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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, March 13, 1976. Interview A-0321-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Reflections on Roosevelt and the New Deal

Though Gore had supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the beginning of his terms, by the time Gore had entered Congress in 1939, his opinion had changed to some degree. Reflecting the independence and self-sufficiency that had characterized Gore's youth and adulthood, Gore worried that Roosevelt's policies encouraged too much dependence on the federal government. Gore and Grantham then contrast that to the attitude Lyndon B. Johnson, another young southern representative in Congress, took regarding Roosevelt's New Deal.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, March 13, 1976. Interview A-0321-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
The reason for my question is my interest in knowing how you viewed Franklin Roosevelt, and how your opinion of him might have changed from your early perception of him.
ALBERT GORE:
Well, I viewed Roosevelt from the perspective of economic chaos, very severe, the Depression, and as an alternative to Hoover whom I had come . . . well, not to hate, that's hardly the word, but vigorously to detest as a political leader. I had no opportunity to know Roosevelt personally at that time. Television was not yet here. The candidate was not immediately in anybody's living room. True, there were radio broadcasts of the campaigns, but there was nothing, there was no particular personal tie or adulation of Roosevelt. He was an antidote to what we had. Any voice for a change was welcome.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
Did you come to be a strong supporter of his administration in 1933, '34, '35, '36?
ALBERT GORE:
Certainly in '33 and '34, and in the beginning of his administration, yes. I was a very enthusiastic supporter. By '36 and '37, I think I had cooled a little in my support of Roosevelt. In the second half of the 1930's, I had this experience in my campaign for Congress that maybe colored my attitude. At that time, the chief source of jobs in this rural congressional district where I lived, governmental jobs, was relief agencies-WPA, the various alphabetical organizations that the New Deal had brought into being. And it happened that this was a source of political patronage. And the boss of that patronage at that time was the late Senator Kenneth D. McKellar. Through some political alignments on his part and also because of my association with Governor Browning from whose cabinet I departed to make the race for Congress, I had become identified with a political faction in the state, and thus the federal patronage power was turned against me in my campaign in the Democratic primary. I was impressed with the abuse which I regarded this as being, so I went to Congress somewhat disenchanted with the, at least the power of patronage that prevailed in the relief agencies at the time. I later recognized that as not a fault of Roosevelt, nor of the program It was before the Hatch Act and just the product of the spoils of political life. I came to accept that and became a supporter in many respects of the New Deal, after I'd been in Congress a very short while.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
Would it be fair to say then when you entered Congress in 1939, your attitude toward President Roosevelt was probably in considerable contrast to that of a young Texas representative also, I think, entering Congress in 1939? His name was Lyndon B. Johnson.
ALBERT GORE:
Yes, I was even in my first term an independent though populist in my leanings from the beginning. Yet, the experience I had in the primary must have had a part. And also I think the social mores and moral values that had been my upbringing tended me against the relief program. I placed self-reliance ahead of those things. I was aware, of course, of the difficulty of being a rugged individual at the time; he often was a ragged individual. But I must say, I went to Congress strongly supporting many of Roosevelt's programs-TVA, Social Security, minimum wage, this kind of social programs, but I didn't like the power politics of it. And therefore, I went as an independent and became so and remained so, whereas Congressman Lyndon Johnson seemed to have had the support of Roosevelt and he was a fair-eyed, fair-haired young boy at the White House when he was invited to the White House. He was an [laughter] enthusiastic New Dealer and I was a critical New Dealer.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
Incidentally, I may be wrong about the date of his entering Congress. Perhaps it was a little earlier than your . . .
ALBERT GORE:
I believe he entered in 1937.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
. . . in a special election on the . . . though perhaps it was as a result of the election of '36.