Another oddity was that the America First Committee, the leading isolationist group and one that gained a reputation as Nazi sympathizers, was originally founded by a group of liberal, anti-war Yale students. It simply morphed into an extremist organization infiltrated by nativist and anti-Semitic elements.
Two aspects of the pre-war era that differed from present day were the way Congress and the military functioned. Congress actually worked in the 1930s the way it’s supposed to. Alliances were not straight party line since both Democrats and Republicans had liberal, moderate, and conservative members. Filibusters were an exception, not the rule, and floor debate was consequential.
The military-industrial complex of today did not exist 75 years ago. In fact, the military was deliberately kept weak and underfunded. The country felt shafted after World War I and felt a feeble military would keep us out of foreign conflicts. In 1940 the U.S. was woefully unprepared for war.
There are many eyebrow raising moments in “Those Angry Days.” Lynne Olson has written a tremendous book about one of the most important eras in our history. She teaches us that we can always learn something new and that history does repeat itself. Those may be the greatest object lessons of all.
David Kent is the director of the Village Library of Cooperstown. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that all book reviews are for titles that the Village Library has available for rental.