He had been in office for a year. Popular with the electorate, he promised to help the poor, something that left the business community aghast. With cries of socialism and wealth redistribution, he was immediately set upon in an attempt to bring down his presidency and ensure the moneyed business community were the ones truly in charge.
Sound familiar? The year was 1934 and Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. The potential "coup" was called the "Business Plot
", and was meant to be a joint effort between veterans groups and the business community:
The election of Roosevelt was upsetting for many conservative businessmen of the time, his "campaign promise that the government would provide jobs for all the unemployed had the perverse effect of creating a new wave of unemployment by businessmen frightened by fears of socialism and reckless government spending."
With the end of the gold standard, "conservative financiers were horrified. They viewed a currency not solidly backed by gold as inflationary, undermining both private and business fortunes and leading to national bankruptcy. Roosevelt was damned as a socialist or Communist out to destroy private enterprise by sapping the gold backing of wealth in order to subsidize the poor."
During the McCormack–Dickstein Committee hearings, Butler testified that Gerald C. MacGuire attempted to recruit him to lead a coup, promising him an army of 500,000 men for a march on Washington, D.C., and financial backing. Butler testified that the pretext for the coup would be that the president's health was failing.
Despite Butler's support for Roosevelt in the election and his reputation as a strong critic of capitalism, Butler said the plotters felt his good reputation and popularity were vital in attracting support amongst the general public and saw him as easier to manipulate than others.
Though Butler had never spoken to them, Butler implicated several prominent businessmen and veteran leaders as backers of the plot. The committee chose not to publish these allegations because they were hearsay.
Given a successful coup, Butler said that the plan was for him to have held near-absolute power in the newly created position of "Secretary of General Affairs", while Roosevelt would have assumed a figurehead role.
Those implicated in the plot by Butler all denied any involvement. MacGuire was the only figure identified by Butler who testified before the committee. Others Butler accused were not called to appear to testify because the "committee has had no evidence before it that would in the slightest degree warrant calling before it such men... The committee will not take cognizance of names brought into testimony which constitute mere hearsay."
In response, Butler said that the committee had deliberately edited out of its published findings the leading business people whom he had named in connection with the plot. He said on February 17, 1935, on Radio WCAU, "Like most committees it has slaughtered the little and allowed the big to escape. The big shots weren't even called to testify. They were all mentioned in the testimony. Why was all mention of these names suppressed from the testimony?"
It's amazing how little has changed over the years. The billionaires - apparently not satisfied with their billions - are still trying to use their money to gain political power. They still use the same tired rhetoric of socialism and redistribution of wealth.
American Crossroads, the Super PAC spearheaded by former Bush adviser Karl Rove spent $105M during the last election cycle trying to get their preferred candidates into office. They were spectacularly unsuccessful. In an rare bit of honesty, he admitted that in the future, they will support the candidates they think can win elections
, not necessarily the ideologically pure (who often do poorly in general elections).
With a powerful standing army built over the decades of seemingly non-stop involvement in foreign wars, there is little chance a military-style coup using disgruntled veterans would be plausible these days. What they have now that they didn't back then is a media that can deliver their propaganda 24x7, creating fear and uncertainty as a motivator to an electorate too lazy to dig for the truth and ready to blame someone else for their troubles. The rich oligarchy-wannabes are all to ready to spoon feed them the message of who that scapegoat should be.
I fear that - in this case - the pen truly is mightier than the sword.