FDR and the Modern Presidency: Leadership and Legacy

By Mark J. Rozell; William D. Pederson | Go to book overview

12
Defining Eleanor, Defining
Power: World War II, Racism,
and a Preoccupied White House

Allida M. Black

Eleanor Roosevelt disagreed with FDR over the purpose of World War II. While her husband looked to the immediate necessity of defeating European and Asian fascism, she focused on the long-range effects wartime policies would have on the nation's political and social development. Refusing to abandon the New Deal to "Dr. Win the War," she insisted that winning the war was only half the battle. To secure lasting victory, to rendezvous with destiny, America must also win the peace.

More than any other politician in the wartime Roosevelt White House, Eleanor Roosevelt understood the fragile underpinnings of the American home front. The bombing of Pearl Harbor, the ferocious language of Aryan propaganda, and the dramatic appeal of Office of War Information propaganda could unite the nation only for so long before the social fissures deferred by New Deal platitudes would threaten Americans' resolve. Thus, as FDR prepared for war by wooing manufacturers and a reluctant Congress to the benefits of defense production, his wife prepared for war by arguing that wartime policy must balance military preparedness with democratic social and economic policies.

To Eleanor Roosevelt, the New Deal was not a dream to be deferred but an approach with which to fight fascism, expand democracy, and spur economic growth. Repeatedly she argued that the only way to mobilize the

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