A New Deal (7-2-1932)

The Great Depression was in its third year.  Banks were failing and unemployment stood at around 25%.  Many Americans felt hopeless.

This was an election year.  President Herbert Hoover’s efforts to fight the Depression had failed.  So Hoover and the Republicans were on the way out.  The next president would probably be a Democrat.

President Hoover

The Democratic Convention met at the new Chicago Stadium in the summer of 1932.  On the third ballot, they nominated Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York as their candidate.  Then they appointed a committee to go to New York, and notify Roosevelt at a later date.

That’s the way it had always been done.  But now there was radio.  Everybody knew whom the Democrats had picked, as soon as it happened.  Roosevelt sent word to the delegates to forget about the committee, and stay put.  He would come to Chicago.

And to get there in a hurry, he would travel by airplane!

That’s wasn’t easy to do.  Since Roosevelt couldn’t walk, he had to be transported everywhere in a wheelchair.  The flight itself took several hours, battling storm and heavy headwinds.

But now, on the evening of June 2, the candidate was at the Chicago Stadium.  He didn’t look like someone who was in constant pain from his disability.  He didn’t look like someone who had just endured a bumpy, marathon flight in a 1932-model plane.  He was smiling.

Roosevelt radiated confidence.  He told the Convention that the times called for bold action.  That’s why he had abandoned the ridiculous idea that he should wait around, pretending to be ignorant, until he was formally notified.

FDR, with ever-present cigarette holder

Of course he knew that the delegates had chosen him.  So he was accepting in person.  Now it was time to get busy, win the election, and get the country moving again.  And he said: “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.”

Roosevelt had captured the mood of a nation ready to break with tradition.  That fall he beat Hoover in a landslide.  The new president’s program came to be known by the phrase he used in his acceptance speech—the New Deal.

Today historians debate whether Roosevelt’s policies helped the country recover from the Depression.  But he sure did restored America’s belief in itself.



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