FDR. A Third Term and Beyond.

At a moment in time when the President of the United States has a current approval rating of only 38% (FiveThirtyEight) after only 6 months…it’s rather hard to believe the story of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

On this day, in 1940, President Roosevelt was nominated for an unprecedented third term. Roosevelt was originally elected in 1932. His election came at a time when the United States was living through the Great Depression and incumbent President Herbert Hoover was to blame.

In his first election, Roosevelt won 472 electoral votes to Hoover’s 59. He carried 42 states. Growing up through the Presidencies of Bush 43 and Barack Obama — it’s hard to believe our nation was ever that unified.

Roosevelt would go on to be elected to a second term. This time, he won 523 electoral votes to the Governor of Kansas, Alf Landon’s 8. He only needed 266 to win.

In his third term, he faces Wendell Willkie who would give him his toughest challenge yet. Roosevelt defeated Willkie with 449 electoral votes to Willkie’s 82.

As most all of us know, Franklin Roosevelt would be the only President to serve more than two terms.

This is all fairly basic information. The real question though, is how? In the middle of the Great Depression, and on the brink of finally entering WWII, it was clear that Roosevelt was our guy.

During his first term he enacted his New Deal platform. I’ve written about this before. But, in short, it was a buffet of social programs to lift America up and out of economic peril. But, that’s not groundbreaking information.

Now, Roosevelt did face some criticism in running for a third term. It had never been done before. There was a sort of unwritten rule in American politics. It said that a President should only serve for two terms. This was built from the suggestion of President Washington in 1796 when he declined a third term.

But, Roosevelt felt it was his duty as the leader of this nation to finish the job. He wanted to lead us through Europe and defeat the rise of Nazi Germany. He would spend the bulk of his third term winning that war.

In 1944, Roosevelt would go on to be elected to his fourth term in office. Roosevelt defeated New York Governor Thomas Dewey. Though Dewey did give him some trouble. Roosevelt only won 432 electoral votes to Dewey’s 99. This is, of course, still a wide margin. But, nearly a 7 percent decrease in terms of popular voting. It really makes you wonder how long Roosevelt could have kept going.

The nation had decided to remain with Roosevelt. They didn’t see it a fitting decision to change leaders, much less parties, in the middle of a war. Plus, they were winning and the nation was thriving. Furthermore, the Republican’s biggest criticism was merely an advocacy for a smaller government and Roosevelt’s health. They even decided to change their platform to represent the approval of international treaties.

Unfortunately, Roosevelt’s fourth term would be short lived. On April 12, 1945, Roosevelt died at the age of 63 years old. He suffered from multiple health issues. The official cause of death was an Intracerebral Hemorrhage.

He would leave this nation better than he found it. And, in my historical opinion, as one of the greatest President’s to ever serve our nation.

Upon his death, President Harry S. Truman would take over and play an extremely integral role in our nation. But, that might be for another blog.

Following his death, on March 21, 1947, Congress would pass the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which stated that no person could be elected to the office of President more than twice. The amendment would be ratified by 1951.

I do my best to keep this blog specifically factual. But, in my human nature, opinions tend to follow. So, here’s the question: If an elected President is continuously elected to office in a free and fair election — is that not the decision of the people? Shouldn’t we be allowed to decide if we want to stick with our guy?

Maybe it’s different today. With the state of campaign finance and controlled power it’s possible that Amendment 22 is necessary. I’ve just always found it intriguing that we limit our democratic rights in this way.

As always, I like to learn. And learning happens through conversation. So, let me know what you think. It is rare that we challenge the ways of old. So, let’s open up the box.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed.

-History Hero


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