President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the thirty-second president of the United States, was a central figure for the United States in the 20th Century. While leading his country out of The Great Depression, he also led the nation through World War II. Herbert Hoover, the thirty-first President, led the country during the Great Depression and his policies enforced at that time eventually led to his downfall because of their inability to end the downward economic spiral. Both of these Presidents greatly contributed to the nation by using different policies and tactics that classified them as either liberal or conservative. Although there are some exceptions because of the acts passed by Hoover, the characterizations of President D. Roosevelt being a liberal and Herbert Hoover a conservative are both valid because of the “hands off method” used by Hoover and the various acts and government involvement enforced by Roosevelt.
Due to the “hands off method” used by Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression, the president can be defined strongly as a conservative. By trying to restore the American economy, Hoover had to try profusely to keep the Unites States’ system from being “swept over” by the depression which had already happened to Europe (Doc D). During the depression, he wanted to restore the top of the economic pyramid by helping railroads, banks, and rural credit corporations and through “trickle down” economics, the bottom of the economic pyramid would fix itself as well. Because he applied a more business-oriented approach rather than a government approach, his plans were more conservative that liberal.
Because Hoover believed that too much government involvement would destroy American individuality and self-reliance, which were to him important American values, he thought it was in the best interest of the nation to use less government in his policies (Doc A). Hoover drew the line at federal relief to individuals because he didn’t want federal spending to “stifle” the local government, state, and private efforts at recovery (Doc C). Although he didn’t believe in government involvement, Hoover still tried methods to better the economy. As a humanitarian, he gave much of his money to charity, encouraging the same from other Americans. One of his exceptions of being strictly conservative was in his public works programs.
These programs were made to improve government properties, the most famous being the Hoover Dam. Although he showed a bit of a liberal side by improving government and participating in government programs, he still displayed many more conservative features than liberal. While President Hoover favored less government action in the fight against the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the complete opposite. After defeating Hoover in the 1932 presidential election, Roosevelt coined the phrase “Happy Days Are Here Again” because he planned on bettering the economy through experimentation with various new programs, or the New Deal programs (Doc H). These programs that originated during the Hundred Days possessed three main focuses: relief, recovery, and reform.
These government-involving programs proved that Roosevelt was more on the side of liberals than conservatives. Roosevelt also created National Works Administration, creating labor laws that recognized unions and set up Social Security which conservatives opposed. Also in the Glass-Steagall Banking Reform Act, which limited commercial bank securities activities and affiliations between commercial banks and securities firms, Roosevelt demonstrated his liberal side. Various programs like the FDIC, CCC, NRA, TVA, and the AAA were made to improve the economy and nation and also ensured that the nation wouldn’t again fall into an economic crisis. These programs were all liberal rather than conservative especially the WPA because it made the federal government the largest single employer in the nation. Roosevelt believed that Hoovers way of running the economy didn’t work because it didn’t involve the federal government (Doc E).
Another liberal move made by Roosevelt was his Court-packing plan that was to expand the Supreme Court. With all of the acts and programs enforced by Roosevelt and with his active government involvement, President Roosevelt can easily be defined as a liberal. President Franklin D. Roosevelt being a liberal and Herbert Hoover a conservative are both valid characterizations because Roosevelt passed multiple acts and involved the government in his political affairs while Hoover preferred to use a “hands off method”. Although they both had different ways of thinking when it came to the economic affairs of the nation, both presidents greatly contributed in assisting the United States in surviving the Great Depression. ”In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way” –Franklin Roosevelt.
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