The period between a presidential election and inauguration has no constitutional name or purpose, but in these months, political legacies can be made or broken. In Winter War, Eric Rauchway shows how the transition from Herbert Hoover to FDR in the winter of 1932-33 was the most acrimonious in American history. The two men represented not only different political parties, but entirely different approaches to the question of the day: how to recover from the economic collapse and the Great Depression. And in their responses to that question, they help launch, in the space of a few months, the political ideologies that would dominate the rest of the twentieth century.
As Rauchway shows, the period between the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt on November 8, 1932, and his inauguration on March 4, 1933, was one of tremendous political ferment. FDR took his first steps to launch the New Deal, while the outgoing Herbert Hoover laid the foundation for an anti-New Deal conservative movement. Rauchway reveals that, far from the haphazard expertimenter he is often thought to be, FDR had a coherent plan for saving the country from the Great Depression even before he arrived in office. He laid the foundations for that plan, giving speeches about a national bank holiday and raising farm prices, while also meeting with experts up and down the Eastern seaboard in order to staff his cabinet with the most innovative economic minds around.
Hoover, for his part, began to plot his revenge and his return to the presidency (he had only served one term). He blocked FDR’s moves wherever he could, spoke bluntly about the supposed danger the New Deal posed to democracy, and attempted to convince anyone who would listen that FDR was not up to the task of the presidency, whether intellectually or physically. The embittered and increasingly conservative Hoover launched the opposition to the New Deal – and thereby the modern conservative movement – before any New Deal legislation even reached the floor in Congress.
Drawing from previously unexploited sources to paint an intimate portrait of political infighting at the highest levels, Eric Rauchway offers a new account of the making of twentieth century liberalism, and its backlash.