A Depression-era history of an exceedingly difficult transition from one president to another.
Franklin Roosevelt crushed Herbert Hoover on Nov. 8, 1932, and assumed the presidency on March 4, 1933. Though scholars have not ignored those four months, the period was a spectacularly eventful one that deserves closer attention. Rauchway (History/Univ. of California, Davis; The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace, 2015, etc.) does just that in this lively, opinionated, and definitely not revisionist history. Historians are re-evaluating Hoover’s reputation as a dour technocrat who failed to address the Depression. Rauchway portrays him as an energetic and workaholic man convinced that direct government relief would destroy our freedom. He described Roosevelt as an unprincipled politico who intended to inflict a radical “New Deal” on America. The author agrees, emphasizing that Hoover’s prediction that Roosevelt was planning reforms was correct, but he points out that subsequent historians have generated the “myth of Roosevelt as an ignorant but blithe spirit simply trying expedients until he found some that worked.” Rauchway documents the new president’s consulting experts and legislators for ideas. Even before inauguration, supporters introduced several New Deal bills to the lame-duck Congress. Except for the repeal of Prohibition, all were defeated. The author paints a grim picture of a nation awash with misery and on the verge of revolution—a feeling shared by members of Hoover’s administration if not Hoover himself. Many experts complain that Roosevelt stubbornly refused to cooperate during the interregnum, but “cooperation,” according to Rauchway’s Hoover, meant foreswearing deficit spending, government regulations, relief, public works, and currency inflation (i.e. the New Deal), which, Hoover believed, would make matters worse.
Roosevelt’s iconic hundred days followed another hundred days, far more obscure but equally critical, and Rauchway’s insightful history brings it vividly to life.