burton wheeler

Critics of the New Deal

{During his presidency from 1933 to 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt established a series of programs which he called the New Deal. Critics from both ends of the political spectrum argued against these policies.

From the Left

  • Carter Glass Senator from Virginia, came from his death bed to the 1940 Democratic Convention to nominate Franklin Roosevelt's campaign manager James Farley as the Democratic Party's candidate for the Presidency. Glass was against Roosevelt's third term candidacy.
  • William Lemke, North Dakota congressman, who ran a third-party Presidential campaign against Roosevelt in 1936 on the ad-hoc Union Party ticket. Lemke argued that the New Deal did not go far enough in redistributing wealth in the United States.
  • John L. Lewis, leader of the powerful coal miners labor union and CIO; supported 1940 Republican Presidential candidate Wendell Willkie over Roosevelt in a power struggle with FDR for control of the Democratic Party.
  • Huey Long, populist Democratic Governor and Senator from Louisiana. Long criticized the New Deal for not going far enough to redistribute wealth; he advocated a centralized state-run economy. Long proposed a more radical economic plan called Share Our Wealth, in which all American citizens would not earn more than a million dollars a year or less than $4,000 a year. His slogan was "Every Man a King". Assassinated in 1935 by a political opponent.
  • Max Shachtman, James Cannon and their respective Workers Party and Socialist Workers Party, were or had been followers of Leon Trotsky who argued that Roosevelt instituted these reforms in order to salvage capitalism (see entry for Howard Zinn, below), saw World War II as an imperialist war and the Communist Party's Popular Front as a class-collaborative betrayal.
  • Francis Townsend, a retired California doctor who proposed a guaranteed income plan for senior citizens; his plan proved to be so popular that FDR adopted the Social Security Act to halt the growth of Townsend's movement.
  • Burton Wheeler, Democratic Senator from Montana; broke with Roosevelt in 1937 over his court packing plan; later opposed Roosevelt as an isolationist wanting to avoid involvement in World War II.
  • Howard Zinn, historian at Columbia University whose book A People's History of the United States criticizes Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal for not going far enough to redistribute wealth in the U.S. during the Great Depression. Zinn argues that the New Deal was primarily concerned with saving American capitalism, and that it should have been more radical in nationalizing American industry and promoting economic socialism. Other radical-left historians such as Eric Foner and Alan Brinkley have made similar criticisms of the New Deal.

From the Right (some were formerly on the Left)


  • John Nance Garner, supported Roosevelt in 1932; elected vice president 1932 and 1936; broke with Roosevelt in 1937 over his court packing plan.
  • William Randolph Hearst, former leader of left-wing of Democratic party; owned nation's largest newspaper chain; major supporter of Roosevelt in 1932, broke with Roosevelt in 1935 over Roosevelt's proposal to greatly increase taxes on the inheritances of the wealthy, and to close several tax loopholes used by the wealthy to avoid paying taxes. New Dealers ridiculed him in the movie Citizen Kane (1940).
  • Hugh S. Johnson, first head of the National Recovery Administration see Johnson fell out with Roosevelt after FDR fired him in 1935.
  • Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., Ambassador to Britain, leader of Irish-Americans and father of John Kennedy; broke with FDR in 1940 over Roosevelt's proposal to support Britain in its struggle with Nazi Germany. An isolationist, Kennedy believed that Britain would lose to Germany and that America should stay out of the conflict.
  • Charles Lindbergh, pilot who became a national hero in 1927 when he was the first to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from America to France. Lindbergh became the national leader of the isolationist America First Committee in 1940-41. He was attacked by New Dealers for his perceived anti-Semitism and support for some Nazi policies.
  • George N. Peek, farm leader; supported FDR in 1932
  • Ronald Reagan, Hollywood film actor; strong New Dealer in 1940s; started opposing New Deal programs in the 1950s as a corporate spokesman for the General Electric company.
  • Al Smith, Democratic nominee for U.S. president in 1928; founded American Liberty League in 1934 to attack New Deal programs as fostering unnecessary "class conflict".
  • Robert Taft, powerful Republican Senator from Ohio from 1939 to 1953. Taft was the leader of the Republican Party's conservative wing; he consistently denounced the New Deal as "socialism" and argued that it harmed America's business interests and gave ever-greater control to the central government in Washington. Before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Taft, an isolationist, vigorously opposed FDR's attempts to aid Britain in World War Two.
  • Barry Goldwater, Republican 1964 presidential candidate; succeeded Taft as the leader of Republican conservatives in the 1950's. Goldwater consistently opposed the expansion of government welfare programs modeled after the New Deal; he criticized President Eisenhower for offering a "dime-store New Deal".

Prewar critics who supported Roosevelt during World War II

Writers and speakers

Books with an anti-New Deal point of view


Other references

  • Gary Dean Best; The Critical Press and the New Deal: The Press Versus Presidential Power, 1933-1938 Praeger Publishers 1993. online edition
  • Brinkley, Alan. Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, & the Great Depression (1983)
  • Graham, Otis L. and Meghan Robinson Wander, eds. Franklin D. Roosevelt: His Life and Times. (1985), an encyclopedia
  • Kennedy, David M. Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. (1999) the best recent scholarly narrative.
  • McCoy, Donald * R. Landon of Kansas (1966) standard scholarly biography
  • Paterson, James. Mr. Republican: A Biography of Robert Taft (1972), standard biography
  • Ronald Radosh. Prophets on the Right: Profiles of conservative critics of American globalism (1978)
  • Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr., The Age of Roosevelt, 3 vols, (1957-1960), the classic pro-New Deal history, with details on critics. Online at vol 2 vol 3
  • Rudolf, Frederick. "The American Liberty League, 1934-1940," American Historical Review, LVI (October 1950), 19-33 online at JSTOR
  • Smith, Richard Norton. An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (1987) biography
  • White, Graham J. FDR and the Press. 1979.
  • Winfield, Betty Houchin. FDR and the News Media 1990
  • Williams, T. Harry. Huey Long (1969), Pulitzer Prize biography
  • Wolfskill, George. The Revolt of the Conservatives: A History of the American Liberty League, 1934-1940 (1962)
  • Anna Peterpants. Thesis Statement on the Depression-Era Programs (1951)
  • Brandon Streaker. The Man and the Deal (1964)
  • Carl McCarthy. The Great Wisconsin Brainwash (1954)

See also

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