Herbert Hoover on Public Acceptance of the President

Herbert Hoover won the 1928 election in a landslide over Democrat Al Smith of New York.  Four years later Hoover lost the 1932 election in a landslide to New York Democrat Franklin Roosevelt.  The intervening four years marked the onset of the Great Depression. Ever pragmatic, Hoover knew that the American people would place their blame on the President and vote him out.

Two years later, during the electoral campaign of 1934, Hoover reflected on his fall from grace in a letter to his friend William Castle.  Hoover wrote this regarding the Presidency:

‘You will find that criticism will steadily shift to the main target. The universal history of Presidents is:

First, four to six months of adulation.

Second, four to six months of rising protest at measures adopted.

Third, four to six months of rising criticism of subordinates.

Fourth, four to six months of rising criticism of the President.

That is the American habit whether the President is good or evil.’

Hoover may be onto something here.  No matter who the President, or what the policy, they enjoy a honeymoon period when all things seem possible. Then, when reality intrudes, the President ends up paying the cost for disappointing a public that expected too much.  Such is the price of power in a democracy.

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