The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. In addition to several provisions for general welfare, the new Act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement.

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Fdr And Organized Labor

Around the time when Franklin Delano Roosevelt took over the presidential office in 1933, union membership recorded a decrease from over 3 million in 1932 to around 2.7 million a year later. That number constituted around 7 percent of all employed workers at the time when the most likely underestimated unemployment rate reached a quarter of the labor force. Extremely limited job opportunities and a huge number of individuals ready to secure any kind of employment created an environment where workers could be easily abused. Despite some attempts of the Hoover administration to empower organized labor , union membership resulted in limited protection of the workers who were willing and able to pay membership fees. However, the declining trend reversed in 1934, and unions would consistently grow during Roosevelt’s presidency, a phenomenon that reflected first, the protective and regulative labor provisions of the New Deal and later, the massive industrial growth during World War II. By the time Roosevelt died, shortly after he was elected to his fourth term, union membership in the United States reached its high peak. In 1945, over 14 million workers belonged to unions, which constituted over 35 percent of non-agricultural workers and over 27 percent of all employed workers.

Consequences Of The Court

Facing strong political opposition and decreasing popular support, the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill was doomed to fail. While Burton Wheeler, a progressive Democrat from Montana, played the role of the public voice of the alliance that formed in opposition to “the court-packing plan,” conservative Democratic senators Carter Glass, Harry Flood Byrd, and Josiah Bailey, were critical to collecting enough opposing votes in Congress. Roosevelt realized that the bill had no chance of being passed and a compromise that did not alter the existing balance in the court was negotiated. The controversy, which historians consider to be one of the most questionable moments in Roosevelt’s career, strengthened conservative opposition to the New Deal. By 1937, an informal yet strong group of congressmen and representatives opposing the New Deal formed in Congress. Known as the Conservative Coalition , it initiated a conservative alliance that, with modifications, shaped Congress until the 1960s.

Also in 1937, Willis Van Devanter, a justice nominated by Republican Theodore Roosevelt, retired and thus, FDR could nominate his first Supreme Court justice. By the end of his presidency, Roosevelt nominated eight Supreme Court justices—more than any other president.


The New Deal Comes To A Screeching Halt In 1938

Andrew E. Busch

May 1, 2006

This article is the fourth in a series on midterm elections in America.

When Republicans and Democrats faced off for the 1938 midterm elections, it had been a decade since Republicans had done well in congressional elections. They had lost seats in both houses of Congress in 1930, 1932, 1934, and 1936, bringing their totals to a mere 88 in the House and 16 in the Senate. In the wake of Franklin Roosevelt’s landslide reelection victory in 1936, it was an open question whether the Republican Party was capable of serving as a viable opposition party.

As FDR began his second term, his program was hardly complete. He aimed for a “Third New Deal” of further government economic controls and redistributionism, and seemed to have the votes in Congress to push it through.

Then, a series of events damaged Roosevelt’s standing and rejuvenated the GOP’s chances.

First, overestimating his popularity and persuasive powers, Roosevelt embarked on his “court packing” scheme, bringing a backlash even among many Democrats in Congress. The attempt seemed to verify Republican charges that the President was engaged in a campaign for one-man rule.

During 1937-38, America was also rocked with a series of sit-down strikes and instances of union violence, mostly instigated by the Congress of Industrial Organizations . Many Americans associated the surge in aggressive unionism with Roosevelt’s encouragement of unions in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act.

Franklin D Roosevelt: Domestic Affairs


With Roosevelt naming Republicans Henry Stimson secretary of war and Frank Knox secretary of the navy, the Republican Party continued to be stymied in making political gains through the war years. A number of New Deal programs persisted beyond World War II . Much of the general public remained largely satisfied into the 1960s with the benefits they were receiving from social security and other programs. Many southern whites remained loyal Democrats. The lower-and working-class Americans in all regions still supported government welfare programs and maintained a strong support for Democratic Party candidates following World War II.

In addition, a wave of labor strikes in the auto and steel industries increased public sentiment against unions. In response, a conservative Congress passed a series of antilabor bills, including the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. That act, passed over Truman’s veto, prohibited some forms of union activity and expanded the rights of management.

Truman’s campaign faced another obstacle as well. Henry Wallace, Roosevelt’s former secretary of agriculture in the New Deal and vice-president during the early part of World War II, formed the ultraliberal Progressive Party to run for president. The Progressive Party posed a political threat to Truman by attracting votes of Democratic Coalition members away from the Democratic Party ticket. The Democrats were badly fragmented among Progressives, southerners, and the mainstream party.

More About Black Americans Switch

Even with Roosevelt handily winning the 1932 presidential election, 66 percent of the black vote still went to Hoover. This represented a long-term voting pattern of black Americans since the days of President Abraham Lincoln and the 1870s Reconstruction period. Reconstruction was a federal government program under Republican Party influence formed to create social and economic change in the South. But the increasing interest of President Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, and the president’s growing awareness of the importance of the black vote in national politics inspired a major change in blacks’ political allegiance. During this time blacks were becoming more politically organized, and public attitudes toward race were changing outside the South. The 1934 midterm elections had indicated that blacks were beginning to turn away from the Republican Party after 75 years of strong support.

Although Roosevelt did not support civil rights issues because he did not want to lose the southern Democrats’ support, some New Deal programs provided assistance to blacks. Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes directed the hiring of black workers on Public Works Administration projects in proportion to their presence in the local workforce. The PWA also provided some public housing for black tenants, even constructing some racially integrated housing projects. In addition, 31 percent of PWA wages went to black workers in 1936.

Lack Of International Pressure

As the Democratic Coalition first began emerging, the international picture was grim. By the mid-1930s the Great Depression had spread globally. Political turmoil in Europe was increasing as aggressive fascist movements gained strength. In Russia a violent communist government had become wellestablished. Because of the disorder abroad few international pressures were being placed on the United States by other nations that were too preoccupied with their own problems. The time was ripe in the United States for political experimentation. President Roosevelt and the New Dealers knew they had a unique opportunity to try something new while not being distracted by international events.

More About Origins Of The Republican Party

The Republican Party was born in 1853 and 1854, through two organizational meetings held in New Hampshire and Wisconsin, and its first convention in Jackson, Michigan. People forming the party shared a common antislavery viewpoint that other political parties would not embrace. They were especially opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The act opened the door to slavery in the two newly established U.S. territories. Success at the polls came quickly for the Republicans as their first presidential nominee, John C. Fremont, carried 11 states in the 1856 presidential elections. The Republicans were almost instantly the key challenger to the Democratic Party in the North. Their next candidate, Abraham Lincoln, won 18 northern states in the 1860 presidential elections, enough to win the election against a Democratic Party that was in turmoil.

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The New Dealers Arrive

Roosevelt and the New Dealers came from the urban progressive wing of the party. Progressivism called for using the powers of government to solve social and economic problems. Progressives believedthe government should take a more aggressive role in relieving people’s hardships and overseeing business activities. Roosevelt’s first one hundred days of office, beginning on March 4, 1933, were filled with an incredible amount of social and economic legislation. The legislation that became collectively known as the New Deal included bank reform, regulation of the stock market, farm bills, public works programs, and low-interest loans for homeowners. These new pathways quickly labeled Roosevelt’s administration as the most daring in U.S. history. In their flurry of activity New Dealers sought to make everyone satisfied, and for the first six months they were fairly successful. Even most businessmen, who had historically supported Republican candidates, refrained from criticizing the Democratic president.