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  FATHER COUGHLIN, HUEY LONG, & UPTON SINCLAIR; VOICES FOR THE DISAFFECTED IN 1930s AMERICA

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FINAL COMMENTS

The point here is that early America is defined not by a reformist spirit i.e., let's fix the broken machine, but rather a revolutionary spirit bent on tearing down the old when it ceases to function and replacing it with something uniquely developed to replace the old, and to assure that whatever caused the old one to break will not happen again. Americans are a tamable restless spirit, but if the metaphorical social or political machine needs fixing, the restless spirit leads not to reform, but to revolt.

By 1929, the economic machine of capitalism was broken. Too much debt, too much production, and too little money were all factors, though the formal explanation is baffling to the most adept economist. The stock market crash of 1929 was felt in business circles, but the worst was yet to come. By the mid-30s, an economic high-point led some to falsely assume that the slump was over and good times were ahead. However, joblessness, homelessness, hunger, and poverty were increasing every day. Many blamed President Herbert Hoover, who was arguably the era's King George III. The people took their dissatisfaction to the polls in 1932 and voted in Franklin D. Roosevelt as president. FDR promised a new deal for the American people, where economic recovery and jobs were seemingly the role of the Federal government. The American people had made their voices heard, and now it was up to FDR to deliver what he promised.

As the depression worsened, FDR continued to push through his New Deal relief policies through Congress, while at the same time providing comfort to the American people through his Fireside Chat radio broadcasts. His voice was soothing and his relief policies a mixed bag of success and failure, but the jobless, the homeless, and the hungry were becoming restless. Americans were patient with reform, but were becoming more revolutionary.

Many of the disaffected found comfort and renewed vitality in the messages of radio priest Father Coughlin, Louisiana Kingfish Huey Long, and Socialism's favorite Democrat, Upton Sinclair. These men had familiar populist messages ranging from the redistribution of wealth to the role of government in social welfare. Their messages at first were of reform, but later turned to revolution.

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