Marc Johnson's presentation, "FDR & Obama: The Challenge of Winning a Second Term," is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Main Library on Capitol Boulevard.
Johnson, a former journalist turned political operative and consultant, has become a scholar of the New Deal era and is working on a biography of Montana Sen. Burton K. Wheeler. Johnson was spokesman and chief of staff for former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus. He now runs the Boise office of Gallatin Public Affairs. Johnson also moderates forums at the City Club of Boise.
The 1936 campaign featured "The Lion of Idaho," Sen. William Borah, on the Republican side. Borah fared well in primaries, but they didn't mean much in those days. Kansas Gov. Alf Landon won the GOP nomination to challenge Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt's first re-election bid.
With the Depression raging, a trusted "poll" by The Literary Digest predicted Landon would win 57 percent of the popular vote and 370 electoral votes. The result couldn't have been more opposite: Roosevelt won 61 percent of the vote, 46 of 48 states and 523 electoral votes. The poll's failure — it had been conducted in a survey of Literary Digest readers returning post cards — prompted the application of social science techniques to polling.
Johnson also blogs regularly about politics. His latest post spins off the Clint Eastwood ramble at last week's GOP convention. Johnson writes that Sen. Wheeler may have originated the debate with the empty chair.
I've seen Johnson speak about New Deal history before; he gives a very fine talk and I plan to be there next week. I'll be the goof wearing a Landon button, featuring the Kansas sunflower.
The library's news release follows:
Boise Public Library invites you to join speaker Marc Johnson for a look at the parallels between Roosevelt’s re-election bid in 1936 and Obama’s situation in 2012. The presentation is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 12, in the Main Library’s Hayes Auditorium.
When Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for re-election in 1936, the nation’s unemployment rate was in double digits, the Great Depression was in its seventh year and the incumbent in the White House was under attack from the political left as being too timid and from the right as being a “socialist.” Roosevelt ultimately won a landslide re-election in 1936, but at the time it seemed less than a sure thing.
Today, we have another Democrat in the White House, a struggling economy, high unemployment and a president on shaky re-election ground. Johnson will examine the parallels between Roosevelt’s re-election bid and Obama’s, how the economy and unemployment impact politics, and what the current president might learn from the man to whom he is so frequently compared.
Johnson has written, lectured and taught about the New Deal-era in American politics. Currently a partner in the Boise office of Gallatin Public Affairs, he has extensive experience in public affairs, public policy, and broadcast journalism, and is a past chair of the Idaho Humanities Council board and of the board of the Federation of State Humanities Councils. He currently serves as volunteer president of the Andrus Center and is on the Boise Public Library Board of Trustees.
For more information about the program, check the library’s online calendar at www.boisepubliclibrary.org or call 384-4076. The Main Library is located at 715 S. Capitol Blvd. in downtown Boise.
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