THE DEPRESSION YEARS
CHAPTER 31

Americans had never seen an economic collapse of the magnitude that followed the stock market crash of October 1929. With the labor scene also in tatters, jobs grew increasingly scarce. Unions could no longer demand the closed shop, or even bargain for better working conditions of any sort. The Republican administration of Herbert Hoover seemed powerless to stop the country’s downward financial spiral.

Californians, therefore, sought more direct political solutions to their economic distress. Across the state, swarms of destitute migrants roamed the city streets and dusty farm roads in search of jobs. In the presidential elections of 1932, the Democratic party nominated a new type of candidate. This was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the highly popular governor of New York. His campaign took “F.D.R” to the major cities of the Far West, which responded to his magnetic appeal.

The unemployed, many of whom were in despair, had tired of hearing that stock market speculation was the primary cause of the Depression. They wanted immediate solutions, especially concerning the weakened local economy. At the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on September 23, 1932, Roosevelt described in somber terms the concentration of private enterprise in the United States into large business concerns: “Put plainly, we are steering a steady course toward oligarchy, if we are not there already,” he said. He went on to speak of every man’s right to life and to a comfortable living, declaring that “Our government, formal and informal, political and economic, owes to everyone a portion of that plenty sufficient for his needs, through his own work.” When election day came, California voted overwhelmingly for Roosevelt.

But even while F.D.R campaigned, the state’s economy continued to worsen. Overproduction of both agricultural and commercial commodities

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