Opposing the New Deal

Roosevelt or Talmadge

"Rise up and smite them."

“Trying to help the farmer! Telling him what to plant on his land, and how little, and then telling him that taxing it over 50 per cent of its worth will help him! And those who were hired and given jobs with the government pretend to believe it.... 

What else is the job of Democrats and all other true Americans this year?... Cut taxes! Stop nine-tenths of the federal activities in America! Stop all competition of the government with private industry! Cut down the expense of the federal government by tearing down seven-eighths of the buildings in Washington, and cover the grounds with beautiful parks! Pay up the national debt! 

...Go back to the doctrine of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who warned us that autocrats would rise up in the name of emergency to tear down our form of government. And that sturdy soldier, George Washington, said that whenever this happens, to rise up and smite them. Nineteen hundred and thirty-six will go down in history equal in importance with July 4, 1776.”

Editor's Note: On January 29th, 1936, Eugene Talmadge gave a speech at the Grass Roots Convention in Macon, Georgia. In his speech, he railed against President Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. During Talmadge’s first term as governor, he publicly supported Roosevelt’s New Deal programs in speeches across the state of Georgia. Talmadge frequently urged voters think of ‘Roosevelt and Talmadge’ when heading to the polls. 

However, shortly after his second inauguration, Talmadge began to adamantly oppose the Roosevelt presidency. Starting in 1935, Talmadge traveled across Georgia and the nation to speak out against the New Deal and to encourage the nation to vote Roosevelt out of office in the 1936 presidential election.  

Talmadge opposed the New Deal claiming this legislation overstepped the bounds of the federal government’s authority, infringed on states’ rights, hurt farmers, and irresponsibly created a national debt. Talmadge used the governor’s veto power to block numerous New Deal measures in Georgia including the old age pension and financial aid for public school books. Talmadge made it clear in his actions and his speeches that voters now needed to choose either ‘Roosevelt or Talmadge.’  

The 1936 Grass Roots Convention in Macon ended Talmadge’s yearlong speaking tour against Roosevelt and the New Deal. Talmadge hoped his efforts would result in Roosevelt losing the 1936 Democratic presidential primary. However, the Macon convention resulted in failure. While Talmadge boasted 10,000 Georgians would attend, only 3,500 people showed up. Despite Talmadge’s efforts, voters showed their support for the New Deal and chose to reelect Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election.