United States Elections: Presidential Elections (1932)


Figure 1.--After Govenor Roosevelt won the Democratic nomination, he launched on an energetic campaign--in part to show how vigorous and vigorous he was, depite his polio. He often appeared in cars because this was a way of being outside and coming in contact with people without walking. Here he is in Los Angeles. He held several rallies there. I am not sure who he is with in the car, but an unidentified boy is being presented to him. Note the boy's flat cap. The photograph is dated September 27, 1932 which means that it was probably take a day or two earlier.

America less than a year after Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover's impressive victory was struck by the Wall Street Crash (1929). President Hoover's misjudged the seriousness and nature of the economic decline. He also showed an unwillingness to act decisevely. As a result America lapsed into the Great Depression. The Republicans stuck with President Hoover, but without enthusiam--in sharp contrast to 1928. The economic devestation virtually preordained that the Democrats would win the 1932 election. The question was only who would win the Democratic nomination. Following his reelection as governor in 1930, Roosevelt began to campaign for the presidency. While the economic depression damaged Hoover and the Republicans, Roosevelt's bold efforts to combat it in New York enhanced his reputation. The Democrats met in Chicago and nominated Roosevelt on the third ballot. Roosevelt broke with tradition and flew to Chicago to accept the nomination in person. The Republicans renominated President Hoover. Govenor Roosevelt campaigned energetically calling for government intervention in the economy to provide relief, recovery and reform. President Hoover's campaign was lackluster. This was in parrt areflection of his personality, but the deepening economic crisis was also a factor. Despite the situation, President Hoover continued to resist massive Federal envolvement in the ecoinomy. Roosevelt's activist approach and personal charm helped to defeat Hoover in November 1932 by 7 million votes. The land-slide Democratic election victory resulted in a major realignment of American politics. A great deal has been written about President Roosevelt's New Deal. At first historians were mostly lauditory, but in recent years some economits have claimed the New Deal prolonged the Depression. That is difficult to assess. What many New Deal critics fail to pappreciate is how bad the econonomic situation was when President Roosevelt took office. Tge social fabric of the nation was fraying. The danger that more radical figures might have gained influence if bold action had not been taken.

The Depression

America less than a year after Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover's impressive victory was struck by the Wall Street Crash (1929). President Hoover's misjudged the seriousness and nature of the economic decline. He also showed an unwillingness to act decisevely. And many of the steps he and the Congress did take such an enacting a high tariff only made matters worse. As a result America lapsed into the Great Depression and by 1932 the economy was nor only not improving, but getting worse. The Republicans stuck with President Hoover, but without enthusiam--in sharp contrast to 1928. No one at the time understood the role of the Federal Reserve in brining on the Depression.

Political Background

The economic devestation virtually preordained that the Democrats would win the 1932 election. Generall American voters in times of economic distress will vote out the party in power. This may make sence today as the Federal Government has a major role in the economy. But until the New Deal the Federal Government's role was fairly limited and even less so before the Wilson Adminisdtration. Thus in popular mythology, President Hoover was blamed for the Depression. Infact, his Administration did not cause the Wall Stree crash, but Adminisdtratioin policies did manage to turn what may have been a recession into a depression. In fairness to Hoover, however, many of the policies he adopted were also supported by the Democrats. The question in 1932 was only who would win the Democratic nomination. Following his reelection as governor in 1930, Roosevelt began to campaign for the presidency. While the economic depression damaged Hoover and the Republicans, Roosevelt's bold efforts to combat the Depression as govenor of New York enhanced his reputation.

Republican Convention (June 1932)

The Republicans met at the Chicago Stadium (June 14-16, 1932). The only Republican to challenge President Hoover was Joseph I. France of Maryland. The vice-presidential nomination was more hotly contested. The Republicans were not optimistic. They had loss heavily in the 1930 Congressional by-elections. The Depression was getting worse inspite of President Hoover's extemsive efforts to reverse the economic spiral. There were 13 million Americans out of work. The party with little enthusiam renominated the incumbents--Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis. The party platform approved reflected Hoover's stay the course approach. Delegates also urged a repeal of Prohibition.

Democratic Convention (June 1932)

Later in June, The Democrats also assembled in Chicago in June. Their mood, however, was very different. There were several Demoratic presidential hopefuls. Governor Roosevelt had done well in the primaries, but the primaries were not yet the dominant factor in the choice of the candidate. While Roosevely was the leading candidate. He did not, however, have the needed two-thirds of the delegates. It was not common at the time to nominate a candidate on the first ballot unless there was an incumbant president. And Democrats in particular were known for raucous nominating conventions. There were several favorite sons who liked to have their names brandied about as a matter of prestige. Radio-electronic industrialist Owen Young was a possible compromise candidate. James Farley played a key role in rounding up uncommitted delegates for Governor Roosevelt. One of Farley's important targets was Texan John Nance Garner. He was an arch conservative, but he had the delegtes needed to gain the nomination for Roosevelt. Farley conferred with Sam Rayburn, who was acting as Garner's campaign manager and trying to convince Garner to bring the Texas delegation over on the first ballot. Rayburn told him, "Hell, no, we've got a lot of people up here who've never been to a convention before , and they've got to vote for Garner a few times." Finally the deal was cut. Roosevelt's vice-presidebntial choice was determined by who could bring with him the most delegates and that proved to be Garner. Thus Roosevelt and the New Deal got a vice president who could not have been more out of sync with the administration. And Garner became famous for his colorful remark that the vice presidency 'wasn't worth a bucket of warm spit'. But Roosevelt got the delegates. The Convention nominated him on the third ballot--rather early in Democratic terms. Roosevelt broke with tradition and flew to Chicago to accept the nomination in person. His acceptance speech would prove to be one of the most famous in American history.

Personal Connections

Interestingly the two candidates before the election had been friends. They both were mid-level officials in the Wilson Administration during World War I. They lived near each other in Georgetown and socialized together. The incrasingly acrimonious campaign, however, would drive a permanent wedge between the two men.

Brain Trust

Govenor Roosevelt assembed a group of advisers to afvise him in his campaign. They were primarily drawn from academia. Even though the country faced staggering ecomonic problems, few of these advisers were from Wall Street or industry. Their academic background led to the term "Brain Trust", a term used at first by the press with a degree of ject. The principal members were from Columbia University, a New York university. University professor Raymond Moley (1886-1975) helped recruit other Colonbia professors: Rexford Tugwell (1891-1979), and Adolf A. Berle, Jr. (1895 1971). They were not a political brain trust to help Roosevelt win the election, but rather economic and social advisrs to help him develop policies once he won the election. They gave the Govenor analyses of national social and economic problems which helped devise policies to address those problems. Many of the ideas which they developed would be turned into public policy. The group did not meet after Roosevelt was elected, but members of the campaign Brain Trust would serve in the New Deal. Moley was an excdpotion. He wrote much of the President's first inagural and believed that the first 100 Days "saved capitalism". But he became one of the New Deal's sharpest critics. Tugwell was put in chrge of the Resettlement Administration (RA) (1935) which lay the foundation for the Farm Security Administration. Berle was the author of the Good Neigbor Policy.

Campaign

Govenor Roosevelt campaigned energetically. He showed off his family. His son Jummy was important to help his stand without crutches. Elenor made some early appearances with him, but not excited about the ideaof being First Lady. She soon returned home. Govenor Roosevelt called for government intervention in the economy to provide relief, recovery and reform. President Hoover's campaign was lackluster. This was in part a reflection of his personality. He was not a gigted public speaker and did not hasve a particularly outgoing personsality. The deepening economic crisis, however, was surely the major factor in the campaign. Despite the situation, President Hoover continued to resist massive Federal envolvement in the economy.

Election Results

Roosevelt's activist, positive approach and personal charm helped to defeat Hoover in November 1932 by 7 million votes, carrying 23 million votes or 57 pervent of the vote. Presidbt Hoover ganered 15 million votes or less than 40 percent. Socialist candidate Norman Thomas won nearly 1 million votes. The Electoral College vote was 472 to 59. Roosevelt not only carried the traditional Democratic South, but swept the West and Mid-West. The only major state carried by Hoover was Pennsylvanisa. He often carried states in traditionally Republican New England. The land-slide Democratic election victory resulted in a major realignment of American politics which allowed the Democrats to dominate Ameican politics until President Nixon began to chip into the formerly Semocratic solid South..

The New Deal

A great deal has been written about President Roosevelt's New Deal. At first historians were mostly lauditory, but in recent years some economits have claimed the New Deal prolonhed the Depression. That is difficult to assess. What many New Deal critics fail to pappreciate is how bad the econonomic situation was when President Roosevelt took office. Tge social fabric of the nation was fraying. The danger that more radical figures might have gained influence if bold action had not been taken.

Transformational Election

The election of 1932 was a transfirmationsl election. Roosevelt built a virtually unbeatable coalitioin of ethnic groups, labor, farmers, and the solid South. Just as President Lincoln in the 1860 election would make the new Republican Party the dominant party for decades, the 1932 would make the Democrats the dominate party for decades.







CIH






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Created: 7:51 AM 8/9/2007
Last updated: 11:17 AM 7/16/2017