• U.S.

THE PRESIDENCY: Prosperity Rampant

6 minute read

As nearly an eternal verity as anything can be in the chancy game of U. S. politics is the rule that the nation will not vote a party out of office when it feels that the times are prosperous and believes they will remain so. It was by that rule that Calvin Coolidge shaped his campaign in 1924, that Herbert Hoover made “permanent prosperity” with a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage the major theme of his campaign in 1928. Last week it became apparent that Franklin Roosevelt was waging a campaign for re-election which at bottom was exactly the same as the Hoover campaign of 1928. In the White House, President Roosevelt might appeal to citizens’ minds and hearts with lofty ideals and daring plans, but on the stump Nominee Roosevelt devoted himself exclusively to voters’ stomachs.

It was further made clear last week, as the mists of minor issues rolled away, that Alf Landon was playing his opponent’s game. The New Deal had not helped but hindered the return of Prosperity, drummed the Republican Nominee; real Prosperity could not be said to exist while 11,000,000 citizens remained unemployed; Republican rule would bring greater Prosperity; New Deal spending threatened the foundations of future Prosperity. Meantime, as the Democratic Nominee coursed eastward from Colorado, drawing great crowds everywhere and everywhere demonstrating his mastery of them (see p. 12), he hammered again & again at a single thesis: the New Deal has restored Prosperity, will preserve and enlarge it.

Nominee Roosevelt stated the first half of his thesis most eloquently in Chicago’s Stadium when, on the platform from which he delivered his 1932 acceptance speech, he cried: “Four years ago . . . I came to a Chicago fighting with its back to the wall—factories closed, markets silent, banks shaky, ships and trains empty. Today those factories sing the song of industry, markets hum with bustling movement, banks are secure, ships and trains are running full. Once again it is Chicago as Carl Sandburg saw it, ‘the city of the big shoulders,’ the city that smiles. . . ”

He stated his equivalent of Herbert Hoover’s chicken and two cars most concretely in Detroit’s suburban Hamtramck, declaring: “I am thinking of a better future for America, a future of more wages, more holidays, shorter hours, Saturdays off and Sundays off as well. Some people would call it boondoggling, this idea of providing more facilities for recreation, but if that is boondoggling then I am for boondoggling and so are you.”*

Virtually everything else Nominee Roosevelt said in some 40 speeches in seven states last week was repetition and embroidery. Invading Nominee Landon’s home-ground, he reminded cheering Kansans of the rise in wheat prices since 1932, observed that during his previous campaign tour there had been a lot of tourists passing through on freight cars while now they were riding in Pullmans. At Wichita he rapped tactfully at Governor Landon’s balanced budget by declaring: “I do not believe that Kansas, any more than any other state, would have pulled through the difficult problems of the past four years as it has, had it not been for Federal cooperation and Federal assistance in many fields of your endeavor.”

At Emporia, hometown of Republican Editor William Allen White, an original Landonite, Nominee Roosevelt beamed down from his rear platform at the crowd, remarked: “I don’t see Bill White. I wish he were here. I’ve known Bill for a great many years, and he is a very good friend of mine. I ought to qualify that and say he’s a very good friend of mine for three-and-a-half out of every four years.”

At this point the President spied Editor White, who made his grinning way up through the crowd. “Oh, hello, Bill!” he called “mighty glad to see you!”

Approaching the rear platform in mock alarm, the tubby old editor cried, “Shoot not this old grey head,” threw up his hand in a hearty Hitler salute (see cut), climbed up on the platform, shook hands while proud Emporians laughed and cheered.

In Kansas City young citizens got first choice of auditorium seats to hear Nominee Roosevelt tell how the New Deal had restored Prosperity to Youth, praise NYA and CCC. In St. Louis, dedication of an unfinished Soldiers’ Memorial diverted him momentarily to Peace, but in Chicago he swung back to his main theme in a speech addressed to his stanchest critics:

“I believe, and I have always believed, and I always will believe in private enterprise as the backbone of economic well-being in the United States. . . . You good people . . . have heard about how antagonistic to business this Administration is said to be. You have heard all about the dangers which the business of America is supposed to be facing if this Administration continues.

My friends, the answer to that is the record of what we have done. (Applause.) It was this Administration which saved the system of private profit, the system of free enterprise, after it had been dragged to the brink of ruin by these same leaders who now try to scare you. (Applause.). . .

“Today for the first time in seven years the banker, the storekeeper, the small factory owner, the industrialist, can all sit back and enjoy the company of their own ledgers. They are in the black and that is where we want them to be; that is where our policies aim that they shall be; that is where we intend them to be in the days to come.”

Businessmen who went to bed that night soothed by the friendly declaration were startled next day when in Detroit, where Nominee Landon had plumped for free enterprise two days before, Nominee Roosevelt reverted to more normal New Deal tones, declared that “The automobile industry and every other industry still need great improvements in their relationships to their employes. . . . Manufacturers . . . must, by planning, do far more than they have done to date to increase the yearly earnings of those who work for them.”

But along with this declaration for Prosperity for Labor, the Democratic Nominee’ did not fail to point out that automobile production in 1936 promised to be more than three-and-one-half times that of 1932, to observe of Federal! spending: “Literally, the music went round and round and round and a lot of it came out right here in Detroit.”

In Cincinnati, the President promised “a decent diet, a decent education and a reasonable amount of leisure” to 25,000 citizens sitting in the rain. In Cleveland he once again assured honest business of his friendship but accused Wall Street of flooding the land with anti-New Deal literature paid for with stockholders’ money. At week’s end Nominee Roosevelt coasted into New York for live brief talks in upstate Republican territory, rested overnight at Hyde Park, set off to Washington whence after two days he planned to carry his message of Prosperity to hostile New England.

*For relgious views on leisure, see p. 52.

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