New Faces and New Fears
When voters went to the polls in November 1932, the dominant issue was the depression that had dogged the nation for three bleak and bitter years. Economic indices had fallen relentlessly downward until the summer of 1932, while indices of unemployment and human misery had climbed steadily upward. The ability of state and local governments and of private agencies to care for the indigent had been strained to the breaking point and often beyond. Nothing that President Herbert Hoover or Congress did seemed to bring any improvement. The mood was somber. Clearly it was time for a change.
There seemed only minor differences between the candidates except for their personalities. In that respect it was an uneven contest. Roosevelt would have been a formidable opponent for Hoover in the best of times. The New York governor exuded confidence, good humor, and possessed an enticing radio voice--qualities that would not be found in another presidential candidate in such abundance until John F. Kennedy nearly three decades later. If the voters took the trouble to look for issues that separated the two candidates, they found few. In some ways Roosevelt's campaign seemed the more conservative of the two, tied as it was to a Democratic platform that promised sound money and economy in government. Roosevelt lambasted Hoover for his spending and unbalanced budgets, and criticized his "trickle down" recovery policies. Everywhere the placards made it clear that there was a third item on the Democratic ballot: "Roosevelt, Garner, and Beer!"