Franklin Delano Rosevelt (FDR) accepted the presidential nomination in an election that was critical to the president’s re-election. Studies indicate that at the Democratic National Convention, FDR knew that he had to use campaigns and his popularity to strengthen the party. As Jason Scott Smith documents in ‘A Concise history of the New Deal,’ the campaign was an opportunity for FDR to effect structural changes in the party (Smith 18).
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The re-election campaign was also a new opportunity to understand the new government. Most important was the organizational accomplishment the party made after abolishing the two-thirds rule. The party adopted the rule in 1932, requiring that two-thirds of the convention delegates support an individual eyeing the Democratic presidential nomination ticket for the party. Vice presidential candidatures also had to meet the rule to protect the interests of the South (Smith 18).
The rule also protected the country from democratic candidates who failed to sympathize with their concerns. The Roosevelt administration encouraged state parties to pass resolutions against this rule from behind the scenes. The rules committee would later report the recommendation to the convention. The new deal was thus a defining moment for Roosevelt to transform the politics of the era, and his acceptance speech tells a lot about his approach to the issues of the day.
The acceptance speech included elements of the New Deal creed, which had progressive reforms that FDR proposed at the top of his agenda. The New Deal redefined the foundation of American politics and pronounced a new understanding of individualism (Acceptance Speech 1936).
The view of individualism meant that the state guaranteed programmatic rights to all its citizens. In the acceptance speech, FDR was against economic despotism, restating the need to redefine the social contract in the changing social order. Roosevelt stated that the platform, which the convention had adopted clearly, set in motion a government with ‘inescapable obligation to its citizens’ (Acceptance Speech 1936). FDR added that protecting the family, establishing the democracy of opportunity, and aiding those who disaster had overtaken were priority obligations of the government.
The acceptance speech reaffirmed the party’s manifesto and brought with it a large base of supporters who championed the course of FDR. Intent on improving the economic inequality conditions of people, Roosevelt sought to end abusive business practices (Smith 47). FDR stated that the party was committed to guaranteeing freedom of equal opportunity in politics and business. He affirmed that freedom was not a ‘half-and-half affair.’ FDR quoted an old English judge stating that ‘men of necessity were not free’ and with opportunity, liberty could make decent livings (Acceptance Speech 1936). Liberty gave people an opportunity to live according to standards during the period, giving them ‘something to live for’ (Smith 47).
Today, the Great Depression is evidence that economic freedom is necessary if Americans are to pursue happiness rightfully. The legacies of America show that people need a government that moves actively towards providing economic and political backing for its people (Smith 21). After the death of Roosevelt, the presidency began to turn back the economic reforms Roosevelt had fought to implement.
Roosevelt criticized business critics, calling them ‘economic loyalists who sought to overthrow the institutions of America’ (Acceptance Speech 1936). According to FDR, the economic dynasties of the era used political advantages to repress those opposed to their plans. FDR was intent on giving the average person an opportunity to confront the minute man. Roosevelt acknowledges that an American citizen can only appeal to a government with a sense of organization and central power. This was different from the economic royalists, who argued that political freedom was the government’s priority, while economic slavery was not the responsibility of anybody (Smith 21).
The royalists were not interested in protecting the rights of citizens and did not consider their lives worth much. The royalist felt that the plight of the poor was not within the powers of the government to handle. The economic royalists were intent on protecting the wealth they had fought hard to achieve. Therefore, they attacked political and economic freedom to make their dreams and interests a reality.
In summary, the acceptance speech by Roosevelt presented an opportunity for people to identify with the new deal partially. The New Deal was based on the power and endurance that appreciated rights. In the ‘Concise history of the New Deal,’ Jason Scott Smith writes that the speech gave the Democratic Party something to win for in America. FDR won by a majority of the popular vote, which was the largest plurality a presidential candidate ever won.
FDR only lost two states during his election to confirm that indeed his sights were on leadership as a responsibility to the people. Later, the New Deal Coalitions and the Roosevelt administration underwent difficulties that created doubts about the position of the party to champion progressive reforms. Analyzing the acceptance speech from the perspectives of events that unfolded after Roosevelt came to power paints a bigger picture of all that Roosevelt was fighting to implement. The events of later years made party politics less important as Roosevelt faced difficulties in continuing with the reforms progressively.
Acceptance Speech 1936. Web.
Smith, Jason Scott. A Concise history of the New Deal, London, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Print.