The Day They Arrested President Roosevelt
What a dark day for American democracy it was - February 5, 1937, the day they arrested President Roosevelt.
The pretext for this assault on democracy was President Roosevelt's proposal of the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937, which would have allowed President Roosevelt to appoint more members to the Supreme Court, which had blocked New Deal measures President Roosevelt had introduced to try to bring America out of the Great Depression. Supporters of the New Deal were particularly galled by the Supreme Court's decision the previous year throwing out New York's minimum wage law.
But some of President Roosevelt's opponents in Congress (including many conservative Democrats), the Supreme Court, and the military claimed the proposed bill was an assault on the Constitution - even though the Constitution doesn't say how many Supreme Court justices there should be, and Congress had changed the number of Supreme Court Justices many times in the past - and that Roosevelt's move was a dangerous power grab. So dangerous, in fact, that Roosevelt's proposal could not even be considered in Congress. Roosevelt's opponents claimed that he had violated the Constitution by even suggesting the idea, and had to be removed from office immediately; that Roosevelt and his supporters were such a threat to the established order that due process had to be dispensed with - if Roosevelt were put in prison, maybe there would be riots.
Therefore, on the morning of February 5, soldiers under the command of General Smedley Butler arrested President Roosevelt and deported him to Canada, still in his pajamas.
With President Roosevelt out of the way, the Supreme Court overturned Washington State's minimum wage law on March 9. On April 12, the Supreme Court threw out the National Labor Relations Act - which sought to guarantee the rights of workers to organize into "unions" so they could bargain collectively for higher wages and better working conditions. Finally, on May 24, the Supreme Court overturned the law establishing Roosevelt's proposed "Social Security" system - a public pension scheme to guarantee some income to less privileged workers and their dependents in retirement and to the disabled. The New Deal was crushed.
Imagine how different America might be today, if President Roosevelt had been allowed to continue his term and the New Deal had been allowed to proceed. Maybe sixty per cent of our fellow Americans wouldn't live in poverty, as they do today.
Some of the foregoing things didn't happen in the United States, but some of them did. The Supreme Court really did overturn New York's minimum wage law, and many feared that it would overturn Washington's minimum wage law, the National Labor Relations Act, and Social Security. The Court narrowly upheld them - 5 to 4 - after Roosevelt introduced his proposed judicial reform, when one of the anti-New Deal justices switched sides. Roosevelt's proposed judicial reform itself was decisively defeated in Congress, with strong Democratic opposition - many did say, including many Democrats, that it was an attack on the Constitution.
U.S. soldiers never arrested President Roosevelt and deported him to Canada, although General Smedley Butler did testify to Congress that he had been recruited by people claiming to represent corporate interests to lead a coup against President Roosevelt.
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was deported by Honduran soldiers to Costa Rica on June 28 for the "crime" of proposing that Hondurans be allowed to consider a non-binding, advisory referendum on reforming their constitution.
US corporate interests - including textile and clothing importers that pay their Honduran workers poverty wages - recently sent a letter to President Obama asking for "business as usual" with the coup regime in Honduras, a letter the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation denounced as 'disgusting.'
Today sixty per cent of Hondurans live in poverty. They deserve a better future - a future they may never see if this coup is allowed to stand.
Democrats in the U.S. Congress are starting to stand up against the coup. Rep. Bill Delahunt and Rep. Jim McGovern have introduced a resolution calling for President Zelaya to be returned to office. Ask your Representative to support this resolution. The Capitol switchboard is 202.224.3121; or you can send an email here.
The Obama Administration has many levers it can use to pressure the coup regime. The Los Angeles Times has called for the Administration to consider "imposing sanctions on individuals involved with the coup, such as canceling visas and freezing bank accounts.". The Obama Administration is much more likely to exert more pressure on the coup regime if Members of Congress speak out against the coup - so call or write your Representative now.