Herbert Hoover Campaigns for Reeelection

Herbert Hoover Campaigns for Reeelection

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Hoover Campaign Songs, 1928

In 1928, campaign songs were not like the borrowed pop tunes or professional advertising jingles of today. In fact, campaign advertising in all its forms was very different than today. There was little centralized control, no focus group tested messaging, and certainly no requirement for candidates to “approve” anything. Most campaign songs were not commissioned by a campaign organization or national party. Some campaign songs were written by professional songwriters for direct sale to the public, with the hope that the connection to current events would boost sales. Others were written out of genuine political conviction and typically circulated at a local level. Some amateur attempts were hilariously bad.

We have no evidence that Herbert Hoover had an “official” campaign song in 1928 — it doesn’t seem to have been something he and his campaign considered necessary. Many historical sources cite a song called “If he’s good enough for Lindy,” but we have no documentation that connects any song with this title to Hoover’s campaign or to the Republican National Committee.

The title refers to Charles Lindbergh’s endorsement of Hoover for President, which was announced on October 4, 1928 (that’s right — just about a month before Election Day). There were at least two very different songs that used this title. One song with this title was recorded many years later by Oscar Brand and released on his CD “Presidential Campaign Songs: 1789-1996.” I could not find the author/composer of this particular song. We have in our collection a press release from the New York Republican State Committee, dated October 18, 1928, about another song entitled “If he’s good enough for Lindy” (also printed as “Hoover and Lindbergh”), which won a prize of $25 in a contest sponsored by the American League of Professional Women. The winning lyricist (he borrowed the tune from “Auld Lang Syne,”) was William F. Kaiser of Jersey City, New Jersey. The press release noted that 800 songs were submitted, of which 200 were variations on the World War I song “Over There,” usually with the title “Hoover There.” This was a popular subject because Mr. Hoover was known as “the Great Humanitarian” for his relief work during World War I. The Chairperson of the League noted that Kaiser’s song “got the prize because of its original theme and popular note.”

Another New York Republican State Committee press release noted that Republicans in Rochester, NY were fond of a song called “Carry on Hoover.” No other details were given, and we have not been able to find a copy of that song. Numerous other songs were mentioned in news clippings concerning campaign events from all over the country, many clearly of local origin and unknown on a national level.

Hoover apparently did not think that it was important to document campaign songs, because he kept virtually nothing about them in his files. Over the years, the Hoover Library has acquired a small sampling of campaign songs, but it’s clear that many more existed.

It’s Time to Give Herbert Hoover a Second Look: An Interview with Biographer Glen Jeansonne

Jennifer Freilach is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (2016) and an HNN intern.

Herbert Hoover? Really? Yes, really, says Glen Jeansonne, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In what his publisher (Palgrave Macmillan) calls the first definitive biography of Hoover ever written, Jeansonne makes the strongest case anyone ever has for Hoover’s presidency. Jeansonne is the author of books on Huey Long, Gerald L.K. Smith, and Barack Obama. This interview was conducted by email.

Why did you decide to write a biography of Herbert Hoover? Was this a project of passion?

In my first year in graduate school at Florida State University, I took a course on America, 1900-1945. I asked my professor if I could write my term paper on the Herbert Hoover administration. He replied, “No, because nothing happened.” I forged ahead and wrote a sympathetic paper about Hoover anyway. My professor returned it marked “A+” and scribbled: “This is the best paper in class.” As a mature scholar, I had a broader goal as well. Historians and the public habitually give credit to a president for everything good that occurs during their administration and blame them for every bad thing that happens without considering the relationship between the incumbent and the event. This is simplistic. I wanted to encourage historians to adopt a more sophisticated approach toward judging presidential administrations.

In chapter 1, you indicate that several of Hoover’s Quaker traits handicapped him as president. How would a candidate running for president in the modern era be viewed with these same traits?

Hoover was an introverted personality in a profession that rewards extroverts. He was shy, modest, and humble, not given to boasting. He enjoyed the work of the presidency and the potential for significant accomplishments but he did not enjoy campaigning and boasting about himself. Mentally, he was one of the most adept presidents we have ever had, but temperamentally the shoe did not fit. Hoover’s personality traits were common among Quakers and were instilled in him by the Quaker parents and relatives who raised him, and enduring lifelong. He also enjoyed solitude, peace, and being amid nature. It would be even more difficult in the modern era for someone with Hoover’s personality traits to be nominated for President, much less win a national election. Most candidates now campaign in all fifty states. Hoover would not have been effective on television and the mass media such as Twitter and Facebook. I think he would shy away from politics, but he might accept an appointive position, such as in the Cabinet.

Why were Hoover’s Quaker traits better suited to him as Secretary of Commerce than as President?

Hoover did not have to campaign for election or re-election to become Secretary of Commerce. Presidents Harding and Coolidge did not micro-manage him. He dealt largely with problems and conditions that affected business and business was his profession. He saw opportunities that would expand and improve business and seized them. Commerce had been an obscure Cabinet position and no Commerce Secretary had ever been elected President. Hoover injected a dose of adrenalin into it, used his imagination, and increased foreign and domestic trade. He was much better speaking to small groups than he was to the masses.

As head of the Food Administration under President Wilson, Hoover was extremely efficient and created a surplus of farm goods for U.S. allies. Could it be argued that Hoover was too successful?

After the war, farmers continued to produce at this level, even though the demand was no longer there, which contributed to falling crop prices. This problem occurs after nearly every foreign war. Hoover had no statuary authority to limit farmers, but he offered several mitigations. Farmers who grew imperishable crops could collectively construct huge silos where they would store their crops, releasing them a few at a time for sale rather than flooding the market at harvest time. They could learn to diversify their crops, growing less of staple products such as wheat and corn. With small subsidies, the government might encourage farmers to end the farming of marginal lands, using them as pastures and reducing erosion. Hoover believed a minor tariff could help farmers eke out a living, but the tariff should be limited to farm products alone.

Prior to taking office, you determined that for an investor, “a bet on Hoover was a safe bet.” At what point in his career did this change? Why?

The quote cited refers to Hoover as an engineer and was meant to refer only to the engineering portion of his career. In that context, it is quite accurate.

Hoover once said, “We no longer have the right to think in terms of our own generation.” How did this belief guide him throughout his political career?

Hoover did not intend for his statement to refer solely or exclusively to politics. It refers largely to his love of children, which was lifelong. Children should be nourished with love and allowed to grow up gradually. They should be given opportunities for wholesome play, to make friends, enjoy the outdoors, develop hobbies, and receive a sound education, which led to a vocation. Math, science, and reading were especially important. Hoover hated to see starving children and this led to many of his food relief efforts. Many of his major charities were devoted to the recreation and vocational training of children. His favorite was the Boys Clubs of America.

During his presidential campaign, the New York Times reported that he was the “best qualified president we have had for decades.” Did this place unrealistic expectations on Hoover’s presidency? Were expectations too high?

As a generalization, the statement was accurate, but it did raise expectations too high. Few presidents can end a major depression or a major war in a single term. It is likely the stock market would have crashed in 1929 whomever would have been President and that the Great Depression would have ended in 1941, when we entered World War II, under any President. The Depression was worldwide, not American-made, and could not be ended in one nation alone. It is also likely that any President elected in 1928 would have been defeated in 1932.

Hoover was a standout success in Europe. But not in America. What prevented him from being a success in America?

Except for failing to end the Great Depression in one term, which no one could have done without a war, Hoover was a success in America. A poor orphan, he became a star student at Stanford, graduated to become the Great Engineer, became a benefactor of many charities, the Greatest Secretary of Commerce in history, and saved the Mississippi Valley during the Great Flood of 1927. He organized, rationalized and made business more efficient and was a leading conservationist.

Why didn’t Hoover’s experiences with food relief in Europe translate into success in America? Did he hold Americans to different standards?

In Europe and Russia people were literally starving to death and Hoover pulled them through the emergency but by no means restored normal food rations. In America, people were hungry but very few, if any, actually starved. Americans had a higher standard of living than most Europeans and were not enthusiastic about minimalistic diets. Further, in Europe Hoover was the sole food czar while in America he had to surmount a balky Congress, the bureaucracy, and the opposing party. No one in Hoover’s place, facing the same obstacles, could have done better. FDR, for example, had a two-thirds majority of his own party in Congress.

Toward the end of his presidency, did Hoover’s political agenda to fight the growing Depression ever run counter to his belief in a decentralized government?

In normal times Hoover believed in a government built from the bottom up rather than the top down. Local people know local problems best. But wars and depressions are not ordinary times. Hoover was willing to expand the government, and then, in stages, ramp down when conditions improved. He preferred a larger government to suffering people and he never used government jobs or money, as FDR did, as political patronage. My father worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps and told me first hand.

Was Roosevelt’s unwillingness to work with Hoover during his lame duck period a factor in worsening the conditions? If so, did it help prolong the Great Depression?

FDR’s self-serving decision not to cooperate with Hoover during the interregnum was a selfish, tragic mistake. He also instructed Democrats in Congress not to vote for Hoover bills or appointees. FDR wanted to enter office at the nadir of the Depression so he could take total credit for the recovery. Ironically, Roosevelt borrowed many of his ideas for the New Deal from Hoover. During the interregnum a bank crash worse than the 1929 crash occurred. Foreign nations and private banks abroad defaulted on war debts. Uncertainty ruled. FDR did not discuss a plan to end the Depression during either the 1932 campaign or the interregnum, probably because he had none. His chief attack on Hoover was that he had spent too much money and that his administration would balance the budget.

Even though Hoover and Roosevelt were from different political parties, did they share any similarities in their approach to bringing relief to the American people?

FDR continued many programs begun by Hoover, including the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the Emergency Relief and Construction Act, new public buildings, especially in Washington, D.C., the National Parks, dredging of ports, Federal Home Loan Banks, and construction of Post Offices.

At what point did Hoover feel that he began to redeem his political reputation after his presidency?

Factors included his friendships with Truman and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, his chairmanship of “Hoover Commissions” under Truman and Eisenhower, his warm welcomes when he spoke at Republican National Conventions, and his publication of 32 books during the post-Presidential era, many of which became best sellers. He became friends with Raymond Moley and Joseph and John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and General Douglas MacArthur, some of them neighbors in the Waldorf Astoria, where he spent his final days. He fought to the end, dying at 90. He is buried beside his wife Lou on the grounds of the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, his birthplace.


The transition was an example of a "friendly takeover", in which the outgoing president and the president elect were of the same political party (Republican). It would be the last such transition until the 1988–89 presidential transition of George H. W. Bush. [2] [3]

Beginning on November 7, the day after the election, the newly-minted president-elect and his family were given protection by the United States Secret Service. [4]

While the stock market would crash months into Hoover's presidency, starting the Great Depression, the performance of the economy during his transition appeared strong.

Among United States presidential transitions, the stock market performed stronger than it had during a presidential transition for decades. The growth of the Dow Jones Industrial Average had experienced during Hoover's presidential transition (21.8%) would not be exceeded by any United States presidential transition until the presidential transition of Donald Trump. [5] [6]

On November 19, 1928, President-elect Hoover embarked on a ten-nation goodwill tour of Latin America, first departing from San Pedro, in Los Angeles, California aboard the USS Maryland. [4] [7] [8] [9] He was accompanied on the trip by his wife Lou Henry Hoover. [10] He delivered twenty-five speeches, stressing his plans to reduce American political and military interference in Latin American affairs. In sum, he pledged that the United States would act as a "good neighbor." [11] [12] [13]

Hoover's work as United States secretary of commerce had led him to view Latin America as important, and believe that there was need to improve relations. [14] Hoover began planning the trip soon after winning the election. [14] It was the first time that a President-elect had taken such a goodwill trip abroad. [14] Hoover also planned the trip as means of staying away from Washington, D.C., avoiding men seeking to lobby for patronage posts. [14]

The administration of outgoing president Calvin Coolidge leant their support to Hoover's plans to take this trip. [9] Henry P. Fletcher accompanied Hoover on the trip, serving as official advisor to the president-elect as well as an representative of Coolidge and the Department of State. [9] Coolidge ordered that Hoover should be treated with presidential honors on his trip, despite Hoover having not yet entered the office. [9]

While crossing the Andes from Chile, a plot by Argentine anarchists to bomb Hoover's train as it crossed the vast Argentinian central plain was foiled. The group of plotters were led by Severino Di Giovanni. The bomber was arrested before he could place the explosives on the rails. Hoover professed unconcern, tearing off the front page of a newspaper that revealed the plot and explaining, "It's just as well that Lou shouldn't see it," referring to his wife. [15]

During his travels, he delivered roughly 25 speeches. [9] Public reception in the United States of Hoover's trip was largely positive. [9]

Dates Country Locations Details
November 26, 1928 Honduras Amapala Met with President-elect Vicente Mejía Colindres and Foreign Minister Augusto Coello. [16] Departed the U.S. November 19, 1928. [17]
November 26, 1928 El Salvador Cutuco Met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Martínez Suárez. [16]
November 27, 1928 Nicaragua Corinto Met with President Adolfo Díaz and President-elect José María Moncada. [17]
November 28, 1928 Costa Rica San José Met with President Cleto González Víquez. [16] [18]
December 1, 1928 Ecuador Guayaquil Met with President Isidro Ayora. [16]
December 5, 1928 Peru Lima Met with President Augusto B. Leguía. [16]
December 8–11, 1928 Chile Antofagasta,
Met with President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo. Met with Bolivian diplomats to discuss the ongoing Tacna–Arica dispute. [16] [19]
December 13–15, 1928 Argentina Buenos Aires Met with President Hipólito Yrigoyen. [20] Also reported to President Coolidge on the success of his tour via telegraph. [21]
December 16–18, 1928 Uruguay Montevideo Met with President Juan Campisteguy, and addressed the National Council of Administration. [16]
December 21–23, 1928 Brazil Rio de Janeiro Met with President Washington Luís addressed the National Congress and the Supreme Federal Court. [17] Returned to U.S. January 6, 1929. [22]

After Hoover returned from his Latin American trip, he avoided the press and patronage seekers by vacationing in Florida until February 19. [3] [14] Hoover was in little hurry to begin preparing to take office. Presidential transitions were much less complex when Hoover took office than they have been in more recent decades. [3]

After his Florida vacation, Hoover began the business of shaping his administration in the final two weeks of his transition period. [3]

Hoover retained two members of Coolidge's Cabinet. One was Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon, whom, per the later recounting of historian David Bruner, Hoover retained in order to avoid a reaction on Wall Street, as the financial sector held Mellon in strong esteem. [3] The other was Secretary of Labor James J. Davis, who was retained, per Bruner's accounting, in order for Hoover to avoid the pressure to appoint John L. Lewis to the position. [3]

Research Sources

“Herbert Hoover.” The White House, n.d. Web. 06 Aug. 2013.

Leuchtenberg, William E. (2009). Herbert Hoover: The American Presidents Series: The 31st President. Times Books, New York, NY.

Mullendore, William Clinton and Lutz, Ralph Haswell (1941). History of the United States Food Administration, 1917-1919. Stanford University Press.

Van Hise, Charles Richard (1918). Conservation and Regulation in the United States During the World War. Cantwell Printing Company, Madison, WI.

You can uncover more fascinating food history on Tori’s website: The History Kitchen.

Philadelphia Politics and the Presidential Campaign of 1932

Herbert Hoover wasn’t in Philadelphia long during his campaign swing for re-election in October 1932, and he didn’t have much to say. In fact, Hoover’s entire visit lasted only 30 minutes. Still, Philadelphians turned out in a major way for the Republican incumbent—an estimated 30,000—“the biggest assemblage massed in the central city district in years” reported The New York Times.

Proof positive that “William S. Vare, the…still powerful leader of the Philadelphia Republican organization, really had determined…to send his machine all the way down for the President.”

“It was Mr. Vare’s show,” wrote The Times. “His political henchmen were there in person and had enough support to throng Reyburn and City Hall Plazas and nearby streets.” The crowd cheered Vare when he rose to introduce the President. Then “boos” echoed across the plazas as Hoover rose to speak and continued throughout his very brief remarks. (Hoover “took no notice” of the “boos” and the next morning they were explained away as the handiwork of Communists.)

He looked over the crowd, paused, and then took a few moments to praise William Penn, the Liberty Bell, and “the greatness of this city and of this Commonwealth”—anything to avoid acknowledging the fact that the Great Depression had left at least one in four Philadelphians unemployed. Anything to keep from reminding the crowd that only two months earlier, police attacked 1,500 jobless “hunger marchers” in an incident come to be known as the “Battle of Reyburn Plaza.”

The President turned away from the podium and with his entourage walked back to Broad Street Station to take a train to New York City were a crowd at Madison Square Garden—only 21,000 this time—heard Hoover’s major speech. This was no ordinary presidential campaign, he said. Americans were in the midst of “a contest between two philosophies of Government.” Hoover’s opponent, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was “appealing to the people in their fear and their distress…proposing changes and so-called new deals which would destroy the very foundations of the American system of life.”

“We are told that we must have a change, that we must have a new deal.” But this, Hoover declared, would “alter the whole foundations of our national life” it would undo “generations of testing and struggle.” This new deal, he stressed, would rock “the principles upon which we have made this Nation.”

Roosevelt would be risky. “Be safe with Hoover,” implored the campaign slogan.

Meanwhile, Roosevelt’s “brain trust” crafted a campaign strategy around not committing “any gaffes that might take the public’s attention away from Hoover’s inadequacies and the nation’s troubles.”

Three years into the Great Depression, Hoover was deeply unpopular, even in Philadelphia, with 553,435 voters registered Republicans and 85,236 Democrats. By summer, Roosevelt had developed a strong lead in the polls. But by late October, that lead had shrunk and Hoover had a narrow chance of winning Pennsylvania, If only he could dominate in its most populous city.

That’s where Vare came in. Come election day, only 39% of the nation’s voters got behind Hoover Roosevelt won by a landslide with 57%. His command of electoral votes was even more stunning: 472 to 59. Roosevelt carried 42 states, earning 206 more than the 266 electoral votes needed to win. But he didn’t carry the Keystone State. Of Hoover’s 59 electoral votes, 36 were from Pennsylvania.

Thanks to the Vare machine.

By the time of Roosevelt’s inauguration day in early March 1933, more than 9,000 American banks had failed, industrial production had been cut in half and at something like 13 million wage earners were without jobs –more than 280,000 in Philadelphia.

What could the freshly minted president possibly say?

“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Now that would be a speech worth getting out for.

[Sources: Lawrence Davies, “Vare Gears Machine To Win Philadelphia,” The New York Times, November 6, 1932 “Reds Blamed for Boos At Philadelphia,” Associated Press, Philadelphia October 31, 1932 “Great Depression,” The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia United States Presidential Election of 1932, The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica The American Presidency Project, Papers of Herbert Hoover Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address, March 3, 1933.]

Herbert Hoover and the Presidential Campaign of 1932: The Failure of Apologia.

Despite Franklin D. Roosevelt's landslide victory, few elections have held more lasting significance for political scientists, historians, and communication scholars than the presidential election of 1932. Never before had one issue--the Great Depression--so dominated an election. Herbert Hoover went from a landslide victory in 1928 to a humiliating defeat just four years later. The transformation of the national government from Hoover's brand of "rugged individualism" to Roosevelt's "New Deal" changed American politics forever.

The election of 1932 also had a significant effect on the concept of the rhetorical presidency.(1) The campaign gave the nation a very clear choice: a traditional administrative president or a modern rhetorical one. Overwhelmingly, the electorate chose the latter. The success of Roosevelt's fireside chats and emotional leadership, compared with Hoover's quiet behind-the-scenes workmanship, solidified the rhetorical presidency as the norm for every president thereafter.

The 1932 election was also a turning point in the field of political campaign communications. Hoover was the first incumbent president to go "out on the stump" and campaign actively for the presidency, "paving the way" for the presidents that followed him.(2) Hoover's stumping efforts helped make the campaign of 1932 one in which the amount of public speaking far exceeded the norm for the era: Roosevelt gave "some 113 prepared speeches and Hoover almost as many."(3) Radio, which had been used to a smaller extent in previous campaigns but was now a major aspect of national campaigns, was present in more than 12 million homes by 1932.(4) Thus, the common practice of candidates giving the same speech with slight variations at each campaign stop had to be changed due to a nationwide audience that was now able to listen to every word of every major speech.(5) Finally, Roosevelt ran "the first truly modem, well-organized presidential campaign,"(6) which included a then unprecedented, but now standard, personal appearance at the national convention to accept his party's nomination.

The study of presidential oratory has traditionally focused on a handful of presidents whose rhetoric has been analyzed and critiqued throughout the years.(7) Unlike his opponent in the election, the study of Hoover's rhetoric is severely limited: not a single journal article deals specifically with the presidential rhetoric of Herbert Hoover.(8) This seems particularly unfortunate considering Hoover failed as a rhetorical president during a national crisis, the Great Depression--a unique situation that seems to warrant study. In addition, Hoover's presidency continues to be "reassessed" and the notion that perhaps he was not as apathetic and inept as popularly believed is gaining support.(9)

Thus, the election of 1932, and specifically the role of Hoover's communication during the campaign, certainly justifies examination. This article is a study of the nine major radio addresses Hoover gave during the 1932 campaign. I argue that Hoover waged his entire campaign not to win, for he knew he had no chance to win, but rather to defend his administration, his character, and his view of government. The genre of self-defense, what classical rhetoricians termed apologia, will be applied not only to reveal the motives and strategies that Hoover incorporated into his campaign speeches but also to explain how his misuse of apologia contributed to his failure.

Hoover's Presidential Years, 1928-32

Hoover won the presidency in 1928 after many years of service to his country. He followed two Republican presidents, Harding and Coolidge, who had collectively steered the country through the prosperous 1920s. Hoover was considered the best candidate to "symbolize the tranquillity, prosperity, and purity"(10) of the times. The Republican's optimism was exemplified by the infamous "a chicken in every pot" campaign slogan. Politically, Hoover was a novice in 1928, having risen through the ranks of the Grand Old Party (GOP) through appointments, not elections.(11) He was first and foremost an engineer and seemed ideally suited to manage the smoothly running government "machine" efficiently.(12) Because of the prosperity of the time and the Republican's firm hold of the country's favor in 1928, Hoover was not required to do much in his first campaign. With high expectations, the nation elected Hoover in a landslide. A few months later, the stock market crashed, and suddenly the Republican strategy of claiming responsibility for the boom backfired as prosperity turned to disparity,

Hoover reacted to the depression exactly as his conservative philosophy dictated. He stuck to his firm belief that government "should do no more than provide encouragement to business."(13) Nicholas Cripe provides an excellent synopsis of Hoover's policy toward the Great Depression:

He [Hoover] insisted on volunteer committees, local effort, and no direct aid

from the Federal Government until absolutely necessary. Hoover believed in

using Federal funds and credit to combat the depression, but he thought that

the proper place for most of the money to be expended was in strengthening

banks, railroads, and other corporations. By so doing, lie reasoned, small

depositors and investors would be protected, employment would be maintained

and expanded, and economic recovery would be set in motion. He opposed the

direct expenditure of Federal funds to relieve either the unemployed or the

farmers. Hoover held that such relief would create a burdensome

bureaucracy and destroy the initiative and self-reliance of the

Hoover refused to use all the powers of the national government to fight the depression because he feared that any form of "dole" would weaken the spirit of the country and cause irreparable harm in the long run. His uncompromising philosophy of limited government, with its reliance on voluntarism and individualism, was a major contributor to his rhetorical failures.

When his smoothly running "machine" broke down, Hoover, ever the engineer, could not rise to meet the nation's rhetorical needs. Instead of "feeling our pain," Hoover reacted by reducing his speaking schedule, canceling press conferences, and building a "wall of silence" for what he thought was the public good.(15) Hoover felt that a detailed discussion of economic problems would not be properly understood and would only cause more panic.(16) When he did speak to the public, he did so with a confidence that many found disenchanting. "Prosperity is just around the corner" became the watchword of his administration.(17) Eschewing the role of leader of the people--a role central to a rhetorical presidency(18)-- Hoover concentrated on the traditional presidential role as the administrative head of government.

Hoover's retreat into relative silence allowed his critics "free reign to reinforce the public doubts about the wisdom of his policies."(19) In another unprecedented move, the Democrats had left open their 1928 National Headquarters for use as a publicity vehicle to profit from "the mistakes and failures of the opposition." Charles Michelson was appointed director of publicity for the national committee and he "trained his guns on the Hoover administration and never ceased firing until the Republicans evacuated Washington." The result was that "no president has ever had his every mistake so thoroughly advertised as Hoover."(20) In addition, a series of smear books were published from 1930 to 1932 that attacked Hoover and his administration.(21)

Throughout his term, Hoover refused to respond, believing any response was undignified for a president and would only justify the false accusations. As a result, the following images of Hoover became commonplace: cold, machine-like, humorless, hard-hearted, incompetent, sullen, hard-boiled, heartless, and reactionary.(22) He was excused of being "mentally frozen in the past, unable to grasp the problems of his age, and determinedly sacrificing human welfare on the altar of an outmoded antistatism."(23)

One final disadvantage for Hoover was his speaking style. Hoover's personal characteristics greatly affected his speeches. Hoover was a shy and reserved man with a fear of public speaking.(24) Theodore Joslin, Hoover's press secretary, believed that Hoover wrote like an engineer, building "his public utterances as he would a drive shaft or construct a bridge."(25) Again rejecting the rhetorical presidency, Hoover did not conceive of oratory as a tool to sway public opinion or pressure Congress but "as the means by which he as the steward of the American people could report to them the facts concerning the problems and policies of their government."(26)

Hoover's personal characteristics manifested themselves in a weak delivery. He delivered his speeches in a "monotonous and almost inaudible manner," reading manuscripts to audiences rather than performing them extemporaneously.(27) This method resulted in "weak eye contact, a fast rate, and little vocal variety or animation" that could fairly be described as "Insipid and uninspiring."(28) Carl Burgchardt notes that Hoover

habitually framed his wordy, awkward prose in the passive voice. As a

consequence, he cluttered his discourse with unnecessary articles,

prepositions, and conjunctions. Moreover, his long, complex sentences often

contained erudite vocabulary or technical data not well suited for ordinary

audiences. His addresses featured few metaphors or rhythmic devices,

although he occasionally penned a serviceable epigram. Hoover's engineering

mentality, along with his austere, Quaker background, did not cultivate the

proper temperament for soaring figures and stirring cadences. Indeed,

Hoover disdained eloquence for its own sake, believing that plain language

would speak for itself He assumed that the nation wanted dispassionate

analysis, not inspiration.(29)

Therefore, Hoover faced a campaign in 1932 in which he was (1) blamed by many for the worst depression in history (2) vilified by most of the country as incompetent, uncaring, and reactionary and (3) overmatched in rhetorical skills. To put it frankly, Hoover had no chance of winning, and he knew it. Hoover later wrote in his memoirs that he had "little hope of re-election"(30)--a view shared by most. A quick scan of the various comments by authors leaves no doubt as to Hoover's chances: "Nobody could have been elected on the Republican ticket this year" "Hoover had no real hope of winning" and "political soothsayers had long forecast the defeat of the President."(31) Once the campaign started, Hoover had to simply pick up a copy of the prestigious Literary Digest poll, the "Great and Sure Barometer,"(32) to gauge how insurmountable Roosevelt's lead was.(33)

Thus, the question remains: Why? Why would a man who avoided publicity, "gave speeches out of duty or necessity, not because he enjoyed it"(34) and was hopelessly doomed to failure, not only subject himself to the drudgery and embarrassment of another election but do so by breaking precedent and campaigning across the country as no sitting president had done before? Whereas Hoover's pride explains why he stayed in the race, it does not explain why he campaigned so vigorously.

Hoover originally planned to do only three or four policy speeches, leaving most of the campaigning to his cabinet and Republican stalwarts. Joslin, his press secretary, noted that Hoover's intention when renominated was to take "almost no part in the campaign. He would devote himself to the duties of his office with a very minimum of political diversions. Circumstances, however, forced him to the other extreme as time "went on."(35) Those "circumstances" included Republicans urging him to campaign, the "hideous misrepresentations" by the Democrats concerning his administration, and his belief that the election was "the last stand of the `old-fashioned' liberalism which Hoover had championed all his life.(36) Throughout his term, Hoover had avoided discussing the charges against him and his economic policies because he thought the negative consequences would be greater than any benefits. But in 1932, the thought of an unchallenged Democratic victory finally convinced Hoover to break his silence and make an earnest presidential response.

Thus, Hoover, knowing that he had no chance of winning, embarked on his unprecedented campaign tour to defend himself, his administration, and his philosophy of government from the charges of his accusers. In other words, Hoover's entire campaign was an example of the rhetorical genre of apologia.

Apologia his received considerable attention from scholars in the past thirty years. Ware and Linkugel's 1973 article provided a basis that others have used to further define the genre. Ware and Linkugel describe apologia as a speech of "self-defense," stating that

In life, an attack upon a person's character, upon his worth as a human

being, does seem to demand a direct response. The questioning of a man's

moral nature, motives, or reputation is qualitatively different from

the challenging of his policies.(37)

Although the criticism of Hoover was based loosely on the policies of his administration, the attack waged by the Democrats in general and Roosevelt in particular was aimed very much at Hoover's moral nature, motives, and reputation. Roosevelt's strategy in the campaign was to attack, rather than defend, and to leave Hoover "saddled with the Depression."(38) As Lyons notes,

They [Roosevelt and John Garner] painted a President devoid of compassion,

indifferent to the agony of his countrymen. This accusation was implicit

every time they alluded to the "Hoover depression" or "Hoovervilles." It

was explicit in the claim--the heart and substance of the Democratic

case--that Hoover was "responsible" for the depression, "did nothing" to

allay its tragedy, and squandered billions on this "nothing."(39)

In his campaign speeches, Hoover refuted the charges levied against him. The first two of the three charges, that Hoover was (1) responsible for the depression and (2) that he did nothing, are the two major accusations that instigated Hoover's apologetic rhetoric. The third charge, squandering millions, was addressed implicitly in his defense of the second.

Ware and Linkugel lay out four "factors" of apologia based on Robert Abelson's modes of resolution of belief dilemmas: denial, bolstering, differentiation, and transcendence.(40)

Denial is simply the denial of facts, sentiments, objects, or relationships. Denial of intent is particularly effective, because "people respond differently to the actions of others when they perceive those actions to be intended than when they perceive them to be merely a part of the sequence of events. "Abelson describes denial as a "direct attack upon one or both of the cognitive elements or the relation between them." Gold explains how denial can essentially mean giving more information, the "full story, essentially a denial that the available information is sufficient."(41)

Bolstering is "any rhetorical strategy that reinforces the existence of a fact, sentiment, object, or relationship." When speakers bolster, they attempt to "identify with something viewed favorably by the audience." Abelson describes bolstering as a "mechanism for not eliminating the imbalance entirely but . drowning it out" by relating the concept with several other valued objects, thus minimizing the relative effect of the original fault. Bolstering can also be seen as "reminding the audience of previous occasions in which the accused was viewed in a favorable light the inference is that such a drastic change in behavior is unlikely."(42)

Differentiation serves the purpose of "separating some fact, sentiment, object, or relationship from some larger context within which the audience presently views that attribute." It is successful only to the extent that the new meaning and the old "lend themselves to radically different interpretations by the audience." The rhetor tries to create a new perspective by splitting the element into parts and disassociating with the offensive part. Differentiation can include an emphasis on "extenuating circumstances."(43)

Transcendence, the obverse of differentiation, is a "strategy that cognitively joins some fact, sentiment, object, or relationship with some larger context within which the audience does not presently view that attribute." It serves to

psychologically move the audience away from the particulars of the charge

at hand in a direction toward a more abstract, general view of his

character. Such strategies are useful to the extent that the manipulated

attribute proves to be congruent with the new context in the minds of the

Hoover's 1932 Campaign Radio Speeches

Hoover gave nine major radio addresses during the 1932 campaign.(45) Each of the speeches was broadcast nationally by Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and National Broadcasting Company (NBC) radio, and, with the exception of the election-eve address, were given in front of partisan crowds of at least 15,000 loyal Republican supporters. These nine speeches were examined as a set, and several consistent themes emerged that can each be linked to a factor of apologia. Table 1 is a quantitative summary of Hoover's use of each theme in the addresses.

Note: The figures signify the number of times Hoover used that theme in that particular speech. The asterisks were added to provide some form of measurement of the amount of time Hoover used to develop that theme. Each asterisk signifies an extended use of the theme in that speech, such as when Hoover discussed the fourteen major points of the Republican platform in his acceptance speech.

I will briefly describe each theme discuss how each applies to apologia's four factors of denial, bolstering, differentiation, or transcendence and explain why the strategy was not effective. These themes and connections must be viewed in the context that Hoover was defending himself from two charges made by Roosevelt and the Democratic Party: (1) Hoover caused the depression and (2) did nothing about it. In sum, the themes that Hoover used to answer the charges from the Democrats will be identified as factors of apologia.

Hoover discussed the Republican record in all nine speeches in the set. This presentation of his record served two apologetic factors: denial and bolstering. When Hoover specifically discussed his record as it was related to the depression--issues such as the economy, employment, and the tariff--he was denying the charge that he did nothing. The problem with Hoover's denial was the manner in which he carried it out. Hoover used long lists, with as many as twelve, eighteen, and twenty-one points, to outline his record.(46) These detailed, fact-heavy lists went on for pages and pages in his speech texts, but the American people were simply not in the mood to analyze his past actions rationally or in detail. An article in Collier's Magazine during the election illustrates this point:

Psychologically he was unsound . Mr. Hoover, a poor salesman, chose to

depend upon the intelligent divination of the public to see the wisdom of

his course. That's usually bad tactics, particularly when men and women

are in no mood for thinking.(47)

Hoover's refutation campaign "sought to appeal to the rational side of human nature at a time when economic crisis prompted an irrational search for scapegoats."(48) In addition, Hoover's defense, which retraced his administration's every step from the 1929 crash, was long after the fact and merely served to open old wounds.

Hoover's Use of Bolstering

When Hoover discussed issues in the Republican record not directly related to the depression--issues such as national defense, railway transportation laws, and prohibition--he was using bolstering by "reminding the audience of previous occasions in which the accused was viewed in a favorable light."(49) In the context of Abelson's original view of bolstering, Hoover was trying to "drown out" thought of the depression by discussing all the other things he had accomplished during his administration.

In much the same way, Hoover's discussions of the Republican and Democratic platforms were also examples of bolstering. He was trying to "reinforce" the idea that what his administration was planning, especially in comparison to what the Democrats were planning, was going to be effective, while distracting them from the issues of his past administration. Once again, he was drowning out the current situation by focusing on views that were favorable to his audience.

Hoover's use of bolstering was also flawed. To gain identification, essential in bolstering, the apologist must, "appear worthy of `family' status."(50) In light of the image Hoover had during his administration, not too many American families would welcome Hoover. Bolstering requires the orator to be able to drown out the negative connections by emphasizing the positive, but Hoover simply had too many negative relationships to overcome. In addition, Roosevelt had a distinct advantage in the election: he was a rhetorically superior challenger with a large lead. Roosevelt could afford to spout flowery rhetoric, make unfounded accusations, and change his positions from speech to speech,(51) whereas Hoover was saddled with the impossible task of trying to respond to the many accusations while debating a moving target. Inherently, Hoover's bolstering faced an uphill battle.

Hoover's Use of Differentiation

Hoover used differentiation in several ways: by blaming the depression on Europe, by attacking the Democrats, by using metaphors, and by employing optimistic rhetoric. Hoover blamed Europe, or more specifically the effect the World War had on Europe, in several of his speeches (see Table 1). In Des Moines, Hoover claimed "this earthquake started in Europe,"(52) in Indianapolis he referred to "the crisis which swept upon us from Europe,"(53) and in St. Paul he referenced "the cataclysm which has swept over the world as the result of the aftermath of the World War."(54) Blaming Europe for the depression was a use of differentiation to answer both charges levied against him. By placing the responsibility for starting the depression on Europe, Hoover was attempting to disassociate his administration from that charge. Also, by placing the locus of control outside of the United States, Hoover was implicitly explaining why domestic measures had not been--or, perhaps more important, would not have been--successful.

Hoover also used differentiation in his discussions of the Democratic Party. In attacking the Democratic record, he derided the "paralysis" caused by their "destructive legislation" that hindered his fight against the depression.(55) In Detroit and St. Paul, Hoover embarked on two extended discussions of the Democratic record that were aimed toward the House of Representatives that the Democrats had won control of in 1930 amid promises of solving the nation's economic woes. He attacked their promises, arguing that instead they merely "passed a number of bills . designed to appeal to discontent and sectional cupidity and indeed of the type that would have destroyed the very foundation of our American system."(56) In these cases, Hoover was using differentiation to answer the accusation that he did nothing. He again separates the Republicans from the Democrats, focuses the blame on the Democrats, and disassociates himself from them. He was essentially describing an extenuating circumstance of his administration: an uncooperative Democratic Congress.

In addition, Hoover used differentiation to blame the Democrats for the start of the depression. In St. Louis, Hoover presented quotations from President Wilson, Secretary McAdoo, and Senator Glass in which they boasted that the creation of the Federal Reserve System would prevent economic "booms, slumps, and panics." Hoover charged that the "confidence" from those statements "contributed to the building up of the boom which led to the crash." Hoover tried to make the connection clear by adding, "now the blame is to be transferred to the Republican party for having failed to do the job which they promised would be done by the panacea of their own institution."(57) Hoover, assuming that his audience blamed the government for the depression, split the government into two parts, Republican and Democratic, and disassociated himself and his policies from the offensive part: the Democrats.

Ware and Linkugel wrote that differentiation is only successful to the extent that the new meaning and old meaning "lend themselves to radically different interpretations by the audience."(58) Hoover's use of differentiation to assail the Democratic Congress was probably ineffective because the people could not "radically" grasp the concept that the Democrats were so different than the Republicans, especially in a campaign year in which they were hearing the opposite argument from the Democrats.

Hoover also used metaphors as a tool of differentiation. Three metaphoric clusters were used throughout the campaign to describe the depression: storms, earthquakes, and war. Many of the metaphors were used in connection with other themes, such as the use of all three metaphors in blaming Europe for the start of the Great Depression. Beyond that use and their basic aesthetic value, the metaphors also worked to create certain mind-sets for Hoover's audience.

Two of these metaphors--storms and earthquakes(59)--were employed as tactics of differentiation. Both of these metaphoric clusters shared a common cognitive advantage for Hoover: they were natural disasters. Humans have no control over when or where a storm or earthquake might hit. Furthermore, they are "one shot" disasters: they occur, cause extensive damage, and then move on (storms) or stop (earthquakes). After the low point when the disaster hit, the progress is continuously upward. By using these metaphors, Hoover was implying that the depression was not his administration's fault (it was merely the nature of economic cycles), while simultaneously declaring the panic over and the recovery begun (the natural cycle having run its course).

The use of these two metaphors, therefore, was an attempt at differentiation. Similar to blaming Europe, Hoover was focusing the blame for the start of the depression on a "natural disaster," thereby disassociating himself The tactic failed for several reasons. First, the fact that Hoover used three metaphors interchangeably decreased the effectiveness of each. Hoover simply had too many explanations of the origins and continuing sources of the depression--Europe, Congress, natural disasters--that it created an impression that he was simply grasping for anything that would alleviate him of blame. Second, Hoover started his explanation too late. Again, Hoover, afraid to cause further panic, had been relatively quiet most of his presidency, while the Democratic publicity machine kept itself busy attacking him. Then, in his reelection addresses, which, other than the acceptance speech in August, were all delivered in October or later (see Table 1), he suddenly had several explanations. He was neither able to present enough evidence nor make a convincing enough argument to overcome his late start.

Finally, Hoover used optimistic rhetoric in three different ways during the campaign: by claiming that the war was being won ("the gigantic forces of depression are in retreat"), by implying that the depression was only temporary (referring to "momentary despair" and "temporary dislocation" to describe the national state), and that the depression was getting better ("the turn is toward recovery").(60) Hoover used statistics extensively to demonstrate the last point, that the depression was getting better. He cited better national health, expansion of credit, improving employment, and increases in foreign investments.(61) His claim that a million men have gone back to work and that 500,000 more were returning every month was made in New York, St. Louis, St. Paul, and Elko, his last four speeches. Hoover was again using differentiation: by dividing the depression into past (hard times) and present (getting better), he was trying to separate the depression into two "radically different interpretations." By trying to disassociate himself from the past horrors of the depression, Hoover could focus on the current improvements and future possibilities.

Hoover's attempt at differentiation through optimism was perhaps his most serious miscalculation of the national psyche. His optimism was derided as "the false trumpeting of an imminent recovery." The overconfident rhetoric was especially ineffective because his audience "could not reconcile what Hoover was saying with what they were experiencing daily" Instead of being encouraged by Hoover's optimism, the American people wondered if their president "really knew how bad it was" and whether he "was really in touch with the little man." Each time Hoover bragged about how 1 million men have gone back to work, the country, other than perhaps those million men, seemed to collectively roll its eyes.(62)

Not only was Hoover's optimism incongruent with the extent to which the American people were suffering, it was the same story he had been giving since the stock market crashed in 1929. Throughout his presidency, Hoover maintained that the depression was not crippling the country. A review of his presidential papers reveals numerous examples of Hoover either arguing that the depression was merely temporary or getting better, yet this "temporary" depression had already lasted three years.(63) By the 1932 campaign, Hoover's explanations had become too much for the American people to accept. With each successive ineffectual statement, the "value of his words dropped, until . they were hurled back at his head by a disenchanted press and people."(64) In other words, his "complicated explanations had been so often coupled with unfulfilled promises that people doubted both."(65)

Hoover's Use of Transcendence

Two of the themes in Hoover's speeches were examples of transcendence: his use of the war metaphor and his appeal to adhere to the principles of American government. Hoover's use of the war metaphor can be traced back to his first State of the Union address in 1929.(66) In the 1932 campaign, his use of the metaphor was extensive: he discussed defenses, counterattacks, attacks, strategies, tactics, retreats, trenches, captains, majors, generals, campaigns, fronts, fortresses, flanks, battles, battalions, regiments, armies, fighting, waging, plunging, and mobilizing.(67) By using this military language, Hoover was using a transcendent strategy that dealt with both charges leveled against him. He "cognitively joined" some fact (the depression) with some other context (war) to move the audience away from the specifics of the charge.

The war metaphor is employed frequently by American presidents, but Hoover's use of it was flawed. Suzanne Daughton demonstrated how Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address, metaphorically named the depression a war and thereby "helped his listeners make sense of their pain and cast it as something temporary and addressable through combat."(68) Later, Daughton argues,

by visualizing this economic crisis as a war, Roosevelt paradoxically

focused on the positive aspects of the situation rather than simply

telling his listeners that economic recovery was "just around the corner,"

as Hoover had done, or asking them to "endure" their suffering passively,

Roosevelt told them that they could, and indeed, must take an active role

Hoover's mistake was that unlike Roosevelt's call to action, Hoover did not use the metaphor to ask the American people to participate. They were left outside the action and were expected to have faith that the president, behind closed doors, was fighting the battles for them.

David Zarefsky, in his book on Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, concluded that although the war metaphor was effective to mobilize the country, once mobilized the momentum falters because it becomes difficult to keep the initial military fervor alive.(70) Hoover had been using the war metaphor for four years by the 1932 campaign the troops were weary and mutiny was perhaps inevitable.

The next theme Hoover used in his effort to transcend the depression was to plead for adherence to the principles of American government, a topic that was very important to him. This theme was present in seven of the nine speeches and constituted the main thrust of his New York speech on October 31st. Hoover began that speech by saying,

This campaign is more than a contest between two men. It is more than a

contest between two parties. It is a contest between two philosophies of

government. It is not change that comes from normal development of national

life to which I object or you object, but the proposal to alter the whole

foundations of our national life which have been builded [sic] through

generations of testing and struggle, and of the principles upon which we

Typically, Hoover would end his speeches with an appeal to the nation to be true to the "foundations of experience," "the principles and ideals which it has had from its very beginning," or "the whole foundations of our national life."(72) He made a direct comparison between his ideal and the Democrats' "waves of emotion," "innovations," and "so-called new deals."(73) Hoover's use of this theme was a clear attempt at transcendence. He was avoiding both accusations by elevating the discussion to one of philosophies of government. In the words of Ware and Linkugel, Hoover was "psychologically moving the audience away from the particulars of the charge at hand in the direction toward a more abstract, general view of his character."(74)

The futility of Hoover using his philosophy of government as a transcendent strategy is obvious once the public reaction to that philosophy during his presidential term is examined. First, Hoover's reliance on voluntarism instead of government intervention unintentionally damaged his image. Eugene Lyons wrote the following:

It [Hoover's system] could not sugarcoat or conceal unpleasant realities.

On the contrary, Hoover's repeated appeals to the nation's charitable

instincts kept the consciousness of privation always to the fore. Every new

fund drive naturally played up the grave sufferings and the danger of more

suffering. His system left the unpleasant truth starkly exposed.(75)

Lyons goes on to cite several statistics showing that during Roosevelt's first term, the depression was actually worse than during Hoover's term, while the dominant public perception was the opposite.(76)

James Barber defined Hoover, along with Woodrow Wilson and Lyndon Johnson, as "active-negative" presidents who displayed "a high expenditure of energy on political tasks and a continual recurrent, negative emotional reaction to that work."(77) Barber used Wilson's League of Nations, Hoover's withholding of relief, and Johnson's Vietnam War as examples of active-negative presidents who each shared a common pattern:

a process of rigidification, a movement from political dexterity to narrow

insistence on a failing course of action despite abundant evidence of the

failure. Each of these three helped arrange his own defeat, and in the

course of doing that, left the nation worse off that it might have been.(78)

Hoover became a villain to the American people by rigidly following his concept of government to the letter and thus refusing to use all of the powers of the government to attack the depression. Therefore, considering that Hoover's adherence to his fundamental principles was quite possibly the most damaging piece of evidence against him, his attempt to transcend the election by focusing on his governmental philosophy was clearly counterproductive. He was trying to persuade the American people to support him by using one of his own worst faults as proof.

Throughout these nine speeches, Hoover employed each factor of apologia to each accusation (see Table 2). His use of bolstering and transcendence did not apply specifically to either of the charges--bolstering served to reinforce his overall image, while the use of transcendence avoided the accusations altogether. Normally, rhetors would combine two of the factors in an apologetic appeal,(79) but in this case, Hoover used all four to varying degrees. The extraordinary length of the speech set--combined, Hoover's nine speeches constituted over ten hours of rhetoric(80)--may explain why all the factors were present. Nonetheless, many of the strategies contradicted themselves in various ways. For example, by accusing everyone from the Democrats, to Europe, to unseen natural disasters for the depression, Hoover not only added paranoid and bitter to the roster of debilitating terms used to describe him but he also reduced the effectiveness of each individual excuse.

Furthermore, a review of the reasons for his failures shares a common theme: timing. He was relatively silent throughout his presidency and then did not begin his major campaign addresses until October 1932. By that time, the election had long been decided, and Hoover's desperate appeals only made matters worse. He was either giving the American people the same rhetoric they had heard for too long--false optimism, war metaphors, principles of traditional government, and so forth--or he was presenting new information that was long overdue--blaming Europe, Congress, explaining his record, and so forth.

My contention is not that with a better campaign strategy Hoover could have won the election, because the combination of a bad economy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a monumental obstacle for anyone to overcome. What I do argue is that Hoover's campaign was counterproductive to his other goals: defending himself, his administration, and his philosophy of government. Hoover would have been better served by (1) choosing a few strong defenses and developing them throughout, and (2) starting his campaign much earlier, as his preceding silence rendered his later rhetoric less effective. Unfortunately for Hoover, the unpredictability of the depression deterred him from presenting a unified approach in explaining the origin of the depression.(81)

In the end, Hoover should not be remembered as an incompetent and uncaring failure but as a president whose personal flaws happened to coincide with the nation's greatest needs at that point in time. If economic prosperity had continued, the engineer's strength in running the government as a machine could have been used and he most likely would be remembered as an able, efficient president. Instead, regardless of its cause, the depression exposed his weaknesses and destroyed his reputation.

The implications of the campaign of 1932 on the concept of the rhetorical presidency are significant. Without the failure of Hoover's unrhetorical presidency from 1928 through 1932, Roosevelt's rhetorical presidency would not have been as successful. The traditions and precedents that Roosevelt broke were more readily accepted by the American people because Hoover proved to them that silence and the status quo were not acceptable. Hoover even managed to decrease the conceptual gap between himself and Roosevelt with his actions at the end of the campaign. By breaking precedent and going out on the stump as an incumbent, Hoover was unknowingly aiding the transformation of the American presidency to something he would have disapproved.

In the 1932 presidential campaign, Hoover, despite his immense unpopularity and lack of skill in oratory, embarked on an ill-fated and unprecedented rhetorical crusade. Aware he had no chance of actually winning the election, Hoover instead delivered an extended "apologic" defense in an attempt to vindicate himself, his administration, and his philosophy of government from the accusations levied from Roosevelt and the Democratic Party. This article has demonstrated that Hoover's failure in achieving his goals for the presidential election of 1932 can be partly attributed to his rhetoric during that campaign. When viewed through the lens of "apologic" theory, Hoover's tactics were brutally flawed. His use of each of the four factors of apologia--denial, bolstering, differentiation, and transcendence--has been shown to be defective in persuading the American people of his innocence and character. In fact, his rhetoric was detrimental to the situation in many ways and contributed to his poor reputation.

The author thanks Professor Martin J. Medhurst for providing comments and suggestions concerning this article.

(1.) The "rhetorical presidency" is introduced and developed in James W. Ceaser, Glen E. Thurow, Jeffrey Tulis, & Joseph M. Bessette, "The Rise of the Rhetorical Presidency," Presidential Studies Quarterly 11, no. 2 (1981): 158-71 Jeffrey Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987) and Martin J. Medhurst, ed., Beyond the Rhetorical Presidency (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1996).

(2.) Nicholas Cripe, "A Critical Analysis and Comparison of Selected, 1932 Presidential Campaign Speeches of Herbert Clark Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt" (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1953), p. ii Judith Trent and Robert Friedenberg, Political Campaign Communication: Principles and Practices (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995), 3d ed., p. 67. Theodore Roosevelt, running in 1912 four years after leaving the White House, did campaign actively with the Bull Moose party, but he was not an incumbent president at the time.

(3.) Cripe, "A Critical Analysis," p. ii.

(4.) Gil Troy, See How They Ran: The Changing Role of the Presidential Candidate (New York Free Press, 1991), p. 277.

(5.) Theodore Joslin, Hoover Off the Record (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1934), p. 316.

(6.) Frank Freidel, "Election of 1932," in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-1968, ed. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and Fred L. Israel (New York: Chelsea House, 1971), vol. 3, p. 2733.

(7.) Referring to Ronald J. Matlon (Ed.) and Sylvia P. Ortiz (Ass. Ed.), Index to Journals in Communication Studies: Through 1990, vol. 2 (Annandale, VA: Speech Communication Association, 1992), certain presidents receive rather extensive attention (Thomas Jefferson 9, John Quincy Adams 13, Abraham Lincoln 40, Andrew Johnson 5, Theodore Roosevelt 6, Woodrow Wilson 20, Frank] in Roosevelt 36, Harry Truman 26, Dwight Eisenhower 18,John F. Kennedy 38, Lyndon Johnson 35, Richard Nixon 61, Gerald Ford 20, Jimmy Carter 42, Ronald Reagan 63, George Bush 11), while the remaining twenty-five presidents share 30 total articles, including twelve presidents without a journal article to their credit (Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce,james Buchanan, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and William Taft). See also Davis Houck, "Presidential Rhetoric without Qualifiers: Beyond the Modern and Rhetorical Divide," Southern Communication Journal 62 (Spring 1997): 257-61.

(8.) The only example of a journal article devoted entirely to Hoover's rhetoric concerns his postpresidential rhetoric: Brant Short, "The Rhetoric of the Post-Presidency: Herbert Hoover's Campaign against the New Deal, 1934-1936," Presidential Studies Quarterly 21, no. 1 (1991): 33-50. Two other articles, neither of which can be considered a rhetorical criticism of his presidential speeches, are Howard W. Runkel, "A President Prepares to Speak," Western Journal of Communication 15, no. 4 (1951): 5-9 and C. M. Jansky Jr., "Contribution of Herbert Hoover to Broadcasting," Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 1, no. 3 (1957): 241-49. In contrast, besides Roosevelt's 36 communication articles, there are several books devoted to Roosevelt's rhetoric, including Halford R. Ryan, Franklin D. Roosevelt's Rhetorical Presidency (Westport, CT. Greenwood, 1988).

(9.) See, for example, Herbert Hoover Reassessed, Senate Documents, vol. 9 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1981).

(10.) Lawrence Fuchs, "Election of 1928," in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-1968, ed. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Fred L. Israel (New York: Chelsea House, 1971), p. 2603.

(11.) Hoover served as the food administrator during World War I, directed the American Relief Administration in Europe after the war, and was secretary of commerce under Harding and Coolidge.

(12.) Carl R. Burgchardt, "President Hoover's Inaugural Address, 1929," in The Inaugural Addresses of Twentieth Century Presidents, ed. Halford Ryan (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993), p. 82.

(13.) Freidel, "Election of 1932," p. 2709.

(14.) Cripe, "A Critical Analyis," p. 61.

(15.) Davis Houck, "Rhetoric as Currency: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the Great Depression" (Ph.D. diss., Pennsylvania State University, 1996), p. 99 Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Age of Roosevelt, vol. 1, The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919-1933 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957), p. 165 (Schlesinger wrote that Hoover hardly held more than one conference a month after the depression began) Joslin, Hoover Off the Record, p. 367.

(16.) See Richard E. Edwards, "Herbert Hoover and the Public Relations Approach to Economic Recovery, 1929-1932" (Ph.D. diss., University of Iowa, 1976).

(17.) William Spragens and Linda J. Lear, "Herbert Hoover," in Popular Images of American Presidents, ed. William Spragens (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1988), p. 330.

(18.) Ceaser et al., "The Rise of the Rhetorical Presidency," p. 23, discuss how President Carter "came to the conclusion that he had been mistaken in his understanding of the presidential office he had fallen into the trap of being `head of government' rather than `leader of the people.'"

(19.) Edwards, "Herbert Hoover and the Public Relations Approach," p. 78.

(20.) Roy V. Peel and Thomas C. Donnelly, The 1932 Campaign: An Analysis (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1935), p. 112.

(21.) For an interesting review, see Rosanne Sizer, "Herbert Hoover and the Smear Books, 1930-1932," Annals of Iowa 47, no. 2 (1984): 343-61.

(22.) For examples, see Cripe, "A Critical Analysis," p. 91 Burgchardt, "President Hoover's Inaugural Address, 1929," p. 82 Peel and Donnelly, The 1932 Campaign, p. 51 Craig Lloyd, Aggressive Introvert: A Study of Herbert Hoover and Public Relations Management 1912-1932 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1973).

(23.) Ellis Hawley, "Herbert Hoover and Modern American History: Fifty Years Later," in Herbert Hoover Reassessed, p. 450.

(24.) Carl Burgchardt, "Herbert Clark Hoover," in U.S. Presidents as Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, ed. Halford Ryan (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1995), p. 137.

(25.) Joslin, Hoover Off the Record, p. 45.

(26.) Runkel, "A President Prepares to Speak," p. 5.

(27.) Cripe, "A Critical Analysis," p. 629.

(28.) Burgchardt, "Herbert Clark Hoover," p. 137 Ryan, FDR's Rhetorical Presidency, p. 46.

(29.) Burgchardt, "Herbert Clark Hoover," p. 137.

(30.) Herbert Hoover, "The 1932 Campaign: Continuing My Work Those Years," Collier's 129, no. 21 (May 24, 1952): 26.

(31.) See, respectively, Vaugh Bornet, "An Uncommon President, in Herbert Hoover Reassessed, p. 85 Eugene Lyons, Herbert Hoover: A Biography (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964), p. 291 E. Francis Brown, "Roosevelt's Victorious Campaign," Current History 37, no. 3 (1932): 257.

(32.) William Leuchtenburg, "Election of 1936," in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-1968, ed. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Fred L. Israel (New York: Chelsea House, 1971), vol. 3, p. 2809.

(33.) Literary Digest poll results: September 24: Hoover 28,193 to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) 27,654 October 8: FDR 404,992 to Hoover 325,845 October 15: FDR 1,062,087 to Hoover 781,431 October 22: FDR 1,473,446 to Hoover 973,367 October 29: FDR 1,648,237 to Hoover 1,095,274 November 3: FDR 1,715,789 to Hoover 1,150,398 (Roosevelt won 41 out of 48 states).

(34.) Burgchardt, "Herbert Clark Hoover," p. 136,

(35.) Joslin, Hoover Off the Record, p. 246.

(36.) See, respectively, Troy, See How They Ran, pp. 65, 165 Lyons, Herbert Hoover, p. 307.

(37.) B. L. Ware and Wil Linkugel, "They Spoke in Defense of Themselves: On the Generic Criticism of Apologia," Quarterly Journal of Speech (QJS) 59, no. 3 (1973): 274.

(38.) Halford Ryan, "Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882, 1945)," in U.S. Presidents as Orators, p. 147.

(39.) Lyons, Herbert Hoover, p. 297.

(40.) Robert Abelson, "Modes of Resolution of Belief Dilemmas," Journal of Conflict Resolution 3, no. 4 (1959): 343.

(41.) Ware and Linkugel, "They Spoke," p. 276 Abelson, "Modes of Resolution," p. 344 Ellen Gold, "Political Apologia: The Ritual of Self-Defense," Communication Monographs 45, no. 4 (1978): 308.

(42.) Ware and Linkugel, "They Spoke," p. 277 Abelson, "Modes of Resolution," p. 345 Gold, "Political Apologia," p. 308.

(43.) Ware and Linkugel, "They Spoke," pp. 278-79.

(45.) All speech text was taken from Herbert Hoover, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Herbert Hoover January 1, 1932 to March 4, 1933 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1977). The following speeches were included: "The Address Accepting the Republican Presidential Nomination" (pp. 357-76) "Address at the Coliseum in Des Moines, Iowa" (pp. 459-323) "Address in Cleveland, Ohio" (pp. 51943) "Address in Detroit, Michigan" (pp. 568-93) "Address in Indianapolis, Indiana" (pp. 60933) "Address at Madison Square Garden in New York City" (pp. 656-81) "Address in St. Louis, Missouri" (pp. 716-36) "Address in St. Paul, Minnesota" (pp. 746-68) and "Radio Address to the Nation From Elko, Nevada" (pp. 795-99). All cites from these speeches will be noted using an abbreviated title of the speech citing the city.

(46.) Hoover had twelve points in "Cleveland," p. 527 eighteen in "Detroit," p. 580 and twenty-one in "St. Paul," p. 749.

(47.) Walter Davenport, "Hoover Loses the West," Collier's 90, no. 14 (October 1, 1932): 10.

(48.) Sizer, "Herbert Hoover and the Smear Books," p. 344.

(49.) Gold, "Political Apologia," p. 308.

(50.) Judith Hoover, "Big Boys Don't Cry: The Values Constraint in Apologia," Southern Communication Journal 54, no. 3 (1989): 235.

(51.) The author appreciates the comments of an anonymous Presidential Studies Quarterly (PSQ) reviewer for points concerning Roosevelt's strategy in the campaign.

(58.) Wake and Linkugel, "They Spoke," p. 278.

(59.) Examples of his use of these metaphors can be found, for earthquake: "Des Moines," p. 465 "Cleveland," p. 537 "New York," p. 664. For storm: "Nomination," p. 357 "Des Moines," p. 469 "Cleveland," p. 520. The war metaphor will be discussed under the transcendent strategies.

(60.) "Detroit," pp. 569, 591 "Des Moines," p. 471.

(61.) National health: Hoover, "Nomination," p. 366 "Address in Cleveland, Ohio," p. 528. Expansion of credit: "Des Moines," p. 471 "Cleveland," p. 538 "St. Paul," p. 755. Improving employment: "Des Moines," p. 471 "New York," p. 662 "St. Louis," pp. 717,724 "St. Paul," pp. 755, 759 "Elko," p. 796. Increases in foreign investments: "Detroit," p. 569.

(62.) Rexford Tugwell, "Roosevelt and the Bonus Marchers of 1932," Political Science Quarterly 87, no. 3 (1972): 366 Henry Graff, "Reassessing the Depression Chief," in Herbert Hoover Reassessed, p. 44 Edwards, "Herbert Hoover and the Public Relations Approach," p. 164 Hoover mentioned the million men going back to work in the following speeches: "New York," p. 662 "St. Louis," pp. 717, 724 "St. Paul," p. 755.

(63.) For example, Hoover made the following statements (all appeared in William Myers, ed., The State Papers and Other Public Writing of Herbert Hoover, vol. 2 [New York: Doubleday, 1934]): "Any lack of confidence in the economic future or the basic strength of business in the United States is foolish" (Hoover, Press Statement 11/5/1929, p. 133) "The finances of the Government are in sound condition" (Hoover, First Annual Message to Congress, 12/3/29, p. 140) "I am convinced we have passed the worst and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover" (Hoover, Address to Annual Dinner of the United States Chamber of Commerce, 5/1/30, p. 289) "We should remember that these occasions have been met many times before, that they are but temporary" (Hoover, Second Annual Message to Congress, 12/2/1930, p. 429) "just a passing event in our history" (Hoover, Address at San Juan, 3/24/31, p. 536) "If we lift our vision beyond these immediate emergencies we find fundamental national gains even amid depression" (Hoover, Third Annual Message to Congress, 12/8/1931, p. 41).

(64.) Carl N. Degler, "The Ordeal of Herbert Hoover," Yale Review 52, no. 4 (1963): 576.

(65.) James Barber, The Presidential Character. Predicting Performance in the White House (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1972), p. 26.

(66.) Herbert Hoover, "Annual Address to Congress, 12/3/29," in The State Papers and Other Public Writing of Herbert Hoover, p. 145.

(67.) For one example of each, refer to defenses ("Nomination," p. 359), counterattacks ("Nomination," p. 359), attacks ("Des Moines," p. 484), strategies ("Nomination," p. 362), tactics ("Des Moines," p. 484), retreats ("Cleveland," p. 542), trenches ("Detroit," p. 591), captains ("New York," p. 662), majors ("New York," p. 662), generals ("New York," p. 662), campaigns ("Des Moines," p. 462), fronts ("Nomination," p. 362), fortresses ("Des Moines," p. 484), flanks ("Des Moines," p. 466), battles ("Indianapolis," p. 610), battalions ("Des Moines," p. 470), armies ("Des Moines," p. 470), armies ("Des Moines, p. 470), fought ("Des Moines," p. 462), waged ("Nomination," p. 362), plunged ("Des Moines," p. 464), and mobilized ("Des Moines, p. 462).

(68.) Suzanne Daughton, "Metaphorical Transcendence: Images of the Holy War in Franklin Roosevelt's First Inaugural," QJS 79, no. 4 (1993): 432.

(70.) David Zarefsky, President Johnson's War on Poverty: Rhetoric and History (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1986).

(72.) "Nomination," p. 375 "Des Moines," p. 485 "New York," p. 656.

(73.) "Nomination," p. 375 "Indianapolis," p. 632 "New York," p. 657.

(74.) Wake and Linkugel, "They Spoke," p. 279.

(75.) Lyons, Herbert Hoover, p. 290.

(76.) For example, Lyons compares unemployment figures (6.2 million average during Hoover and 10 million average during FDR's first two terms) and deficits ($3.3 billion to $14 billion).

(77.) Barber, 77m Presidential Character, p. 95.

(79.) Ware and Linkugel, "They Spoke," p. 283.

(80.) This information was taken from Hoover Presidential Library audio recording information.

(81.) In a way, Hoover's seemingly contradictory explanations of the origin of the depression reveal the true difficulty of the situation. The depression cannot be blamed solely on the market crash, because stock prices had regained their precrash levels by the summer of 1930. The crisis worsened due to international causes, principally the British abandonment of the gold standard and the enactment of the Smoot-Hawley tariff Therefore, Hoover could not focus on one cause for the depression and never truly had a point in time where he could begin his explanation. Hoover, truly optimistic that the depression was ending, was undone by the unpredictability of the worldwide economy. (The author thanks an anonymous PSQ reviewer for information concerning the various causes of the depression.)

1936 Presidential Election

In the 1936 election, Kansas Governor Alf Landon won the Republican nomination, while Speaker Garner won the Democrats' in a close victory over Louisiana Senator Huey Long.  Hoover announced that due to his desire to avoid a protracted lame duck period while effective governance was still needed, the winner would be appointed vice president.  Upon confirmation, Hoover would resign, making the winner president two months early.  Dissatisfied with both candidates, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia announced he would run as an independent candidate.  La Guardia argued that Hoover had not done enough for the ailing country, and that Landon and Garner would both put the country in the wrong direction.  He chose as his running mate little-known freshman Democratic Senator from Missouri Harry S. Truman, who believed that Hoover had not done enough for farmers.  Landon's campaign fell apart when liberal Republicans defected to La Guardia, making the main competition between La Guardia and Garner.  With cities and middle American farmers backing the La Guardia/Truman ticket, the mayor was elected president in a landslide, Landon only winning his home state of Kansas, and Garner taking the deep south.  True to his word, Hoover appointed La Guardia vice president.  After he was confirmed unanimously and sworn in on November 12, Hoover resigned.  Just two hours after being sworn in as vice president, La Guardia took the presidential oath office and became the 32nd President of the United States.  Truman was not sworn in until the official ceremonies on January 20, 1937.


Democratic Party nomination Edit

The leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in 1932 was New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had won most of the primaries by wide margins. [3] However, the practice of state primaries was still uncommon in 1932, and most of the delegates at the convention were unbound by the results of a popular vote. Additionally, a two-thirds majority was required in order for any candidate to obtain the nomination. Speaker of the House John Nance Garner and former New York Governor Al Smith were the next two leading candidates behind Roosevelt, and while they did not have nearly as much support as he did, it was the hope of Roosevelt's opponents that he would be unable to obtain the two-thirds majority and that they could gain votes on later ballots or coalesce behind a dark horse candidate. [4] : 3–4

The convention was held in Chicago between June 27 and July 2. The first vote was taken at 4:28 on the morning of July 2, after ten hours of speeches that had begun at 5:00 on the previous afternoon. [5] After three ballots, although Roosevelt had received far more delegates than any other candidate each time, he still did not have a two-thirds majority. [6] The delegates retired to get some rest, and over the next several hours, two major events occurred that shifted the results in Roosevelt's favor. First, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, who had previously supported Garner, decided to support Roosevelt instead. [5] Then, Roosevelt's campaign managers, James Farley and Louis McHenry Howe, struck a deal with Garner: Garner would drop out of the race and support Roosevelt, and in return Roosevelt would name Garner as his running mate. With this agreement, Garner's supporters in California and Texas voted for Roosevelt on the fourth ballot, giving the governor a two-thirds majority and with it the presidential nomination. [4] [6]

Republican Party nomination Edit

As the year 1932 began, the Republican Party believed Hoover's protectionism and aggressive fiscal policies would solve the depression. Whether they were successful or not, President Herbert Hoover controlled the party and had little trouble securing a re-nomination. Little-known former United States Senator Joseph I. France ran against Hoover in the primaries, but Hoover was often unopposed. France's primary wins were tempered by his defeat to Hoover in his home state of Maryland and the fact that few delegates to the national convention were chosen in the primaries.

Hoover's managers at the Republican National Convention, which met in Chicago between June 14 and 16, ran a tight ship, not allowing expressions of concern for the direction of the nation. He was nominated on the first ballot with 98% of the delegate vote.

The tally was spectacularly lopsided:

Presidential Ballot, RNC 1932
Herbert Hoover 1126.5
John J. Blaine 13
Calvin Coolidge 4.5
Joseph I. France 4
James Wolcott Wadsworth, Jr. 1

Both rural Republicans and hard-money Republicans (the latter hoping to nominate former President Calvin Coolidge) balked at the floor managers and voted against the renomination of Vice-President Charles Curtis, who won with just 55% of the delegate votes.

Campaign Edit

After making an airplane trip to the Democratic convention, Roosevelt accepted the nomination in person. In his speech, he stated, "ours must be a party of liberal thought, of planned action, of the enlightened international outlook, and of the greatest good to the greatest number of our citizens." [7] Roosevelt's trip to Chicago was the first of several successful, precedent-making moves designed to make him appear to be the candidate of change in the election. [8] Large crowds greeted Roosevelt as he traveled around the nation his campaign song "Happy Days Are Here Again" became one of the most popular in American political history [4] : 244 – and, indeed, the unofficial anthem of the Democratic Party. [9]

After their divisive convention, Democrats united around Roosevelt, who was able to draw more universal support than Al Smith had in 1928. [10] Roosevelt's Protestant background prevented the anti-Catholic attacks Smith faced in 1928, and The Depression seemed to be of much greater concern among the American public than previous cultural battles. Prohibition was increasingly unpopular, and wets offered the argument that states and localities needed the tax money. Hoover proposed a new constitutional amendment that was vague on particulars and satisfied neither side. Roosevelt's platform promised repeal of the 18th Amendment. [11] [12]

In contrast, Hoover was not supported by many of the more prominent Republicans and violently opposed by others, in particular by a number of senators who had fought him throughout his administration and whose national reputation made their opposition of considerable importance. Many prominent Republicans even went so far as to espouse the cause of the Democratic candidate openly. [13]

Making matters worse for Hoover was the fact that many Americans blamed him for the Great Depression. The outrage caused by the deaths of veterans in the Bonus Army incident in the summer of 1932, combined with the catastrophic economic effects of Hoover's domestic policies, reduced his chances of a second term from slim to none. His attempts to campaign in public were a disaster, as he often had objects thrown at him or his vehicle as he rode through city streets. [14] [15] Hoover's unpopularity resulted in Roosevelt adopting a cautious campaign strategy, focused on minimizing gaffes and keeping public attention directed towards his opponent. [16]

As Governor of New York, Roosevelt had garnered a reputation for promoting government help for the impoverished, providing a welcome contrast for many who saw Hoover as a do-nothing president. [17] Roosevelt emphasized working collectively through an expanded federal government to confront the economic crisis, a contrast to Hoover's emphasis on individualism. [16] During the campaign, Roosevelt ran on many of the programs that would later become part of the New Deal during his presidency. [18] It was said that "even a vaguely talented dog-catcher could have been elected president against the Republicans." [19] Hoover even received a letter from an Illinois man that advised, "Vote for Roosevelt and make it unanimous." [20]

Roosevelt employed the radio to great effect during the campaign. He was able to outline his platform while also improving the perception of his personality. [21] In March, 1932, The New York Times quoted radio producer John Carlile, who said that Roosevelt had a "tone of perfect sincerity," while for Hoover, "the microphone betrays deliberate effort in his radio voice." [22] The technology not only allowed Roosevelt to reach far more voters than he could via in-person campaigning, but also drew attention away from his paralysis due to polio. [21] Roosevelt took great pains to hide the effects of the disease from voters, instituting a "gentleman's agreement" with the press that he not be photographed in ways that would highlight his disability. [23]

The election was held on November 8, 1932.

Results Edit

This was the first election since 1916 (16 years earlier) in which the Democratic candidate won.

Although the "other" vote (the combined vote total for candidates other than the nominees of the two major parties) of 1932 was three times that of 1928, it was considerably less than what had been recorded in 1920, the time of the greatest "other" vote, with the exception of the unusual conditions prevailing in 1912 and 1924.

Roosevelt, the Democratic candidate, received 22,817,883 votes (57.41%), the largest vote ever cast for a candidate for the Presidency up until that time, and over 1,425,000 more than that cast for Hoover four years earlier.

While Hoover had won a greater percentage of the vote in 1928 (as did Harding in 1920), the national swing of 17.59% to the Democrats impressed all who considered the distribution of the vote: more than one-sixth of the electorate had switched from supporting the Republicans to the Democrats. Only once before had there been a comparable shift, in 1920, when there was a 14.65% swing to the Republicans (while there had been a swing to the Democrats of 13.6% in 1912, this was from a three-candidate election). [13]

As of 2021, the swing for the Democrats from Smith in 1928 to Roosevelt remains the largest national swing of the electorate between presidential elections in the history of the United States. The largest swing since came for the Democrats in 1976, when the swing from George McGovern in 1972 to Jimmy Carter was 12.61%.

1932 was a political realignment election: not only did Roosevelt win a sweeping victory over Hoover, but Democrats significantly extended their control over the U.S. House, gaining 101 seats, and also gained 12 seats in the U.S. Senate to gain control of the chamber. Twelve years of Republican leadership came to an end, and 20 consecutive years of Democratic control of the White House began. [25]

Until 1932, the Republicans had controlled the Presidency for 52 of the previous 72 years, dating back to Abraham Lincoln being elected president in 1860. After 1932, Democrats would control the Presidency for 28 of the next 36 years.

Roosevelt led the poll in 2,722 counties, the greatest number ever carried by a candidate up until that time. Of these, 282 had never before been Democratic. Only 374 remained loyally Republican. However, that half of the total vote of the nation was cast in just eight states (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin) and that in these states, Hoover polled 8,592,163 votes. In one section (West South Central), the Republican percentage sank to 16.21%, but in no other section did the party poll less than 30% of the vote cast. However, the relative appeal of the two candidates in 1932 and the decline of the appeal of Hoover as compared with 1928 are shown in the fact that the Republican vote increased in 1932 in only 87 counties, while the Democratic vote increased in 3,003 counties.

The vote cast for Hoover, and the fact that in only one section of the nation (West South Central) did he have less than 500,000 votes and in only three states outside of the South less than 50,000 votes, made it clear that the nation remained a two-party electorate, and that everywhere, despite the overwhelming triumph of the Democrats, there was a party membership devoted to neither the new administration nor the proposals of the Socialist candidate who had polled 75% of the "other" vote (as well as the highest raw vote total of his campaigns). [26]

This election marks the last time as of 2021 that a Republican presidential candidate won a majority of black and African-American votes: as New Deal policies took effect, the strong support of black voters for these programs began a transition from their traditional support for Republicans to providing solid majorities for Democrats.

The Roosevelt ticket swept every region of the country except the Northeast, and carried many reliable Republican states that had not been carried by the Democrats since their electoral landslide of 1912, when the Republican vote was split in two.

Michigan voted Democratic for the first time since the emergence of the Republican Party in 1854, and Minnesota was carried by a Democrat for the first time since its admission to statehood in 1858, leaving Vermont as the only remaining state never to be carried by a Democratic candidate (which it would not be until 1964).

In contrast to the state's solid support of Republicans prior to this election, Minnesota has continued supporting Democrats in every presidential election but three since 1932 (the exceptions were in 1952, 1956, and 1972).

Roosevelt's victory with 472 electoral votes stood until the 1964 victory of Lyndon B. Johnson, who won 486 electoral votes in 1964, as the most ever won by a first-time contestant in a presidential election. Roosevelt also bettered the national record of 444 electoral votes set by Hoover only four years earlier, but would shatter his own record when he was re-elected in 1936 with 523 votes.

This was the last election in which Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania voted Republican until 1948.

Remembering History With Herbert Hoover

WEST BRANCH, Iowa — It is a testimony to the promise of our country to stand inside the home of young Herbert Hoover. The scope of where the Hoover family began, lived and ended each day can be observed in the blink of an eye.

One room served as a bedroom for the future president, his parents and his two siblings the other room was their living room, dining room and kitchen. The rooms are literally side by side.

They had little. Soon after, they had less. Yet Hoover persisted.

"This cottage where I was born is physical proof of the unbounded opportunity of American life," Hoover once wrote.

Few today know much about the poor little Quaker boy who was orphaned at age 9, separated from his siblings and sent off to Oregon to be raised by an uncle. Most students learn that he was America's president when the stock market crashed in 1929, and that he failed to right the country as it slipped and fell into the Great Depression.

It was a dark time in our history: In one day, some people lost entire fortunes, homes, livelihoods and the promise of a better life. There was 25 percent unemployment and instant poverty there were soup lines and low wages. Vacant lots soon became an assembly of makeshift homes built with bolts of cloth, cardboard boxes and castoff wood. Built by the newly homeless, they were called "Hoovervilles."

No one will dispute that this is what happened, yet there is so much more to this man that is important for us to know — today and tomorrow. Why? Because what happened before us guides us to what may happen to us again and serves as an instruction on how not to repeat our worst mistakes.

Forgetting history is shameful for any people. Omitting, ignoring or destroying history is worse. In truth, it is the highest moral and intellectual sin that a country's people can commit.

Hoover never finished high school, failed his college entrance exam and, once admitted to college, wasn't exactly the best of students. But he found a way to persevere once he found his niche: problem-solving, which led to an academic major, and then a career as a geologist and an engineer.

And he was quite brilliant at it. Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, a fellow Stanford University graduate, would soon travel several continents and find themselves in precarious situations, such as being trapped in China at the beginning of the country's Boxer Rebellion. Their dedication and his tactical eye eventually earned him a reputation for bringing troubled mining operations to life. His well-earned expertise also earned them great wealth.

Yet Hoover never strayed far from his humble Quaker upbringing he remained modest and loved hard work. He appreciated solitude and felt awkward when showered with attention.

What he loved most was "doing." And he rose to that occasion in 1914 when more than 100,000 Americans became trapped in Europe without cash, food or shelter as the continent descended into World War I.

Hoover essentially reached into his pocket and got all those Americans home on his dime, with a promissory note and nothing else. Of the millions he spent, all but $400 of what he donated was returned.

That says a lot about the grace of the Americans he helped.

It says even more about the confidence and respect he earned.

That moment forever changed his life: After Germany invaded Belgium and cut off the food supply to the non-agrarian country, he was called upon to help them survive the crisis.

He sprang into action, coordinated an unprecedented relief effort and, in the entirety of the war, saved the lives of millions of war victims by distributing five million tons of food to them. He went on to lead the American food-relief effort after the war, become a national hero and serve as the U.S. secretary of commerce.

His political views were so well-hidden (he served in the administrations of Democrat Woodrow Wilson and Republican Calvin Coolidge) that, when people began to wonder whether he would run for president, a question often arose: "Well, is he a Republican or a Democrat?"

When he lost his re-election campaign to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, Hoover took it hard. FDR made it harder because he used Hoover much the way House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are used by opposing parties today for political gain.

Hoover found reputation redemption in President Harry Truman, respect from Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, and a deep friendship with President John F. Kennedy.

The Herbert Hoover National Historic site, where his first home sits in West Branch, contains a sprawling detailed instruction on the life and accomplishments of the 31st president.

The artifacts, photos and interactive displays place you into our history over 100 years ago: struggles, accomplishments, technological innovations, other inventions, wars and economic despair — all things that we should always absorb and never forget.

Hoover was the first man elected U.S. president who had never previously been elected to office or been a general.

There is much to learn from his successes and, if we are wise enough, from his failures — that is, if we take time from this moment, and from who and what we are today, to understand who we once were.

If not, we will once again stumble badly before we figure out who we will become.


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