Between 1933 and 1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt served the longest term as president in U.S. history. He introduced a number of political and economic reforms during his time as president, which commentators consider to be the most dramatic changes in U.S. history. The shifts, including the effects of the Great Depression and the emergence of new world powers, including Japan and Germany, is due to the prevalent circumstances. Thanks to his promising approach to coping with the aftermath of the Great Depression through economic reforms under what he termed the “New Deal,” he was elected president. One of the major changes implemented under the new deal was an expanded role of the federal government in various economic and social functions of the state. The president expanded the power of being president through many ways including increased participation in economic and corporate issues; involvement in health, welfare, and wellbeing of citizens; foreign affairs; heavy engagement with the public; legislative roles; and management of staff at the White House.
One of the most significant contributions of President Franklin Roosevelt in the New Deal was the expansion of the powers of the presidency from the traditional chief executive approach that considered the president as a policy implementer, to a more expansive approach that gives the president more duties and responsibilities including being a drafter of policy or a legislator. The president started his course of expanding the president’s duties through ‘fireside chats’ with members of the public through radio. His media engagement created a closer relationship between the president and members of the public, showing that the president was taking up new roles as the people’s caretaker or servant.
The president also took up new powers of legislation by taking part in designing and drafting policies. Due to this new legislative role, the president required a dedicated group in the White House to provide support and advice in terms of policy formulation and implementation. In this regard, the White House introduced full-time staff and advisers to carry out domestic and foreign policies. Since Roosevelt’s era, the White House has employed a good number of staff and advisors at the White House to support the president with policy issues.
The enactment of the Reorganization Bill in 1939 demonstrated Franklin Roosevelt’s commitment to expanding the powers of his presidency. The Act increased the president’s responsibilities and capacity to meet the new challenges associated with the expanded powers. It gave the president the power to hire staff and make changes to the executive branch. Through the Act, the Executive Office of the President was created. Roosevelt had a unique reputation of reorganizing his office to achieve greater efficiency. This character can be traced back to his life before becoming President.
At an early age, Roosevelt spent his time on his father’s large estate with several workers. He was schooled at home, so he had little interaction with peers. As the only child, he also received warm support and affection. This careful upbringing prepared him to be a responsible leader. As a college and university student, he also engaged in co-curricular activities which helped him to interact with others and learn to organize activities involving people. The family also offered him an opportunity to get good education to improve his intelligence for the benefit of his future political career.
Roosevelt’s early political career in the state senate of New York, representing Dutchess County. His campaign for the position was based on the promise for a clean-up-government, the same approach he used when campaigning for presidency in 1932. He had the habit and energy to champion for change since his early stages in politics; and that influenced his changes in the White House. In such early stages, he advocated for progressive and nationalist politics, leading to his desire for increased presidential power and responsibility to implement progressive policies that would help in political, social and economic development.
Franklin Roosevelt’s approach has also been influenced by previous presidents, especially Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. Franklin’s engagement with the public as president is a reflection of Thomas Jefferson’s idea of freedom for the people, allowing citizens to enjoy their natural rights in communities, and strong families. Roosevelt was also concerned with the health and social lives of the people. The expanded role of the President and strengthening of the central government in Washington was also implemented by Abraham Lincoln during his Presidency. Lincoln believed in a great centralized state with respect for people’s freedom, but based on strong power and authority of the national government. Roosevelt borrowed this idea to increase his powers as president, leading to his expansion of presidential power in the White House.
In conclusion, Roosevelt’s action of expanding the presidential powers was influenced by his unique political ideologies, previous influences by others, and the prevailing circumstances of the Great Depression. At an early age, he was exposed to management of workers in his father’s estate. He was also influenced by Abraham Lincoln’s idea of a strong and powerful central government and Thomas Jefferson’s idea of freedom and natural rights for the people. His early political career was also characterized by progressive and nationalist ideas which shaped up in his time as president.
Brinkley, Alan. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.