President Franklin D. Roosevelt: Election and First Term

About the election and first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt n the United States, the start of the New Deal.


Election: June 27, 1932 . . .

As the Democratic convention assembled in Chicago, the delegates knew that the man they chose would be the next President. The "Hoover Depression" had made a Democratic victory a virtual certainty. FDR had won an impressive string of primary victories, but had lost California to "Cactus Jack" Garner of Texas and had lost Massachusetts to his old friend Al Smith. On the 1st ballot, Roosevelt had more than half the delegate votes, but he fell short of the 2/3 necessary for nomination. As the convention completed its 3rd ballot, it seemed that the opposition candidates might have enough strength to create a long-term deadlock. In desperation, an agreement was reached: Garner, who was speaker of the House, would get the vice-presidential nod in exchange for releasing his delegates to Roosevelt. On the 4th ballot, FDR and Garner were duly nominated, and the confident Democrats moved on to the general election. As Sen. W.G. McAdoo told Roosevelt: "Now all you have to do is stay alive until the election."

November 8, 1932 . . .

The final election returns offered few surprises. Roosevelt polled 22,809,638 votes to 15,758,901 for Herbert Hoover, the Republican incumbent. Roosevelt carried 42 of the 48 States and buried Hoover in the Electoral College, 472 to 59. Much of Roosevelt's campaign rhetoric was naive and misleading; he promised, for instance, to cut Federal spending at the same time he would increase relief. Nevertheless, the personality of the genial New Yorker seemed to catch on with the voters, as did his promise of a "new deal for the American people."

First Term: March 4, 1933....

Roosevelt was sworn in by Chief Justice Hughes at the east portico of the Capitol. With the nation near panic as the economic crisis worsened, the new President assured his countrymen:

"This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, 1st of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Within 100 days, Congress had approved all key aspects of Roosevelt's sweeping legislative program, setting up a host of new Federal agencies and providing changes in nearly every aspect of American life.

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