Frank Richardson Kent (1877–1958) was an American journalist and political theorist of the 1920s and 1930s. Although a Democrat, by the 1930s he was one of the leading conservative critics of the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, with a daily column that reached millions of newspaper readers across the country. Historians group him with David Lawrence, Walter Lippmann, Mark Sullivan, and Arthur Krock as influential political commentators in the 1930s.[1][2][3]

He was based in Baltimore, where he started as a cub reporter for the Baltimore Sun in 1900. After 1922 the Sun papers syndicated his daily column of political commentary to 140 papers nationwide. Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1922 so admired Kent that he helped him to get his column syndicated. He was one of the big-name journalists who covered the Scopes "Monkey Trial" in 1925.

But by 1934 Kent, a lifelong Democrat, turned against the New Deal. He criticized FDR and liberals who tried to disrupt his cherished Jeffersonian principles - the balanced budget, limited spending by the federal government, and a limited government.[4] As his criticism became more severe, he charged that the Democrats no longer stood for states' rights.

Kent pronounced the New Deal's AAA farm program a failure and was astonished that the Roosevelt administration did not propose to abandon it, but intended, instead, "to proceed from one experiment that has failed to a more drastic experiment along the same line" in the direction of greater control over agricultural production. As for the centerpiece of New Deal efforts to promote economic recovery, NRA, Kent found no enthusiasm for it any longer. People no longer looked to see if there was an NRA Blue Eagle in the windows of the stores where they shopped. But the principal objection to the NRA was the growing conviction that the Roosevelt administration had ceased to consider the NRA and AAA as "merely temporary devices for the duration of the emergency."[5]

Kent rejoiced when the Supreme Court invalidated the National Recovery Act. Desiring Roosevelt's defeat in the 1936 election, Kent was crushed by the election results.[6]

Kent served on the board of trustees for Science Service, now known and Society for Science & the Public, from 1923-1927.

Political science

Kent's The Great Game of Politics (1923) was an influential statement that influenced V. O. Key, Jr. and the "behavioral school of politics". Kent explained the real rules of the game of politics as actually played by politicians.[7]


  1. ^ Best, Critical Press and the New Deal pp 13
  2. ^ Bernard Sternsher, Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal (1964), pp 88, 244-45
  3. ^ Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, Mencken: The American Iconoclast (2005) p. 275.
  4. ^ Emily Bingham and Thomas A. Underwood, The Southern Agrarians and the New Deal: Essays after I'll Take My Stand (2001) p. 125
  5. ^ Quoted in Best, Critical Press and the New Deal 65-66
  6. ^ Goll, "Frank R. Kent's Opposition to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal," (1968)
  7. ^ Andrew M. Lucker, V.O. Key, Jr: the quintessential political scientist (2001) p. 270; Bernard Crick, The American science of politics: its origins and conditions (2003) p. 87ff; James Farr and Raymond Seidelman, Discipline and history: political science in the United States (1993) pp 170-72

Further reading

  • Best, Gary Dean. The Critical Press and the New Deal: The Press Versus Presidential Power, 1933-1938 (1993)
  • Fitzgerald, Keith. "History, institutions, and political culture: V.O. Key as an exemplar for a revived research program." Political Science Reviewer (December 31, 2000).
  • Goll, Eugene W. "Frank R. Kent's Opposition to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal," Maryland Historical Magazine 1968 63(2): 158-171.
  • Riley, Sam G. ed. Biographical dictionary of American newspaper columnists (1995) pp 155–6
  • Kent, Frank R. The Great Game of Politics: An Effort to Present the Elementary Human Facts About Politics, Politicians, and Political Machines, Candidates and Their Ways (1923)