The TVA becomes a model
Of all these measures, possibly that which had the greatest future importance was the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which undertook at once to make the project a comprehensive laboratory for social and economic experimentation. In addition to the main dams at Muscle Shoals in Alabama, a series of tributary dams were constructedNorris, Pickwick, Chikamauga, and others. These dams were used not only for the improvement of navigation, flood control, and nitrate production, but for the generation of electric power. The government constructed some five thousand miles of transmission lines and sold power to nearby communities at rates sufficiently low to permit widespread consumption. A subsidiary to TVA financed rural electrification. The TVA also withdrew marginal lands from cultivation, helped marginal farmers find new farmland, conducted agricultural experiments particularly in connection with the use of phosphate fertilizer, and promoted public health and recreational facilities.
Almost all the work of the New Deal was carried on under the stress of urgent criticism not only from the Republican Party, but often from within the Democratic Party itself. In the election of 1936, when the New Deal was attacked by President Roosevelt's opponent, Governor Alfred M. Landon of Kansas, Roosevelt won an even more decisive victory than that of 1932. (Subsequent Republican presidential candidates, Wendell Willkie in 1940 and Thomas E. Dewey in 1944 and 1948, made it clear that there were many New Deal accomplishments of which they approved.)
From 1932 to 1938, in every organ of public opinion, debates raged over the meaning of New Deal policies in national political and economic life. As time went on, it was obvious that the American conception of government was changing, that greater governmental responsibility for the welfare of the people was winning increasing acceptance. Some New Deal critics argued that the extension of governmental functions on such a scale must end in undermining all the liberties of the people. President Roosevelt, and with him a host of followers, stoutly insisted that measures which fostered economic well-being would strengthen liberty and democracy. In a radio address of 1938, he told the American people: "Democracy has disappeared in several other great nations, not because the people of those nations disliked democracy, but because they had grown tired of unemployment and insecurity, of seeing their children hungry while they sat helpless in the face of government confusion and government weakness through lack of leadership in government. Finally, in desperation, they chose to sacrifice liberty in the hope of getting something to eat. We in America know that our democratic institutions can be preserved and made to work. But in order to preserve them we need . . . to prove that the practical operation of democratic government is equal to the task of protecting the security of the people. . . . The people of America are in agreement in defending their liberties at any cost, and the first line of the defense lies in the protection of economic security."
Impressive as was Franklin Roosevelt's domestic program, like Wilson's more than a decade before, it was overshadowed by the clamor of foreign affairs before his second term was well under way. Across the seas, little noticed by the average American, there had risen a new threat to peace, to law, and ultimately to American security-the totalitarianisrA of Japan, Italy, and Germany. Early in the thirties, the first of these nations struck. In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria, crushed Chinese resistance; a year later she set up the puppet state of Manchukuo. Italy, having succumbed to Fascism, enlarged her boundaries in Libya and in 1935-36 reduced Ethiopia to subjection. Germany, where Adolf Hitler had organized his National Socialist party and seized the reins of government, reoccupied the Rhineland and undertook largescale rearmament.