Saturday, August 30, 2014

Back When a Democratic President Has Lots of Republicans Around

Richard Moe. Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) sought to save democracies, especially in Great Britain, from Hitler’s Germany. There was strong isolationist support within the U.S. FDR ran for a third term in order to have interventionist policies continue.

FRD’s election to a third and then fourth term would later lead to the creation of a two term limit for Presidents.

FDR was known for making complex issues understandable to most people without making them feel diminished. He won much public support as a radio communicator with this fireside chats with the public.

In 1938, FDR sought to increase the number of military planes to 10,000 followed by 12,000 more annually. Brigadier General George Marshall, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, stunned FDT by not stating the planes were unnecessary. FDR admired Marshall’s candor him FDR never again addressed Marshall as George.

FDR was planning his retirement in 1939. He feared Nazi Germany would attack Brazil and disrupt the American continents. FDR sought to amend the Net Neutrality Act to better counter Germany.

FDR met with Charles Lindberg, who had been decorated in Germany. FDR later commented to Henry Morgenthal “I am absolutely convinced that Lindberg’s a Nazi.”

Harold Ickes and then Harry Hopkins were the first two Cabinet members to recommend to FDR that he seek reelection.

Vice President John Nance Garner decided to run for President when he heard FDR was considering running again. Garner considered the two term tradition should be upheld.

James Farley also ran for the Democratic Party nomination for President. FDR did not consider Farley qualified to be President. Also, Farley was not a strong supporter of FDR’s New Deal programs. Farley also let Cordell Hull and Garner know Farley was available to run with either for Vice President.

The first 1940 Gallup Poll had FDR at 83%, Garner 8%, and Farley at 1%.

The three leading candidates in early 1940 for the Republican nomination for President were all isolationists.

The War Department was divided by feuds between Secretary Henry Woodring and Assistant Secretary Louis Johnson. Underlings were demoralized.

Republican Sen. George Norris urged FDR to run for a third term. Norris wanted FDR to run even “if I know it would kill you. This is war and in war the life of one person means nothing.”

FDR studied and admired Abraham Lincoln. FDR found parallels in Lincoln’s preparations for war that were similar to his. FDR realized a major difference was that Lincoln was preparing at the beginning of his term in office whereas FDR’s erm was ending.

FDR’s approval ratings were over 60% in September 1939. Yet a majority of those surveys did not support FDR seeking a third term.

Arthur Vandenberg became the first candidate “available” for the Republican nomination for President in 1940. Vandenberg favored many New Deal programs yet was an isolationist.

Thomas Dewey, who gained fame as a “racket busting” prosecutor, ran. He drew large crowds.

Sen. Robert Taft, son of President Taft and who had been elected to the Senate in 1938, ran. Taft was a libertarian who opposed the New Deal and was an isolationist.

A January 1940 Gallup Poll had Dewey at 60%, Vandenberg at at 16%, and Taft at 11%.  In February it was Dewey at 56% with Vandenberg and Taft tied at 17%. The poll also found that 56% of Republicans wanted the Republican Party to be “more liberal” than it was in 1936.

Wendell Willkie was a New Deal supporter who entered the race for the Republican nomination for President. He was at 3% in a poll in early May and at 10% in late May.

Willkie announced he would support FDR over a Republican nominee who declined to support the Allies. Willkie rose to 17% in the polls and was in second place to Dewey’s 52%. Before the Republican National Convention, it was Dewey 47%, Willie 29%.

FDR placed prominent Republicans into his Cabinet with Henry Stimson as Secretary of War and Frank Knox as Secretary of Navy. Stimson had been Taft’s Secretary of War and Hoover’s Secretary of State. Knox had been the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 1936 .Woodring, an isolationist, was out as Secretary of War.

The first ballot at the Republican National  Convention was Dewey 300, or ten shy of the nomination, Taft 189, and Willkie 105. The second ballot was Dewey 238, Taft 203,  and Willkie 171. Willkie moved into second place on the third ballot. Willkie then moved into the lead. The convention’s presiding officers, Joe Martin, was sympathetic to Willkie and kept the delegates voting past midnight. Michigan’s delegation, which had been instructed by its Senator Vandenberg to stick with Taft. Michigan’s National  Committeeman Frank McKay ignored this in swinging Michigan to Willkie, giving Willkie the nomination.

FRD realized Willkie, an internationalist, would be a tough opponent. FDR would not be able to claim to be the internationalist in the race. The first poll had FDR at 53% and Willkie at 47%.

FDR indicated fo Secretary of State Cordell Hull that FDR wanted Hull to be the Democratic Party’s nominee. Hull realized FDR really wanted the nomination for himself.

FDR asked Cordell Hull about running for Vice President. Hull declined. FDR considered Sen. James Brynes for Vice President yet his former Catholicism presented political problems. FDR picked Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace, a former Republican Senator, Eleanor Roosevelt nominated him which helped him win the nomination as he received 627 votes from the 1,000 delegates.

FDR got Congress to approve increased readiness for war. A poll showed 60% supported providing Great Britain with ships.

FDR won the 1940 elections with 449 Electoral votes to Willkie’s 82. FDR sought bipartisan cooperation and asked Willkie to travel for him to Great Britain. Willkie gave speeches in favor of the Lend Lease bill which helped gain its passage.


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