Hoover on Black Friday

This illustration by American caricaturist Oscar Cesare depicts President Herbert Hoover on March 17, 1929, seven months before Wall Street failed and the Great Depression began.

It’s not the end of the world as we know it. In fact, it’s déjà vu, or it would be if you had been paying attention in history class.

Our nation has been divided by politics, economics and public health repeatedly, and it seems a tall order to become one nation under God (or your higher being) again. But we always have and, I believe, always will. We’re American. It’s what we do.

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You could bring up the Civil War, heck, even the Revolutionary War when America took sharply different sides.

Our time is not uniquely consequential. I say it all the time: “I pity the school kids who have to take a test on this period of American history.”

Every semester would have a student say, “So this reality TV star said he had a lot of money. …”

Kids today, however, can tell you less about the 1930s. Hoover is a vacuum cleaner, and Black Tuesday, best guess, follows Cyber Monday.

Instead, the latter, on Oct. 29, 1929, was the opening bell of the Great Depression, as the stock markets imploded, factories shuttered and farms grew crops they couldn’t sell before banks came calling.

During the Roaring ‘20s, everyone jumped in the stock market with their life savings, and borrowed against the good times they expected to roll on.

Huey P. Long, the populist from Louisiana, declared “Every Man a King” on national radio in 1934, which sold his book by the same name and sold the American myth.

The economy had been a speculative house of cards, indeed, but its collapse was fed by climate, a decade-long drought.

In southeastern Colorado a total of 126 inches of moisture fell from 1930 to 1939. That’s 205 fewer inches less than the previous decade. Deep drought whipped up massive dust storms, byproducts of the Dust Bowl. I wonder what they’d make of our climate-change hysterics today.

Agriculture was Colorado’s economic lifeblood then as now, and farming and ranching paid dearly as lenders seized land and tractors.

When things began to unravel, as now, people lost faith in institutions, especially banks and the government. At the depression’s peak, one in four Americans was without a job or a safety net.

Half the nation’s banks failed, and if your bank shut down, your money might go with it.

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In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to insure bank losses and restore confidence in the financial system.

FDR’s massive New Deal spending set the bar for Democrats then, and President Joe Biden is trying to get over it now.

Colorado got a makeover. The Civilian Conservation Corps built Red Rocks Amphitheatre, developed Rocky Mountain National Park, and built 111 miles of trails and 160 forest bridges that still serve Colorado’s economy today.

They dug out communities and built dams. In all, about 32,000 men worked at Colorado’s 172 camps.

U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Lafayette, hopes to somehow bring back the CCC — as the Civilian Climate Corps, tasked again with hardening the state for future effects of climate change.

You want polarizing political figures? Cast your eyes on Herbert Hoover, the last president before Donald Trump to lose the White House, the Senate and the House in one term.

Hoover came to his fortune first by developing a gold mine in Australia. He made another fortune from a Burmese silver mine. The 31st president opposed government intervention in the economic crisis.

“Having taken at least partial credit for the economic boom of the Twenties when he campaigned for the presidency in 1928, Hoover had trouble personally accepting the end of the boom or fathoming just how bad the crash and Depression would be,” wrote Robert S. McElvaine in his 1984 book “The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941.”

Nonetheless, the GOP platform in 1932 declared, “We have had in the White House a leader — wise, courageous, patient, understanding, resourceful, ever present at his post of duty, tireless in his efforts and unswervingly faithful to American principles and ideals.”

Hoover received 40% of the vote and provided a sullen transition of power not witnessed since Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861.

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Hoover accused enemies in Congress of sabotaging his policies and “unfairly painted him as a callous and cruel president,” according to Hoover’s White House biography.

Hoover also harbored ambitions of being elected again. Instead, his presidency was the basis of 20 years of Democratic control of the White House.

After his presidency, against the wishes of advisers, Hoover wrote a book titled “The Challenge to Liberty.” He predicted an American revolution if the nation followed FDR’s course.

“By stifling private enterprise, the field is tilled for further extension of government enterprise,” Hoover warned. “Intricate taxes are interpreted by political bureaucrats who coerce and threaten our business men. By politically managed currency, the president has seized the power to alter all wages, all prices, all debts, all savings at will.

“But that is not the worst. They are creating personal power over votes. That crushes the first safeguard of liberty.”

He closed the article, “We shall battle it out until the soul of America is saved.”

The idea that America is torn has merit, but history will have the last word, and history has spoken on these matters before.

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Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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