REDSKINS AND PALEFACESnby Leonard P. LiggionThe America First Committee emerged nationwide innthe summer of 1940 from the initial efforts of GeraldnFord, Potter Stewart, and other Yale Law School students,nseconded by law professor Edwin Borchard. It evolved amidnthe American political cataclysm following Franklin Roosevelt’snlandslide election to a second term in November 1936.nThe mandate to institute a social revolution in America wasnseized by the New Dealers. The overwhelming Democraticnmajority in the Senate and House was checked only by then”nine old men” of the Supreme Court. Having struck downnas unconstitutional a number of key New Deal acts, this lastnobstacle to radical change needed to be reformed.nRoosevelt presented his court-packing bill to the newnCongress in 1937. After a grueling struggle the bill wasnrejected when a number of Democratic senators defectednfrom the administration. Traditionalist Democratic senatorsnjoined Western Progressive Republicans in defeating the bill.nA new majority emerged in Congress in opposition to thenNew Deal from these former supporters among Democratsnand Progressive Republicans. In the 1938 primaries, Rooseveltnunsuccessfully campaigned to defeat the defectingnDemocrats. A new generation of Republicans, as exemplifiednby Robert A. Taft, defeated the New Deal Democrats,nand along with those who defeated the attack on thenSupreme Court formed the coalition that opposed Roosevelt’sninterventionist foreign policy.nOpposition to the court-packing bill was led by LewisnGannett, publisher of the Rochester Union-Democrat.nGannett organized the Committee for Constitutional Governmentnin New York City and launched a mass campaignnto encourage citizens to write to their congressmen regardingnthe court-packing bill. The mass campaign encouragednthe congressmen to challenge a President who had won thenlargest landslide in history.nIn the wake of the court-packing controversy the Presidentnfound that the bill for his pump-priming, tax-andspendnmeasures to win his reelection had come due. Then1937 Depression was sharp and deep, and the Congressnwould not buckle under to new New Deal measures thatnavoided the actions necessary to move out of the Depression.nAs assistant secretary of the navy during World War Inand Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1920 (defeatednby the Harding-Coolidge repudiation of the Wilsonianncrusade to save the world), Roosevelt had learned hownforeign policy could be manipulated to achieve partisannpolitical goals.nRealizing that domestic Keynesianism no longer wouldnmove Congress, Roosevelt turned to military Keynesianism.nHe would create the conditions in foreign policy that wouldncoax the Congress to vote pump-priming governmentnemployment schemes through the military budget. Navalnshipbuilding would provide lots of government jobs, andnJapan’s wrongheaded search for stability in China againstncommunist and nationalist movements would provide thenLeonard P. Liggio is distinguished senior scholar atnGeorge Mason University’s Institute for Humane Studies.nexcuse.nRoosevelt’s greatest loss had been the defection over hisncourt-packing scheme of the pre-New Deal Progressives innthe Republican and Democratic parties. Whatever mildngovernment interventions they had advocated, they foundnabhorrent and un-American the measures proposed by thenPresident’s Brain Trust. Their proposals for government aidnto farmers were met with New Deal controls and bureaucracy.nBy opposing the packing of the Supreme Court, thenpress now called them “right-wingers.” Once called agrariannreformers, they were now accused of being more interestednin protecting individual rights than in giving the “people” annew agenda.nThe Old Progressives were Roosevelt’s major opponents.nThey had been the diehard opponents of foreign interventionismnand militarism, such as William Jennings Bryan,nwho had resigned as Secretary of State in the face ofnWilson’s lying about neutrality, and the Democratic majoritynleader of the House, Representative Claude Kitchin ofnNorth Carolina, who had led the opposition to U.S. entryninto World War I. Republican Progressives had been evennstronger opponents of Wilsonianism. Senators Robert M.nLa Follette of Wisconsin and William E. Borah of Idaho,nalong with Representative (and gubernatorial candidate ofnMinnesota) Charles A. Lindbergh, Sr., all withstood thenwithering attacks (sometimes physical) of the nationalnsecurity hounds.nThe Old Progressives, especially if they were Republicans,nhad begun to reassess their former populist domesticnagenda. Though onetime supporters of early New Dealnlegislation, they began to agree with the economic argumentsnfor fiscal and budgetary limitations recommended bynSenator Robert A. Taft of Ohio and Harry F. Byrd ofnVirginia. There was a growing recognition that governmentnintervention in either foreign or domestic affairs merelyncaused greater problems and encouraged further legislation.nThe most important legacy of the America First movementnwas its critical attitude toward change. ThenProgressive movement of the early 20th century exhibited andual attitude toward change, seeking both to contain and toncontrol it so as to maintain familiar aspects of the past. Fornexample, the Progressives tended to use government powernto limit the effects of agricultural technology that madenfarming less labor intensive. They saw the farm as necessarynfor the social and political stability of the country. At thensame time, they recognized that change would involve thenmovement toward a nonagricultural society. The policy wasnto delay by legislation the change away from farming and toncontrol by political regulation the change to a modernnsociety.nBut the Old Progressives perceived change in a differentnlight after Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme. Rather thannthe ideal of an economy based on self-sufficiency and, thenfamily farm, they began to see alternative mechanisms ofnfinancial security and political independence that werenpossible in and from a market economy, such as insurance.nnnDECEMBER 1991/25n