Useful Notes / Franklin D. Roosevelt
FDR in one of two pictures of him in his wheelchair. Doesn't make him any less awesome.

"The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 — April 12, 1945) was the 32nd President of the United States. He was also the longest serving President in American history, serving three full terms and starting his fourth when he died. He served from 1933 to 1945, succeeding Herbert Hoover and making way for Harry Truman, his Vice President, after his death in office. He was the tenth President from the Democratic Party. No other President had even won a third term, and thanks to the 22nd Amendment, no President since will be able to challenge his length of service (barring the very unlikely event of the 22nd being repealed). Roosevelt led the country through The Great Depression and World War II, and his domestic reforms and foreign policy accomplishments have forever changed the United States. By the end of his life, the United States of America became the premier world superpower, a position it maintains to this very day, and his policies in peace and war played no small part in bringing out that transformation. As a liberal, his presidency is credited to starting a shift in American politics, taking the Democrat Party to a more progressive left-wing direction, and in the process beginning a polarization that led to the Republican party and the Democrat Party taking their modern positions.

Of course, historians have noted that the real situation is not as simple and straightforward. Roosevelt was certainly the first pro-African American Democrat President, and he passed Executive Order 8802 which was the first federal order prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry. A major improvement from the time of Woodrow Wilson and it marked the start of the change for what was once the party of Jim Crow. However, to get support for the New Deal among the Democrat Party's Southern Wing (the Dixiecrats), the programs were deliberately passed in such a way as to ensure that its benefits did not go to African-Americans and it merely reinforced the status-quo of segregation in the South, a system that Roosevelt did not do a great deal to halt and reform during his time in office. Likewise even the GI Bill did not fully benefit African-American and Latino veterans. The party that actually helped and organized African-Americans in the South during the Depression was CPUSA (the Communist Party of the USA) who largely did most of the heavy lifting for racial equality during this time, after the New Deal stole its thunder for class leveling with government support for equality and social amelioration, just as Roosevelt intended. Likewise, the same Roosevelt approved and ordered by executive order the internment of Japanese-Americans in a number of concentration camps during World War II, an incident that is today considered among America's Old Shame. Others also point out that his administration refused entry to Jewish Refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, as a result of which many of them would perish in The Holocaust.

In terms of foreign policy, isolationist critics such as Gore Vidal, despite considering him a great President, feel that making America the global superpower as he intended was an overreach and extension of presidential power. Since the United States President has the most say and influence in foreign policy rather than domestic policy (which was largely overseen by the House and the Senate), Roosevelt's support and entry into World War II and leapfrogging over Winston Churchill as the senior partner near the end of the war, greatly enlarged the role of America in global politics and paved the way for America to becoming a global hegemon and peacekeeper. Defenders point out that Roosevelt's foreign policies were largely positive and played a welcome role, chiefly his Good Neighbour policy with Latin America (an attempt to change the previously belligerent and nakedly imperialist policies of earlier presidents towards something resembling reciprocity) as well as his call for decolonization in the remaining colonies of The British Empire and The French Colonial Empire. Many lament the reversals of these policies during the Cold War. Cold Warriors of both the Democrat and Republican parties have accused Roosevelt for being too soft on Communism. It was his administration that first recognized the USSR and many noted that Roosevelt's administration remained silent on the actions of the Soviet Regime during The Thirties and the war. It was FDR who coined Josef Stalin's famous nickname "Uncle Joe" and many argue that Roosevelt's chumminess to Stalin and the USSR was an example of The Farmer and the Viper, since the latter exploited the former's good faith to occupy Eastern Europe against the principles of the Atlantic Charter. Others argue that these actions were more a result of Poor Communication Kills and paranoia, they point out that Churchill was hardly supportive of the Atlantic Charter vis-a-vis Greece and others see Roosevelt's soft touch with USSR as a missed chance to prevent the polarization of the Cold War, chiefly the promised American loan to help post-war reconstruction in USSR.

He's consistently ranked by scholars and the public as one of the greatest Presidents in American history, next to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. However, he enjoys a slightly more favorable, almost hagiographic, image on the political left than on the right, mostly due to his social policies. Republicans admire him for his wartime leadership and his increase of American power abroad, and they cite his interventionist policies in World War II as precedents for American interventionism, and maintaining a strong and active military (which did increase to unprecedented levels during his administration) and when they criticize his administration for being soft on communism, it's usually directed to bad apples among his associates, such as Henry A. Wallace, and Harry Hopkins (who right-wing academics like Harvey Klehr accuse of being a communist spy, for which there has never been any convincing evidence) and Alger Hiss (for which there is convincing evidence). The latter's trial after the war, and revelation of perjury, polarized and fractured the New Deal coalition and marked the start of the post-war Red Scare. When Dwight Eisenhower ran on a right-wing platform backed by Joseph McCarthy, the latter hoped that the former's election would reverse the New Deal altogether, but Eisenhower on coming to office, noting how popular and well entrenched social security programs were, promptly confirmed and extended it which was Republican policy until The '80s, that even Richard Nixon, elected on an even more rightist platform, followed. Republican politicians have often talked about reversing and overturning social security programs, and have generally blocked attempts to extend it or update it, but the core elements of the New Deal and its achievements still remain even if other parts of it have been reversed. One policy that FDR discussed near his final days, in his last recorded newsreel recording, was a promise for universal health care, a highly polarizing and partisan debate in the 21st Century.

As such, FDR and his presidency, remains a topic of contemporary interest and relevance, and its unlikely it will stop anytime soon.

Roosevelt was the only physically disabled President; he was stricken with polio - or possibly Guillain–Barré syndrome - in adulthood and permanently paralyzed from the waist down. He did his best to keep the extent of his illness secret from the public; using leg braces and canes, he was able to stand and even walk short distances. He was also a fierce Slave to PR, taking good care on how he presented himself to the public, and cultivating friendships with the press corps, who on account of Code of Honor, or because they bought into his platform, refrained from making his disability into an issue. Nonetheless, the fact that he was wheelchair bound was more or less an Open Secret, with more than a few leaks to the public, and yet either because of the scale of The Great Depression, the lack of 24/7 News coverage in the pre-television era or his personal popularity, this never quite mattered to either him, the public or his political opponents.

FDR in fiction:

  • The play (and subsequent film) Sunrise at Campobello feature Ralph Bellamy as a young FDR and chronicle his early struggles with polio.
  • He appears in the musical Annie.
    • Played in the film version by Edward Herrmann, who had previously portrayed him in the made-for-TV biopics Eleanor and Franklin and Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years.
    • Ironically, Harold Gray was a staunchly conservative opponent of the New Deal and was not shy about using Little Orphan Annie as a political platform. FDR and the New Deal are, of course, portrayed positively in the musical, which was written after Gray's death.
  • Played by Jon Voight in the film Pearl Harbor.
  • FDR was retconned to be the founder of the Justice Society of America, and his fictional super-powered great-grandson, "Lance" Reid, was a member in pre-Flashpoint continuity.
    • FDR also was responsible for the creation of the wartime-only All-Star Squadron, which included as members by default the JSA.
  • It turns out that a still-living FDR is an employee at McAwesome's Parasailing and Chocolate Bakery in the world of Shortpacked!, just as "Ronnie" works for the nearby toy store.
  • A still-living nonagenarian FDR is also portrayed as a high-ranking secret society member in the Illuminatus!! trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea.
  • The Super Soldier Serum taken by Captain America was, according to some comics, supposed to go to FDR after it had been tested. This would cure the effects of the polio and let him walk on his own again. Cap himself had a bit of hero-worship going on for Roosevelt, and the Sentinel of Liberty miniseries shows that Steve was employed as a mural painter by the WPA. Considering that FDR personally presented him with his indestructible round shield, you can understand the good feeling.
  • Like most other politicians (and some that aren't even politicians) of the time-period, Roosevelt is a possible (and indeed, the default) Head of State for the USA in Hearts Of Iron II.
    • He is also a choice for leader of America in Civilization 4, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Roosevelt is Industrious and Organized, which gives a boon to production and efficiency.
  • The King of Queens. Doug's father-in-law is still sensitive to the topic of FDR's polio.
  • Even Family Guy thinks it's Too Soon to make a lamer than FDR's legs joke.
  • Appears several times in Alternate History works by Harry Turtledove.
    • In Worldwar he dies early, in 1944, due to the extra stress of having to manage a war against alien invaders and constantly being moved around the country. Henry Wallace was still his Vice President, but he had already been killed in an attack on Seattle and so Secretary of State Cordell Hull succeeded FDR as President.
    • In TL-191 his analogue, known as "Franklin Roosevelt" rather than by his acronym, is the Secretary for Defence under President Charlie La Follette of the Socialist Party. As this is a less high-profile position, he is open about being disabled.
      • The ghastly number of men returning from both the First and Second Great Wars with missing limbs or other disabilities has made the USA in this timeline more accepting of the disabled (along with earlier acceptance of women's rights (although even that varies by state) and at least some moves toward racial equality, this is one of the few good outcomes of the Crapsack World that is Timeline 191).
  • A character on Seinfeld is referred to as "FDR", which is then explained to stand for "Franklin Delano Romanowski", a disgruntled hotdog vendor who lives in Jerry and Kramer's building.
  • In the All in the Family episode "Cousin Maude's Visit", Maude is shown to love Roosevelt, calling him "a saint". Archie's "secret weapon" against her is insulting FDR.
  • Assassin's Creed II gives him a little bit of a Historical Villain Upgrade, playing off the real life controversies like the Japanese Internment and his court-packing scheme, and implies that he used a Piece of Eden to navigate the country through the Great Depression. He was also apparently one of four Knights Templar in charge of the world's major superpowers, and helped to orchestrate World War II as a way of creating a New World Order. The other three? Churchill, Stalin, and Hitler.
  • The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series imply that he was a son of the Big Three; Hades, Poseidon or Zeus. Its Wiki reveals that he is the son of Zeus. Additionally, Percy and his questing partners realize Bianca di Angelo and her brother, Nico, are from the 1940s when Bianca says that Roosevelt was the president before the current one.
  • Shows up as America's boss in Axis Powers Hetalia...although his face is hardly seen.
  • The Venture Bros.: The ghost of Abraham Lincoln confesses that FDR was one of his favorite Presidents. "I loved to watch him sleep. Fate of the world on his polio-ridden shoulders....that was a clear conscience."
  • Bill Murray played FDR in Hyde Park On Hudson, which depicts his affair with his distant cousin, Margaret Stuckley, with the focus being an important weekend where he had King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit.
  • Resistance has FDR appear in a passing mention as having been defeated in the 1940 Election by Noah Grace.
  • In "When I See an Elephant Fly" from Disney's Dumbo, one of the puns is "I heard a fireside chat", a then-contemporary reference to Roosevelt's fireside chats.
  • ''FDR: American Badass!" is an... unusual spoof of the man's life. He is infected with polio after being bitten by a Nazi werewolf, and discovers that werewolves are in control of the Axis countries and plotting to take over the world with werewolf blood-infested alcohol. Yep.
  • In Philip Roth's Alternate History novel The Plot Against America, he was defeated by Charles Lindbergh in the 1940 election, who keeps the US out of World War II.
  • In The Dark Knight Returns, outgoing Commissioner James Gordon relates his experiences during the war to incoming Commissioner Ellen Yindel, appointed by the mayor on her anti-Batman stance. He specifically stated that he refused to ever consider if Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbour, stating that the whole thing was "too big" to comprehend, making an analogy to Batman's importance as a symbol. After failing to capture Batman multiple times, Yindel finally concedes to Gordon's point.
  • A speech of his opens Dark Harvest.
  • In Superman #141 (April 1961), a flashback to Superman's debut as Superboy has the Boy of Steel meeting Roosevelt. Superboy saves FDR from an assassination attempt, plus does several favors for the President. Bronze Age stories (and DC's institution of a floating timeline) eventually retconned the President Superboy met to Eisenhower. As such, a 1980s Superboy story (where the hero's accidentally thrown back in time from The '60s to The Thirties and across dimensional boundaries to Earth-2) has Clark see a Smallville newspaper headline mention Roosevelt. (We also later see Earth-2's Pa Kent express support of Roosevelt.)

Alternative Title(s): Franklin D Roosevelt