Uncommon Americans: The Lives and Legacies of Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover

By Timothy Walch | Go to book overview

The Loyal Opposition: Herbert
Hoover and the Republican Party

Gary Dean Best

When Herbert Hoover left the White House in March 1933, there was little reason to expect that much would be heard from him in the years that followed. Discredited as he was by the Great Depression and by his decisive election defeat at the hands of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it was reasonable to assume that the former president would retire from public life. Of all the possible activities that he might pursue, involvement in partisan politics seemed the least likely of any. Hoover had never meshed with the Republican Party, despite his service in the Harding and Coolidge cabinets and his nomination and election to the presidency in 1928. He had always had the image of an “outsider” among party leaders, and his independence of thought led him to be considered too liberal by the Old Guard in the party, yet too conservative by the party’s Progressives.

When Hoover sat down to write his memoirs years later, he listed four “major crusades” to which he had dedicated himself in the dozen years after he left the White House. Three of these related to foreign affairs. The other was, in his words, a struggle “against the creeping collectivism of the New Deal.”443

Seventy years removed from the 1930s as we are, it is difficult to recapture the sense of alarm that many traditional American liberals felt over the turmoil that was taking place in American political, economic, and social thought during that decade. The triumph of fascism in Germany and Italy, in conjunction with the seeming failure of capitalism in America, led many American liberals to embrace one of two views: either that capitalism was dead or that capitalism was a stage in the development of fascism. Whichever view they adopted, those liberals embraced collectivism as the answer and made common cause with socialists and communists in America and overseas in trying to advance collectivism in this country. While Hoover identified the movement with Roosevelt and the New Deal, it was much

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