Throughout the campaign, Roosevelt pressed his party’s identification with the patriots of 1776. He ordered that the Democratic platform be written as a loose imitation of the Declaration of Independence, beginning and ending with paragraphs proclaiming, “We hold this truth to be self-evident.” To pick an example, the Democrats announced it was self-evident that “twelve years of Republican surrender to the dictatorship of a privileged few have been supplanted by a Democratic leadership which has returned the people themselves to the place of authority, and has revived in them new faith and restored the hope which they had almost lost.”

Obama followed FDR’s playbook, even unto the revival of hope and change. In fact, the 44th president’s indictment of the Republicans was much milder than Roosevelt’s, mostly because of the difference in their circumstances. In the midst of the Depression, the GOP was identified with Herbert Hoover, a figure far easier to excoriate than Ronald Reagan, whose successful presidency, even after two intervening Bushes, still buoys his party’s reputation.

In the 2012 campaign, Obama sided, to use his terms, with the middle class against the millionaires. But the underlying and decisive charge that the Republicans were led by a cabal of un-American plutocrats was never far away.