Welcome to Hooverville

Welcome to Hooverville

In 1928, Republican Herbert Hoover was elected as president of the US. He took office in March of 1929. The following October, the stock market crashed, heralding in the Great Depression. Millions of Americans lost their jobs and homes and/or starved in the ensuing years.

Countless people, having nowhere to live, set up shantytowns that came to be known as “Hoovervilles.” Their new residents relied for the most part on public charities or begging for whatever income they could attain.

Was Mister Hoover responsible? Well, no. When elected, he had never held public office before and had not contributed to the cause of the depression. So why was he blamed? Well, whenever there’s disaster, it’s human nature to want to put a face on the cause of the problem. We tend to need to have someone at whom we can point our angry finger. (Almost immediately after the shooting of John Kennedy, the public were shown a photo of Lee Harvey Oswald holding a rifle; the day after the destroying of the Twin Towers, the television news showed a photo of Osama bin Laden. The viewers didn’t question whether these were indeed the culprits; they simply accepted them, as their need to have someone to blame was greater than their need to have truth.)

As a Republican, Mister Hoover became an easy target for Democrats seeking to further their own careers. Although the events that led up to the depression were caused by both Democrats and Republicans, both within politics and without, Mister Hoover was a convenient target for Democrats. In fact, the term “Hooverville” was created by Charles Michelson, publicity chief of the Democratic National Committee. Democrats also came up with other pejoratives, such as “Hoover blankets” for newspapers and “Hoover leather” for cardboard used in a shoe when the sole had worn through.

Throughout the 1930s, hundreds of Hoovervilles sprang up, housing hundreds of thousands of recently homeless people. There was even one in New York’s Central Park.

By ascribing the Great Depression and everything that went with it to Mister Hoover, it was a foregone conclusion that in the next presidential election, the Democratic candidate would win by a landslide.

For the next 20 years, Democrats held the US presidency and, in that time, the government made a major transformation towards collectivism. In spite of the fact that the Great Depression dragged on for around a decade, few Americans grasped the fact that collectivist policies prolonged the depression, rather than alleviated it.

America has recently completed another presidential election – one in which Americans were more polarized than ever before in their history. Although celebration for the victor has been moderate, the angst felt by Democratic voters has been pronounced. Countless Americans are stunned. Many have taken part in demonstrations and even riots and the remainder look out vacantly at their new world, as though they’ve been advised, “Granny’s just died and you aren’t in her will.”

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