Roosevelt and "the Wrong Sort of People"
A few weeks back, in a piece on Orwell and the effects of imprecise language, we argued that the contemporary use of the term “Nazi” was both meaningless and historically inaccurate. “If liberals sincerely mean to tar Trump with this loathsome brush, they’re perfectly free to do so,” we wrote, “But if they do, they will again be demonstrating foolish thinking. Additionally, in this case, they will be demonstrating their ignorance. Clearly they are unaware or unconcerned that many of their own Progressive heroes embraced despicable policies that were later implemented by Hitler and his Nazis.”
The specific policy we had in mind was that of eugenics, which was a staple not only of fascist and Nazi thinking, but of Progressivism as well. We cited Woodrow Wilson’s affinity for eugenics, in addition to the most famous of all Progressive eugenicists, the founder of Planned Parenthood and a feminist icon, Margaret Sanger.
Now, those on the Left who acknowledge this history – and it’s frightening how many refuse to do so – generally dismiss it as “ancient history,” a relic of a bygone era that has nothing whatsoever to do with the “modern” Democratic Party. Would that it were so.
The fact of the matter is that even the modern Democratic Party, which traces its origins to the New Deal and its champion Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was grounded in part in the belief that there is a “science” of race and that this science could be employed/manipulated to produce desired results. In a recent article for Tablet magazine – a well-respected Jewish digital magazine – Steve Usdin reported on newly unearthed documents that show just how steeped in eugenics FDR was and just how desperately he employed the pseudo-science in pursuit of his post-war Utopia. Usdin wrote:
Roosevelt didn’t address these issues publicly, but confidential files kept in his personal safe in the White House and released to the public decades after his death, as well as correspondence in his personal files, provide valuable clues. They make it clear that the question of where to settle the Jews had been on FDR’s mind for years. While he was uncertain about whether they would be better off on the slopes of the Andes or the savannahs of central Africa, there was one place he knew he didn’t want them: the United States of America.
Among the files in Roosevelt’s safe were documents about the origins and goals of the “M Project,” a secret study he commissioned of options for post-war migration (hence “M”) of the millions of Europeans, especially Jews, expected to be displaced by the war. The President first discussed the project in the summer of 1942 with John Franklin Carter, a journalist, novelist, and former diplomat who ran an informal secret intelligence service for Roosevelt. Carter’s No. 2 was an anthropologist named Henry Field.
In the beginning of July, FDR asked Carter and Field to sound out prominent anthropologists and geographers about the possibility of undertaking a survey of regions that would be suitable for settlement of displaced Europeans.
FDR found time on the afternoon of July 30, 1942, in the midst of a schedule packed with meetings with Soviet Ambassador Maxim Litvinov, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and General ‘Hap’ Arnold, to dictate a memo greenlighting the M Project. The memo, delivered by White House courier to Carter in his office in the National Press Building, a few blocks from the White House, stated: “I know that you and Henry Field can carry out this project unofficially, exploratorially, ethnologically, racially, admixturally, miscegenationally, confidentially and, above all, budgetarily.” It concluded: “Any person connected herewith whose name appears in the public print will suffer guillotinally.” Roosevelt repeatedly admonished Carter to keep the M Project completely secret….
Roosevelt’s first choice to head the M Project was Aleš Hrdlička, curator of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The two men had carried on a lively correspondence for over a decade and the President had absorbed the scientist’s theories about racial mixtures and eugenics. Roosevelt, the scion of two families that considered themselves American aristocrats, was especially attracted to Hrdlička’s notions of human racial “stock.”
A prominent public intellectual who had dominated American physical anthropology for decades, Hrdlička was convinced of the superiority of the white race and obsessed with racial identity. Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack he’d written to Roosevelt expressing the view that the “less developed skulls” of Japanese were proof that they were innately warlike and had a lower level of evolutionary development than other races. The president wrote back asking whether the “Japanese problem” could be solved through mass interbreeding.
Roosevelt’s goals for the committee were consistent with the views he had expressed in 1925. He wanted it to identify “the vacant places of the earth suitable for post-war settlement” and the “type of people who could live in those places.” Initial work was to focus on South America and Central Africa. Roosevelt wanted the committee to explore questions such as the probable outcomes from mixing people from various parts of Europe with the South American “base stock.”…
Settlement contingencies for a wide range of peoples were studied, but when Roosevelt described the M Project to Churchill during a lunch at the White House in May 1943, he focused on one particular group. FDR described it as a study about “the problem of working out the best way to settle the Jewish question,” Vice President Henry Wallace, who attended the meeting, recorded in his diary. The solution, which the President endorsed, “essentially is to spread the Jews thin all over the world,” rather than allow them to congregate anywhere in large numbers.
You can – and should – read the whole thing here. The entire story is as fascinating as it is horrifying and unsurprising. And believe it or not, it’s also incredibly pertinent, even today.
You see, the problem with utopian schemes is that even their designers concede that they can only be implemented with “the right sort of people.” Other people just get in the way, mucking up the works, creating problems and preventing the dawning of “the good life.” In some places – Revolutionary France, revolutionary and Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and Mao’s China, to name just a few – the wrong sorts of people are simply eliminated, by the tens of millions in some cases. In less violent and more “sophisticated” places, however, the management of the right and wrong sorts of people is more subtle. Jews are refused refugee status, for example, while plans are made to interbreed them out of existence. In the contemporary, postmodern West, the wrong sorts are driven from academia, purged from entertainment, banished to intellectual and media ghettos, or made to feel “toxic” and unfairly privileged by government-sponsored institutions. In all cases, the wrong sorts of people are contained. And when utopia does not then magically appear, then more of the wrong sorts of people must be confronted. Etc., etc., ad infinitum.
Roosevelt was a eugenicist. Wilson was a eugenicist as well. The ideology of the Left lends itself to the belief that the “right sort of people” exist and that they must, somehow, be elevated above the rabble.