FDR’s 1936 Speech

I can’t imagine anyone who heard this speech to not want to vote for Roosevelt as soon as he finished! I even want to vote for him right now! His way of talking about the troubles of the Depression really instilled confidence not only that the government was there to help people, but that it could and had been doing so for the past 4 years. This is particularly interesting because the New Deal programs hadn’t in fact done much for the economy, from the workers’ perspective.

However, he did make promises of the programs to come: minimum wage, shorter working hours, and many more of his second New Deal programs that ended up being passed into law while touting successes from the first New Deal. Interestingly, I thought, he spent particular time on Social Security, even though this was just a reaction to the Townsend Plan for retirement insurance. He was sure to tout the benefits to workers and how much the plan relied on contributions from employers more than contributions from workers. And he made a very convincing argument that business was conspiring to deceive American workers into voting against FDR’s anti-business policies.

Roosevelt was quick to blame the business influence in politics on the Republicans’ opposition to him and his policies, which according to him reached the level of hatred. This is a concern that is still a very real concern to this day, and I found it interesting to hear how he talked about how essentially newsletters were circulating in opposition of his policies only because they hurt business. This is similar to how businesses and wealthy individuals give to political campaigns and parties (with the same bias towards the GOP that was apparently still existent then) to convince workers and middle-class that liberal and anti-business policies hurt them. The fact that the parties are on the same “side” of this issue, with Republicans and business interests aligning and the Democrats and workers’ interests aligning, speaks to Roosevelt’s role in realigning the party system, which is still prevalent in today’s politics, even though some historians and political scientists believe that we may be in another party system.

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