Ideologies and Utopias: The Impact of the New Deal on American Thought

By Arthur A. Ekirch Jr. | Go to book overview

SIX
A Chorus of Dissent

THE NEW DEAL, for all its persuasive political power and broad cultural interests, was almost never without active intellectual opposition. Except in the honeymoon period of Roosevelt's first Hundred Days, his administration constantly faced a varied and vocal chorus of dissent. Even in the midst of the rising tide of electoral support in 1934 and 1936, a broad range of criticism stretched across the political and ideological spectrum. But, significantly, in a decade that began with the Great Crash of 1929 and culminated in the Second World War, the opponents of the New Deal were unable to muster decisive political backing. Their arguments, on the whole, were not convincing to the great majority of American voters. Given the evident appeal of much of the New Deal's philosophy and program, its critics were compelled to assume a defensive posture. Thus the voices of dissent, it was apparent, were fated to remain also largely declamations of despair.

Much of the criticism of the New Deal came from the spokesmen of the upper classes. Franklin D. Roosevelt "was four times endorsed by thumping majorities," writes Henry Steele Commager, "but no student can fail to be impressed with the consideration that on each occasion the majority of the wise,

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