Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Presidential Politics in 1932


by William E. Leuchtenburg:
At the Democratic national convention late in June, the anti-Roosevelt coalition came within an ace of success. Roosevelt took a decided lead on the first ballot with 666¼ votes to Smith's 201¾, Garner's 90¼, and scattered support for favorite sons. Yet he was still more than a hundred votes short of the needed two-thirds ... When the convention recessed after the third ballot, the Roosevelt leaders had a margin of only a few hours in which to try to save the day.

Late that afternoon, when the fourth roll call reached California, the rangy, straight-backed William McAdoo strode to the platform. California, he announced, had come to Chicago not to deadlock a convention, but to nominate a President. Quickly, the meaning of his words became clear. California had abandoned Garner and was casting its forty-four votes for Roosevelt... With the switch of California, it was all over. The other states, all save the diehard Smith forces, climbed on the band wagon, and within minutes Franklin Roosevelt had been named as the Democratic nominee.

Upsetting all precedents, Roosevelt flew to Chicago -- in a tri-motored plane that was buffeted by squalls and twice had to land to refuel -- to deliver the first acceptance speech ever made to a nominating convention ...


The Democratic convention displayed little more interest than the Republican in the crucial problems of the depression. Roosevelt's platform, drafted at the Governor's request by A. Mitchell Palmer, was a conservative document. Senator Key Pittman protested: "The platform has the merit of being short, and the demerit of being cold. There is not a word in it with regard to the 'forgotten man'" ...

At both conventions the delegates showed far more concern over prohibition than over unemployment. "Here we are," wrote John Dewey, "in the midst of the greatest crisis since the Civil War and the only thing the two national parties seem to want to debate is booze" ...

While the platform aroused little enthusiasm, the nominee kindled little more...

Roosevelt's campaign did little to reassure critics who thought him a vacillating politician. His speeches sounded painfully discordant themes...

Yet all this was as nothing compared to his oscillations on fiscal policy. He would increase aid to the unemployed, but he would slash federal spending. On this one point he was specific; he would cut government spending 25 per cent. At Sioux City, Iowa, in September, Governor Roosevelt stated: "I accuse the present Administration of being the greatest spending Administration in peace times in all our history. It is an Administration that has piled bureau on bureau, commission on commission, and has failed to anticipate the dire needs and the reduced earning power of the people." In Pittsburgh the next month, he declared: "I regard reduction in Federal spending as one of the most important issues of this campaign. In my opinion, it is the most direct and effective contribution that Government can make to business." One of his New Deal administrators reflected subsequently: "Given later developments, the campaign speeches often read like a giant misprint, in which Roosevelt and Hoover speak each other's lines."

Leuchtenburg, William E.  Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.  From Chapter 1.


For the record, this is what Franklin Roosevelt actually did:

Total (public and private) debt, relative to the money available to pay down debt

1 comment:

Gene Hayward said...

Hey, Art

This has nothing to do with this particular post, but this current release from the CBO has some interesting tidbits that I think you might be interested in. It is mainly about the econ impact of ARRA but it has some analysis on some topics you have written about before.

Just thought I would pass it on

https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/reports/49958-ARRA.pdf