The Safety Net, From The Grassroots On Up

Conor remembers Dr. Francis Everett Townsend:

Awash in the cult of the presidency, today’s liberals and progressives tend to see old age pensions as a triumph of FDR, while conservatives see it as a scourge born of his statist brain. Though it would be ahistorical to diminish the president’s influence, it must also be acknowledged that huge grassroots movements for old age pensions preceded their embrace by politicians at the national level.

And these movements weren’t an exclusively leftist phenomenon. There were FDR Democrats and Upton Sinclair socialists, to be sure, but the Townsend clubs tended to support Republican candidates, and were seen by contemporaries and some historians as right-wing populists that era’s answer to Glenn Beck fans.