Hoover, who had served incumbent Republican President Calvin Coolidge as Secretary of Commerce, defeated Democrat Al Smith in the general election by a 58%-40% margin in the popular vote and won 444 of 531 electoral votes, losing only 8 of the 48 states and even beating Smith in his home state of New York.
The big topic in Hoover's inaugural address was Prohibition, the hot button political issue of the time. Crime was a big issue, although Hoover wasn't ready to pin all the blame for the increase in crime to Prohibition.
The most malign of all these dangers today is disregard and disobedience of law. Crime is increasing. Confidence in rigid and speedy justice is decreasing. I am not prepared to believe that this indicates any decay in the moral fiber of the American people. I am not prepared to believe that it indicates an impotence of the Federal Government to enforce its laws.
It is only in part due to the additional burdens imposed upon our judicial system by the eighteenth amendment. The problem is much wider than that. Many influences had increasingly complicated and weakened our law enforcement organization long before the adoption of the eighteenth amendment.
To reestablish the vigor and effectiveness of law enforcement we must critically consider the entire Federal machinery of justice, the redistribution of its functions, the simplification of its procedure, the provision of additional special tribunals, the better selection of juries, and the more effective organization of our agencies of investigation and prosecution that justice may be sure and that it may be swift. While the authority of the Federal Government extends to but part of our vast system of national, State, and local justice, yet the standards which the Federal Government establishes have the most profound influence upon the whole structure.
However, Hoover also decided that one of the biggest problems with the enforcement of Prohibition was that a lot of people were breaking the law. So people needed to stop doing that.
But a large responsibility rests directly upon our citizens. There would be little traffic in illegal liquor if only criminals patronized it. We must awake to the fact that this patronage from large numbers of law-abiding citizens is supplying the rewards and stimulating crime.
The rest of Hoover's address was not exactly soaring oratory. There was talk about how the U.S. needed to work with the rest of the world to ensure world peace, but it wasn't going to join the League of Nations. There was discussion of increased funding for public health measures and the inevitable mention of tariffs. Hoover called for a special session of Congress to deal with such matters.
Unfortunately for Hoover, he had this passage:
Ours is a land rich in resources; stimulating in its glorious beauty; filled with millions of happy homes; blessed with comfort and opportunity. In no nation are the institutions of progress more advanced. In no nation are the fruits of accomplishment more secure. In no nation is the government more worthy of respect. No country is more loved by its people. I have an abiding faith in their capacity, integrity and high purpose. I have no fears for the future of our country. It is bright with hope.
Well, it was bright with hope for about six months.
Four years later, Hoover would get only 39.7% of the vote against Franklin Roosevelt's 57.4%. And Roosevelt won 472 electoral votes to Hoover's 59, winning 42 of 48 states.
For those not scoring at home, Hoover's VP was Charles Curtis of Kansas. He succeeded another Charles (Dawes). This was the only time in U.S. history when consecutive vice-presidents had the same first name.