Roosevelt and his team would later repudiate the pessimistic assumptions of the Commonwealth Club speech and opt instead for economic growth. It did not take long for both generations of the family to start warning darkly about the wrong direction in which FDR was leading the country. For them, administration, redistribution, bigger government agencies, and planning were all anathema. They directly contradicted the frontier values and virtues they still thought relevant in a modern industrial society. To the degree that she was political at all, Laura had grown up as a Democrat, but by the 1930s she viewed the direction of the Democratic party with ever greater alarm and became an outspoken critic of Roosevelt and his minions. Her expressions of concern, however, paled in comparison to those of her de apoplectic at the thought of where the New Dealers were leading the country. By mid?decade, Rose had gravitated to an extreme right?wing, anti?New Deal position, and by the early 1940s she emerged as one of the conservative right’s most vociferous and effective opinion?molders. 10
While Missouri, as a border state, possessed strong Democratic leanings, the Ozarks region was relatively more Republican in orientation. Conservative ideological views thrived there. During the Democratic landslide of 1932, the town of Mansfield, traditionally Republican in its voting patterns, gave Roosevelt a slight margin over Herbert Hoover, 362 votes to 303 (54 percent to 46 percent). Democratic candidates for the governorship and lesser offices received similar margins over their Republican opponents. County?wide, Roosevelt carried 56 percent of the major?party vote; in the state as a whole, he obtained 64 percent. 11 Mansfield city’s and Wright County’s deviation from the mean in 1932 presaged a quick shift back to Republican voting patterns in 1934 and 1936. Laura Ingalls Wilder was an admirer of the staunchly conservative Dewey Short, who bucked the liberal tide in 1934 and went to Congress as a Republican critic of Roosevelt and the New Deal. For the next two decades he consistently attacked New Deal and Fair Deal liberalism in terms virtually identical to those used by Wilder and Lane. 12
Living in the Ozarks of southern Missouri, Laura and Almanzo found themselves in congenial company when it came to politics
By the end of the thirties, foreign policy issues began to dominate politics, and both Wilder and her daughter, not surprisingly, found themselves at odds once again with the man in the White House. They backed the America First Committee when it emerged in 1940 to organize the isolationists against the interventionist foreign policy of the administration. The year 1932, which had been such a good year for Franklin Roosevelt, struck tragically at the family of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. His 19?month?old son was kidnapped from the family’s home near Hopewell, New Jersey, on March 1, launching a round?the?clock media watch that almost eclipsed the coverage given to the photogenic pilot after his brave and dangerous flight across the Atlantic in 1927.
If the Wilders and their daughter read Roosevelt’s remarks in San Francisco, it would have reinforced their suspicion that he and his advisors were on the wrong track
By 1939, Lindbergh, risking-but at the same time utilizing-the popularity that he had gained from his transoceanic adventure, emerged as the most popular spokesman in America for the isolationist cause. Having visited Germany more than a half?dozen times during the 1930s, he had concluded that Hitler was unstoppable and that the United States should not waste its precious resources in bailing out what he considered to be the feeble and doomed democracies of Western Europe. In his insistence that we stay out of the political cockpit of Europe and in his denunciations of the drift of the administration’s foreign policy, Lindbergh was expressing Wilder and Lane’s opinions exactly. 13 In this instance, foreign policy views reinforced domestic policy positions, increasing their opposition to the man in the White House. Wilder spent considerable energy in late 1938 campaigning for the Ludlow Amendment, a proposed Constitutional change which would have required a national referendum before war could be declared on another nation, except in the case of a direct attack on American soil. The effort failed, but the episode illustrated the continuing strength of isolationism at the time. 14