History Coursework #2:
How far was Roosevelt himself responsible for his election victory in 1932? Explain your answer.
In 1932, there were two main candidates running for the President of the USA. The two candidates were Herbert Hoover from the Republican Party, and Franklin D. Roosevelt from the Democratic Party. At the time, the American society was in complete shock due to the Depression and they desperately needed a president who would guide them through this hardship. The two candidates had very opposing beliefs. Hoover believed that the government should not interfere with people’s lives. He followed the system called ‘rugged individualism’ which meant that America had become rich through the individual efforts of the people. In contrast, Roosevelt believed that the government should provide assistance to the poorer citizens by using methods such as creating jobs for the unemployed and giving money directly to the poor. This essay will explore how responsible Roosevelt’s own strengths were of his election victory, as well as the other factors which helped him to do so.
Roosevelt’s own strength was probably the biggest factor which led him to his election victory. He and a group of experts known as the ‘Brain Trust’ put together a programme called the ‘New Deal’, which was created to help America out of the Depression. The New Deal had three main aims: relief, recovery and reform. Roosevelt believed in direct relief, meaning that the government would give direct help to the millions of people that were starving and homeless. He looked to revive the economy by getting industries going, reducing unemployment and boosting demand for goods. Lastly, he aimed to reform the country and make it a better place for ordinary people by bringing in actions such as unemployment insurances and old-age pensions. He was not afraid to spend government money to bring the country out of the financial disaster, and was willing to intervene with the people’s lives as much as possible. His personality was another strength which he had over Hoover. He was a cheerful, optimistic and a good communicator as he enjoyed meeting people all around the country. This benevolent character of him was mainly built by his deadly disease polio as it helped him to empathise with the struggling Americans during the time. Just like how he had lost control of his lower body, the Americans had lost control of their lives. He was also an excellent speaker whereas his opponent Hoover was not. Through his promising campaign and his strong personal qualities, Roosevelt was able to gain the people’s trust and portray himself as a kind-hearted man who had good intentions.
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Another factor which was responsible for Roosevelt’s election victory was Hoover’s weaknesses. First of all, when the Depression first hit America in 1929, Hoover believed that it would only last a few months and would eventually end on its own. Hence, he did not attempt to end it until 1932 when it was obvious that the country would not return to prosperity by itself. He then started to take some action, although many people believed that it was too late. He began to make small loans to farmers and created a few new jobs for the unemployed in a road-building program. However, this was simply not enough as the country was already in too much of a mess. Another large reason why Hoover had lost so many votes during the election was due to the ‘Bonus Marchers’ of 1932. At the end of the First World War, the surviving veterans were promised a pension that would be paid to them in 1945. When the veterans had peacefully asked the government if they could be given the pensions earlier since they had desperately needed the money, Hoover brought in the army and reacted in a very violent way. As a result, four people were killed and more than a thousand people were badly injured. Because of this, Hoover lost a great number of votes as he had used the army to get rid of people who had fought and kept America secure during the war. When it came to election time, Hoover’s weak policies and lack of willingness to stop the Depression made people believe that Roosevelt would do a better job by taking real action, and that he would bring positive changes to the country.
As well as Roosevelt’s strengths and Hoover’s weaknesses, the USA’s existing conditions at the time were also responsible for Roosevelt’s election victory. At the time, the Depression was becoming increasingly worse and it was obvious that the country was desperately in need of a change. By 1932, unemployment rates were soaring high as some cities such as Cleveland reached up to 50%. This led to strikes and bitter clashes in many cities. There were also many homeless people who were forced to build themselves shacks on waste ground; these townships were known as ‘Hoovervilles.’ Many people blamed Hoover for this disastrous state as he showed no sign of putting an end to the crisis. Unlike the Republicans’ “laissez faire” (a policy of leaving things to take their own course) attitude, Roosevelt campaigned to take immediate action to help the country. This was exactly what the Americans were looking for – a government that would provide a “safety net” for the thousands of unemployed and homeless people, and eventually guide the country out of the misery. Therefore, Roosevelt was not just an alternative choice to Hoover, but a great leader who looked to put an end towards the Depression in a manner which contented many of the struggling Americans.
In conclusion, Roosevelt himself had contributed greatly to his election victory with his auspicious campaign, vocal talents and personable qualities; however, he was not wholly responsible for the victory. One of the most important factors was the public hatred of Hoover and the fact that the majority of people had desperately wanted change. These people had disapproved of Hoover’s way of handling the Depression and had wanted an alternative choice, and this gave Roosevelt a huge advantage. Another significant factor was that Roosevelt had managed to win the battle of ideas on how to tackle the Depression as the two candidates had completely different ideas about pulling America out of the Depression. Roosevelt had fabulous talent and experience as a politician, but there were more reasons to why he had won the presidential election in 1932 than just his own strengths.