Elected in hard times and serving throughout a catastrophic global war, Franklin Delano Roosevelt confronted crises of epic proportions during his record twelve-year tenure as our nation's chief executive. George McJimsey now provides a fresh account of his much-debated presidency, describing the successes and failures of FDR's landmark administration and offering a new perspective on the New Deal.
A welcome synthesis of the best modern scholarship on the Roosevelt administration, McJimsey's study portrays Roosevelt as a pluralist leader whose various New Deal programs empowered the American people to combat America's Great Depression at the grass roots by participating in programs for agriculture, industry, labor, the unemployed, and "underdeveloped" regions. During the depression, Roosevelt hoped to create a "cooperative commonwealth" that would create a strong America at home, as later during World War II he sought to create an international order based on allied cooperation and American leadership.
McJimsey pays particular attention to the political environment in which Roosevelt's presidency functioned and how it both created opportunities and limited his choices. Roosevelt, he shows, was often unable to avoid pluralism's pitfalls, as he found he had to work through corrupt city bosses, patronage-hungry congressmen, and profit-driven businessmen. Because he could not create a government that could predictably achieve his vision, observes McJimsey, he was repeatedly forced to maneuver and manipulate to hold the reins of power.
A separate chapter on Eleanor Roosevelt describes her emergence as a public figure and her advocacy of social causes, exploring how she acted on issues that Franklin hesitated to address. In addition, the book expands on previous treatments of FDR by analyzing important policy issues involving and affecting women and Native Americans. It also sheds new light on the policy changes of 1935 and 1937, the roles of FDR's close associates, and the ultimate impact of his actions on democracy.
Concise and refreshingly balanced, The Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt portrays FDR as an unexpected proponent of decentralization, whose achievements were mixed: while the New Deal lifted the nation, its programs did as much to increase competition for special advantage as they did to encourage cooperation for the general welfare, while his wartime diplomacy ultimately failed to prevent the Cold War. The book contributes significantly to ongoing assessments of his presidential record while it renews our appreciation of his courage and vision.