One of the most basic American history trivia questions would have to be who is the only president to in this history of this nation to be selected for service for nearly 16 years. The answer is Franklin Delano Roosevelt who is best known for steering the United States through two tremendous crises, World War II and the Great Depression. A multitude of historians and/or scholars have examined every aspect of Roosevelt’s life, views, and political decisions. While many consider him to be a staunch liberal as a result of his expansion of the role of the federal government into the economy with programs such as the New Deal, others feel the man should truly be viewed as a conservative.
If a person holds conservative political perspectives it means he or she believes in individual freedoms, a strong military system, personal responsibility, truncated government intervention and a free market economy. The government’s role is to enable its citizens merely to follow their own path to achieve their own goals and holds no responsibility to aid in individual problem-solving.
If a person entertains a liberal political perspective he or she would feel the government must intervene in order for equality to be possessed by the entire population. Liberals think the government should be the institution that provides redress for social ills, as well as protect individual freedoms.
Based upon the definitions of these two political ideologies, Roosevelt must be considered a liberal. When he wrested office from Herbert Hoover in November of 1932, the nation was in the grip of the greatest economic fiasco this county had ever experienced. In order to stimulate the economy, which by March of that year had 13 million unemployed and only a handful of operational banks, Roosevelt implemented the legislation package known as the New Deal.
Whether his program is viewed with disdain or great admiration, it is obvious Roosevelt’s actions were certainly liberal. With his two New Deal installations this man established prthe system of what most people realize was the foundation of the government that has come to be accepted. Although his transition to the silver standard was one of his ideas that never bore fruit, Roosevelt’s programs and new institutions, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and Social Security are the basis of what most American citizens identify as their government. If Roosevelt was truly a conservative he would never introduce policies that would have allowed the vast expansive of the federal government’s power in this fashion. He would have behaved in a more hands-off approach.
Over the last several decades, more scholarly literature chronicling Roosevelt’s four terms have taken the approach he was much more conservative than he was ever given credit for. In fact, our latest Commander-In-Chief, Barack Obama, attributed that classification to the man as well told the participants in a town hall meeting at the University of Maryland in July of 2011, Roosevelt was actually “pretty fiscally conservative” and “ultimately what really pulled America out of the Great Depression was World War II.” (www.cnsnews.com, July 25, 2011).
Based upon a strict interpretation of the definition of a liberal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt can be classified as such for the sweeping governmental changes he instituted to address the nation’s social as well as economic ills. This is why is he also considered by many to be the greatest president of the 20th century and possibly of all time.
Lucas, Fred. “Obama: FDR Was ‘Fiscally Conservative’. Cnsnews.com, 2011.Web. 15 April
“Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Whitehouse.gov, n.p. n.d. Web. 16 April 2013.
“Franklin D. Roosevelt: Creative Leadership in a Lifetime of Public Service” StudyMode.com.
11 2012. 16 April 2012.