cover image Roosevelt Sweeps Nation: FDR’s Landslide and Triumph of the Liberal Ideal

Roosevelt Sweeps Nation: FDR’s Landslide and Triumph of the Liberal Ideal

David Pietrusza. Diversion, $34.99 (544p) ISBN 978-1-63576-777-3

Historian Pietrusza (1920: The Year of Six Presidents) delivers a sweeping yet minutely detailed chronicle of FDR’s 1936 reelection campaign. After easily defeating Herbert Hoover in 1932 by promising salvation to those suffering the Great Depression, in 1936 Roosevelt was faced with the reality that “ten million workers remained jobless” despite unprecedented federal spending. The public, Pietrusza suggests, was split over whether Roosevelt was bankrupting the country on his march toward socialism. During the 1936 primaries, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst threw his weight behind Republican challenger Alf Landon, while Democrats searched hard for an alternative before finally settling on Roosevelt. Setting out to convince “roughly half the people that the glass was half-full” and that Republicans themselves had impeded the country’s economic recovery, Roosevelt oozed “charm and reassurance,” drawing a sharp contrast to Landon, a “lackluster” campaigner. Riding the coattails of Roosevelt’s landslide victory, Democrats gained seats in Congress and governors’ offices. He was aided, Pietrusza shows, by concrete economic gains—the November jobless rate of 13.9% was the lowest since 1931. Though lengthy profiles of various political players on both sides of the campaign bog down the narrative momentum somewhat, this is an exhaustive and expert chronicle of a critical American election. (Sept.)