Tags: New Deal | Hoover | FDR | Davenport

New Deal's Influence on GOP Debate

By    |   Thursday, 02 Jan 2014 06:39 AM

David Davenport, former president of Pepperdine University and staffer for former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., appeared recently at an event at the U.S. Capitol to discuss a book co-authored by himself and Pepperdine colleague Gordon Lloyd titled The New Deal and Modern American Conservatism: A Defining Rivalry.

Davenport's main contribution was to stress the significance of the New Deal as the point of departure for political debate. I recall growing up with the New Deal as the issue that separated the parties — as Republicans railed against its excesses and Democrats celebrated the New Deal and looked, with intermittent success, to expand it.

He challenged the widely expressed view, which I accept, that the 2012 election represented the death of modern American conservatism and that the movement resembles a political analogue to the Titanic. He referred to the thesis of Amity Shlaes, which I also agree with, that the 1950s was a critical period and that conservatism is traceable to the presidency of Calvin Coolidge.

For Davenport, now a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the crucial period was the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s, as the parties fought over the legitimacy of the New Deal programs of FDR, and the New Deal was established as the paradigm for Democratic governance.

He broke the debate down into three issues: 1) liberty versus equality, as the defeated President Hoover warned that the United States had taken a turn toward the European socialist model, and FDR campaigned for equality of outcomes; 2) limited government versus big government, with the big government model exemplified by programs such as No Child Left Behind, the Race to the Top and the so-called Affordable Care Act, which Davenport hesitated to call Obamacare; and 3) opposing view of the constitution, as Hoover and FDR presented them in competing Constitution Day speeches in 1935 and 1937, respectively, with Hoover arguing for limited government and FDR contending that the constitution is a "living document" that should be adapted to respond to current needs.

In conclusion, Davenport asked two questions: 1) whether liberty still resonates in political discourse, and 2) the importance of values and the view of Americans as a "virtuous" people.

Taking these in order, I find that liberty is cast aside by both parties in the face of the exigencies of the day, such as the impulse to bail out "too big to fail" banks. As for Americans as a "virtuous" people, recent polls show a decline in the trust that Americans have for each other.

Given that the sponsoring group was the Hoover Institution, readers might have enjoyed more background on Hoover himself. Davenport alluded to Hoover's success as a mining engineer and leader of Belgian relief efforts after The Great War.

Remarkably, Hoover was a member of the very first class at Stanford and was the richest private consultant in the world during his career as a mining consultant and stock promoter. Also, he was considered a contender for the Democratic nomination in 1920 and was a RINO until he made a right turn after leaving the White House.

Ironically, some of the worst Depression Era programs, such as the National Recovery Administration, began as Republican proposals.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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Robert-Feinberg
David Davenport, former president of Pepperdine University and staffer for former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., appeared recently at an event at the U.S. Capitol to discuss his book The New Deal and Modern American Conservatism: A Defining Rivalry.
New Deal,Hoover,FDR,Davenport
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2014-39-02
Thursday, 02 Jan 2014 06:39 AM
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