How the New Deal Changed the Course of Government and Politics

1624 Words Apr 16th, 2002 7 Pages
The New Deal period has been considered to be a turning point in American politics, with the President acquiring new authority and importance, and the role of government in the lives of citizens increasing. The extent to which this was planned by the architect of the New Deal, Franklin D. Roosevelt, has been greatly contested, however. Yet, while it is instructive to note the limitations of Roosevelt's leadership, there is not much sense in the claims that the New Deal was haphazard, a jumble of expedient and populist schemes, or as W. Williams has put it, "undirected". FDR had a clear overarching vision of what he wanted to do to America, and was prepared to drive through the structural changes required to achieve this vision.
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Roosevelt's enthusiasm for his role as head of state established a new convention that the President would lead from the front, and in his First Inaugural he warned that he intended to ask Congress for greater powers to enact his policies. Congress obliged; the Supreme Court would not. FDR, far from accepting the Court's decisions, launched a challenge to it, attempting in 1936 to pack the court with new, more accommodating Justices. The plan failed, but eventually pressure told, and 1937 saw a series of landmark rulings.
The fact that he was able to impose his will on Congress and the Supreme Court was constitutionally very significant: the Presidency gained a great deal of power at the expense of the other branches of government. The New Deal was the first instance of a President setting the legislative agenda, and it has been emulated by all presidents since, most notably by Lyndon Johnson in his Great Society programme. The creation in 1939 of the Executive Office of the President was confirmation of the extent to which authority had passed to the White House.
The New Deal also marked a decisive shift in the balance of power from the states to the federal government. By 1932 it had become clear that state governments were unable to cope with the demands of widespread hardship and modernity. Hoovervilles - shanty towns - sprang up in every city, and some people were looking for food in garbage

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