The New Deal in Dallas
ROGER BILES *
HISTORIANS CONTINUE TO ANALYZE THE NEW DEAL AND ITS IMPACT
on U.S. history. Did Franklin D. Roosevelt's innovative responses
to hard times constitute a watershed in the nation's past? How new, in
other words, was the New Deal? William E. Leuchtenburg stated the
case for change, arguing in his seminal Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New
Deal: "The New Deal, however conservative it was in some respects and
however much it owed to the past, marked a radically new departure."
Similarly, Carl Degler called the New Deal "a revolutionary response to
a revolutionary situation." Especially since the mid-196os, however,
historians have begun to focus on the lack of reform achieved in the
193os. New Left historians like Barton Bernstein and Paul Conkin em-
phasized the degree to which the New Deal overlooked the plight of the
downtrodden in its desire to preserve capitalism. Although many schol-
ars stopped short of characterizing Roosevelt's presidency as counter-
revolutionary, most acknowledged the shortcomings of the New Deal
in effecting meaningful economic and social reform. Clearly not a radi-
cal bent on the destruction of free enterprise capitalism, they believed,
Roosevelt naturally sought limited reform within the American politi-
cal consensus. The New Deal could accomplish only so much because of
conservative forces in Congress and the courts. Further, James T. Pat-
terson added, the American system of federalism bolstered the states at
the expense of the national government, and the New Deal made few
inroads against states' rights and strict constructionism.'
* Roger Biles is associate professor of history at Oklahoma State University He is the author
of A New Deal for the American People (i991) and The New Deal in the South forthcomingg)
Williham E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 (New York.
Harper and Row, 1963), 336 (1st quotation), Carl N. Degler, Out of Our Past: The Forces That
Shaped Modern America (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959), 416 (2nd quotation), James T
Patterson, The New Deal and the States: Federalzsm in Transizton (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1969), 20o6-207. Also see Barton J. Bernstein, "'The New Deal. The Conservative
Achievements of Liberal Reform" in Barton J. Bernstem (ed ), Towards a New Past Dissenting
Essays an American History (New York: Pantheon Books, 1968), 263-288, Paul K. Conkin, The
New Deal (Arlington Heights, Ill : Harlan Davidson, Inc, 1967); Barry D. Karl, The Uneasy
State- The United States from 1915 to 1945 (Chicago- University of Chicago Press, 1983); and
Robert S. McElvalne, The Great Depression America 1929-1941 (New York: Times Books, 1984).
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed March 3, 2015.