In this campaign speech delivered at Madison Square Garden on October 31, 1936, Roosevelt responded to considerable criticism that the New Deal had not done enough by emphasizing his administration’s continuing plans for relief, reform, and recovery. Historians have often referred to this initiative as the Second New Deal. The major legislation that came out of the so-called Second New Deal was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act, the Social Security Act, and the Wealth Tax Act, which brought about a sudden increase in taxes on the wealthy and created new and larger taxes on excess business profits, inheritances, large gifts, and profits from the sale of property.
The Works Progress (later "Work Projects") Administration promoted both relief and reform. The WPA built streets, highways, bridges, airfields, and post offices and other pubic buildings and facilities; restored forests; developed parks and recreation areas; built reservoirs; and extended electrical power to rural areas. Over its 7-year history, the WPA employed about 8.5 million Americans.
In addition to developing America's infrastructure, the WPA worked to promote American culture. The Federal Theater, Arts, Music, Dance, and Writers' Projects brought music and drama to even the smallest communities, sponsored public sculptures and murals, and commissioned noted American writers such as John Steinbeck, Richard Wright, John Cheever, and Claude McKay to write regional guidebooks and histories of the American people. This was the first time that the Federal Government had taken the responsibility to support and promote American art and culture.
Within a week of the delivery of this speech, FDR was reelected to a second term as President of the United States. In the Presidential campaign of 1936, Roosevelt led the Democratic Party in building what came to be called the "Roosevelt Coalition." While Republicans were still relying on their traditional support base (big business, big farmers, and conservatives), the Democrats, armed with FDR’s Second New Deal, broadened their base of support by appealing to small farmers of the Midwest, urban political bosses, ethnic blue-collar workers, Jews, intellectuals, African Americans, and Southern Democrats. The most dramatic shift to the Democratic Party was seen in the voting patterns of African Americans.
The Republican Party nominated Alfred M. Landon, the relatively liberal Governor
of Kansas, to oppose Roosevelt. Despite all the complaints leveled at the New
Deal, Roosevelt won an even more decisive victory than in 1932. He took 60 percent
of the popular vote, with a winning margin of 10 million votes, and carried
every state except Maine and Vermont. The campaign speech shown here reflects
FDR’s continued commitment to economic reform for an America still suffering
from the pains of the Depression.