The New Deal
By the time Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president in 1933, protests by farmers, veterans, and labor unions could not be ignored. Roosevelt's philosophy allowed him to act, but his plans were vague as he tried to determine how to meet the country's demands for "bold, persistent experimentation." "It is common sense," he said, "to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." Consequently, he managed a program described by one historian as "a collection of contradictions, naiveté, humanitarianism, realistic politics, and economic horse sense." Moving swiftly in the first 100 days of his administration and continuing for the next several years, Roosevelt proposed legislation to deal with financial crises, unemployment, and problems in industry, labor, and agriculture. His New Deal program greatly expanded the role of government in people's lives. It provided relief in the short term through programs like the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and welfare in the longer term through social security. It became an employer of last resort, creating jobs for those who could not find them elsewhere. It increased its role as conservator of the environment, protector of the economy, and guarantor of prosperity. The Supreme Court ruled some New Deal laws unconstitutional, and conservatives in Congress opposed most New Deal measures. Many conservatives hated Roosevelt. Yet the majority of people believed that Roosevelt saved the day. His radio talks- "fireside chats"-made them feel that they knew him and he knew them. Eleanor Roosevelt also reached out, bringing women and African Americans into the New Deal coalition. The Democratic party's reliance on the segregated South, however, prevented it from taking measures that would substantially improve the lot of blacks.