Banking and Politics
I n 1936, Franklin Roosevelt needed more than a personal victory. To solidify the New Deal, he needed a triumph large enough to preserve and even extend his coalition in Congress. Crowley's critical assignment as November's elections neared was to tighten the support of a new bloc of Wisconsin Progressives and Minnesota Farmer-Laborites to the president and the New Deal without losing many unhappy, old-line Democrats there in the process. Capturing those states was important; establishing a model for progressives elsewhere in the country was no less so.1
The president had recognized Crowley's skills in 1934, if in a somewhat unusual manner. In June, Crowley had learned that the president wanted Wisconsin to reelect Senator Robert LaFollette, even though he would run on the new Progressive party ticket. He had even urged the state's Democrats to slate him. Crowley found the president's wishes to that point unpleasant but acceptable -- the senator was unbeatable as well as cooperative -- what he feared was the impact on Schmedeman and other Democratic candidates of a presidential endorsement of the Progressive senator in Green Bay in August. He decided to warn him and suggest alternatives. Because Roosevelt was vacationing on the cruiser Houston "somewhere in the Pacific," on July 20 he sent the White House a long memorandum for forwarding. In so doing, he revealed much of himself.2
The first section of Crowley's memorandum -- a letter -- began with "deference to your surpassing astuteness," and ended in much the same obsequious manner. His mother had bred him to reverence authority, but he was also a novice in Washington; given time, he would address Roosevelt confidently and soberly; and still later, he would challenge Roosevelt's successor as his equal, if not his inferior.