The Politics of Change: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the American New Deal
When Barack Obama was elected to the presidency in the midst of a stock market crash and fears of a great depression, some Americans hoped and others feared that he would launch a “New New Deal.” Why was this so? During the Great Depression and WWII, the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt established Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, minimum wages, the forty hour week, the right of workers to form trade unions and bargain collectively, along with the regulation of Banking and Wall Street, the most far-reaching changes in the role of government in U.S. history to that time. We will examine how these changes, considered impossible by most in 1929, became policy by 1939. We will study the role of and constraints on presidential leadership, formal political parties, and the significance of mass organizations and interest groups in the struggles that led to the formation of the bipartisan New Deal Coalition and its rival in all areas of American economy, society, and culture, the bipartisan conservative coalition. Through the use of selected secondary sources, primary documents, and audio and video clips of the period, we will study the politics of change during the New Deal era and its lessons and legacies for today.