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Front Page » October 30, 2012 » Carbon County News » Carbon casts votes for FDR during depths of nation's Grea...
Published 752 days ago

Carbon casts votes for FDR during depths of nation's Great Depression


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

When Democrat Franklin Roosevelt ran for President in 1932 against incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover, the economy had gone from one of flourishing to the depths of the worst economic times the country had ever seen.

During the first three years after the 1929 stock market crash, 5,000 banks failed. There was no government insurance on savings and nine million bank accounts just vaporized. During that same time 100,000 workers were laid off every week. In evidence of the difference in prosperity of 1929 and the Depression of 1932, two million Americans were unemployed in 1929. In 1930 the number hit four million, and in 1931 it rose to eight million. At the time of the election 13 million people were out of a job, which was almost a quarter of the workforce. Many others were on reduced work hours or working part time jobs. Hoover had done some to curtail the downturn but in many people's eyes they thought he had not tried at all. In general his was the philosophy of laissez faire, with a little protectionism thrown in.

Roosevelt took over the Presidency with a large majority of the popular and electoral votes. He almost immediately launched into a program called "The New Deal." This included government work projects, the establishment of Social Security and unemployment benefits, things the country had never, ever seen on such a scale. These programs were decried by many conservatives as "socialism" and the struggle to wrest control back into the Republican party began almost immediately.

However, even with these programs the nation was still in a deep depression when the next election in 1936 came around. Roosevelt's programs had proved popular among the masses, but many in the business world saw them as detrimental to business and to the country's social structure. The Works Project Administration (WPA) had made the federal government the largest employer in the nation, a notion that ran against the idea of many who believed in capitalism and small government.

Locally, Carbon County was affected a great deal by the depression. While many coal mines, the largest industry in the county, had remained open, many others had closed. And of those remaining open often miners only worked a few days a week. The use of coal for domestic as well as industrial use had kept some of the money flowing into the county, but the downturn had hurt. The lapse of good times had also ended an important rivalry that had grown in the county since 1907. The two papers that had existed (The News-Advocate (before 1915 known as the Carbon County News) and The Sun (Formally known before 1915 as the Eastern Utah Advocate) were basically in bankruptcy by the time Roosevelt was elected. Just before the end of 1932 Joseph Ashbury, the owner of the Richfield Reaper, bought the two papers and merged them in early 1933. This was the birth of the present day Sun Advocate.

By 1936 the Price paper and the Helper Journal, another independent newspaper in the county, were still struggling with the bottom line. But each year the Sun Advocate's bottom line was getting a little stronger. And it was stronger in the way of reporting too. On its masthead it proclaimed itself to be "An independent newspaper" and no longer obviously swung to one side of the political spectrum or the other.

\ The Sun had been primarily a Republican paper, while the News-Advocate had been more in the middle and sometimes even a little left of center. The reporting of the 1936 election in the Sun Advocate, therefore, became much more neutral.

Roosevelt faced Alf Landon, the Republican Governor of Kansas in that election. Landon had some opposition in the primaries, but in the end Landon totally dominated the voting at the Republican convention with 984 votes to 19 in the final ballot. The 19 went to Senator William Borah of Idaho.

The Democrats made hay in the general election. Until the election of 1984 (Reagan vs. Mondale) no standing president had ever won by so many popular and electoral votes. Landon also got the fewest electoral votes ever for a challenging presidential candidate with five from Maine and three from Vermont. He didn't even win his home state.

The trickle down effect for the Democrats was immense. The Sun Advocate's headline read on Nov. 5, 1936, "Democratic Landslide Sweeps the Nation." The story spelled out how the election had brought in Democratic candidates everywhere. And for the first time, a Carbon County man was a part of the elected administration of the state of Utah too.

"Joining the national political procession in registering a tremendous majority for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Carbon County, nevertheless, reserved the honor for the rating of high vote receiver in the Tuesday election for one of its own sons, Reese M. Reese, county treasurer, who was elevated to the state treasurership by the Utah electorate," boasted the story.

Different from the past, the actual story in the paper indicated a neutrality unforeseen in papers in the area before. It reported the various races and who won them without a lot of hyperbole one way or the other. In the past, one-sided reporting had actually obscured the actual outcomes and votes cast for the candidates. This time the facts in the paper were straight out, without having to rely on going to a table inside the paper to see that actual tallies.

However, there was commentary in other parts of the paper concerning the election.

"County contests, especially for the four-year commissioner seat(which was won by incumbent C.R. Fahring over Helper resident Dean Tilton) and the county attorney post (Henry Ruggeri, who lost to Mari Gibson) attracted almost as much interest as the presidential battle," stated the paper in a section called Sidelights. "In fact, when the outcome of the national contest had become evident early, the election return fans turned their attention to the voting warfare involving those two offices."

The election of 1936 was also the first election in which a local radio station existed and could pass on results immediately. KEUB (the forerunner of KOAL) had come into existence only the year before and the paper noted their impact on information to the residents.

"Hundreds of telephone calls from throughout he county (to the newspaper offices) were answered and the service was extended additionally by the local radio station KEUB, by announcement of returns as they were made available," stated the paper.

It was a changing media situation. Before this election people had often swamped the newspaper office on election eve and the next morning for information. Now with radio in the area, that began to change and diminished continually over the years.

The paper also commented on the re-election of the congressman representing Carbon County.

"Congressman Abe Murdock's majority of 3,905 in Carbon indicated the confidence voters of this section have in the national legislator," stated the paper. "It was a splendid vote of endorsement for his progressive record."

Murdock had defeated Republican challenger Charles W. Dunn for the seat.

It was a landslide election and no one could know that the re-elected President would then go onto a third and then a fourth term election victory in 1944.

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October 30, 2012
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