Dixiecrats and Democrats: Alabama Politics 1942-1950

By William D. Barnard | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

By the late 1930's, the New Deal was in retreat. The sense of crisis that had ensured support for New Deal measures in the early 'thirties had passed, and President Roosevelt had handed his opponents a powerful symbolic issue with his attempt to enlarge the Supreme Court in 1937. Despite his overwhelming victory in 1936, Roosevelt's efforts to purge his party of conservative spokesmen in 1938 collapsed when the homefolks, particularly in the South, rallied against "outside interference," even by so popular a President as Franklin Roosevelt. Anti-New Deal sentiment swelled throughout 1939 and 1940, and the tradition-shattering run for a third term alienated even, some supporters of the New Deal. But the coming of the war, while sapping the administration's commitment to domestic reform, also stilled the strident voices of Roosevelt's most vocal critics. Faced with enemies from without, the country joined in a season of patriotic unity.

Yet, beneath the surface, despite the protestations of support for the country and for the President in a time of war, anti-New Deal sentiment ran strong in many circles. The New Deal still carried the stigma of partisan identification, and the changes it had wrought were too recent to be regarded as permanent fixtures of the economic and political life of the nation. Conservative opponents of the New Deal cherished the notion that the New Deal tide could be reversed, and they were determined that the wartime emergency would not be used as an excuse for further "regimentation" and "social experimentation." Throughout the war years, conservatives regarded the war as prolonging unnaturally the reign of Roosevelt and the New Deal. They eagerly awaited the war's end and the passing of "that man" from political power. The conservative resurgence could then begin in earnest.

In the South, the conservative arsenal was stocked with a variety of

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