The United States’ participation in war often draws the support and dedication of citizens with a shared sense of nationalism. Participation in warring activities for a good cause is likely to forge a sense of national community, renewing the connection between the rights and duties of a citizen, and restoring sound military relationships. This was particularly experienced during the Second World War, when over 16 million Americans willfully joined the military. This is clear evidence that the world war was effective in unifying Americans. Nonetheless, the effect of war in binding Americans hardly compares to the effect that The New Deal had in introducing a sense of nationalism across the entire country. As this discussion will reveal, the prospect of economic liberation at the height of the Great Depression was incomparable to the prospect of victory in the two World Wars, which accounted for the sense of support enjoyed by the country’s leadership during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration.
The Great Depression marked a period of an extreme economic downturn that had severe implications for the American public. Beginning with the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression would last until the late 1930s, with ripple effects being felt throughout the world (Koch 270; Ford 140). The Great Depression had wide ranging consequences on the country’s economy, political landscape, the population’s social wellbeing, the socioeconomic aspects of society, banking, and trade (Ford 141). Of these, the country’s economy suffered the greatest deal, with reports indicate 50% shrinkage in just the first five years of the depression (Ford 140; Milkis 74). The depression also affected politics, with people losing confidence in unrestrained capitalism, the political model advocated by President Herbert Hoover. Furthermore, the rate of unemployment grew from 3.2% in 1928 to a record high of 24.9% in 1933 (Levin 511). The banking industry was also greatly hit by the depression, with half of the banks in the country failing during the period.
With the American public losing confidence in Herbert Hoover, he was replaced by Frank D. Roosevelt who used the concept of Keynesian economics in his campaign strategy to promise revival of the economy by increasing government spending (Lucas 660; Levin 511). This was part of the New Deal, which sought to revive the economy through a series of reforms and relief programs. The speed with which he sought to implement reforms was itself remarkable and commendable by the American public (Levin 512). Roosevelt launched the New Deal for the American people just hours following his inauguration. He collaborated with Congress to launch a series of legislations targeting diverse groups, from banks to farmers, railroads, industries, and workers (Frisch 376). These programs were part of the first of the New Deal and which occurred between 1933 and 1935. The second part of the New Deal occurred between 1935 and 1938. The first phase of the New Deal focused on relieving the economy in the short-term, while the second was aimed at long-term reforms to address economic inequalities.
The timing of the New Deal was a key factor in facilitating the level of support enjoyed by Roosevelt. The American populace was desperate for economic relief at a time when the prospect of economic recovery had almost seemed implausible (Milkis and Sidney 72). It is unsurprising therefore, that The New Deal and its promise to alter the status quo was so better-received than the nation’s participation in World Wars.
The impact of the New Deal in unifying the American public was so significant that it can hardly be compared to any other event that drew a sense sovereignty among Americans. Thus, in spite of the fact that the Second World War attracted 16 million Americans to enroll to the military, the promise of economic recovery following the implementation of the New Deal was much more far-reaching and, as such, more significant to Americans. Thus, Frank D. Roosevelt will always be remembered for facilitating economic revival following the Great Depression through the New Deal.
Ford, Melissa. “No Depression in Heaven: The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta by Alison Collis Greene.” Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 116.1 (2018): 140-142.
Frisch, Morton J. “Franklin Delano Roosevelt.” American Political Thought. Routledge, 2017. 375-392.
Koch, Cynthia M. “Franklin D. Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal, 1882-1939 By Roger Daniels.” Indiana Magazine of History (2016): 270-271.
Levin, Linda Lotridge. “Unsurpassed: The Popular Appeal of Franklin Roosevelt.” (2019): 511-512.
Lucas, Scott. “The New Deal: a global history.” Princeton University. (2018): 660-661.
Milkis, Sidney M., and Nicholas F. Jacobs. “Answering the Call: Leaving the Bench to Serve the President—James F. Byrnes and Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1932–1945.” Journal of Supreme Court History 44.1 (2019): 71-89.