BERKELEY, California – Presidential transitions are never easy, especially when they involve an incumbent president defeated at the polls. But this time the transition occurs in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. The incumbent refuses to acknowledge the vote as a rejection of his policies and has a visceral dislike for the president-elect, who he accuses of dishonesty and dismisses as too frail to assume the duties of office. He tars his successor as a socialist, an advocate of policies that will put the country on the road to ruin.
The year was 1932, and the transition from Herbert Hoover to Franklin D. Roosevelt occurred in the midst of an unparalleled economic depression and banking crisis. The outgoing president, Hoover, had an intense aversion to his successor, whose incapacity of concern was not any lack of mental acuity, but rather Roosevelt’s partial paralysis. He called FDR a “chameleon on plaid” and accused him of dealing “from the bottom of the deck.” In his campaign and subsequently, Hoover insinuated that FDR’s socialistic tendencies would put the country on a “march to Moscow.”