Victory seemed to give the Democrats a clear mandate to marshal the resources of the federal government against the depression. Franklin Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933, during a financial crisis that had closed banks all over the country. He at once summoned Congress to an emergency session and declared a bank holiday.
In domestic affairs, the 1920s were a time of frantic prosperity for the many who played the stock market. These were the years of Prohibition, of the speakeasy and the bootlegger, when the American media—newspapers, magazines, radio, and motion pictures—gave the impression that the entire nation was absorbed by short skirts, loosened sexual mores, new dances, and bathtub gin.
American revulsion against war also took the form of isolationism, the wish to withdraw from international politics outside the Western Hemisphere. The country was swept by a wave of desire to get back to “normalcy,” as President Warren Harding phrased it.
Neither the human nor the material losses of the United States in World War I were at all comparable with those of Britain and France. American casualties were 115,000 dead and 206,000 wounded; the comparable French figures were 1,385,000 dead and 3,044,000 wounded in a population one-third as large.
Moreover, in purely material terms, the United States probably gained from the war. Yet in some ways the American postwar revulsion against the war was as marked as that in Britain, France, and defeated Germany.
Once more, however, as in the time of Dreyfus, the republican forces rallied to meet the threat, and once more, after the crisis had been surmounted, France moved to the left.
During World War I the French had temporarily put aside the great political and social conflict they had inherited from 1789. After the war the “sacred union” of political parties that had carried France through the struggle soon dissolved, and the traditional conflict was resumed.