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OPPONENTS OF FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT AND THE NEW DEAL

Despite the overwhelming electoral success of Franklin Roosevelt, many American vehemently disagreed with his programs. Some wealthy Americans called him a traitor to his class, while some businessmen called him a socialist or a communist. To others, the programs of Roosevelt were perceived as being designed to benefit the business interests of America and never truly addressed the human suffering of the country. Some of these Americans felt that neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties were really concerned with helping the average American, and perceived socialism as the only viable solution. Many idealistic Americans dabbled with socialism in the 1930s; for some the one or two party meetings they attended became career-threatening during the McCarthy era of the 1950s.

One group that thought the New Deal had gone too far was the American Liberty League. This group was led by former presidential candidate Al Smith and several very influential business figures, including prominent members of the du Pont family. The membership of this organization was largely relatively wealthy Republicans; they were particularly incensed by the Revenue Act of 1935. which considerably increased the tax rate for those making over $50,000. The American Liberty League equated the New Deal with “Bolshevism” in much of their literature.

The majority of those opposing the New Deal felt that it didn’t go far enough. Dr. Francis Townsend of California proposed an Old Age Revolving Pension Plan: under this plan a national sales tax would pay for a pension of $200 per month for all retired Americans. Townsend maintained that the benefit would be that more and more money would be put into circulation. In 1934 Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, ran for governor of California on the Democratic ticket and announced his “End Poverty in California” (EPIC) plan. Under this plan California factories and farms would be under state control. Sinclair was defeated by the Republican candidate and was also sabotaged by members of his own party; the Democratic smear campaign against Sinclair was approved of by Franklin Roosevelt.

The two most vicious opponents of the New Deal were Father Charles Coughlin and Louisiana Senator Huey Long. Millions of people listened to Coughlin on the radio. Originally a supporter of Roosevelt, by the mid- 1930s he told his listeners that Roosevelt was a “liar” and “the great betrayer.” By the late 1930s Coughlin was praising Mussolini and Hitler on his broadcasts, and making increasing anti-Semitic statements. Per orders of the church, Coughlin was pulled off the air during World War II.

As Governor and later Senator from Louisiana, Huey Long instituted many New Deal-type programs in Louisiana, and also developed the most effective and ruthless political machine in the entire South. By 1934 Long felt that Franklin Roosevelt was not committed to doing enough to end the Depression. Long called for a true redistribution of wealth in his ‘”Share the Wealth” program, which would have allowed no American to make over a million dollars a year (the rest would be taken in taxes). From these taxes Long proposed to give every American family $5000 immediately and an annual income of $2000. Long talked of running against Roosevelt in 1936, but was assassinated by the relative of a Louisiana political enemy in 1935.

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