1932 Presidential Elections - History

1932 Presidential Elections - History

1932 Election Results Hoover VS Roosevelt

Franklin Roosevelt's overwhelming victory in his 1930 reelection campaign for Governor set the stage for his bid for the Presidency. Roosevelt and his aids immediately began to maneuver behind the scenes to gain Roosevelt the Democratic presidential nomination. Louis Howe worked on the inside, while Jim Farley traveled the country attempting to garner support for Roosevelt. Franklin was the early favorite, but due to the Democratic convention rules that a candidate needed to receive 2/3 of the votes at the convention, a small lead was not enough.

On March 15, Governor Roosevelt officially announced he was running for the Presidency. As the convention approached, Roosevelt had the lead. His opponents included Al Smith and John Garner of Texas. The key to securing a convention victory was winning the nomination on one of the first ballots. On June 30, the first votes were cast for the nomination. Roosevelt received 666 (1/2), Smith received 203 (3/4), and Garner received 90 (1/4.) It was an impressive showing for Roosevelt. However, FDR was still 104 votes shy of the 2/3 needed to secure the nomination. Finally, on the fourth ballot, after Garner was offered the vice-presidential candidacy, Roosevelt won the presidential nomination. The next day, in a break with tradition, Roosevelt flew to Chicago to accept the nomination.
Roosevelt engaged in a vigorous campaign, attacking the policies of the Hoover administration. The onset of the economic depression made the Republican position almost untenable. The Republicans had taken credit for the country’ s economic prosperity. Now, it was hard to evade responsibility for the economic depression. Roosevelt's one area of weakness was the corruption of New York's Tammany political organization. Charges of fraud had been brought against New York City's Mayor, James Walker. Roosevelt personally conducted the hearing. FDR gained important support by virtue of his resourceful handling of this investigation. The campaign took place against the background of the great economic depression. Roosevelt campaigned feverishly to prove that, despite his disability, he could vigorously undertake the position of United States President. At first, Hoover had planned to stay in the White House working during the crisis, but Roosevelt’ s ads brought Hoover out on the campaign trail. Hoover tried to depict Roosevelt as an extremist who would bring the country to ruin. Hoover’ s dour campaigning, compared to Roosevelt's more positive upbeat approach, worked against him. With 1/4 of the workforce unemployed, Roosevelt won an overwhelming victory.

State results in 1932

Electoral Results in 1932

AlabamaFranklin Roosevelt120,72548.5Herbert Hoover127,79651.3
ArizonaFranklin Roosevelt52,53357.6Herbert Hoover38,53742.2
ArkansasFranklin Roosevelt77,78439.3Herbert Hoover119,19660.3
CaliforniaFranklin Roosevelt1,162,32364.7Herbert Hoover614,36534.2
ColoradoFranklin Roosevelt253,87264.7Herbert Hoover133,13133.9
ConnecticutFranklin Roosevelt296,64153.6Herbert Hoover252,08545.6
DelawareFranklin Roosevelt68,86065.8Herbert Hoover35,35433.8
FloridaFranklin Roosevelt145,86057.9Herbert Hoover101,76440.4
GeorgiaFranklin Roosevelt101,80044.0Herbert Hoover129,60456.0
IdahoFranklin Roosevelt97,32264.2Herbert Hoover52,92634.9
IllinoisFranklin Roosevelt1,769,14156.9Herbert Hoover1,313,81742.3
IndianaFranklin Roosevelt848,29059.7Herbert Hoover562,69139.6
IowaFranklin Roosevelt623,57061.8Herbert Hoover379,01137.6
KansasFranklin Roosevelt513,67272.0Herbert Hoover193,00327.1
KentuckyFranklin Roosevelt558,06459.3Herbert Hoover381,07040.5
LouisianaFranklin Roosevelt51,16023.7Herbert Hoover164,65576.3
MaineFranklin Roosevelt179,92368.6Herbert Hoover81,17931.0
MarylandFranklin Roosevelt301,47957.1Herbert Hoover223,62642.3
MassachusettsFranklin Roosevelt775,56649.2Herbert Hoover792,75850.2
MichiganFranklin Roosevelt965,39670.4Herbert Hoover396,76228.9
MinnesotaFranklin Roosevelt560,97757.8Herbert Hoover396,45140.8
MississippiFranklin Roosevelt27,03017.8Herbert Hoover124,53882.2
MissouriFranklin Roosevelt834,08055.6Herbert Hoover662,68444.2
MontanaFranklin Roosevelt113,30058.4Herbert Hoover78,57840.5
NebraskaFranklin Roosevelt345,74563.2Herbert Hoover197,95036.2
NevadaFranklin Roosevelt18,32756.5Herbert Hoover14,09043.5
New HampshireFranklin Roosevelt115,40458.7Herbert Hoover80,71541.0
New JerseyFranklin Roosevelt926,05059.8Herbert Hoover616,51739.8
New MexicoFranklin Roosevelt69,70859.0Herbert Hoover48,21140.8
New YorkFranklin Roosevelt2,193,34449.8Herbert Hoover2,089,86347.4
North CarolinaFranklin Roosevelt348,92354.9Herbert Hoover286,22745.1
North DakotaFranklin Roosevelt131,41954.8Herbert Hoover106,64844.5
OhioFranklin Roosevelt1,627,54664.9Herbert Hoover864,21034.5
OklahomaFranklin Roosevelt394,04663.7Herbert Hoover219,17435.4
OregonFranklin Roosevelt205,34164.2Herbert Hoover109,22334.1
PennsylvaniaFranklin Roosevelt2,055,38265.2Herbert Hoover1,067,58633.9
Rhode IslandFranklin Roosevelt117,52249.5Herbert Hoover118,97350.2
South CarolinaFranklin Roosevelt5,8588.5Herbert Hoover62,70091.4
South DakotaFranklin Roosevelt157,60360.2Herbert Hoover102,66039.2
TennesseeFranklin Roosevelt195,38855.3Herbert Hoover157,14344.5
TexasFranklin Roosevelt372,32451.9Herbert Hoover344,54248.0
UtahFranklin Roosevelt94,61853.6Herbert Hoover80,98545.9
VermontFranklin Roosevelt90,40466.9Herbert Hoover44,44032.9
VirginiaFranklin Roosevelt164,60953.9Herbert Hoover140,14645.9
WashingtonFranklin Roosevelt335,84467.1Herbert Hoover156,77231.3
West VirginiaFranklin Roosevelt375,55158.4Herbert Hoover263,78441.0
WisconsinFranklin Roosevelt544,20553.5Herbert Hoover450,25944.3
WyomingFranklin Roosevelt52,74863.7Herbert Hoover29,29935.4

1932 Presidential Elections - History

In 2008, Republican Presidential Candidate Sen. John McCain will have to deal with the legacy of the Republican Administration that came before him. Will John McCain be "punished for the past" in November?

Editor's Note:

With the campaign for the November election at full throttle, candidates will be working hard to persuade voters that their vision for the future is better than their opponents. This month historian Bruce Kuklick offers a provocative and counter-intiutive way to think about the upcoming election. In this thought-piece, Kuklick argues that rather than being about the future of the nation, elections must be about the past.

During this presidential campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain have each spent a great deal of time talking about their dreams for the 21st century. And they have worked to persuade voters that the policies they would implement would achieve that dream, ushering in a golden future. Nothing surprising in that. Political campaigns are usually cast in the future tense.

I want to suggest, however, that these are the wrong terms in which to evaluate our electoral choices in November. Like other Presidential elections in American history that came at a moment of national crisis, 2008 will likely be a referendum on what has happened during the preceding eight years, not on what McCain or Obama promise for the future. Obama has already begun to sound that note. “Eight is enough,” he declared during his August 28 acceptance speech.

Elections: Is the Past or Future at Stake?

To listen to political pundits talk, one might think that we are able to predict the consequences of proposed civic policies—that we can verify with certainty that they are good or bad, and vote for the political party whose policies promise the best outcome. But if we had any way to make such calculations—if we had such an actual science of politics—heated disputes on the issues would not exist.

In truth, of course, on many key public questions it is more than likely that roughly 50% of Americans will disagree with the other 50%. Why would we think that these disagreements could be resolved by objective, cognitive appraisal? What would make us think that one side was right, or that the notion of who was right could have much meaning? We simply can’t know that certain policies pursued today will yield predictable or desirable results tomorrow. In this sense, we have often cast our election-year debates in the wrong terms.

Each party in the American system has a personality that differs from the other. Republicans and Democrats have different attitudes that their politicians reflect. These alternative (if frequently similar) convictions consist of visions of far-off goals, a moral ethos about the worth of these goals, abiding claims concerning their fittedness for our social order, and expectations for apocalyptic victory.

The polity of the United States provides rich benefits for its citizens, a large measure of domestic stability, and security in foreign policy. But it is largely mysterious to me what conditions have given us such a political culture and how we have continued to guarantee its advantages. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we really don’t know how the structure successfully grew up, or what the mechanisms are that give it an effective energy. In fact, in the absence of any real explanation, people often resort to the providential and say the country is “blessed,” or that God “shed his grace” on us.

Conservatives have traditionally demanded less of the political system. They have aimed to preserve the principles that, they believe, have gotten us the benefits. Liberals have asked for more. Somehow, they think, civic life can progress, and the political struggle can empower those who can secure progress.

This belief developed because progressive Democrats at the end of the nineteenth century absorbed into their framework of principles the ideas of modernizing Protestants. For these Protestants, God was not so much a supernatural creature but was immanent in our social life, and evidence for this reality was the upward swing of civilization. Over the twentieth century this religious notion moved into the secular realm of liberal politics.

We should surely try to bring our good fortune more under our control. But we need also to realize that we have little power over it, and that we have limited means for nudging it positively. In such circumstances, we should be satisfied with a more minimal notion of what politicians and parties can accomplish, and what they ought to be accountable for.

The Hippocratic Oath of Politics

For a moment forget the prospects for improvement, and focus on holding on to what we have. Since we have not made much of an advance on formulating an American political science that can predict the future, we should do our best—sort of blindly staggering around—to try to insure that we don’t make things worse. This is more than a platitude, for we have no guarantees that we can fix what we have spoiled. The primary rule of politics, like the oath taken by doctors, needs to be: Do no harm.

We often talk about the “ship of state” so let’s put this the way the navy does: Not on my watch. This old adage roughly translates into the injunction to those who have responsibility for a ship to keep it on course. When you have that sort of responsibility, your shipmates are depending on you, and you don’t want anything to go wrong that you could have avoided had you been diligent. “It didn’t happen on my watch” is a common denial of blame. “Not on my watch,” similarly, asserts vigilance and a resolve not to make things worse off than they have been. In the military in general, if something goes awry, someone is accountable (or at least someone will be blamed or punished for it).

Here is my minimalist notion of the way American democratic politics does its job. The role of the electorate is to punish the politicians who mess up on their watch (even if the messes aren’t entirely their faults).

We have two outstanding twentieth-century examples of this punishment function at work during moments of national crisis.

In the election of 1932, the electorate voted the Republican Herbert Hoover decisively out of office and replaced him with Democrat Franklin Roosevelt. In 1928 Hoover and his party had taken credit for the prosperity of the 1920s, and at the end of Hoover’s term citizens blamed him for the Great Depression that had engulfed the United States from late 1929 on. The public also felt that Hoover’s efforts over three years to alleviate the economic suffering had been unavailing.

We don’t know that Republican policies created the boom economy of the 1920s, and we don’t know if other policies than the ones Hoover implemented would have created jobs and credit. For his years in office from 1929 to 1933, when The Crash occurred, Hoover may just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We do know that at a slightly later time, the different policies of the Roosevelt administration did little to control the economic downturn. The Democrats under Roosevelt did not do much better than Hoover and the Republicans, at least at the level of economic policies. FDR did, however, brilliantly capture the shift in the national mood. His personality, and the personality of the party he re-shaped in his image, better matched the nation’s than Hoover’s.

1932 Presidential Elections - History

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Adolf Hitler speaks to a crowd, outlining his vision of a fascist Germany and trying to sway voters.

Berlin. April 4, 1932. Bundesarchiv

Party representatives stand outside a polling station during the federal election, holding their placards high.

Berlin. July 31, 1932. Bundesarchiv

Adolf Hitler salutes his supporters as he drives down the streets of Berlin, celebrating his intention to run in the German presidential election.

February 1932 Bundesarchiv

The National Socialist German Workers' Party headquarters courts voters by passing out balloons with tiny swastikas.

Hitler's paramilitary "Brownshirts" sit down with a farmer and his wife and try to persuade them to vote Nazi.

Mecklenburger, Germany. June 21, 1932. Bundesarchiv

A crowd of supporters swarm around Hitler's car.

Weimar, Germany. October 1930. Bundesarchiv

Two men put up a poster calling on people to vote for Hitler in the presidential election.

Mecklenburg, Germany. June 21, 1932. Bundesarchiv

Hitler and his Sturmabteilung paramilitary group lead a massive rally of supporters.

The Sturmabteilung, today often called the "Brownshirts," would serve as hired thugs for the Nazi Party, keeping their rallies safe and disrupting the rallies of other parties.

Nuremberg, Germany. Circa 1928. Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Goebbels addresses a massive crowd that has come out to support the Nazi Party.

A couple look over the campaign signs that have taken over a street post, including a small swastika up in the corner.

Berlin. July 31, 1932. Bundesarchiv

Earlier in Hitler's political career, a crowd of people fill a Munich beer hall to hear him speak.

Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi head of propaganda, waves at Hitler as he passes by in his car.

Weimar, Germany. October 1930. Bundesarchiv

Adolf Hitler and Nazi Party representatives pose together for a photograph while planning their election campaign.

Munich. December 1930. Bundesarchiv

The massive crowd of supporters that came out to see the Nazi Party leaders speak, seen from above.

Berlin. April 4, 1932. Bundesarchiv

A man steps out of the polling station, having cast his vote. Behind him, a man holds up a poster with Hitler's face.

Berlin. March 13, 1932. Bundesarchiv

Voters cast their ballots at Potsdamer Platz, where a sign asking people to vote for Hitler hangs above the entrance.

Berlin. March 1932. Bundesarchiv

A truck drives by, covered in propaganda calling on the people to keep Paul von Hindenburg as President of Germany — and keep the fascists out.

Berlin. March 1932. Bundesarchiv

Chancellor Heinrich Brüning speaks to a crowd, urging them to vote for Paul von Hindenburg and keep Hitler out of power.

Berlin. March 1932. Bundesarchiv

Hitler prepares to make a speech.

Berlin. January 1932. Bundesarchiv

A truck for President Paul von Hindenburg drives down the streets, warning the people that a vote for Hitler is a vote for "eternal discord."

Berlin. April 1932. Bundesarchiv

Crowds come out to cast their ballots in the first round of the presidential election.

Hitler lost this election — but he didn't stay out of power for long. As soon as it was over, he started campaigning for the federal election, after which his party would come into power a mere four months later.

Berlin. March 13, 1932. Bundesarchiv

As the final votes are cast in the presidential election, supporters of each candidate make one last bid to sway the voters.

Berlin. April 10, 1932. Bundesarchiv

Chancellor Heinrich Brüning steps out of the polling station after casting his vote against Hitler.

Brüning's vote would help keep Hitler from winning the presidency for the moment — but Hitler would take his spot as chancellor, instead, shortly after.

Berlin. April 10, 1932. Bundesarchiv

The Nazi Party lost the presidential election, but they didn't give up. The federal election — and Hitler's shot at becoming chancellor — was just around the corner.

Here, Joseph Goebbels addresses a massive crowd of supporters, urging them to cast their vote for fascism. One of the signs promises that voting for fascism will give them a "voice."

Berlin, Germany. April 7, 1932. Bundesarchiv

Joseph Goebbels yells into his microphone, addressing his crowd of supporters.

Berlin. July 1932. Bundesarchiv

A campaign truck urges voters to cast their ballots for the DNVP: the German National People's Party.

A vote for the DNVP would prove little different from a vote for the Nazi Party. The two parties would form a coalition after the election, with Hitler in charge.

The German National People's Party in an earlier election, drives through the streets with an anti-semitic poster on their truck.

Reichstagswahl, Germany. 1930. Bundesarchiv

Germany's Communist Party, the KPD, deck out their campaign office with signs warning of the dangers of voting for Hitler.

After Hitler came into power, he would get his revenge. He blamed the Reichstag fire on the KPD and purged them with executions during the "Night of the Long Knives" in 1934.

The Democratic Parties, united under a single banner, drive through the streets of Germany trying to rally the people to keep the fascists and the communists out.

Reichstagswahl, Germany. August 1930. Bundesarchiv

The "Brownshirts" keep people in line at a Nazi Party rally.

Berlin. April 1931. Bundesarchiv

Adolf Hitler salutes his Sturmabteilung.

Brunswick, Germany. April 1932. Bundesarchiv

The RFB, the Communist Party's equivalent to the Sturmabteilung, patrol the streets looking for Nazis to fight.

Berlin. June 5, 1927. Bundesarchiv

The "Brownshirts" throw a parade, making a show of force to intimidate and sway voters toward Hitler.

Spandau, Germany. 1932. Bundesarchiv

Political parties set up shop outside of a restaurant, trying to sway the customers' votes.

Kurt von Schleicher, the new Chancellor of Germany, takes one last look at the placards before casting his vote.

Hitler would win the election, which, traditionally, would make him the obvious choice to replace Schleicher as chancellor. President Hindenburg, however, kept Schleicher as Chancellor of Germany for a few months longer. The decision infuriated the Nazi Party and their supporters who, somewhat ironically, saw Hindenburg's move as undemocratic. Soon after, Schleicher was pressured into stepping down and letting Hitler take his spot.

Berlin. March 5, 1933. Bundesarchiv

A woman casts her vote in the election that would ultimately give power to the Nazis.

Brunswick, Germany. 1932. Bundesarchiv

A man steps out of the polling station after casting his vote.

Nazi supporters march in celebration after hearing that Hitler has been appointed Chancellor of Germany.

Berlin. January 30, 1933. Bundesarchiv

Newly-appointed Chancellor Adolf Hitler, at the window of the Chancellery, waves at his supporters.

Berlin. January 30, 1933. Bundesarchiv

The Nazi Party, now in charge, campaign to consolidate their power into a complete dictatorship.

The sign reads, "One vote, one Fuhrer, one yes."

Berlin. November 1933. Bundesarchiv

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Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party didn't simply take Germany by force. They were voted in.

While it's easy to forget or misunderstand this, during the 1932 federal elections, nearly 14 million Germans voted for Hitler, the Nazis, and fascism.

It's a dark, dirty secret of history that we don't like to acknowledge, but the rise of German fascism began with a democratic election. People came out in droves and cast their votes to give the Reichstag to the Nazis — and they really believed that they were making the right choice.

The Nazi Party succeeded by played into the country's worries. At the end of World War I, the country was crippled. They'd been forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles, including its War Guilt Clause, which put the full blame for the war squarely on Germany's shoulders — along with its expenses.

With so much debt to pay off, German money became practically worthless. Five years after the war ended, it took 4.2 trillion German marks to equal the value of one American dollar. People's life savings were so worthless that they burned them as kindling.

The Nazi Party fed upon this desperation. They promised to tear up the Treaty of Versailles, refuse to pay their debts, and take back the land that had been taken from them after the war. The Nazis were angrier and more militant than any other party out there — and as life got harder, that started to appeal to the Germans.

Then, in 1924, a war profiteering and corruption scandal in the German government between former Chancellor Gustav Bauer and the Jewish Barmat brothers merchants brought on a whole new wave of anti-Semitism and distrust in the government.

Hitler's rage-filled ideas of racial superiority then started to seem more palatable to the people of Germany. Slowly, the fascist, racist Nazi Party seemed, to some people, like a solution to the country's problems.

By July 31, 1932, the people were angry. They were full of distrust and racial hatred, and they made their voices heard by going out to the polls and voting for the Nazi Party.

It took a fire in the Reichstag, the death of a president, and a night of executions to make the Nazis' power absolute – but that power originated with the will of the people. Democracy died and fascism rose because the people voted for it.

After this look at the Hitler election of 1932, check out these pictures of the Nazi propaganda machine and life in Nazi Germany.

With the exception of a handful of historically Unionist North Georgia counties – chiefly Fannin but also to a lesser extent Pickens, Gilmer and Towns – Georgia since the 1880s had been a one-party state dominated by the Democratic Party. Disfranchisement of almost all African-Americans and most poor whites had made the Republican Party virtually nonexistent outside of local governments in those few hill counties, [1] and the national Democratic Party served as the guardian of white supremacy against a Republican Party historically associated with memories of Reconstruction. The only competitive elections were Democratic primaries, which state laws restricted to whites on the grounds of the Democratic Party being legally a private club. [2]

The previous election of 1928 had seen many Protestant ministers in this state stand strongly opposed to Catholic Democratic nominee Al Smith, [3] with the result that Republican candidate Herbert Hoover was able to gain considerable support in the largely white but secessionist upcountry. [4] However, unlike in Alabama, where Hoover nearly carried the state due to Thomas Heflin supporting him over Smith, in Georgia no local Democrats supported Hoover.

The onset of the Great Depression completely destroyed any hope of building on the gains from anti-Catholicism and growing urban middle class presidential Republican voting [5] which had been seen since 1920. [6] In fact, Hoover fell far below typical Republican percentages from before the 1920s, and Roosevelt won more than ninety percent of ballots in Georgia as a whole and in all but twenty-two of the state’s 159 counties. His performance is the best in Georgia by any presidential candidates since Andrew Jackson won the state uncontested exactly a century previously. [7]

Hitler versus Hindenburg The 1932 Presidential Elections and the End of the Weimar Republic

This title is not currently available for examination. However, if you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact [email protected] providing details of the course you are teaching.

Hitler versus Hindenburg provides the first in-depth study of the titanic struggle between the two most dominant figures on the German Right in the last year before the establishment of the Third Reich. Although Hindenburg was reelected as Reich president by a comfortable margin, his authority was severely weakened by the fact that the vast majority of those who had supported his candidacy seven years earlier had switched their support to Hitler in 1932. What the two candidates shared in common, however, was that they both relied upon charisma to legitimate their claim to the leadership of the German nation. The increasing reliance upon charisma in the 1932 presidential elections greatly accelerated the delegitimation of the Weimar Republic and set the stage for Hitler's appointment as chancellor nine months later.

  • The first in-depth study of most critical events in the history of the late Weimar Republic that culminated in Hitler's appointment as chancellor
  • Uses primary research from one hundred and thirty archival collections and over thirty archives
  • Constitutes a major contribution to the existing body of historical literature on the Nazi assumption of power

Election of 1876

This election ranks higher than other disputed elections because it is set against the backdrop of Reconstruction. New York governor Samuel Tilden (1814–1886) led in popular and electoral votes but was one shy of the necessary votes to win. The existence of disputed electoral votes led to the Compromise of 1877. A commission was formed and voted along party lines, awarding Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican, 1822–1893) the presidency. It is believed that Hayes agreed to end Reconstruction and recall all troops from the South in exchange for the presidency.

Significance: The election of Hayes meant the end of Reconstruction, opening up the country to the scourge of repressive Jim Crow laws.


After the landslide election, the country—and Hoover—had to endure the interregnum , the difficult four months between the election and President Roosevelt’s inauguration in March 1933. Congress did not pass a single significant piece of legislation during this period, although Hoover spent much of the time trying to get Roosevelt to commit publicly to a legislative agenda of Hoover’s choosing. Roosevelt remained gracious but refused to begin his administration as the incumbent’s advisor without any legal authority necessary to change policy. Unwilling to tie himself to Hoover’s legacy of failed policies, Roosevelt kept quiet when Hoover supported the passage of a national sales tax. Meanwhile, the country suffered from Hoover’s inability to further drive a legislative agenda through Congress. It was the worst winter since the beginning of the Great Depression, and the banking sector once again suffered another round of panics. While Roosevelt kept his distance from the final tremors of the Hoover administration, the country continued to suffer in wait. In part as a response to the challenges of this time, the U.S. Constitution was subsequently amended to reduce the period from election to inauguration to the now-commonplace two months.

Any ideas that Roosevelt held almost did not come to fruition, thanks to a would-be assassin’s bullet. On February 15, 1933, after delivering a speech from his open car in Miami’s Bayfront Park, local Italian bricklayer Giuseppe Zangara emerged from a crowd of well-wishers to fire six shots from his revolver. Although Roosevelt emerged from the assassination attempt unscathed, Zangara wounded five individuals that day, including Chicago Mayor Tony Cermak, who attended the speech in the hopes of resolving any long-standing differences with the president-elect. Roosevelt and his driver immediately rushed Cermak to the hospital where he died three days later. Roosevelt’s calm and collected response to the event reassured many Americans of his ability to lead the nation through the challenges they faced. All that awaited was Roosevelt’s inauguration before his ideas would unfold to the expectant public.

So what was Roosevelt’s plan? Before he took office, it seems likely that he was not entirely sure. Certain elements were known: He believed in positive government action to solve the Depression he believed in federal relief, public works, social security, and unemployment insurance he wanted to restore public confidence in banks he wanted stronger government regulation of the economy and he wanted to directly help farmers. But how to take action on these beliefs was more in question. A month before his inauguration, he said to his advisors, “Let’s concentrate upon one thing: Save the people and the nation, and if we have to change our minds twice every day to accomplish that end, we should do it.”

Unlike Hoover, who professed an ideology of “American individualism,” an adherence that rendered him largely incapable of widespread action, Roosevelt remained pragmatic and open-minded to possible solutions. To assist in formulating a variety of relief and recovery programs, Roosevelt turned to a group of men who had previously orchestrated his election campaign and victory. Collectively known as the “Brains Trust” (a phrase coined by a New York Times reporter to describe the multiple “brains” on Roosevelt’s advisory team), the group most notably included Rexford Tugwell, Raymond Moley, and Adolph Berle. Moley, credited with bringing the group into existence, was a government professor who advocated for a new national tax policy to help the nation recover from its economic woes. Tugwell, who eventually focused his energy on the country’s agricultural problems, saw an increased role for the federal government in setting wages and prices across the economy. Berle was a mediating influence, who often advised against a centrally controlled economy, but did see the role that the federal government could play in mediating the stark cycles of prosperity and depression that, if left unchecked, could result in the very situation in which the country presently found itself. Together, these men, along with others, advised Roosevelt through the earliest days of the New Deal and helped to craft significant legislative programs for congressional review and approval.

The Limits of New Deal Reform

Despite the growing support from black voters, President Franklin D. Roosevelt remained aloof and ambivalent about black civil rights. His economic policies depended on the support of southern congressional leaders, and FDR refused to risk that support by challenging segregation in the South. During Roosevelt’s first term, the administration focused squarely on mitigating the economic travails of the Depression. This required a close working relationship with Congresses dominated by racially conservative southern Democrats, including several Speakers and most of the chairmen of key committees. “Economic reconstruction took precedence over all other concerns,” observed historian Harvard Sitkoff. “Congress held the power of the purse, and the South held power in Congress.” 43

/tiles/non-collection/b/baic_cont_3_anti-lynching_protest_1927_LC-USZ62-110578.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Members of the NAACP New York City Youth Council picket in 1937 on behalf of anti-lynching legislation in front of the Strand Theater in New York City’s Times Square. That same year an anti-lynching bill passed the U.S. House, but died in the Senate.

The failure to pass anti-lynching legislation underscored the limitations of reform under FDR. In this instance—unlike in the early 1920s when there were no black Representatives in Congress—an African-American Member of Congress, Arthur Mitchell, refused to endorse legislation supported by the NAACP. Moreover, Mitchell introduced his own anti-lynching bill in the 74th Congress (1935–1937), which critics assailed as weak for providing far more lenient sentences and containing many legal ambiguities. Given the choice, Southerners favored Mitchell’s bill, although they amended it considerably in the Judiciary Committee, further weakening its provisions. Meanwhile, Mitchell waged a public relations blitz on behalf of his bill, including a national radio broadcast. Only when reformers convincingly tabled Mitchell’s proposal early in the 75th Congress (1937–1939) did he enlist in the campaign to support the NAACP measure—smarting from the realization that Judiciary Committee Chairman Hatton Sumners of Texas had misled and used him. The NAACP measure passed the House in April 1937 by a vote of 277 to 120 but was never enacted into law. Instead, Southerners in the Senate effectively buried it in early 1938 by blocking efforts to bring it to an up-or-down vote on the floor. 48 The rivalry between Mitchell and the NAACP, meanwhile, forecast future problems. Importantly, it revealed that African-American Members and outside advocacy groups sometimes worked at cross-purposes, confounding civil rights supporters in Congress and providing opponents a wedge for blocking legislation.

Election of 1980

The next critical election occurred in 1980 when Republican challenger Ronald Reagan defeated the Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter by the tremendous margin of 489 to 49 Electoral Votes. At the time, approximately 60 American’s had been held hostage since November 4, 1979, after the U.S. Embassy in Tehran had been overrun by Iranian students. The Reagan election also marked a realignment of the Republican Party to being more conservative than ever before and also brought about Reaganomics which was designed to fix severe economic issues that confronted the country. In 1980, the Republicans also took control of the Senate, which marked the first time since 1954 that they had control of either house of Congress. (It would not be until 1994 before the Republican Party would have control of both the Senate and the House simultaneously.)

Hoover Out, Roosevelt In

In addition to the term “Hooverville,” President Hoover’s name was used derisively in other ways during the Great Depression. For example, newspapers used to shield the homeless from the cold were called “Hoover blankets,” while empty pants pockets pulled inside out�monstrating no coins in one’s pockets–were “Hoover flags.” When soles wore out of shoes, the cardboard used to replace them was dubbed “Hoover leather,” and cars pulled by horses because gas was an unaffordable luxury were called “Hoover wagons.”

Tensions between destitute citizens and the Hoover administration climaxed in the spring of 1932 when thousands of World War I veterans and their families and friends set up a Hooverville on the banks of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. In June, many of them marched to the Capitol to request early payment of the government bonuses they had been promised–money that would have alleviated the financial problems of many families. The government refused to pay, citing Depression-era budgetary restrictions. When most of the veterans refused to leave their shacks, Hoover sent in U.S. Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) to evict the so-called Bonus Army. MacArthur’s troops set fire to the Hooverville and drove the group from the city with bayonets and tear gas. Hoover later claimed that MacArthur had used excessive force, but his words meant little to most of those affected.

Hoover also received criticism for signing, in June 1930, the controversial Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act, which imposed a high tariff on foreign goods in an effort to prevent them from competing with U.S.-made products on the domestic market. However, some countries retaliated by raising their tariffs, and international trade was hampered. Between 1929 and 1932, the value of world trade declined by more than half.

By 1932, Hoover was so unpopular that he had no realistic hope of being re-elected, and Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) of New York won that year’s presidential election in November by a landslide. Roosevelt’s recovery program known as the New Deal eventually reduced unemployment, regulated banking and helped turn the ailing economy around with public works projects and other economic programs. By the early 1940s, many Hoovervilles had been torn down.

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