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Rush Limbaugh erases then restores FDR to economic history

One of the nation’s most prominent self-appointed Presidential scholars gave his audience a history lesson today, minus a fairly important detail. Radio rantmeister Rush Limbaugh was musing on the latest economic statistics, which are disappointing. The unemployment rate has dropped to the still high rate of nine percent, indicating that the tepid recovery will continue to be, well, tepid. Economists blamed bad weather for the mediocre news.

Limbaugh, of course, blamed something else: President Obama.

In 1936 Alf Landon won 8 electoral votes to FDR's 523

In 1936 Alf Landon won 8 electoral votes to FDR's 523

“And also keep in mind no president, no incumbent has ever been reelected with an unemployment rate above 8%,” the Rushbo noted. “So that’s where we’re headed here.”

Except, of course, for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was reelected twice with unemployment numbers above eight percent—in 1936 when the jobless rate was at 16.9 percent, and in 1940 when it was at 14.6 percent.

Eventually somebody tapped Limbaugh on the shoulder to point out that he was pulling stats out of his rump.

“Now, okay… ” the Rushbo added later, after a pause. “Yes, there is an exception: FDR was reelected twice with a jobless number higher an 8%, but that’s because FDR never squandered the goodwill that he had. Everybody still believed he was doing his best with the New Deal and to fix everything, and they had a lot of hope and change invested in FDR.  That’s missing with Obama now.  I don’t know if ever gonna recapture that.”

Actually, the Roosevelt story should serve as an object lessons to Republicans. One reason for FDR’s huge re-election victory in 1936 was that Alf Landon, the Republican challenger, was a truly mediocre candidate. And FDR beat Wendell Wilkie in 1940 despite the fact that by then he had squandered much of his good will, thanks to blunders like his attempt to pack the Federal courts. But as the war in Europe heated up, Wilkie just couldn’t convince voters he’d represent an improvement in unstable times.

One other point Limbaugh glided past: when Ronald Reagan retook the White House in 1986, the jobless rate wasn’t at eight percent, but it was at an uncomfortable seven. We’ll seeeee . . .

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