April 14, 2008

Book Review - Electing FDR

Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932
Donald A. Ritchie
E 805 .R58 2007

The election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 ended decades of Republican presidential leadership and ushered in an era in which American citizens enjoyed considerable benefits from the Federal government. Ritchie argues that in spite of the Depression, the election of a Democrat to the nation's highest office was not a foregone conclusion. Instead, he examines the other candidates and shows how close FDR came to loosing the election. He analyzes the campaign, particularly the communication strategies and messages that were conveyed to voters. Ritchie highlights the effective uses of mass media such as newspapers and radio, and points out that his campaign messages were crafted to appeal to different voter contingencies, often requiring FDR to change his position on issues. Ritchie also traces the influences of FDR's policies into the modern era, arguing that even conservatives like Reagan and Bush felt the legacies of New Deal programs. This book can serve as a "lesson learned" for all those running for political office, cautioning them not to underestimate their opponents and encouraging them to reach out to marginalized pockets of voters for support.