Hidden History: How FDR Blocked Upton Sinclair’s Election as California Governor

The Great Depression – Part 4 We have a Plan

PBS (1993)

Film Review

Part 4 is largely about famous author Upton Sinclair’s campaign for California governor. This is something they definitely don’t teach in school. Because he nearly won.

The parallels with Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign are uncanny. Sinclair, also a socialist, registered as a Democrat for the 1934 campaign. He received the same massive popular response from Californian workers that Sanders and UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have received. Thousands of young people flocked to join the California Democratic Party, which hadn’t won a gubernatorial race in  35 years.

Sinclair easily won the Democratic primary and polled ahead of his Republican opponent until he was betrayed by the Roosevelt administration. After trying to pressure him to quit the race in favor of the third party candidate, they made a deal for California Democrats to support Sinclair’s Republican opponent – in return for the latter’s support of Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation.

In the last weeks of the campaign, Sinclair was also hurt by the massive media smear campaign launched by MGM studio boss Louis B Meyer.

Although Sinclair lost the election, 27 members of Sinclair’s EPIC (End Poverty in California) organization team won seats in the California legislature.

This episode also covers San Francisco’s 1934 general strike and FDR’s unsuccessful attempt to create a national health service as New Zealand did in 1938.

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