The Surrender Syndrome: What Herbert Hoover Can Teach Republicans

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Herbert Hoover never saw it coming. On New Year’s Day 1932 the Republican president was in good cheer as he looked forward to another year in the White House. And another year after that. And another. And …

He never seemed to contemplate that with the election later that year he might actually lose. True, unemployment was rising, but it had to level off, then go down at some point. Right?

After all, history showed time and again that the economy was cyclical, and always rebounded somewhere down the road. Where that road would take the millions out of work, he did not say. He only knew that better times were just around the corner. Government need only stay out of the way and things would work out in the end.

Problem is, far too many Americans sensed that the end was near. For them.

By autumn 1932 unemployment was hovering around 25%, Gross Domestic Product growth hit an astonishing minus 13%. For the third straight year the stock market was down. Way down. Inflation plummeted to minus 10%, since few had any money to buy anything.

Hoover was at his wits end. He figured he had tried everything, even when it ran against his best capitalist instincts. To secure more federal money to try to slow the economic downturn he even raised taxes across the board, causing the opposite effect when federal revenue actually fell.

Even so, on Election Eve Hoover still expected to win. After all, no incumbent president had lost re-election in two decades, and even in 1912 it was due to a vote split three ways with the party-crasher Teddy Roosevelt running on a third party.

Yet by Election Day Americans had reached the breaking point. With a quarter of them unemployed, another quarter under-employed, and their bank accounts near zero, it seemed obvious to everyone that the country couldn’t continue on a downward spiral.

Something had to give.

And that something was the presidency.

Even Hoover’s diehard conservative supporters who put him in power four years earlier threw their hands up in despair. And surrendered.

To them it was a no-choice scenario. They couldn’t pay their rent or mortgage, repair the car, or even put enough food on the table. Then along came a candidate who promised to at least keep them fed.

So they elected liberal Democrat Franklin Roosevelt, who went on to throw the people a lifeline of government programs, year after year. FDR interfered relentlessly in the economy with the predictable result that the Great Depression lasted much longer than any prior depression.

The historical darling of liberals failed completely at leading the country out of the Depression. And still, like a broken record, he kept bribing the masses with government-issued cheese and made up jobs that did nothing but keep their heads above water and prolong their economic misery.

It’s happened before. It can happen again.

November 3, 2020. Millions of Americans are out of work, out of benefits, can’t pay their mortgage, their kids’ tuition, or even the water bill. Desperate for a lifeline, they put their hands up in despair, and against every fiber of their being, turn to the Democrat soothsayer who promises them everything.

The surrender syndrome.

The last resort of otherwise normal, sane, rational people.

Consumed with worry, they throw in their lot with the liberal charlatan who offers them a seat on the lifeboat. At this point, what have they got to lose?

Desperate people do desperate things.

Yet the worst thing the government can do is to offer a continuous assembly line of free stuff.  People realize this, but free stuff is better than no stuff. And it’s the free stuff that can keep them above water.

They know this is just a Band-Aid, not a cure, for an ailing economy. But they may not make it to the cure, and a Band-Aid will at least stop the bleeding.

Joe Biden is an inept, uninspiring, and unworthy candidate. In normal times he would get steamrolled at the polls. But these are not normal times. These are hard times. Very hard. And hard times cause people to lose their senses and make bad choices.

As much as many want to keep their president, they need to make a living. And if they conclude, however misguided, that giving up their president will get their lives back in order, they’ll do just that. It’s an up-against-the-wall, backed-into-a-corner dilemma. The white flag unfurled.

This is not to say that it will happen. But it could. Our economy is shut down, in shambles. We’re told it should start to open in a month. Then what? How many jobs will actually come back? Will people return to flying, dining out, catching a ball game again?

By mid-summer the benefits will start to run out. In September millions could still be struggling with nothing but measly unemployment checks. October could be much the same.

November could arrive amid a pale of gloom, with people fearing there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. No hope. They wallow at home and just sit out the election, or worse, give up totally and vote for the liberal who promises them all the free stuff.

Will it happen? I think not …I hope not. But … I don’t know. None of us know. A lot can happen between now and then.

Yet there’s one certainty. The longer the economy is shut down, the worse things get. We need to open the economy. Now. Before it’s too late.

Donald Trump is not Herbert Hoover. Far from it. Nor is he a Democrat con artist, promising everything to everyone but delivering only dependency and misery. Dread the thought of a liberal president in the White House. It would be an unmitigated disaster for the country. The economy would fall into the abyss of another Depression lasting years.

President Trump will lead us out of this economic calamity. His loyal supporters know this. We need the rest of the country to believe it too.

Because surrender is not an option.


Tom Mountain is a 2020 Massachusetts Delegate to the Republican National Convention.