President Franklin D. Roosevelt is commonly thought of as a liberal and President Herbert C. Hoover as a conservative. To what extent are these characterizations valid?
Different events such as the Great Depression transformed America’s perceptions towards liberalism and conservative ideals. While both political leaders played a crucial role in defining and strengthening America’s history, President Roosevelt and President Herbert held diverse policy beliefs. While history views Roosevelt as a liberal president, Herbert cuts out as a conservative because of some of his policy decisions. Indeed, different documents describe and provide evidence that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was liberal diplomat while President Herbert C. Hoover was a conservative American leader. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Herbert C. Hoover pioneered important policy changes to the nation’s affairs and modified the country’s policies towards solving different socio-economic issues.
The concept of Liberalism and Conservatism
To understand these differences between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Herbert C. Hoover, it is important to define and explain the unique characteristics of a “conservative” and a “liberal.” Conservatism refers to political and social philosophy standpoints that can promote traditional perceptions of certain socio-political issues (Baron and John 292). The primary objective of conservatism is to encourage the maintenance of the status quo by rejecting attempts to introduce reforms aiming to destabilize common beliefs. Alternatively, liberalism promotes progressive perception of socio-economic issues. In particular, liberals’ primary objective is to propose certain policy frameworks that can help in combating social evil. Accordingly, events following the Great Depression classified the presidents (Hoover and Roosevelt) on different grounds (Baron and John 292). Notably, such classifications should emanate from a comprehensive analysis of the specific roles of the two diplomats in the instruction of meaningful reforms.
The Conservative President Hoover and Liberal President Roosevelt
Therefore, characterizing President Hoover as a conservative based on the above-stipulated descriptions is accurate. He was a progressive Republican who promoted different nationalistic ideals and perceptions towards different socio-economic issues. For instance, he opposed free market systems, monopolistic competitions, and socio-political justice. As such, he proposed and amended numerous policies aiming to regulate corporations in America (Byers 298). Indeed, Hoover expanded the power and influence of the local and state governments especially after the Great Depression to facilitate other important socio-economic issues. According to Hoover, voluntary participation and cooperation from the public and other conservative policies would help in solving the Great Depression. He proposed lower taxes and easy credit rates to balance the budget and improve the flow of resources among the citizens. He encouraged American businesses to involve the citizens in setting, maintain pricing strategies, and wage structures. Further, as a conservative, Hoover’s primary belief was on the increase in economic liberty. According to Document A, Hoover blamed the increase in “bureaucratization” to the increased spread of liberalism ideals. Document B and C further portray President Hoover’s lack of commitment towards private interest businesses. The document details Hoover’s support for individuals or citizens’ increased participation in the economy to end the Great Depression. Therefore, he proposed increased government’s involvement in supporting job creation and production processes.
In Document G and B, Hoover is propagating his stubborn beliefs on the role of the government and related interventions towards solving the ills of depression. Nevertheless, Hoover’s conservatism implied that his contributions towards the Great Depression were indistinct. He refrained from destabilizing status quo in the American business environment and proposed caution in the approaching different socio-economic issues. His actions emanated from the increased pressure by the citizens during the Great Depression to demand public purpose reforms.
Furthermore, Hoover held conservative attitudes towards providing relief programs to the unemployed citizens. However, he proposed and approved loans to big industry players to help in rejuvenating the economy. He opposed direct aid to small industry players such as farmers that did not have any attachment to the big corporations such as the Federal Farm Board. The 1931 statement to the press, President Hoover demonstrated his strong beliefs on local, state, and private charity and relief rather than Federal government’s involvement in such socio-economic issues. Fundamentally, Hoover opposed the Keynesian approaches towards the formulation of government’s policy decisions based on the Keynesian model. Massive government spending could only introduce a welfare state according to him. Accordingly, Hoover believed that the Federal government should focus on improving public work principles and related policy decisions. In document B, it is clear that Hoover’s conservative policies favored increased powers to the states to enable them solve their own socio-economic problems. The needy or the unemployed people, according to him, should reduce their reliance of federal government’s aid programs. In Document C and A, Hoover further reiterated the importance of maintaining the Republican Doctrine in minimal federal government’s involvement in the country’s affairs. The Cartoon in document D further explains Hoover’s conservative thoughts and ideals
Nevertheless, even with his apparent conservative beliefs and actions, Hoover depicted certain liberalism. For instance, he oversaw an increase in federal government spending through the construction of major infrastructural projects such as aviation and ship making processes that violated conservative ideals and beliefs. In particular, in Document C, Hoover made recommendations that could increase the federal government’s spending on agriculture and construction-related activities to end unemployment caused by the Great Depression. In fact, in Document A, Hoover believed that his desire to set boundaries on government’s bureaucracy made him a proponent of liberalism. Arguably, by infusing such liberal thoughts and programs into his conservative policies, President succeeded in establishing a strong foundation for the subsequent administration and policy framework of President Roosevelt’s liberal New Deal programs.
Similarly, President Roosevelt qualifies as a liberal politician through his various actions and desires to expand the role and influence of the government in solving common societal challenges. Furthermore, his emphasis on political liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and propagating equal opportunities makes him a strong proponent of liberalism (Webb 313). Document F attributes the growth of federal deficit to Roosevelt’s support for increased government expenditure. In addition, his New Deal legislation was another clear illustration of the president’s liberalism among other permanent policies.
Faced with the Great Depression challenges, Roosevelt believed that increased federal government spending would stimulate the American economy. In particular, Roosevelt stressed on the Federal government’s involvement in balancing the budget though increased spending on different infrastructural projects. Through such increased spending, he believed that the country would eventually emerge from the Great Depression through increased employment. Document F further details Roosevelt’s efforts to transform the American economy with his liberal policies. Roosevelt opposed any support towards America’s conservative politicians and groups whose primary objective was to protect the private interests of American businesses. In Document E and G, Roosevelt further affirmed his conservative beliefs through various conservative policies and measures. While such policies expanded federal government deficit and created more bureaucracy, his primary aim was to solve the problem of Great Depression among other societal challenges.
Fundamentally, Roosevelt believed that federal government’s involvement in the economy and balanced budget would solve such ills. He championed for economy liberty and increased integration irrespective of the socio-economic backgrounds of the American citizens. His approach towards racial differences was fair and based on merit-based treatment of individuals. Such perceptions further explain his decision to support the racial desegregation of the South. In particular, he supported religious liberty, free speech, and free press and fundamental in rejuvenating the American societies and defeating the ills associated with the Great Depression. Besides, in his 1932 speech (Document H), Roosevelt’s plans and desires to create permanent employment opportunities for the American citizens is evident. He believed that the provision of emergency relief and welfare services would shield the poor Americans from the socio-economic challenges. Through temporary employment detailed in the New Deal Programs, he proposed the increased expedition of government’s construction processes among other coordinated employment programs.
Document I further provide evidence of Roosevelt’s liberal ideas during his 1937 Second Inaugural Address. In this speech, he encouraged the Congress to support his plans to increase government aid towards the poor American households. According to him, the federal government wielded enough power and influence to solve common societal problems. Promoting the country’s general welfare of the citizens would secure the country’s future workers (Feldman 23). Roosevelt’s policies aimed to correct the past injustices and inequalities among other important liberal policy statements in America. Overall, Roosevelt’s New Program was the epitome of his liberal government policies among other vital support structures.
Indeed, both President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Herbert C. Hoover played important roles in influencing changes to the country’s socio-economic affairs. Nevertheless, Hoover was conservative president while Roosevelt was a liberal diplomat because of their different approaches to different challenges affecting Americans. Lastly, both presidents defined America’s approaches societal welfare.
Baron, Jonathan, and John T. Jost. “False equivalence: Are liberals and conservatives in the United States equally biased?.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 14.2 (2019): 292-303.
Byers, Philip D. “No Depression in Heaven: The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta.” Christian Scholar’s Review 46.3 (2017): 297.
Feldman, Glenn. The Great Melding: War, the Dixiecrat Rebellion, and the Southern Model for America’s New Conservatism. University of Alabama Press, 2015.
Webb, Derek A. “The Natural Rights Liberalism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Economic Rights and the American Constitutional Tradition.” American Journal of Legal History 55.3 (2015): 313-346.