Did FDR support Hoover for the presidency of the US in 1920?

Did FDR support Hoover for the presidency of the US in 1920?

Franklin Foer writes in a new Guardian article:

Americans of all persuasions began yearning for the salvific ascendance of the most famous engineer of his time: Herbert Hoover. In 1920, Franklin D Roosevelt - who would, of course, go on to replace him in 1932 - organised a movement to draft Hoover for the presidency.

Here is a similar claim:

It is no wonder that Progressive Republicans as well as such Progressive Democrats as Louis Brandeis, Herbert Croly, and others on the New Republic, Edward A. Filene, Colonel Edward M. House, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, boomed Hoover for the presidency during the 1920 campaign.

However, FDR was the Democratic vice-presidential candidate himself in 1920! (wiki)

Isn't there something of a contradiction here? Perhaps FDR was supporting a Hoover run before he decided to run himself? Am I engaging in an anachronism here?

Question: Did FDR support Herbert Hoover for President in 1920?


Short Answer:

Hoover was a wealthy, admired, and world famous man before WWI. His humanitarian efforts both as a private citizen and later as an agent of the United States increased this fame and admiration by a few orders of magnitude. FDR during WWI was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, by comparison nearly a nobody. I say nearly because FDR was still tied to Teddy Roosevelt and thus still commanded more fame and name recognition than his achievements up to that point probable merited.

So did FDR support Hoover for the Presidency in 1920. FDR who was supremely political, tried to recruit Hoover for the 1920 Democratic Presidential Ticket, with himself as the Vice President. Unfortunately Hoover's fame was so great that he was also being courted by the Republican Party for their nomination. Hoover who's fame was magnified as a President Wilson(d) political appointee, declared himself a Republican and rejected FDR's proposition. As you mentioned FDR later obtained the vice president spot on the Democratic Ticket from James Cox the former governor of Ohio who secured the Democratic Nomination. FDR was 38 in 1920, and was four years younger than Teddy was when he was nominated for the same office. The Cox Roosevelt democratic ticket was soundly defeated by Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge in the 1920 Presidential Election with the Democrats only taking a few states in the south. Hoover was given the relatively low profile position of Secretary of Commerce in the Harding administration.

Note: Hoover would win the Presidency in the 1928 election taking office March of 1929 a few months before the Great depression began(October 29, 1929). It was his first elected office all his previous government positions were as an appointee.

More Detailed Answer

World War I ended in November of 1918. Franklin Delano Roosevelt(FDR) had been the assistant undersecretary of the navy under President Wilson. Herbert Hoover was a significantly more famous guy in 1920 than was FDR but was not from a political background and was thus somewhat of an unknown political entity.

Herbert Hoover was a famous and very wealthy engineer from the private sector who was famous for challenging engineering projects across asia (Australia and China) before WWI, and became even more famous during and after WWI.

Before the U.S entered WWI, citizen Hoover organized and lead an effort to repatriate 120,000 Americans from Europe. He lead and organized 500 volunteers who went to Europe and gave away food, clothing, cash and steam ship tickets back to the U.S. to Americans trying to return home.

As a private citizen, Hoover then organized and lead an effort to purchase and distribute food to civilians on both sides of the war. Hoover's organization basically feed Belgium for the duration of the war and at its height served 10.5 million people daily, with a budget of 11 million dollars made up from both Government Grants and private donations.

When the United States entered the War President Wilson appointed the famous and respected Hoover to lead the U.S. Food Administration. A kind of food Czar who would stockpile and secure American food supplies(purchase, store, and transport) for the war effort. After the War Hoover's Food Administration was tasked with feeding Central and Eastern Europe until their own economies got back on their feet. Something Hoover achieved with remarkable proficiency.

All this high profile service made Herbert Hoover a popular figure in the United States and abroad. His nickname was the Great Humanitarian. Young 38 year old FDR recognized Hoover's fame could be turned into political currency and tried to recruit him for the head of the Democratic Ticket. It all fell through though when Hoover declared himself a life long Republican and rejected FDR's overtures. Herbert Hoover would accept the relatively minor cabinet position as Secretary of Commerce in the Harding Administration.

After WWII the Truman Administration would again tap Hoover in the same role of organizing US food aid to Europe. In 1945, Hoover would again organize and distribute food across Europe averting mass starvation and do all this millions of dollars bellow what the Truman administration projected for the relief effort.

Herbert Hoover
Wiki: Herbert Hoover
Wiki: Franklin Deleno Roosevelt
NY Times: Herbert Hoover backed for the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize

This theory is at least plausible. This Economic Encyclopedia makes the claim that Hoover might have been the real father of what we now call the "New Deal," and notes that "Many Democrats, including FDR, saw him as a potential presidential candidate for their party in the 1920s."

While Hoover was a Republican, he was also noted for his "Progressive" tendencies in the manner of both FDR and the other Roosevelt, Teddy. That set him somewhat apart from Harding ("Back to normalcy") and Coolidge ("The Business of America is Business.") and made him acceptable to left wing northern Democrats (less so to conservative Southern Democrats).

Mitigating the timing somewhat is the fact that in 1920, Hoover was age 46, and no one that young had ever been elected for the first term up to that time. (Teddy Roosevelt had "inherited" his first term from McKinley, while John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama who were elected President at the ages of 43,46, and 47 respectively, were decades in the future.) Hoover was a much more plausible candidate for the 1924 and 1928 elections (he actually ran in the latter year). FDR himself, was something of a surprise choice as Cox's Vice-Presidential candidate because of his age, 38 (four years earlier, and he would have been ineligible to run). But he had federal level and international experience that "balanced" Cox's "local" (Ohio) credentials.

Party Realignment And The New Deal

The realignment of black voters from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party that began in the late 1920s proliferated during this era. This process involved a “push and pull”: the refusal by Republicans to pursue civil rights alienated many black voters, while efforts—shallow though they were—by northern Democrats to open opportunities for African Americans gave black voters reasons to switch parties. 26

The 1932 presidential contest between incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover and Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt was something of a turning point. During his first term, Hoover had tried to ingratiate himself with southern segregationists, and his administration had failed to implement economic policies to help African Americans laid low by the Great Depression. Still, Hoover received between two-thirds and three-quarters of the black vote in northern urban wards. 27 Most black voters sided with Republicans less out of loyalty than because they were loath to support a candidate whose Democratic Party had zealously suppressed their political rights in the South. African Americans mistrusted FDR because of his party affiliation, his evasiveness about race in the campaign, and his choice of a running mate, House Speaker John Nance Garner of Texas. 28

As late as the mid-1930s, African American Republican John R. Lynch, who had represented Mississippi in the House during and after Reconstruction, summed up the sentiments of older black voters and upper middle-class professionals: “The colored voters cannot help but feel that in voting the Democratic ticket in national elections they will be voting to give their indorsement [sic] and their approval to every wrong of which they are victims, every right of which they are deprived, and every injustice of which they suffer.” 29

/tiles/non-collection/b/baic_cont_3_depriest_oscar_smithsonian_-618ns0227109-01pm.xml Image courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution Born in Alabama, Representative Oscar De Priest became the first African American elected from the North and the first to be elected in the 20th century.

Indeed, the most common political experience African-American Members of this era shared was their involvement in politics at the ward and precinct levels. The Chicago political machines run by Thompson and, later, Democrats such as Edward J. Kelly and Richard J. Daley, sent nearly one-third of the black Members of this era to Capitol Hill. Local and regional political machines recognized the voting power of the growing African-American urban population long before the national parties realized its potential. At the beginning of this era, the relationship between black politicians and party bosses was strong, and many black Members of Congress placed party loyalty above all else. But by the late 1960s, as black politicians began to assemble their own power bases, carving out a measure of independence, they often challenged the machine when party interests conflicted with issues important to the black community. Unlike earlier black Members who relied on the established political machines to launch their careers, these Members, most of whom had grown up in the cities they represented, managed to forge political bases separate from the dominant party structure. By linking familial and community connections with widespread civic engagement, they routinely clashed with the entrenched political powers. 31

Discontent with the Hoover administration’s halting efforts to revive the Depression-era economy also loosened African-American ties to the Republican Party. Nationally, the staggering financial collapse hit black Americans harder than most other groups. Thousands had already lost agricultural jobs in the mid-1920s due to the declining cotton market. 32 Others had lost industrial jobs in the first stages of economic contraction, so black workers nationally were already in the grips of an economic depression before the stock market collapsed in October 1929. By the early 1930s, 38 percent of African Americans were unemployed compared to 17 percent of whites. 33 A Roosevelt administration study found that black Americans constituted 20 percent of everyone on the welfare rolls, even though they accounted for just 10 percent of the total population. In Chicago, one-fourth of welfare recipients were black, although black residents made up just 6 percent of the city’s total population. 34

/tiles/non-collection/b/baic_cont_3_african-americans-wwii-224-Bethune-and-E-Roosevelt-PBA-10-F-561.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration At the urging of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (center), Mary McLeod Bethune (left), a leading African-American educator, was appointed to head the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration.

Even more telling was the defection of De Priest’s protégé, William Dawson, who won election to the Chicago city council as a Republican with De Priest’s backing in 1932. Six years later, Dawson defeated De Priest in the 1938 GOP primary, but failed to unseat Mitchell in the general election. Dawson then lost his seat on the city council when De Priest allies blocked his re-nomination. But Dawson soon seized an opportunity extended by his one-time opponents. Working with Democratic mayoral incumbent Ed Kelly, Dawson changed parties and became Democratic committeeman in the Second Ward, clearing a path to succeed Mitchell upon his retirement from the House in 1942. Dawson’s case epitomized the willingness of Democratic bosses like Kelly to recruit African Americans by using their political machines. 38

Additionally, black voters nationwide began leaving the Republican Party because of the growing perception that local Democratic organizations better represented their interests. Local patronage positions and nationally administered emergency relief programs in Depression-era Chicago and other cities, for instance, proved crucial in attracting African-American support. 39 While the New Deal failed to extend as much economic relief to black Americans as to whites, the tangible assistance they provided conferred a sense that the system was at least addressing a few issues that were important to African Americans. For those who had been marginalized or ignored for so long, even the largely symbolic efforts of the Roosevelt administration inspired hope and renewed interest in the political process. 40

As the older generation of black voters disappeared, the Democratic machines that dominated northern city wards courted the next generation of black voters. By 1936 only 28 percent of African Americans nationally voted for Republican nominee Alf Landon—less than half the number who had voted for Hoover just four years before. 41 Over time, the party affiliations of black Americans in Congress became equally one-sided. Including Oscar De Priest, just nine black Republicans were elected to Congress between 1929 and 2017—about 7 percent of the African Americans to serve in that time span. 42

The rocky transition from Hoover to FDR

June 8, 2020

President Herbert Hoover and President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to cooperate in any matter during the four-month transition that occurred in the midst of the Great Depression. Eric Rauchway, an expert on the New Deal and the Progressive Era, shared his expertise on how Roosevelt utilized his time between the election and the inauguration to set in motion one of the most successful presidencies in American history despite Hoover’s unwillingness to ease the way.

Read the highlights

David Marchick asked historian Eric Rauchway why he chose to write about the Hoover-Roosevelt transition.

Rauchway: “I became persuaded that this hundred or so days before Roosevelt took the oath of office were actually as important as the much more famous hundred days that came after. In fact, the previous hundred days really paved the way for that burst of legislative activity that happened upon his coming into office.”

Marchick: At the Partnership for Public Service, we focus on effectiveness in government, and we would advise the outgoing administration to work cooperatively with the incoming administration, much like George W. Bush did with Barack Obama during the financial crisis of 2008. So what happened with Hoover and Roosevelt? Did they cooperate with each other?

Rauchway: “No, they really didn’t. Of course, your advice, which is excellent advice for outgoing and incoming chief executives, assumes that both parties regard the transfer of power as legitimate. In this case in 1932 and 1933, Herbert Hoover fundamentally regarded the proposed New Deal FDR had campaigned on as an illegitimate use of presidential and federal power, and something that he wanted to stop as much as he possibly could.

“It’s fair to say certainly that Hoover probably never really liked Franklin Roosevelt. He said, ‘I had no use for that man after 15 years of acquaintance.’ Which kind of tips you off.

“Although they weren’t that far off in age…Roosevelt’s youthful demeanor made him seem a lot younger than he was. Hoover thought of him as callow and immature. And frankly, Herbert Hoover wasn’t the only one. Roosevelt had a definite sense of humor that I think today we would identify as being kind of trollish.”

Reflecting on similarities between the Great Depression and the today’s economic crisis, Rauchway noted:

“I think that one of the things that the pandemic and the shutdown (of economic activity) have revealed is that there are big structural inequalities in the United States that have been unaddressed for a long period of time. That is a point where we do have important parallels with the United States in 1932, 1933. The Depression also revealed the thinness of the boom years of the 1920s and how many sectors of American life really hadn’t benefited from that sort of superficial prosperity.”

Rauchway explained how FDR used the transition period between his election in 1932 and his inauguration ion 1933 to prepare to govern.

“He (Roosevelt) goes to his vacation house in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he meets a whole bunch of various Democrats and liberal Republicans and starts to marshal ways of putting through the legislation that he had promised during the campaign: legislation to relieve farmers, legislation to build dams at public expense and operate them to produce hydroelectric power…, legislation that’s friendly to unions, legislation that’s going to push forward what we would now call a sort of “pro-welfare state” like unemployment insurance and Social Security.

“He begins to take advice from experts, politicians and industry leaders over how best to do those things. He sends up trial balloons. He tries to get… people in his party and sympathetic members of the Republican Party on his side. He begins to put together a Cabinet that is shaped with those policies in mind and in deference to the kinds of constituencies that he thinks will support him.”

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, New York in 1882 at “Springwood,” his family’s country estate amid the rolling hills and pastoral splendor of the Hudson Valley. Descendants of Dutch immigrants who arrived in New York City in the mid 17th century, FDR’s ancestors had lived in the valley for generations and were distant cousins to a second branch of the family that had settled Oyster Bay, Long Island, and gave rise to Theodore Roosevelt. Franklin was the son of James Roosevelt and his second wife, Sara Delano, and with the exception of a half-brother twenty-six years his senior, had no other siblings.

At Springwood, FDR enjoyed a privileged but solitary boyhood, where, under the doting eye of his mother, he pursued his many outdoor passions, including riding, fishing, ice-boating, and wandering the woods and fields of his father’s estate. The family also owned a town house in New York City, where they spent much of the winter, as well as a summer cottage on Campobello Island, Canada.

Like many of the children of the old-money Hudson Valley Aristocracy, FDR’s early education was undertaken at home, first by a governess, and later by a private tutor. At fourteen, FDR was sent to Groton, a prestigious boy’s boarding school located in Massachusetts, where he would remain for four years. Next came Harvard, which granted him a BA in 1903, and finally, Columbia University Law School. FDR left Columbia without taking a degree, but he passed the New York bar examination in 1907, and spent the next three years practicing law as a junior clerk at Carter, Ledyard, and Milburn, a prominent New York City law firm.

In the fall of 1902, while FDR was still at Harvard, he began to see more and more of his distant cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. A year later, FDR asked for her hand, and the two of them were married on March 17, 1905. The daughter of Elliot Roosevelt and Anna Hall, Eleanor was a member of the Oyster Bay branch of the Roosevelt family. She was also the niece of a man FDR much admired, Theodore Roosevelt, who was President at the time of their marriage and gave Eleanor away in the absence of her deceased father. The couple had six children, five of whom survived infancy. In the first years of their marriage, Eleanor’s attention remained primarily focused on her family, but as the years passed, she would become more and more involved in issues of public policy and social justice.

Early Political Career

Always active and interested in politics (FDR was a great admirer of his distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, who served as President of the United States from 1901 to 1908), FDR abandoned law in 1910 to run for the New York State Senate. FDR ran as a progressive, independent-minded Democrat, who stood in staunch opposition to the “political bossism” so prevalent at the time. He won election by a comfortable margin, and would serve in the New York State Senate for the next three years, having won re-election in 1912. As a state senator, FDR continued his opposition to “machine” politics,” sponsored a resolution urging New York’s congressional delegation to approve the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution calling for the direct election of senators, and was an early champion of the cause of conservation.

FDR’s career in the New York State Senate came to an end in 1913, when, as a reward for his support of the Woodrow Wilson’s presidential candidacy at the Democratic National Convention in 1912, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy. FDR was thrilled. The Navy Department was one of the largest and most important government agencies and it offered FDR substantial opportunities to gain valuable administrative experience and make important political contacts from coast to coast. The appointment also seemed propitious. His cousin Theodore held the post in 1898 and had used it as an effective stepping stone in his march to the governorship of New York, and finally the White House. FDR threw himself into the position with great enthusiasm, and soon established a reputation as an energetic and effective administrator. Granted considerable latitude by his superior, Josephus Daniels, FDR focused his attention for the most part on the business side of the Navy Department, although he did, on occasion, discuss tactics. After the U.S. entry into World War One, for example, FDR pressed Secretary Daniels to rush through a crash building program of 50-foot launches to defend U.S. ports against the German submarine menace — a program that Daniels rejected. FDR was more successful in his promotion of the so-called North Sea Mine Barrage, an ambitious plan designed to keep German submarines out of the North Sea by sewing a “belt” of mines from Norway to Scotland. Like the proposed 50-foot launch scheme, Daniels also opposed this idea, but after a direct appeal by FDR to President Wilson, the plan was approved. In the Spring of 1918, the British and American Navies began the difficult task of laying the mines, and although the barrage remained incomplete at War’s end, it limited German access to the North Sea and was a factor in the collapse of morale among German sailors that manifested itself in the famous Kiel mutiny of November 1918.

Setbacks and Challenges

FDR left the Navy Department in the summer of 1920 to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination as the vice-presidential running mate for James M. Cox. FDR was chosen because he balanced the ticket geographically, had earned considerable respect for his performance as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and had a well-known name. The 1920 campaign was a difficult one for the Democrats, however. The country seemed to have tired of Wilson, whose progressive ideas and support for U.S. participation in the League of Nations had become increasingly unpopular. To overcome this, Roosevelt and Cox campaigned furiously, with FDR averaging ten speeches a day. But it was to no avail. The nation wanted a change and the Republican ticket of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge won by a wide margin, establishing Republican control of not only the White House, but also both Houses of Congress.

The election of 1920 may have been a disaster for the Democratic Party as a whole, but in many ways it was a triumph for FDR. For it was through the 1920 campaign that the young Roosevelt first acquired a national following. It also provided FDR with the opportunity to hone his political skills, skills that he would use to great effect, later in his career.

Following the 1920 election, FDR returned to private law practice, eventually establishing a partnership with Basil O’Connor that specialized in corporate cases with offices at 120 Broadway in the heart of Wall Street. In the summer of 1921, FDR also took a well-deserved vacation, heading to his family’s summer retreat on Campobello Island, New Brunswick. It was during this fateful period, while enjoying the splendors of a maritime summer with his children, that FDR contracted poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis). Despite courageous efforts to regain the use of his legs, the disease would render FDR unable to stand or walk unassisted for the rest of his life. FDR refused to accept this, however, and for the next seven years would undergo a daily regime of exercise and therapy in a vain attempt to rebuild his atrophied muscles. This relentless search for a cure would ultimately bring FDR to Warm Springs, Georgia, where in 1927 he established the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation for the treatment of victims of polio. FDR threw all he had into the foundation and invested nearly 2/3rds of his private fortune into it before he heeded the call to return to politics.

Governor of New York

The occasion was the 1928 presidential election. Al Smith, then Governor of New York, had been nominated as the national Democratic candidate, and anxious to carry the state of New York, he asked FDR to run as his successor. At first, FDR refused, citing the important work he was doing in Warm Springs, and his own desire to continue his efforts to regain full use of his legs. FDR’s political advisor, Louis Howe, was also against the idea, as it was widely believed that 1928 would be a “Republican Year.” But Smith persisted, and after a conversation with his wife, Eleanor, who implored him to go ahead, and his unsolicited nomination by the State Democratic Party, FDR decided to throw caution to the wind and enter the race.

Knowing full well that his health might become an issue in the campaign, FDRconducted one of the most vigorous races of his career. In town after town, he hammered away at his opponent, making sure, whenever possible, that he did so from a standing position. FDR accomplished this by locking his steel braces into place and firmly gripping the arm of an aide, or a steel rod that had been specially installed in the back seat of his touring car. Tall, strong, and vigorous, and openly asking the public to come to their own conclusions about the state of his health, FDR quickly dispelled any doubts about his ability to take on the rigors of office. His efforts paid off, and in spite of the fact that the Republican ticket under Herbert Hoover took the country by a landslide, FDR scored an upset victory in New York, thereby winning not only the governorship, but also the admiration of the national democratic leadership, who had already targeted FDR as a possible presidential candidate in 1932.

FDR would serve two, two-year terms as Governor of New York, from 1928 to 1932. In true progressive tradition, he pursued an activist agenda, enhancing the power of state agencies, expanding support for social services and increasing regulatory supervision of business. He also provided help to the state’s agricultural community by passing tax cuts for small farmers, boosting funds for rural education, and initiating the first program in the country that sought to raise commodity prices by taking land out of production. Following the collapse of the Stock Market in 1929, and the onset of the Great Depression, FDR moved slowly away from his fiscal conservatism, and through measures such as the New York State Unemployment Relief Act and the creation of the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA), moved to provide relief to the growing numbers of jobless in the state.

The New Deal Years

On March 4, 1933, when FDR took the oath of office to become the 32nd President of the United States, America was a country in the midst of the worst economic crisis in its history. Since the onset of the Great Depression—initiated by the crash of the stock market in the fall of 1929—over $75 billion in equity capital had been lost on Wall Street, the gross national product had plunged from a high of $104 billion to a mere $74 billion, and U.S. exports had fallen by 62 percent. Over thirteen million people, nearly 25 percent of the workforce, were now unemployed. In some cities, the jobless rate was even higher. In Chicago it had climbed to 40 percent, in Detroit, a staggering 50 percent. Caught in a web of despair, thousands of shabbily dressed men and women walked the streets in search of work, or a bit of food, doled out from one of the hundreds of soup kitchens set up by private charities to keep the wage-less from starvation. In rural America, meanwhile, thousands of tons of unmarketable crops sat rotting in gain storage bins, while farm income plummeted and thousands of families were forced to abandon their homesteads. Reeling from the pressures of such a massive economic downturn, more than 11,000 banks had closed their doors, and the U.S. banking system had all but ceased to function. The nation, in short, appeared to be falling into an economic abyss that might well result in the total breakdown of order. Some observers even feared that without immediate and dramatic action, the country might well slip into revolution.

FDR’s response to this unprecedented crisis was to initiate the “New Deal” — a series of economic measures designed to alleviate the worst effects of the depression, reinvigorate the economy, and restore the confidence of the American people in their banks and other key institutions. The New Deal was orchestrated by a core group of FDR advisors brought in from academia and industry known as the “Brains Trust” who, in their first “hundred days” in office, helped FDR enact fifteen major laws. One of the most significant of these was the Banking Act of 1933, which finally brought an end to the panic that gripped the nation’s banking system. The success of the Banking Act, depended in large measure on the willingness of the American people to once again place their faith—and money—in their local banks. To ensure this, FDR turned to the radio, and in the first of his many “fireside chats,” convinced the American people the crisis was over and that their deposits—backed by the newly established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — were safe.

Other significant New Deal measures included the establishment of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). The most famous measure of the New Deal was the 1935 Social Security Act, which led to the establishment of the Social Security Administration and the creation of a national system of old-age pensions and unemployment compensation. Social Security also granted federal financial support to dependant children, the handicapped, and the blind. The New Deal also led to the establishment of a number of significant regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), set up to stave off a further crash of the Stock Market, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which ultimately made home ownership affordable for millions of average Americans, as well as the National Labor Relations Board, the Civil Aeronautics Authority, and the Federal Communications Commission.

While the New Deal did much to lessen the worst affects of the Great Depression, its measures were not sweeping enough to restore the nation to full employment. Critics of FDR’s policies, on both the right and the left, have thus found ample reason to condemn it. Conservatives argue, for example, that it went too far, and brought too much government intervention in the economy, while those on the left argue that it did not go far enough, and that in order to be truly effective, the Roosevelt Administration should have engaged in a far more comprehensive program of direct federal aid to the poor and unemployed. But the New Deal’s greatest achievements transcend mere economic statistics, for in a world where democracy was under siege, and the exponents of fascism and communism flourished, the New Deal offered hope and restored the faith of the American people in their representative institutions. It also transformed the federal government into an active instrument of social justice and established a network of laws and institutions designed to protect the American economy from the worst excesses of liberal capitalism.

The policies of the New Deal changed the nature of government in the United States. But domestic reform was not the only area in which FDR transformed America. Torn asunder by the devastating effects of the Great Depression, and bitter about American involvement in World War I, the United States of the 1930s turned its back on the rest of the world and disavowed its international responsibilities. In the absence of American support, the League of Nations foundered and the enemies of democracy flourished. Piece by piece, Hitler’s Germany expanded at the expense of her neighbors, Italy invaded Abyssinia, Franco launched his fascist crusade in Spain, and the Japanese invaded China.

World War II

Restrained by neutrality laws passed in the late 1930s that did not distinguish between aggressor and victim, FDR could do little to assist the targets of aggression. But he understood the need for American leadership in opposition to fascism, and so began a long, eloquent campaign of popular education designed to awaken the American people from their isolationist slumber. “Let no one imagine,” he warned, “that America may expect mercy” in the event that the fascists in Europe and Asia should prevail. Indeed, it was sheer folly, he insisted, to believe as the isolationists did, that the United States could survive “as a lone island in a world dominated by force…handcuffed, hungry and fed through the bars from day to day by the contemptuous, unpitying masters of other continents.”

As the German Army stormed across Poland, Norway, Denmark, the Low Countries and France in 1939-40 at the outbreak of the Second World War, FDR turned the United States into the “arsenal of democracy.” When Great Britain stood alone, and few thought she could survive, he rejected the advice of his own Chiefs of Staff and insisted that American arms shipments to the British must not only continue, but expand, resulting in the passage of the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941. He also began a massive rearmament campaign the results of which were nothing short of remarkable. In June 1939, the United States possessed an army of a mere 186,000 men that ranked 19th among nations. By mid 1943, the total number of men and women under arms in the United States stood at twelve million, the largest and most powerful assembly of land, sea, and air forces the world had ever seen.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and American entry into the war, FDR assembled a remarkable team of generals and admirals, and with Churchill, crafted the ‘Grand Alliance’ that ultimately destroyed the twin evils of German Nazism and Japanese militarism. As the instigator of the Manhattan project, he became the father of the nuclear age. Determined not to let America once again revert to isolationism after the war, FDR committed the United States to a host of international mechanisms in 1944, such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, that would guarantee American involvement in the wider world and ultimately give rise to the “global economy.” Finally, and most importantly, through his call for a world based on the “Four Freedoms”—Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear—and his determination to establish a United Nations committed to collective security, human rights, national self determination, and economic justice, FDR provided the vision and framework for the world we live in today.

The Last Year

In the spring of 1945, after four long years as commander-in-chief and an exhausting trip to the Crimean Peninsula to meet with Soviet Premier, Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, FDR traveled to Warm Springs for a much-needed rest. He would never return to the White House again. On April 12, 1945, while posing for a portrait by the well-known watercolor artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, FDR noted that he had a terrific headache, slumped in his chair, and passed out. Within two hours he was pronounced dead, the victim of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

The nation, still in the final throngs of the struggle to defeat Hitler, was stunned by the news. It did not seem possible that the man who had exuded so much energy and confidence during the dark days of depression and war was no longer there to lead. On the morning of April 13, FDR’s train departed Warm Springs for the last time. As it made its way slowly northward, first to Washington and then to Hyde Park, thousands of grieving mourners lined the tracks, many of whom wept openly. Two days later the train finally arrived at the platform that stood at the foot of the long trail that winds its way down to the Hudson from Springwood. FDR had come home.

The nominations

At the Republican convention in Chicago in June, Hoover was renominated easily, but there was a battle for the vice presidential slot as Vice Pres. Charles Curtis was challenged unsuccessfully by James Harbord, who had served as John Pershing’s chief of staff in World War I. At the Democratic convention in Chicago two weeks later, Roosevelt had the support of a majority of the delegates, but the Democratic Party rules required a two-thirds majority to win nomination. On the first ballot Roosevelt was shy of victory by more than 100 delegates, with his main opposition coming from Smith and John Nance Garner, who had been elected speaker of the House of Representatives in 1931. After three ballots Garner released his delegates, and on the fourth ballot Roosevelt won the party nomination. Garner was duly selected unanimously as the vice presidential candidate. Roosevelt then broke tradition by appearing in person to accept the party’s nomination. In his speech before the delegates, he said, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.”

Section Summary

President Hoover’s deeply held philosophy of American individualism, which he maintained despite extraordinary economic circumstances, made him particularly unsuited to deal with the crisis of the Great Depression. He greatly resisted government intervention, considering it a path to the downfall of American greatness. His initial response of asking Americans to find their own paths to recovery and seeking voluntary business measures to stimulate the economy could not stem the tide of the Depression. Ultimately, Hoover did create some federal relief programs, such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), which sought to boost public confidence in financial institutions by ensuring that they were on solid footing. When this measure did little to help impoverished individuals, he signed the Emergency Relief Act, which allowed the RFC to invest in local public works projects. But even this was too little, too late. The severe limits on the types of projects funded and type of workers used meant that most Americans saw no benefit.

The American public ultimately responded with anger and protest to Hoover’s apparent inability to create solutions. Protests ranged from factory strikes to farm riots, culminating in the notorious Bonus Army protest in the spring of 1932. Veterans from World War I lobbied to receive their bonuses immediately, rather than waiting until 1945. The government denied them, and in the ensuing chaos, Hoover called in the military to disrupt the protest. The violence of this act was the final blow for Hoover, whose popularity was already at an all-time low.

Herbert Hoover and the 1920 Election

Although associated with the Wilson administration due to his relief efforts in Europe and as head of the United States Food Administration during the War, Herbert Hoover had studiously avoided declaring himself a Republican or a Democrat. He was hopeful that one of the two major parties might draft him as their presidential nominee in 1920. On March 6, 1920 Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor met with Hoover in an attempt to convince him to run as a Democrat with Franklin Roosevelt as the Vice-Presidential nominee. The Hoover-Roosevelt ticket of 1920 would make an excellent alternate history novel! Hoover considered it, but by the end of March declared himself a Republican. He and Franklin Roosevelt remained on friendly terms until they faced off against each other in the election of 1932.

The good fairies gave Hoover many gifts at his birth, but ability as a politician was not one of them. His campaign for the Republican nomination for President came to nothing, with political professionals deriding it as an amateurish effort. Accepting defeat with his usual unflappable grace, Hoover supported Harding after he was nominated by the GOP.

Why did Warren G Harding won the election of 1920?

A well-known Republican in New York, Corinne Robinson's importance grew because the presidential campaign of 1920 marked the first election in which women could vote. Anxious to attract women's votes, both the Republican and Democratic parties sought significant women to speak in support of their candidates.

Furthermore, what happened in the election of 1920? In the presidential election, Republican Senator Warren G. Harding from Ohio defeated Democratic Governor James M. Cox of Ohio. Harding won a landslide victory, taking every state outside the South and dominating the popular vote.

Similarly, why was Warren G Harding elected to represent the Republican Party in the 1920 election quizlet?

Harding. In the 1920 presidential election, he was the Republican nominee who promised Americans a "return to normalcy," which would mean a return to conservative values and a turning away from President Wilson's internationalism. His message resonated with voters' conservative postwar mood and he won the election.

What did Warren G Harding mean by normalcy is that a good term to describe the 1920s?

Return to normalcy, a return to the way of life before World War I, was United States presidential candidate Warren G. Harding's campaign slogan for the election of 1920. Harding's promise was to return the United States' prewar mentality, without the thought of war tainting the minds of the American people.

25.4 Assessing the Hoover Years on the Eve of the New Deal

As so much of the Hoover presidency is circumscribed by the onset of the Great Depression, one must be careful in assessing his successes and failures, so as not to attribute all blame to Hoover. Given the suffering that many Americans endured between the fall of 1929 and Franklin Roosevelt’s inauguration in the spring of 1933, it is easy to lay much of the blame at Hoover’s doorstep (Figure 25.16). However, the extent to which Hoover was constrained by the economic circumstances unfolding well before he assumed office offers a few mitigating factors. Put simply, Hoover did not cause the stock market crash. However, his stubborn adherence to a questionable belief in “American individualism,” despite mounting evidence that people were starving, requires that some blame be attributed to his policies (or lack thereof) for the depth and length of the Depression. Yet, Hoover’s presidency was much more than simply combating the Depression. To assess the extent of his inability to provide meaningful national leadership through the darkest months of the Depression, his other policies require consideration.


Although it was a relatively quiet period for U.S. diplomacy, Hoover did help to usher in a period of positive relations, specifically with several Latin American neighbors. This would establish the basis for Franklin Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor” policy. After a goodwill tour of Central American countries immediately following his election in 1928, Hoover shaped the subsequent Clark Memorandum —released in 1930—which largely repudiated the previous Roosevelt Corollary, establishing a basis for unlimited American military intervention throughout Latin America. To the contrary, through the memorandum, Hoover asserted that greater emphasis should be placed upon the older Monroe Doctrine, in which the U.S. pledged assistance to her Latin American neighbors should any European powers interfere in Western Hemisphere affairs. Hoover further strengthened relations to the south by withdrawing American troops from Haiti and Nicaragua. Additionally, he outlined with Secretary of State Henry Stimson the Hoover-Stimson Doctrine, which announced that the United States would never recognize claims to territories seized by force (a direct response to the recent Japanese invasion of Manchuria).

Other diplomatic overtures met with less success for Hoover. Most notably, in an effort to support the American economy during the early stages of the Depression, the president signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Tariff in 1930. The law, which raised tariffs on thousands of imports, was intended to increase sales of American-made goods, but predictably angered foreign trade partners who in turn raised their tariffs on American imports, thus shrinking international trade and closing additional markets to desperate American manufacturers. As a result, the global depression worsened further. A similar attempt to spur the world economy, known as the Hoover Moratorium , likewise met with great opposition and little economic benefit. Issued in 1931, the moratorium called for a halt to World War I reparations to be paid by Germany to France, as well as forgiveness of Allied war debts to the U.S.


Holding true to his belief in individualism, Hoover saw little need for significant civil rights legislation during his presidency, including any overtures from the NAACP to endorse federal anti-lynching legislation. He felt African Americans would benefit more from education and assimilation than from federal legislation or programs yet he failed to recognize that, at this time in history, federal legislation and programs were required to ensure equal opportunities.

Hoover did give special attention to the improvement of Native American conditions, beginning with his selection of Charles Curtis as his vice-presidential running mate in the 1928 election. Curtis, of the Kaw Tribe, became the country’s first Native American to hold so high an elected office. Hoover subsequently appointed Charles Rhoads as the new commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and advocated, with Rhoads’ assistance, for Native American self-sufficiency and full assimilation as Americans under the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. During Hoover’s presidency, federal expenditures for Native American schools and health care doubled.

Click and Explore

Cartoons, especially political cartoons, provide a window into the frustrations and worries of an age. Browse the political cartoons at The Changing Face of Herbert Hoover to better understand the historical context of Herbert Hoover’s presidency.


Herbert Hoover’s presidency, embarked upon with much promise following his election in November 1928, produced a legacy of mixed reactions. Some Americans blamed him for all of the economic and social woes from which they suffered for the next decade all blamed him for simply not responding to their needs. As contemporary commentator and actor Will Rogers said at the time, “If an American was lucky enough to find an apple to eat in the Depression and bit into it only to find a worm, they would blame Hoover for the worm.” Likewise, subsequent public opinion polls of presidential popularity, as well as polls of professional historians, routinely rate Hoover in the bottom seven of all U.S. presidents in terms of overall success.

However, Hoover the president was a product of his time. Americans sought a president in 1928 who would continue the policies of normalcy with which many associated the prosperity they enjoyed. They wanted a president who would forego government interference and allow industrial capitalism to grow unfettered. Hoover, from his days as the secretary of commerce, was the ideal candidate. In fact, he was too ideal when the Great Depression actually hit. Holding steadfast to his philosophy of “American individualism,” Hoover proved largely incapable of shifting into economic crisis mode when Americans came to realize that prosperity could not last forever. Desperate to help, but unwilling to compromise on his philosophy, Hoover could not manage a comprehensive solution to the worldwide depression that few foresaw. Only when reelection was less than a year away did a reluctant Hoover initiate significant policies, but even then, they did not provide direct relief. By the start of 1932, unemployment hovered near 25 percent, and thousands of banks and factories were closing their doors. Combined with Hoover’s ill-timed response to the Bonus Army crisis, his political fate was sealed. Americans would look to the next president for a solution. “Democracy is a harsh employer,” Hoover concluded, as he awaited all but certain defeat in the November election of 1932 (Figure 25.17).

World War II

By 1939, with the outbreak of war in Europe, Roosevelt was concentrating increasingly on foreign affairs. New Deal reform legislation diminished, and the ills of the Depression would not fully abate until the nation mobilized for war.

When Hitler attacked Poland in September 1939, Roosevelt stated that, although the nation was neutral, he did not expect America to remain inactive in the face of Nazi aggression. Accordingly, he tried to make American aid available to Britain, France, and China and to obtain an amendment of the Neutrality Acts which rendered such assistance difficult. He also took measures to build up the armed forces in the face of isolationist opposition.

With the fall of France in 1940, the American mood and Roosevelt's policy changed dramatically. Congress enacted a draft for military service and Roosevelt signed a "lend-lease" bill in March 1941 to enable the nation to furnish aid to nations at war with Germany and Italy. America, though a neutral in the war and still at peace, was becoming the "arsenal of democracy", as its factories began producing as they had in the years before the Depression.

The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, followed four days later by Germany's and Italy's declarations of war against the United States, brought the nation irrevocably into the war. Roosevelt exercised his powers as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, a role he actively carried out. He worked with and through his military advisers, overriding them when necessary, and took an active role in choosing the principal field commanders and in making decisions regarding wartime strategy.

He moved to create a "grand alliance" against the Axis powers through "The Declaration of the United Nations," January 1, 1942, in which all nations fighting the Axis agreed not to make a separate peace and pledged themselves to a peacekeeping organization (now the United Nations) upon victory.

He gave priority to the western European front and had General George Marshall, Chief of Staff, plan a holding operation in the Pacific and organize an expeditionary force for an invasion of Europe. The United States and its allies invaded North Africa in November 1942 and Sicily and Italy in 1943. The D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches in France, June 6, 1944, were followed by the allied invasion of Germany six months later. By April 1945 victory in Europe was certain.

The unending stress and strain of the war literally wore Roosevelt out. By early 1944 a full medical examination disclosed serious heart and circulatory problems and although his physicians placed him on a strict regime of diet and medication, the pressures of war and domestic politics weighed heavily on him. During a vacation at Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945, he suffered a massive stroke and died two and one-half hours later without regaining consciousness. He was 63 years old. His death came on the eve of complete military victory in Europe and within months of victory over Japan in the Pacific. President Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden of his estate at Hyde Park, New York.