Quick..... what comes to your mind when you hear the names Hoover, FDR, G.W. Bush, and Obama?
Let me help...failed Republican presidencies followed by truly disastrous Democrat presidencies.
So, here is my quick take on the parallels between the Hoover - FDR era and the Bush - Obama era in a nut shell.
Hoover believed in the Efficiency Movement, which held that government and the economy were riddled with inefficiency and waste, and could be improved by experts who could identify the problems and solve them (being an engineer by training - and not much of a political philosopher, I guess you couldn't have faulted him much for that). When the Wall Street crash of 1929 struck less than eight months after he took office, Hoover tried to combat the ensuing Great Depression with volunteer efforts, public works projects such as the Hoover Dam, tariffs such as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, and raising the top tax bracket from 25% to 63%, none of which unsurprisingly produced economic recovery during his term. In sum, he was a protectionist and a proponent of government intervention unlike some of his predecessors (Coolidge and Harding) or what I would call an establishment Republican these days.
Hoover's failure to spur the economy on, especially coming at the tail end of the roaring 20's, paved the way for FDR and a long reign of Democrat congressional control. Republicans were trounced in congressional races as well as the presidential election.
FDR, an avowed Socialist, made the most of the crisis he inherited. He doubled down on Hoover's misguided policies while instituting the New Deal. It was during this period that America started its journey towards collectivism in earnest. Along with Social Security, the single worst damage inflicted by FDR was his stacking of the SCOTUS by progressive justices. By 1935, he was a true dictator, one might say. I documented some of his more outrageous actions here. In my estimation, he was the single worst president America had - that is until now.
G.W. Bush took over an economy that was weakening, but neverthless fundamentally sound in relative terms. The Gingrich congress had Bill Clinton curb his earlier progressive instincts and the era of small government was on. Then came the dot com bubble caused mild recession of early 2001 and the eventual 9/11 attacks. I believe that is when any remote adherence G.W.B. had to free markets flew out the window. To begin with, the Bush family was never known to be truly conservative devotees of free markets going all the way back to G. H. Bush's frictions with Reagan in 1980 and earlier. Bushes were, and still are, establishment Republicans who believe in big, compassionate government. As such, when things looked bleak in the early days of post 9/11 era, G.W.B. sacrificed everything that Clinton/Gingrich had accomplished as far as containing the federal leviathan. Combined with the cost of war on two fronts, federal government once again became its pre-1996 monstrosity. Over the next six years, we witnessed new entitlements like Medicare Part-D and the expanded SCHIP program - all as part of so-called compassionate conservatism. Finally in 2007, when the great recession started, G.W.B. showed his real face to the world when he declared "I had to sacrifice free market principles to save the free market system". If that statement alone didn't prove that he was never a constitutional, small government, free market adherent type of president, I do not know what would. Can you say Hoover light?
President Obama easily enough won the 2008 election because his opponent was nothing but a war decorated version of G.W.B. He, like FDR did, doubled down - make that quadrupled down - on G.W.B. policies of spending on entitlements. This is not meant to criticize him for all his actions (because that would take a few volumes of a book) but, in a nut shell, Obama through his radical cabinet and other appointments who would make FDR appointments blush, proved that we succeeded in electing our first Marxist (though a closet one) president. Ever since his election, rogue government agencies have been regulating and otherwise poisoning the business environment. This blog has catalogued many of his outrageous action. Consequently, as with FDR who couldn't pull the country out of the Depression until WWII did it for him 12 years after the start of the Great Depression, under Obama we have yet to see things improve in any meaningful way. The worst part of the story, however, will be the lasting effects of his legacy. As with Social Security under FDR, Medicare under LBJ, Medicare Part-D under Bush, among other entitlements, Obamacare and many of his Administration's damaging regulations will probably never be undone.
Thus is the scary and uncanny parallels between two critical eras in our history, with two sets of presidents where the Republican predecessor's lack of classically conservative conviction and vision led to two hard line progressive who exploited the opportunity to fundamentally alter our nation.
Of course, this is not to say that these four are the only failed presidencies in the modern era - which I describe as beginning of 20th century on. One must not forget an array of Republican (T. Roosevelt, Taft, Hoover, Nixon, Ford, and G. H. Bush (Sr.)) and Democrat (Wilson, FDR, LBJ, and Carter) presidents who left their damaging marks on this country of ours. However, this group did not amplify their predecessor's damaging policies by disastrous ones of their own. They mostly were instrumental in further expanding the government's reach in to our daily lives - bad but not disastrous as I said. All that being said, I am not minimizing the critical roles of two early presidents - Wilson and T. Roosevelt to a lesser degree - in fundamentally changing the course of this nation with their policies from one of a Jeffersonian vision to one that would eventually resemble 19th century Fabian Socialism of Europe.
My favorites since 1900? If I had to list them in order of preference:
All for their dedication to free market principles and constitutional government as our founders intended.