR also tried to pack the Supreme Court because it held parts of his agenda were unconstitutional. If successful, this radical act would have undermined and potentially destroyed the independent judiciary as an effective part of our constitutional order.
Progressives ignore all of these inconvenient facts because they love the massive expansion of the welfare state that FDR enacted. Indeed, as Cardi B mentioned, they often tout this as what got America through the Great Depression. Yet the idea that America overcame the Great Depression because of FDR’s policies—rather than despite them—is an enduring myth.
As Burton W. Folsom and Jim Powell recounted for FEE.org:
“The Great Depression of the 1930s was by far the greatest economic calamity in U.S. history. In 1931, the year before Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, unemployment in the United States had soared to an unprecedented 16.3 percent. In human terms that meant that over eight million Americans who wanted jobs could not find them. In 1939, after almost two full terms of Roosevelt and his New Deal, unemployment had not dropped, but had risen to 17.2 percent. Almost nine and one-half million Americans were unemployed.
On May 6, 1939, Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s treasury secretary, confirmed the total failure of the New Deal to stop the Great Depression: ‘We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. . . . I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!’”
That’s right: Even FDR’s own Treasury Secretary admitted that his big government spending policies weren’t effective at ending the Great Depression.
FDR also clung on to power, usurping the norm established by George Washington that presidents would only serve two terms and running four times, only eventually giving up the presidency due to his death.
Ultimately, FDR was a wannabe tyrant. Thankfully, America survived his presidency. But it doesn’t seem like we’ve learned from our history—or it wouldn’t be so commonplace for famous figures to worship FDR while ignoring all the horrifying parts of his legacy.