Dirty tricks in political campaigns are not recent phenomena. Every American electoral cycle spawns a new reason for candidates to be justifiably paranoid. Someone is out to get them, or at least to get their political office. Those closest to the candidate, especially members of their immediate family, sometimes get caught up in the wave of paranoia. Usually the candidates themselves are far removed from the tricksters, riding above the fray.
This was true in the 1932 Presidential campaign between incumbent Herbert Hoover and challenger Franklin Roosevelt. Hoover, facing headwinds as America was in the throes of the Great Depression, ran a ‘stay the course’ campaign. He argued that his policies were beginning to turn the tide and that Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ imperiled the impending recovery. A principal tenet of Hoover’s program was to maintain prohibition, keeping America on the high and dry road. Roosevelt’s campaign called for repeal.
With this background in mind, one can better appreciate the contents of Lou Henry Hoover’s letter to her younger son Allan, then aged 25. She wrote on October 25, 1932: ‘Be very careful of your engagements in the next few weeks. Don’t get lured into any kinds of parties where you do not know and trust every member, nor to any held in a place you do not know well.’
Lou went on: ‘I have no fear of your usual discrimination both as to places and people. But in the next two weeks various traps will be laid to lure you into an unexpected wild Hollywood party, an unsuspecting speakeasy that gets raided, or a dingy beach resort. You would know enough to extricate yourself in time ordinarily, but for these weeks it would be wise to run around with Aunt Larabelle. Aunt Jessie or Mrs. H. [Appear] only at the most public places-concerts or operas-or at a home with girls and boys of unquestioned reputations and discretion.’
All parents can empathize with this desire to keep your children from harm. Allan evidently heeded the warning, as he made no headlines in the last weeks of October. Whether Lou Hoover’s concerns were justified—that a Democratic Party operative was angling to embarrass the Hoovers at the end of the 1932 campaign by luring Allan into a drunken debauch—is moot at this point.