Theo Lippman Jr.

October 15, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The election of 1940, the 39th, saw what many regarded as a sacred tradition broken. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to a third term. Since George Washington had declined a third term in 1796, no president had been renominated, much less re-elected, after serving two terms.

FDR coyly told delegates to the Democratic convention that he did not desire to run again -- but he did not repudiate a draft movement. He trounced the other would-be nominees, including his own vice president and a member of his cabinet.

Republicans nominated Wendell Willkie, a utility executive who had never held office and who had been a Democrat until 1938. Willkie supported much of the New Deal, and the Republican platform was in agreement with the Democrats' on the issue that was becoming more important than domestic policies in 1940: World War II. Both parties favored the democracies and accelerated defense preparedness but no participation in the war.

Willkie attacked FDR for seeking a third term and for consolidating power in the presidency. He got 7 million more votes than his party's candidate got in 1936, but Roosevelt still won a comfortable 10-point, 38-state victory.

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