October 13, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 37th was held in the depths of the Great Depression in 1932, with unemployment at 30 percent. Democrats nominated the progressive governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt, to run against President Herbert Hoover. In accepting the nomination, Roosevelt added one of the most enduring phrases to the American political lexicon. ''I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.''

President Hoover, who had been reluctant to use federal power to deal with the economic crisis, attacked ''so-called new deals,'' warning that what Roosevelt had in mind ''would destroy the very foundations of our American system. . . . This election,'' he warned in a speech late in the campaign, ''is not a mere shift from the ins to the outs. It means deciding the direction our nation will take over a century to come.''

Given a choice between the fearful status quo and a journey into an unknown future and new foundations, the voters chose FDR's vision of the nation. He carried 42 of 48 states and outpolled President Hoover by 7 million votes. It was the first time ever that a Democrat had defeated a Republican by a landslide in a two-man race.

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