Bylines in Despair: Herbert Hoover, the Great Depression, and the U.S. News Media

By Louis W. Liebovich | Go to book overview

Associated Press. Newspapers had allowed both Smith and Hoover to air their views on the news pages regardless of the particular daily's political allegiance, The Times concluded. Such fair treatment could not have been expected from partisan newspapers in the past, The Times added, remarking that journalism was entering a new era. 109

In the end, it was not campaign organization, newspaper endorsements, Smith's Catholicism, prohibition, or the urban-rural division that elected Hoover. He won because his past successes made him popular and because the Republican Party, of which he was the standard-bearer, was given credit for full employment and prosperity at the time. "This balderdash about prosperity is the sum and substance of Mr. Hoover's official campaign," sniffed the New York World on the eve of the election. 110 Middle-class Americans had benefitted greatly from prosperity in the 1920s and business was never better. If the nation's economic system were about to collapse, few seemed to recognize that possibility. The Republicans had dominated the White House and Congress for 32 years, since William McKinley's resounding election over William Jennings Bryan in 1896.

Catholic or not, urbane or not, wet or not, Smith faced an overwhelming burden. That Hoover ran a nearly flawless campaign despite his relative inexperience in election politics and that he was one of the most qualified presidential candidates the party had fielded since its inception in 1856, only left Smith less room to maneuver and explains the landslide electoral college victory. Except for farmers and the poor, Americans in 1928 were generally well satisfied with their lot and with Republican tutelage. Hoover's decision in 1920 to declare himself a Republican paid large dividends in the campaign of 1928.

But the emphasis upon economic well being and upon Hoover's image as a small-town purveyor of the American dream would once again build a weak foundation for the future. Prosperity and a positive image elected Hoover, just as the Great Depression and negative imagery would defeat him. The Hoover celebration drowned out some other minor headlines. Franklin D. Roosevelt had barely won the governor's mansion in New York, by 25,000 votes, announced the New York newspapers. A small headline in The New York Times read: "Vote Booms Stocks; Public Buys Heavily in Jubilant Market." 111 As time progressed, those headlines turned out to be more important than the ones announcing Hoover's victory.


NOTES
1.
Sen. William Cabell Bruce, "The Case against a Third Term Stated", The New York Times, July 31, 1927, special features section, p. 1.
2.
Herbert Hoover, The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover : The Cabinet and the Presidency 1920-1933 ( New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 190 [referred to hereafter

-76-

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Bylines in Despair: Herbert Hoover, the Great Depression, and the U.S. News Media
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue xi
  • Note xv
  • 1 - The Unlikely Road to Success 1
  • Notes 20
  • 2 - Secretary of Commerce 29
  • Notes 50
  • 3 - The Campaign and Aftermath of the 1928 Election 57
  • Notes 76
  • 4 - Lost Opportunities 83
  • Notes 97
  • 5 - The Crash 101
  • Notes 125
  • 6 - Radio, Newsreels, Newspapers, and the Presidency 131
  • Notes 150
  • 7 - The Bonus March 155
  • Notes 177
  • 8 - The Dawn of the Roosevelt Era 183
  • Notes 203
  • Epilogue 209
  • Note 211
  • Selected Bibliography 213
  • Index 217
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