United States Elections: Congressional By-elections (1930)

Govenor Franlin Roosevelt Warm Springs
Figure 1.--Here we see New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt at Warm Springs, Georgia on November 26, 1930, , following his arduous 1930 New York campaign which he won in a landslide. The press caption read, "Govenor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York with two young friends, Arthur Carpenter, Jr. (left) and Hugh Pool. The Govenor arrived at this health resort recently, after his arduous campaign for re-election." This photograph is remarkavle for several reasons. Note how the Govenor is pictured. One would have no idea tha he was crippled and could not walk, only an inconspicous came. He was often photographed in his car to mask the extent of his disability. Here is a rare picture in front of the car. The tern health resort also masks the fact that it was a spa which he was developing to help those struck by polio--a huge health concern at the time. The most remarkable aspect of this photograph is he degree to which the press abetted Roosevely in keeping the extent of his dusability from the public. Notice the railings over on the right leading up to the car. I suppose FDR used those to propel himself to and from the car.

President Hoover began his presidency with the Congress firmly controlled by the Republicans. The New York Stock Market crash (October 1929) resulted in an economic down turn that grew worse during 1930. Although the dimensions of the economic problem was not yet clear, this was an important factor in the Congressioal and state house races. It might be thought that the Stock Market and economic downturn was the principal election issue. The country had experiebced economic cycles before and by the time the election was held the dimensions of the economic problem was not yet fully understood. One researcher suggests that prohibition, farm policy and the Smoot Hawley Tariff were more salient issues than the economic downturn. [Stevens] We think this is probably correct, in part because the Congressional Democrats were no more sure as to what needed to be done than the Republicans. We do believe, however, that the dimensiins of the Democratic victory were substantially causd by the worsening economic conditions. The Democrats made substantial gains in both the House and Senate. This was the first of four consecutive elections (1930, 32, 34, and 36) during the Depression in which the Democrats made major gains in both houses. The 72nd Congress marked the rise of Texas Democrats to national status. The most important state house election occurred in New York. Franklin Roosevelt had narrowly won the givernorship of New York in the Republican landslide of 1928 as a reform Democrat. He ran and won again in 1930. His initiatives to address the economic down turn attracted national attention. While the economic downturn did not dominate the 1930 campaign, it certainly wood in 1932. By the end of the 72nd Congress the nation was facing a financial crisis of unprescented dimesions with massive unemployment, bankrupsies, and home and farm foreclosures. Thousands of banks on the verge of colapse which could have brought the nation to financial collapse.

President Hoover (1929-33)

President Hoover won a landlide victory in 1928. He began his presidency with the Congress firmly controlled by the Republicans. Ironically President Hoover was noted for his humanitarian efforts in Europe during and After World war I. His ideological mindset, however, his ability to address the challenge of the Great Depression. Hoover's initial resomse was to cut Government spending and ballance the budget. Hoover announced that while he would keep the Federal budget balanced, he would cut taxes and expand public works spending. In would be wrong to suggest that Hoover was unfeeling or that he did nothing to address the Depression. Rpercussions from Europe by 1931 were deepening the crisis, even though the President presented to Congress a program asking for creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to aid business, additional help for farmers facing mortgage foreclosures, banking reform, a loan to states for feeding the unemployed, expansion of public works, and drastic governmental economy. At the same time he reiterated his view that while people must not suffer from hunger and cold, caring for them must be primarily a local and voluntary responsibility.

Depression: Initial Government Resonse

The New York Stock Market crash (October 1929) resulted in an economic down turn during 1930. Thie economic downturn was not yet seen as the Great Depression. The Great Depression of the 1930s was the worst economic slump ever to affect the United States. It was not just a national economic crisis, but one which spread to virtually every country. The greatest calamity to befall Americans in the 20th century was the Great Depression--a worse calamity than even two world wars. The Depression began with the Wall Street stock market crash in October 1929. Soon business were going under and Americans were losing their jobs. All Americans were affected. Eventually about one-third of all wage earners were unemployed and many who kept their jobs saw their earmings fall. President Hoover who had engineered a humanitarian miracle in Europe during World War was unable to break away from the mindset that the Government should not intervene in the economy.

Campaign

It might be thought that the Stock Market and economic downturn was the principal election issue. The country had experiebced economic cycles before and by the time the election was held the dimensions of the economic problem was not yet fully understood. One researcher suggests that prohibition, farm policy and the Smoot Hawley Tariff were more salient issues than the economic downturn. [Stevens] We think this is probably correct, in part because the Congressional Democrats were no more sure as to what needed to be done than the Republicans. We do believe, however, that the dimensiins of the Democratic victory were substantially causd by the worsening economic conditions.

Results

The Democrats made substantial gains in both the House and Senate. This was the first of four consecutive elections (1930, 32, 34, and 36) during the Depression in which the Democrats made major gains in both houses.

House races

The Democrats picked up seats in both houses. The Democrats manged a net gain of 52 seats in the House, a sweeping rebuke to the President. The Republicans dominated much of the Mid-West and West, The West held for the Republicans, but the Democrats made major gains in the Mid-West. Even with these gains, the Republicans retained a narrow majority after the election. An unsual development was that after the November 1930 election, 19 representatives-elects died and the Republicans lost several of the resulting special elections. Thus when 72nd Congress convened in March 1931, the Democrats held a narrow 4 seat majority.

The Senate

Unlike the House, only one-third of the Senate was up for grabs. The Democrats picked up 8 seats in the Senate. They dominated the South and held their seats ther, but made gains throughout the mid-west. The Democrats achieved a net gain of eight seats. The Republicans managed to win only one Democratic heald seat. They defeated incumbent Daniel F. Steck (D-IA). The Democrats won open seats in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, and West Virginia, and defeated five Republican incumbents (Henry J. Allen in Kansas, John M. Robsion in Kentucky, Roscoe C. McCulloch in Ohio, William B. Pine in Oklahoma, and William H. McMaster in South Dakota. The Republican were able to control the Senate only by relying on the voye of the Vice President.

State House Races

The Democrats also made substantial gain in state house races. The most important state house election occurred in New York. Franklin Roosevelt had narrowly won the governorship of New York in the Republican landslide of 1928 as a reform Democrat. He ran and won again in 1930. He tackled major ptoblems such as coruption, establishing the New York Public Service Commission. And he addressed New York's need fir power with projects on the St. Lawrence River. But it was initiatives to address the economic diwn turn that attracted national attention. His New Tork relief system ould become the model for the New Deal's FERA. He also funded public works to both address infrastructure needs and create jobs.

72nd Congress

The 72nd Congress marked the rise of Texas Democrats to national status. John Nance Garner was elected Speaker of the House. Texas like other Southern states was solidly Democratic. Thus there were several Texas Congressmen with considerable seniority. Texas Democrats would be given the chairmanship of several committees: Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Rivers and Harbors Committee, Judiciary Committee, Agricultural Committee, and the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds. When Garner was chosen by Governor Roosevelt for his vice-presidential running mate in 1932, he was replced with another Texas Democrat, Sam Rayburn. Thus Texas Demicrats would play a major role in the upcoming New Deal. This created something of a tension because Garner and other Texas Democrats were muvh more conservative than the Brain Trusters who would be given a major role in the New Deal. Although not yet an important figure, another Texas Democrat arrived in Washington during the 72nd Congress. Congressman Richard M. Kleberg brought Lyndon Baines Johnson to Washington as an aide. Some of the most important pieces of legislation were: the Reconstruction Finance Corporation Act, the Norris-LaGuardia Act, the Revenue Act of 1932, Federal Home Loan Bank Act, and the Buy American Act. None of the laws had an important impact of the worsening Depression. The But American Act may have worsened it by spreading it overseas. President Hoover complained that the Democrats in Congress wee sabatoging his efforts. Politics of course can never be dismissed, but in fact the President's leadership was not up to the demands of the worsening economy. His efforts were limited by his concept of the proper role of government. By the end of the 72nd Congress the nation was fasing a financial crisis of unprescented dimesions with massive unemployment, bankrupsies, and home and farm foreclosures. Thousands of banks on the verge of colapse which could have brought the nation to financial disaster.

The 1932 Election

It was not yet clear how bad the Depression would get, but the deteriorating economic situation would lead to a Democratic landslide in 1932.

Sources

Stevens, Susan F. "Congressional Elections of 1930: Politics of Avoidance" (Ph.D. dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1980),








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Created: 2:51 AM 6/3/2007
Last updated: 2:51 AM 6/3/2007