FDR was a President, not a king. His goals were ambitious and extensive, and while he had many supporters, his enemies were legion. Liberals and radicals attacked from the left for not providing enough relief and for maintaining the fundamental aspects of capitalism. Conservatives claimed his policies were socialism in disguise, and that an interfering activist government was destroying a proud history of self-reliance.
Despite big numbers at the ballot booth, Roosevelt needed to temper his objectives with the spirit of compromise and hope that his plans were popular enough to weather criticism. Friends and enemies alike had to admit that FDR was a political genius.
One major threat to FDR came from Father Charles E. Coughlin, a radio priest from Detroit. Originally a supporter of the New Deal, Coughlin turned against Roosevelt when he refused to nationalize the banking system and provide for the free coinage of silver. As the decade progressed, Coughlin turned openly anti-Semitic, blaming the Great Depression on an international conspiracy of Jewish bankers. Coughlin formed the National Union for Social Justice and reached a weekly audience of 40 million radio listeners.
Another reformer who felt the New Deal had not gone far enough was Francis Townsend, a doctor from Long Beach, California. Townsend proposed the Old Age Revolving Pension. This plan called for every American over the age of sixty to retire to open up jobs for the younger unemployed. The retirees would receive a monthly check for $200, a considerable income during the Depression. There was one catch. The recipients had to agree to spend the entire sum within a month. Townsend argued that this plan would ignite the economy, as well as provide for a proper pension for those who had worked so hard for so long.
The person considered the greatest threat to Roosevelt politically was Huey "the Kingfish" Long of Louisiana. Long was a rollicking country lawyer who became governor of Louisiana in 1928. As governor, Long used strong-arm tactics to intimidate the legislature into providing roads and bridges to the poorest parts of the state. He emerged onto the national scene with his election to the United States Senate in 1930. In 1934, he started a movement called "Share Our Wealth." With the motto "Every Man a King," Long proposed a 100% tax on personal fortunes exceeding a million dollars. The elderly would receive pensions. The poorest Americans were promised an estate worth no less than $5000, with a $2500 yearly minimum income guaranteed. Democrats worried that a Long bid for the Presidency might steal votes from FDR in 1936, but an assassin's bullet ended the Kingfish's life in 1935.
Despite his reelection landslide, Roosevelt's mainstream opponents gained steam in the latter part of the decade. Frustrated by a conservative Supreme Court overturning New Deal initiatives, FDR hatched a "court packing" scheme. He proposed that when a federal judge reached the age of seventy and failed to retire, the President could add an additional justice to the bench. This thinly veiled scheme would immediately enable him to appoint six justices to the high court.
Conservative Democrats and Republicans charged FDR with abuse of power and failed to support the plan. During the 1938 Congressional elections, Roosevelt campaigned vigorously against anti-New deal Democrats. In nearly every case, the conservatives won. This coalition of Southern Democrats and Republicans dominated the Congress until the 1960s and effectively ended the reform spirit of the New Deal.