Outlet of the Research Rabbit Hole: I’ve been looking at a lot of material about the Great Depression of the 1930s and one of the interesting things I’ve discovered is that Herbert Hoover–who is sometimes called one of the worst presidents in American history–turns out to be a fascinating, contradictory, and complex guy and probably a better president than he’s given credit for. It’s interesting reading during a particularly bizarre election year.
Ironically, it was Hoover–a Republican–who started many of the programs that FDR adopted into “the New Deal.” He backed the Glass-Steagall banking act we now hear so much about, and the Bacon-Davis Act that established the maximum 8-hour work day. He outlined what became FDR’s “Good Neighbor Policy”. He was a Quaker, pro-labor Progressive, humanitarian, relief worker, and reformer. He was a mining engineer, and self-made millionaire who rejected Andrew Mellon’s “laissez faire” policies, a progressive, but also a prohibitionist, who was both courted and reviled by both major parties at various times in his career. He backed Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive “Bull Moose Party”, but was a registered Republican. He was appointed to offices by a Democratic president, and had been wooed to run for President earlier as a Democrat, but chose not to run at that time and later ran for President as a Republican, while having the support of FDR and other Democrats, but not the Republican president (Coolidge) whom he was about to succeed.
At the same time he made political enemies of Winston Churchill and other key European leaders by organizing various food relief projects for Belgians, Germans, and Russians after the first World War. At home, he strangled the licensing of “non-useful” radio stations, and was unable to stop (or turned a blind eye at the time) to the brutalization of black farmers during relief and relocation efforts after the Mississippi flood of 1927, which he then persuaded Robert Russa Moton–President of the Tuskegee Institute–to help him cover up so his presidential campaign would not be damaged.