In 1932, a classical liberal could easily conclude that Roosevelt was closer to his views than Hoover, an old progressive who had displayed a lifelong love of central planning and government-enforced cartels, a man who bragged during the campaign that he had responded to the Depression with “the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic.” Among other things, President Hoover had jacked up spending, installed agricultural price-support programs, pressured businesses to follow Washington’s wage dictates, and created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. But by the time a cerebral hemorrhage cut short FDR’s fourth term, the federal bureaucracy’s power had grown so enormously that Hoover was widely remembered as the last apostle of laissez faire.
As Jesse writes, “A candidate’s campaign persona: There’s the true Forgotten Man.”, a reference to Amity Shlaes’ seminal book on the period. And as Shlaes recently wrote, with an eye towards November of 2008, “the 1930s have plenty to tell us, yes. But the real challenge isn’t deciding who resembles Hoover. The challenge is for both parties to figure out how to avoid a whole era of mistakes.”