This chapter covers the cumulative effects of underlying weaknesses in the American economy and the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression. Many unemployed workers blamed themselves rather than the system, but they increasingly began to look to the government for some relief. President Hoover remained committed to budget balancing and a relatively limited response to the crisis, but frightened and angry voters elected an avowed Democratic reformer, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His original “New Deal” of 1933 was mostly a cooperative business–government venture, but the “Second New Deal” that followed made a more dramatic shift toward direct government intervention in the economy and direct aid to the unemployed. Neither was as radical as some critics accused Roosevelt of being. Other critics said he was not radical enough. Roosevelt’s own ability to inspire, the activism of his wife, Eleanor, and the action-oriented programs of the two New Deals helped restore American confidence, even though none of these issues ended the depression. FDR’s impatience with the Supreme Court and his attempt to pack it in 1938 cost him considerable political influence. Deep poverty was not really touched by the programs and minorities did not make major gains, but they did form a coalition of voters that supported the Democratic Party, despite Roosevelt’s sometimes uncertain fortunes.
After reading this chapter you should be able to:
Describe the power of community as exemplified by the Flint sit-down strike in 1936.
Summarize the reasons why the Great Depression occurred.
Describe the government responses under Hoover and Roosevelt to the problems of mass unemployment and other effects of the Great Depression.
Compare Roosevelt’s New Deal programs: the first acts of the Hundred Days in 1933, the second reform package of 1935–1936, and the changes in 1937 that were blamed for the “Roosevelt recession.”
Outline the views of critics, both right and left, of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.
Summarize the legacy of the New Deal for various areas and people of America.
Discuss how American popular culture was shaped by the depression.
Compare the Dawes Act with the Indian Reorganization Act. (Review Chapter 18.)