"No child left behind." -- George W. Bush
"A kinder, gentler America." -- George H. W. Bush
"Nothing to fear but fear itself..." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt
"Ask not what your country can do for you..." -- John F. Kennedy
"It's the economy, stupid." -- Bill Clinton
"Speak softly and carry a big stick." -- Teddy Roosevelt
"Are you better off than you were four years ago?" -- Ronald Reagan
"A chicken in every pot." -- Herbert Hoover
Two words define Franklin D. Roosevelt's impact on America: "New Deal." Compare that phrase to the one coined earlier by his distant cousin, Teddy Roosevelt: "A square deal for every man."
Square Deal, New Deal, big deal. What's the difference? Why is New Deal the one we remember?
The thing is, Teddy didn't restructure American voting patterns, and he wasn't looking to; that's reflected in his phrase. "Square deal" appeals to a sense of fairness within an accepted framework. It's what you might offer your gardener, if you're a stand-up guy.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, however, understood that a fault line had opened in America between owners and workers, employers and employees. He looked out there and saw the potential for a powerful new voting coalition of labor unions, immigrants, and minorities. He grasped that those groups, bonded in many struggles for control of their own destinies, were looking for more than bigger handouts--they wanted a seat at the table.
New Deal implies tearing up old contracts and starting from scratch. It conveys the feeling of two parties sitting down to negotiate as equals. It displays perfect pitch for the string that was out there to be plucked.
And now, in this same context, look at the slogan poor old Herbert Hoover was riding: "A chicken in every pot..." That's what rich people bestowed on their servants at Christmas time! No wonder Hoover lost. No, the slogan alone didn't cause his loss. His clueless grasp of the emerging political landscape did that; but his slogan reflected that cluelessness.
And on that note, let's not forget this one: "Change we can believe in!"