Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a mass of contradictions, but he changed the landscape of American politics
He came to power amid economic catastrophe and he restored prosperity and hope. It wasn’t perfect. There was a bad slump in 1937, and only the engine of war re-established employment and production. Of all the cards in the New Deal, none would be more potent than social security, less a step towards socialism than part of the modernisation of America. He signed an order outlawing racial discrimination in the war effort, but he allowed the internment of 120,000 people of Japanese descent, more than half of them US citizens.
He led the country into war not out of economic expediency but because he believed it was morally necessary. He had helped Britain before December 7th 1941, and he then opposed both the cynicism of Stalin and the imperialism of Churchill. But he was dying: at the Yalta conference in February 1945, observers could not credit that FDR (32nd president, 1933-45) was only 63.
He had sacrificed himself, yet he was always ambitious. He manipulated his victory in the election of 1940 and ended up serving as president longer than anyone else ever will. Along the way he fought with the Supreme Court. He appointed nine justices but they had the nerve to defy him, and he had the ego to fight. He was misguided in most of this, but he outlined the conflict between the presidency and the Supreme Court that still rages today.