MacGuire assured Butler of Big Money behind the plan, including the massive DuPont chemical company, which conveniently owned the Remington Arms Co. MacGuire also suggested a front organization would soon emerge to pave the way for the coup. “In two or three weeks, you will see it come out in the papers,” MacGuire told Butler, according to the latter’s Congressional testimony. “There will be big fellows in it.”

Two weeks later, the Liberty League announced its formation, a cabal of estimable politicos — even conservatives of FDR’s party — and businessmen: top-echelon executives from DuPont, General Motors, the Morgan-controlled U.S. Steel and other major companies, not to mention Al Smith, a former Democratic presidential candidate and Roosevelt’s predecessor as New York governor. The group listed Grayson Murphy as its treasurer.

The League took public issue with the unprecedented federal activism FDR had instituted to address the economic morass wrought when their Wall Street casino had taken a monsoon of shit on the world economy. A national pension, agricultural subsidies, vast public jobs programs toward infrastructure building, and, heresy of heresies, the federal recognition of labor’s right to unionize — Liberty Leaguers saw these as precipitous steps towards a Bolshevik America. The New Deal was apostasy to their canon of classical economics, where uppity laborers seeking safe workplaces could look forward to beatings by thugs, farmers could be jobbed out of business by bitch-fickle commodities markets and, if old people wanted their precious medicine or food, they could get off their fat asses, invent Wal-Mart and work there till they died. And given the dire stakes, the League wasn’t content to just whine. They plotted bold action, which also amounted to high treason.

But Butler blew the whistle on their plot. The House Un-American Activities Committee investigated and recommended further inquiry. Roosevelt, for unknown reasons, did not press his Justice Department to follow the committee’s recommendation to follow the strings of the plot back to Wall Street and the Liberty League.

Not that the scandal shut anyone up. America continued to slouch towards totalitarianism, leading conservative lights continued to bellow.

Father Charles Coughlin, an ostensibly populist radio personality and the Glenn Beck of his day, warned his audiences that Roosevelt was consolidating power into veritable dictatorship, a curious charge coming from the priest who praised Hitler for instituting “moral purity,” and erecting a bulwark against communism, which Coughlin considered a disease spread by their common enemy, Jews. Elizabeth Dilling, darling of the anticommunist set, in 1936 published The Roosevelt Red Record and Its Background, which tabbed Roosevelt advisors of as active Soviet agents and, familiarly, suggested FDR particularly suited to their counsel because his secret Jewish lineage.

Conservatives emerged from the Roosevelt era reeling from four gut-punches: a) that U.S. courts had ruled federal activism kosher by law; b) that it attuned Americans to an expectation of a benevolent hand from government, because c) it solved problems; and d) that fascists wound up being the enemy, not the tonic, and an unconscionably despicable one.

Fascism, after all, had merged the state with classical economics, codifying the notion that certain people just naturally deserve more stuff. But all that crashed in the war, or more specifically got the shit blown out of it by commie- and union-made ordnance.

In doctrinal disarray, the right-wing latched onto Ayn Rand, a bad romance novelist who advocated self-glorification to the point of sociopathy. Rand saw a world of manly, creative “producers,” a la her fictional übermensch John Galt, preyed upon by parasitic “looters,” who were poor because they were scum. Government was by nature collective, all regulation tyranny, all taxes theft, all notions of community pure moonshine, all infringed upon the crystalline liberty to be a wealthy, solipsist prick. America’s monied elite, enabled by such notions, codified Rand’s turgid screeds as “philosophy” — though it would take another 35 years to disseminate it to a new army of fear-based foot soldiers and begin rolling back New Deal heresies

But roll back it did. Rand found fertile turf in the fundamentalist Christians and Wall Street narcissists that characterized the Reagan revolution. Ungodly regulations were repealed or went unenforced, corporations merged and built ever heavier war chests to bankroll politicians, high priests of The Market freed Rand’s “producer” class to produce gossamer things with no real-world value, essentially bets on a system they gamed so that they could win the bets. As a result, the Wall Street casino took another shit, and the small-government neoclassicists’ dream devolved into a nightmare similar to the one the their daddies wrought in 1929.

So, in 2008 people said enough with this shit. They elected the opposition. The opposition has thus far taken moderate steps to fix shit. The problem is, the Randian supermen who gamed the system to the breaking point only remain Randian supermen by dint of shit not really getting fixed.

  1. Thanks for that refreshing and well put perspective my friend and a joy to read too.

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About the Author

Matthew Grimm is a freelance journalist, singer-songwriter and frontman for the legendary roots rock band, The Hangdogs. He can't be bought, but if you are not a racist or fascist asshole, he'd be more than happy to drink your beer.