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FDRs influence as president
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Influence as president
Some have called him the best president yet. Others have even claimed that he was the
world's most influential and successful leader of the twentieth century. Those
claims can be backed up by the overwhelming support that he received from his citizens
throughout his four terms in office. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began a new
era in American history by ending the Great Depression that the country had fallen into in
1929. His social reforms gave people a new perspective on government. Government
was not only expected to protect the people from foreign invaders, but to protect against
poverty and joblessness. Roosevelt had shown his military and diplomatic skill as the
Commander in Chief during World War II. This wartime leadership and international
relations policy won him an award in the hearts of many Americans.
Roosevelt threw his hat in the ring in 1931 in order to prepare for the
election of 1932. Democratic Party chairman James A Farley directed his campaign.
He started a nationwide radio address, outlining a program to meet the economic problems of the nation. He coined the term "forgotten man" to mean all of those who had been hard hit by the evils of the depression. These radio addresses were the start to what he called the "fireside chats". Overall, Roosevelt was the most energetic and dynamic
candidate, and he was nominated by the party on the fourth ballot. Although he
displayed excellent characteristics, his competition was fairly tough. He was up against
John Nance Garner of Texas (who would be his Vice Presidential running mate);
Newton D. Baker of Ohio, who was former Secretary of War; and former Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York. For three ballots, Roosevelt held a large lead, but lacked the two- thirds margin necessary for victory. Farley then promised John Garner the vice
presidential nomination, which he accepted grudgingly. Then FDR took the presidential
nomination on the fourth ballot.
One of the purposes of the national convention is to bring the party together in a
movement of support behind the nominated candidate. Although there was rough
competition during the choosing process, most party leaders were happy with the
Roosevelt choice. It would help pull votes from the urban-Eastern region of the country.
Also, Roosevelt made a dashing introduction at the Chicago convention by being the first
nominee to ever write an acceptance speech. In this speech, he brought emotions from
the audience in his last line, "I pledge to you, I pledge to myself, to a new deal for the
During the November campaign against Hoover, Roosevelt suggested a few parts
of the so called "New Deal". He spoke of relief and public works money. He wanted to
develop a plan to cut agricultural overproduction. He was for public power, conservation
and unemployment insurance. The repeal of prohibition and stock exchange regulation
were also big items on his platform.
However, other than the aforementioned items, Roosevelt was quite vague about
other plans. He mentioned little about his plans for industrial recovery or labor laws. As
much foreign policy experience as he had, he talked very little of it during the campaign.
Many believe that he was simply trying to home in on the problems that the American
public saw most prominent at the time.
When it came to election day, Roosevelt was the only viable alternative to
Hoover, who many blamed for the Great Depression, although critics argue that it was
the presidents preceding the Hoover Administration. The outcome reflected this
thinking: Roosevelt won 22,821,857 votes compared to Hoover's 15, 761,841.
Roosevelt also won the electoral 472 to 59. The voters had sent large majorities of Democrats to both houses as well, which would enable Roosevelt to accomplish more by pushing through more bills.
Roosevelt's second election was in 1936. As expected, Roosevelt won by a landslide. He received 27,751,491 popular votes and carried 46 states with 523 electoral votes. His opponent only received 16,679,491 popular votes and 2 states with 8 electorals. This reflected the nation's confidence in the man and his leadership ability. However, the nation still had a long way to go. He stated in his inauguration address, "I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished".
After another over-all successful term, Roosevelt ran again in 1940.
To obtain more Republican support for this campaign, Roosevelt used his
executive power of appointment to appoint two republicans to his Cabinet in 1940. The
first was Henry L. Stimson for Secretary of War, who held the office under the Taft
Administration. He also held the office of Secretary of State under President Hoover.
Stimson replaced Harry Woodring who was regarded as isolationist. Roosevelt's
previous opponent who ran for as Vice President on the republican side, newspaper publisher Frank Knox, was placed as the Secretary of the Navy.
The Republicans based their campaign on the tradition that no President had ever
gone for a third term in succession. To counter this, Roosevelt put the spotlight on his
administration's achievements. Because of the risky situation abroad, many felt that
Roosevelt's expertise was needed if war occurred.
The election results were closer this time than the previous two times. Roosevelt
received 27,243,466 popular votes and 449 electoral votes. Wilkie received
22,334,413 popular votes and 82 electoral votes.
When it was time for Roosevelt's third term to end, he initially said he wanted to
retire. However, he later declared that he felt it was his duty to serve if his country called
on him. Much of this feeling was based on the idea that it would be a bad thing for the
country to change leadership in the middle of the war. Many of the president's advisors
felt he would not live through a fourth term, considering his heart disease, hypertension,
and other cardiac problems. Because of his condition, the Vice President nomination for
the 1944 election was of utmost importance. Roosevelt was persuaded to drop Henry
Wallace, whom many regarded as too liberal and emotionally unsuited to be president.
Harry Truman of Missouri was chosen to fill the spot. Although Roosevelt received
party nomination on the first ballot, there were two other candidates: Harry Byrd (89 votes) and James Farley--again-- (1 vote).
The Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey of New York for President and John
Bricker of Ohio for Vice President. Again, their argument was term length. No
President should serve for 16 years, they declared. The opposing argument by the
Democrats was that no country should "change horses in mid-stream". Roosevelt drove
around the streets of New York City in a rainstorm and then made a speech to show that
his health was not a major issue.
The election outcome was even slimmer this time, but Roosevelt still captured a
hearty vote. Roosevelt received 25,602,505 votes and 432 electoral votes and his
Republican opponent received 22,013,372 popular votes and 99 electoral votes.
Many of the advisers who helped Roosevelt during his presidential campaigns
continued to aid him after he entered the White House. By the time Roosevelt was inagurated on March 4, 1933, the economic situation was desperate. Between 13 and 15 million Americans were unemployed. Of these, between 1 and 2 million people were wandering about the country looking for jobs.
Thousands lived in cardboard shacks called "hoovervilles". Even more were standing in bread lines hoping to get a few crumbs for their family. Panic-stricken people hoping to rescue their deposits had forced 38 states to close their banks. The Depression hit all levels of the social scale-- heads of corporations and Wall Street bankers were left on the street begging-- "brother, can you spare a dime?" became the catch phrase of the era.
Roosevelt's action would be two parted: restore confidence and rebuild the
economic and social structure. In one of his addresses, he pushed confidence with his
statement, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself". It is here where he would push
his presidential powers farther than almost any other president in history during
peacetime. He made the bold request to Congress to allow him "broad executive power
to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if
we were invaded by a foreign foe."
One of his first steps was to take action upon the bank problem. Because of the
Depression, there were "runs" to the bank that people were making to pull their deposits
out in return for paper cash and gold. Many banks were not fit to handle this rush.
Roosevelt declared a "bank holiday" that began on March 6, 1933 and lasted for four
days. All banks in the nation were closed until the Department of Treasury could
examine each one's fiscal situation. Those that were determined to be in sound financial
condition were allowed to reopen. Those that were questionable were looked at more
deeply. Those banks who had been badly operated were not allowed to reopen.
During the FDR administration, 5,504 banks had closed and deposits of nearly $3.5 billion
dollars were lost.
Shortly after the President restored confidence in the banks, what is now known
as the "100 days" began on March 9 and ended on June 16, 1933. The President at
once began to submit recovery and reform laws for congressional approval. Congress passed nearly all the important bills that he requested, most of them by large majorities. The fact that there was a Democratic party majority in both houses helped speed things
along. What emerged from these 100 days was a 3-fold focus, RELIEF-RECOVERY-REFORM.
One of the relief actions was known as the Emergency Relief Act. This
established the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and he pushed an
appropriation of $500 million to be spent immediately for quick relief. Harry Hopkins
was appointed to the head of FERA as the Federal Relief Administrator.
The Reforestation Act of 1933 killed two birds with one stone. First it helped
stop and repair some of the environmental damage that had occurred as a result of the
industrial revolution. More importantly, however, it created the Civilian Conservation
Corps, which eventually employed more than 2 1/2 million men at various camps.
Projects included reforestation, road construction, soil erosion and flood control as well
as national park development.
The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) was designed to raise crop prices and
raise the standard of living for American farmers. Production was cut to increase
demand, therefore raising the price. Also, various subsides were set up to add to the
farmers income. It also gave the president the power to inflate the currency by
devaluating its gold content or the free coinage of silver and issue about $3 billion in
paper currency. The AAA was later struck down as unconstitutional by the US
Supreme Court-- US vs. Butler.
The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), another recovery measure, was
designed to balance the interests of business and labor and consumers/workers and to
reduce unemployment. This act set codes of anti-trust laws and fair competition, as well
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