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History As It Happens

Jun 17, 2024

This is the fourth episode in an occasional series examining influential elections in U.S. history. The most recent episode, The Elections of 1860 and 1864, was published on May 7.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the oath of office in March 1933, the American people faced a paralyzing national emergency of historic proportions. The unemployment rate was 25 percent and much of the nation's wealth had evaporated with astonishing speed. It was a moment of high drama, unlike the election that put Roosevelt in the White House. When voters went to the polls in Nov. 1932, there was little doubt FDR would defeat the hapless Herbert Hoover by a wide margin. Unclear was whether Roosevelt's promised New Deal would pull the country out of the Great Depression. In this episode, historian David M. Kennedy explains how Roosevelt's economic vision made him a transformational figure.

Recommended reading:

Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945.