The 1932 Presidential election was fought between Franklin Roosevelt of the Democrats and Herbert Hover of the Republicans.
In 1932 America was suffering from depression. Banks and businesses were closing every day and unemployment was soaring.
People supported Roosevelt because of many reasons. One reason was that they had lost their jobs. Many of America’s industrial plants lay idle. Five thousand banks had closed. Factory owners had been forced to close down. In 1929 six hundred and fifty banks were declared bankrupt. One hundred and ten thousand companies closed between 1929 and 1932. By 1933 industrial production was halved, by this time over fifteen million were unemployed.
Another reason why people supported Roosevelt was that they were in debt. Farmers got into debt by buying more livestock to help them bring in more money and losing out on crops. People had to borrow more money to try to get themselves out of debt they were already in. For example, the Ricketts who got into four hundred dollars debt to buy mules. The mules died so they borrowed more money for inferior mules. It was a viscous cycle.
Also people supported Roosevelt because they were poor. Crops rotted in the fields, not worth taking to market. Cattle and pigs were slaughtered wholesale for there was no money to buy them, or pay for their feed. For ten consecutive years the Ricketts had lived on so little rations. They hadn’t cleared a cent at the end of the year. Life was sustained by begging, eating at the city soup kitchens or earning a quarter by polishing a car, enough to bring home bread and bacon.
Many people lived in shantytowns named Hoover Ville, in houses made of tin cans and packing boxes. Any money they earnt was quickly took away, re-paying debts.
People were homeless; this was another reason why people supported Roosevelt. By 1932 well over a million Americans were completely homeless and ended up in shantytowns/Hoover Ville. Many people were simply tramping the highways seeking food and work.
Probably the most important reason why people supported Roosevelt was that he gave them hope. During the depression he became known as a humane and effective administrator. His most notable achievement was the creation of America’s first state-run relief agency. He said that the millions of citizens who hoped for their old standards of living “shall not hope in vain” he said “Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in the crusade to restore America.”
He said he was waging a war against destruction, delay, deceit and despair. He showed something different to Hoover, who had said “Let events take their course.” People were hungry, poor, in debt and homeless, Roosevelt offered them the help that they needed. He gave them hope.
Hoover lost the election because he lost the confidence of many people. He made many mistakes. He was regarded as a ‘do-nothing’ president. He tried to restart the economy with tax cuts in 1930 and 1931 and to persuade business leaders not to cut wages. One of his schemes was to introduce tariffs on imported goods. This however, strangled the US industries and made the depression worse. In 1932 Hoover blocked the Garner-Wagner Relief Bill, which would have allowed congress to provide 2.1 billion dollars to create jobs. He believed that social security was not the problem of his government and he did little to help the people suffering from the effects of the depression. Hoover was a republican who believed in ‘laissez-faire’.
This meant to let events go their own way and to leave things to take their course. The government did not pass laws restricting business and taxes were not high enough to provide welfare state. Hoover let McCarthy; a general appointed by Hoover, get the better of him. McCarthy chose his own way to deal with wartime protestors camping at the White House. He used troops and tear gas to move them. As these protestors were peacefully protesting for money owed to them, troops and tear gas seemed to be too extreme and violent. Films of government troops firing on their veterans were shown across the nation. People blamed Hoover for their homelessness. Poor areas were named Hoover Ville. His name was used to describe objects or places of disgust such as latrines and offal dumps.
Roosevelt defeated Hoover in the 1932 Presidential election because he offered the people of America a way out of being poor and homeless. He offered them hope of a brighter future. He offered them a chance to once again have decent jobs to pay off debts, to buy houses and food. He had already proved himself capable by setting up the first state-run relief agency. The people of America didn’t want a ‘do-nothing’ president like Hoover, they wanted action, which is what Roosevelt promised. The people were desperate and they saw communist countries such as the USSR as prosperous nations; capitalism was seen to be failing. Roosevelt was a democrat adopting a social policy, he offered a ‘half-way house’ between capitalism and communism. His name was already recognised by the Americans as his distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt was president in 1901. Roosevelt had a good track record as governor of New York. Roosevelt’s policies to provide a ‘safety-net’ and to use the government’s resources to pull the country out of economic depression appealed to the people.
His confidence and warm character made him popular with the American people and he employed modern election tactics such as visiting the people and using the media. Roosevelt made the New Deal. In this he capitalised on the ideological shift from capitalism to communism and offered the people what they wanted. Although they were fed up with the republican government and were looking for an alternative, they didn’t want to become completely communist, as they liked their old standards of living. Roosevelt worked very hard for his election victory in 1932. He understood the public opinion and capitalised upon it. If the Wall Street Crash and depression hadn’t happened then Roosevelt probably wouldn’t have been elected but he was only elected in 1932 because he successfully canvassed and acted on the opinions of the American people who were unhappy with the situation they were in, the way Hoover was leading their country and dealing with the depression.