chapter  5
20 Pages

Power as Governor, 1929–33

Franklin Roosevelt returned to elective office as governor of New York on 1 January 1929 after eight years in the political wilderness. It was a major turning point. Defeat would have meant oblivion, but victory meant – we can now see – that he was on his way to the White House. Yet just as he had been overshadowed at his own wedding by the presence of Theodore Roosevelt, so now he was overshadowed at his inauguration by the presence of Al Smith. Smith, elected four times since 1918, was the most effective Democratic reform governor in America. But he had been permanently scarred by the religious bigotry which overwhelmed him in 1928. Disinclined to relinquish office, he was unable to reconcile himself to FDR’s victory and lacked respect for his successor’s strength, whether intellectual, moral or physical. Moreover, he had taken Roosevelt’s infirmity so seriously that a friend told the new governor that Smith had said of him, ‘He won’t live for a year.’1