There was nothing mysterious to the deteriorating state of relations between the business community and the Roosevelt administration after 1934.
The most important reason for the widening breach was that businessmen were the first to benefit from the New Deal. Within a year of Roosevelt's inauguration, commercial and industrial failures declined, and exports increased. The volume of industrial production and the price of business commodities both recorded recognizable increases.
With the economy showing signs of health at the top, some business groups naturally reverted to the traditional business creed: government should balance the budget, eliminate regulatory experimentation, cease tampering with the currency, and put its faith in private enterprise to implement the trickle down theory.
Then, too, the president was thin-skinned when it came to criticism from business. Obviously savoring the widespread support from the public at large, FDR shunned meetings with business leaders at critical times. He took their criticism personally rather than from a political perspective (many businessmen were Republicans).
After their experience with the Republican administrations of the 1920s, businessmen had come to expect that the chief executive of the land would consult them, specifically, to solicit their advice on economic issues. Given the experimental, unpredictable nature of the New Deal, consultation was not too much to expect. As one analyst aptly put it, "Business was not badly hurt by the New Deal but the Rooseveltian fondness for executive orders and administrative elaboration emphasized a particular characteristic of the new regulation: it was human and unpredictable." One businessman summed up the feeling of many of his colleagues when he wrote the president:
"Last week I wrote to an industrialist in Wisconsin and in my letter I asked, 'Where are we at,' to which he replied, 'You ask "where we are at." I am reminded that some time ago where a group of Democrats were comparing Roosevelt to Washington and Lincoln that they were interrupted by a Republican who said he thought Roosevelt could be more aptly compared to Christopher Columbus, because when he started he did not know where he was going, when he got there he did not know where he was, and when he got back, he did not know where he had been.' "
Of course, Roosevelt was no fool. He believed that businessmen in their national organizations (Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers) were not representative of Main Street. And the vast majority of letters to the president supported him. "You stay right in there, Mr. President," hammered a hardware store owner from Kansas City, "and drive straight to your stake." A lumber company official counseled, "Go on with (the) New Deal--Some may 'cuss' it, but nobody has anything else to offer that is better." "Keep up your courage," advised a Fresno businessman, "and do not compromise with Congress on needed legislation."
A good many letters were almost certain to lead the president to stand firm in his relations wth the Chamber of Commerce and NAM. A shoe store owner hoped that his "little letter will in a small way cheer you on and make you feel that your efforts are appreciated." The managing director of a small-town chamber of commerce in Texas who took issue with the "money and selfish" interests of the national organization concluded his missive with a rural postscript: "Just a few lines to let you know the people at the forks of the creek are still with you."
Finally, there was the missive from a tire dealer in Kansas who knew few of the fine points of spelling and grammar but wrote from the heart: "Mr. President, do you know that we never had such a man as you are. For the poor people. Never, no never--I never did vote for a Democratic ticket in my life and have been voting for forty nine years. But believe me if I live I will vote for F D Roosevelt, and not only vote for him but will work I am for you from A to Z."