Unlike the stalwarts who continued to dominate what little remained of the Republican representation in Congress in the ‘30s and early ‘40s, Dewey believed that the Depression had permanently reshaped the political landscape and that it was insufficient for Republicans simply to denounce the New Deal and hope in vain for the eventual disappearance of the welfare state. As Dewey said in his first gubernatorial address, “There has never been a responsible government which did not have the welfare of its people at heart… anybody who thinks that an attack on the fundamental idea of security and welfare is appealing to people generally is living in the Middle Ages.” As governor, he put forward social programs that included unemployment insurance, sickness and disability benefits, old age pensions, slum clearance, state aid to education (including the creation of the State University of New York), infrastructure projects (particularly highway construction), and pathbreaking anti-discrimination legislation.
Dewey attempted to distinguish his programs from similar Democratic programs by running a government that was acknowledged to be clean, honest, and efficient. His was pay-as-you-go liberalism, as he managed to implement his social programs while cutting taxes, reducing the state debt by over $100 million, and still achieving budget surpluses. He also argued that while Republicans and Democrats might agree on social ends, the parties would differ in their means, with moderate Republicans emphasizing individual freedom and economic incentive over collectivization.