It’s the worst crisis America faced in decades. The economy sunk to its lowest point, millions are unemployed while wages declined 60 percent. People lost their life’s savings, their homes and farms. Some began to lose faith in the American system of democracy itself. The year was 1932, the period known as the Great Depression.
President Herbert Hoover tried to stimulate the economy with certain economic policies, but they were constrained by his belief that the economy could heal itself without excessive intervention by the federal government. Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned on a promise for a “new deal for the American people.”
The depression was the only issue of consequence in the presidential campaign of 1932. The American public had to choose between the apparently unsuccessful policies of the incumbent Hoover, who blamed the depression on external events and alleged that Roosevelt would intensify the disaster, and the vaguely defined New Deal program presented by Roosevelt.
By inauguration day—March 4, 1933—most banks had shut down, industrial production had fallen to just 56 percent of its 1929 level, at least 13 million wage earners were unemployed, and farmers were in desperate straits.
In his first 100 days in office, FDR introduced programs aimed at providing economic relief for workers and farmers and creating jobs for the unemployed. He initiated a slate of reforms of the financial system, notably the creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to protect depositors’ accounts and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In 1941 he met with Prime Minister Winston Churchill aboard a battleship anchored off Canada. In the resulting Atlantic Charter, the two leaders declared the “Four Freedoms” on which the post-war world should be founded: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. I would like to see America renew the “Four Freedoms.”
The pandemic may be the cause of the 2020 Great Depression, but we find ourselves in roughly the same state of disrepair. And just as in 1932, we find ourselves with the opportunity to VOTE – to maintain the status quo, or choose a new team leader.
I am one of the 81 million that have already voted. When making my decision I thought of where my life is now as opposed to the years prior. Every person will have a different answer to this same question that will advise their vote, but for me there is less autonomy, more chaos, uncertainty, and less trust in science, medicine, government and each other – and then there’s the pandemic.
I dream of an America that has healthy debates on the issues of the day with compromises so that both parties have a stake in the solution. Where our country’s best and brightest minds fill the halls of government, and young men and women with diverse backgrounds occupy the seats of Congress.
I imagine an America where the people stand together to fight off this pandemic, like we did after 9/11. Where we support and protect each other, standing united as a country as if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.
Every American has the right to pursue their American dream, and to vote in free and fair elections for leaders that support your dream. Every American has this right. But you have to vote for your voice to be heard.
In the years before the Great Depression, dating to 1828, voter turnout regularly reached seventy percent. In three elections between 1828 and 1920 more than eighty percent of Americans voted. Since 1920, we have remained in the low fifty percentile and have only reached sixty percent four times.
Shortly before her 1962 death, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “One thing I believe profoundly: We make our own history. The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voice of the people themselves.”
If you are one of the voters that have not yet cast a ballot, please consider your choice and make a plan to VOTE.
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act and act quickly.
I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken Nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption. But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”
Read FDR’s full first inaugural address here.