When did FDR announce he was running for a third term and was their any outrage.
There appears to be a lack of serious or strong criticism and I'm trying to understand why. It appears people trusted FDR for a war, and yet America was supposedly very isolationist, so I am having trouble why most Americans would vote for FDR when he appears, to me, very vulnerable to these criticism.
The New York Times had endorsed FDR in 1932 and in 1936 but did not in 1940 and the stated reason was over his Breaking with George Washington's moratorium on a third Term.
New York Times Editorial Page
The doctrine of one man's indispensability is a new doctrine for this country. It is a doctrine which less scrupulous men in Europe have used to root themselves in power. It is a doctrine which we in the United States have good reason to question...
- May 10th, 1940 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain Resigns
- June 4th, 1940 the end of the Battle of DunKirk, collapse of British forces on the Continent.
- June 11, 1940, Italy enter war on side of Axis powers
- June 22, 1940, France surrenders to Nazi Germany
- June 28, 1940, Hitler Tours Paris
- July 10, 1940, Battle of Britain begins
- July 11, 1940, FDR announces he is standing for a third term in office.
- July 15, 1940, The Democratic Convention in Chicago begins
No there was no impactful criticism of FDR for standing for a third term.
In 1932 and 1936 elections FDR won with 57.4% and 60.8% of the popular vote respectively in 1940 he won with 54.7% So the criticism he received did not seriously impact his third nomination.
** 1932 Election Map, Roosevelt lost 6 states**
** 1936 Election Map, Roosevelt lost 2 states**
** 1940 Election Map Roosevelt lost 10 states**
Long before FDR announced global events had proven the United States would require strong leadership to chart the waters before her, and FDR was widely perceived as the nations strongest, most experienced option.
Picture 1: Hitler Tours Paris, June 28, 1940, Shocking the World with an amazing and intimidating quick victory against what was perceived to be a formidable foe
FDR put off his announcement for a third term until nearly the last minute, July 11, 1940. (4 days before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago). He publically refused to campaign for the office. Relying on his overwhelming popularity, local political machines, and unions to carry the day.
The nation was facing a pending crisis with WW II. Germany had shocked the world with their Blitzkrieg attack in Poland and France. More shocking though was when France surrendered June 22, 1940. By pre-war metrics France had the greatest army in the world and when Germany defeated them so quickly WWII took on a new and ominous perspective.
Roosevelt would portray himself as a reluctant victim of extraordinary times who would sacrifice and remain in office for another term. The extraordinary times including the just weeks old fall of Paris became the justification for the extraordinary act. The argument against a third term was handled effectively by Roosevelt own silence on re-election until nearly the last moment, the extraordinary times, and Roosevelt's own considerable popularity. The people who brought it up were Republicans and Liberal Democrats who's voices were not as supported or trusted by main stream voters. Wendell Wilkie the Republican nominee in 1940 chose not to use the third term issue during the campaign and thus it never got much traction.
The most serious opposition to Roosevelt's third term came from within the Democratic Party over his VP nominatee and had more to do with an FDR ultimatum after having painted himself into a corner than it did to opposition to a third term.
More detailed Answer:
This might be a technicality but Roosevelt didn't technically run for a third term, rather he stood for a third term. Roosevelt was approached by the Democratic Party to Run for a third term because with WWII raging in Europe, and Imperial Japan threatening in the Pacific, Democratic Party leaders believed the Nation needed FDR's experienced hand at the wheel. Having a new President come in to face these challenges while learning the ropes, they deemed potentially existentially catastrophic for the nation.
By outward appearances Roosevelt had been preparing for retirement in 1940.
Why and How, FDR Ran for his third term in office
- He never spoken out against the prohibition on a third term.
- He begun work on his Presidential library
- He had also begun work on a Presidential retreat with offices near his library.
- He had personally begun transferring his papers and momentous to his Library from the white house
- He had agreed to a lucrative contract to write articles for Colliers magazine after his second term concluded.
- He was preparing to write his memoirs and had gotten his two closest aids to agree to move to Hyde Park to assist him (Harry Hopkins and Sam Rosenman)
- His health was not very good, FDR had experienced a heart attack in Feb of 1940, which was not public knowledge.
Roosevelt took some time to think about it. At first he was non committal, he even told leading Democratic candidates that they should get into the race as he would not be seeking a third term. Then he went silent refusing to answer any questions on a third term. Political cartoonists portrayed him as a Sphinx, remaining quiet and deflecting any inquiries on a third term. Ultimately though Roosevelt did commit to seeking a third term, 4 days before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and about two weeks after the surrender of France to the Nazi's in Europe.
Picture 2: FDR widely portrayed as silent as an Egyptian Sphinx in the press on a third term
Picture 3: Another FDR as Sphinx, referring to his silence on standing for a third term until Days before the National Democratic Convention, July 15, 1940.
FDR could ultimately not find another Democratic Candidate who he believed could win, who also supported his positions with respect to the raging War in Europe and in China. So FDR froze the Democratic Field for more than a year, with his silence, had a long (2 hour conversation) with Supreme Court Judge Felix Frankfurter on the legality.. and plunged in.
FDR's response to Democratic Party bosses who had been trying to get him to run, was that he would stand for re-election if that's what the Democratic Party wanted, but he would not campaign for re-election. If his third term was done for national necessity then the nation would have to support it without him campaigning which he deemed unseemly. Roosevelt portrayed himself as a reluctant candidate, who was responding to the nations needs in extraordinary times. Roosevelt was one of the most popular presidents in history and he had no rival on the Republican side so this concession(not campaigning) was not deemed significant on the part of Democratic Leadership. The thought was if he showed up he would win handily. Still FDR did work behind the scenes to "manage" challengers in the democratic party. He also received daily even hourly reports on such important meetings like the DNC Chicago convention, which he refused to attend.
The Republican opposing FDR in 1940 was a business leader called Wendell Wilkie who shared more issues in common with Rosevelt than issues they disagreed on. Wilkie had been a Democrat all his life and had only changed parties in 1939. Wilkie had come to national fame representing (lawyer for) Commonwealth and Southern Corporation (C&SC) which owned important land where Rosevelt wanted to build the Tennessee Valley Authority(a centerpiece of the New Deal). Through Wilkie's negotiations with the government he was able to nearly double the price the government was offering for the land which brought him to national prominence in the Republican Party. In the 1940 campaign while Roosevelt wasn't outwardly campaigning, Wendel Wilkie came at Roosevelt on two core issues.
(1) That Roosevelt was trying to get the United States into WWII. (used late in the campaign)
(2) That Roosevelt's new deal did not go far enough to end the Great Depression.
The first issue gained enough traction during the campaign season that it forced Roosevelt to pledge famously that he would not send American Boys to fight in a Foreign war. Which of coarse was a difficult statement for Roosevelt to make with what we know today. FDR was actively taking steps behind the scenes to support Britain some moves which were frankly illegal. After Pearl Harbor, when Japan and Germany declared war on the United States before any such declaration was made by the United States, Roosevelt took political heat for breaking his pledge. FDR responded that once the US was attacked and war was declared by the opposition it was no longer a foreign war. FDR explained he thus did not break his pledge. This subtlety was not entirely accepted at the time or by history; but the country was in nationalistic fever after Pearl Harbor and for the most part the country moved on to the business of defeating the axis. That controversial pledge though was a result of Wendle Wilkie's traction on non interventionism campaign issue.
The second issue was more nuanced. While Roosevelt's New Deal was able to get the GDP growing again in his first 12 months in office thus ending the great depression in 1934, high unemployment and sluggish economic numbers still plagued the nation. These factors are what Wilkie tried to exploit in his criticism of FDR's economic policies. They weren't entirely effective for Wilkie though because he was a business leader, and businessmen like himself were widely believed by the public to have been part of the problem and obstacles to the solution. Roosevelt's new deal was wildly popular, and while some on the left felt it didn't go far enough, this was not a criticism which folks to the left could hear from a Republican businessman who had become famous for opposing the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The final and largest Crisis for FDR's re-election in 1940 came at the Convention. FDR who was not technically / actively campaigning for office elected not to appear at the Democratic Convention. He stayed away although he followed the convention through proxies actively. FDR was renominated for the Presidency on the first ballot which was impressive. But then FDR got a little a head of himself. FDR's most serious challenge inside the party came from the left who had agreed with Wilkie on the New Deal not going far enough. So FDR nominated the very liberal Henry Wallace to the Vice Presidency which enraged many of his more centrist party supporters. When opposition to Wallace became apparent FDR doubled down and said unless Wallace was on the ticket he would not accept the Parties nomination. This further enraged the convention. If FDR was able to address the convention it's perhaps something which he could have placated, but because he had also said he would not address the convention, and would not attend the convention as it would be unseemly given he was "reluctantly" breaking with tradition seeking his third term, this option was blocked from him. Ultimately he sent Eleanor Roosevelt to Chicago in 1940. Eleanore, the first wife of a Presidential Candidate to give an address to the Convention was able to settle things down. She also was able to meet with offended democratic party delegates off the floor and also assure them the President had heard their concerns. And thus Eleanor Roosevelt was able to fix the most serious Democratic objections and obstacle to FDR's third Term. George Wallace would be dropped from the ticket in favor of Harry Truman in 1944 election in which FDR would win his unprecedented 4th term.
On France widely believed to be stronger army than Germany in Sept 1939
In the Battle of France, France had a larger, more experienced and arguable better equipped army than did Nazi Germany.
French Army's Perceived Advantages over the German Army in 1939
- Size of Army
- Number of tanks
- Tank Armor
- Tank gun
- Number of Artillery tubes
- Defensive Fortifications
The National Interest
The fall of France in 1940, one of the 20th century’s most consequential disasters, wasn’t supposed to have happened. The French military was larger — on paper — and technologically superior to its German enemy.
Battle of France article
France had spent a higher percentage of its GNP from 1918 to 1935 on its military than other great powers and the government had added a large rearmament effort in 1936.
Size of the Armies
The German Army in the Second World War
When the German Army mounted its Western Offensive in 1940, it had had 2.5 million men and 2,500 tanks. Whereas the French Army had the ability to mobilize 5 million men,
French Armed Forces 1939
The French Army was mobilized on 1 September 1939: about 5,000,000 reservists were to be added to the standing army of 900,000 men.
The French Army outnumbered the Wehrmacht by well over a million troops.
French Tank Superiority
Battle of France article
The French army was also more motorized than its opponent, which still relied on horses. Although the Belgians, British and Dutch had few tanks, the French had 3,254 tanks, larger than the German tank fleet.
- French tanks outnumbering the Wehrmacht.
- French top tanks were heavier, better armored with bigger guns than the German top tanks
The National Interest
The French S35 and the heavier Char B1 were heavier armed — and armored — than equivalent German tanks, most of them light Panzer Is and IIs and augmented by a smaller number of medium Panzer III and IVs.
A 47-millimeter cannon was its main armament(On French Char B1 Tank). That was formidable in 1940.
Tanks in France
In the Battle of France, despite an advantage in number and armor against the Germans, the French tanks were not used to good enough effect. Ironically, cooperation with the infantry was poor. The Cavalry units alone were too few in number.
In armour and firepower, French tanks were generally not inferior to their German counterparts. In one incident, a single Char B1 "Eure" was able to destroy thirteen German tanks within a few minutes in Stonne on 16 May 1940, all of them Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks. The 37mm and 20mm guns the Germans used were ineffective at penetrating the thick armour of the B1, which was able to return safely despite being hit a large number of times.5 Even German General Rommel was surprised at how the French tanks withstood the German tank shells and had to resort to using the German 88 artillery as antitank guns against the French tanks to knock them out.
Setbacks the French military suffered were more related to strategy, tactics and organisation than technology and design. Almost 80 percent of French tanks did not have radios, since the battle doctrine employed by the French military was more a slow-paced, deliberate conformance to planned maneuvers.9 French tank warfare was often restricted with tanks being assigned for infantry support. Unlike Germany, which had special Panzerwaffe divisions, France did not separate tanks from the Infantry arm, and were unable to respond quickly to the Blitzkrieg tactics employed by the Germans, which involved rapid movement, mission-type orders and combined-arms tactics.10
- After the victory of WWI, the French army enjoyed great prestige.
They were widely perceived as the backbone of the allies in WWI and widely perceived to be the most professional military in the world during the interwar period, right up until the battle of France in 1940.
- French army has seen action putting down several rebellions across Africa, the middle east and Asia in the interwar period,
- French military leadership was experienced, many having fought in WWI and in other smaller actions.
Battle of France article
British artillery strength amounted to 1,280 guns, Belgium fielded 1,338 guns, the Dutch 656 guns and France 10,700 guns, giving an Allied total of about 14,000 guns, 45 percent more than the German total.
- France had 10.700 artillery pieces alone, more than Germany.
- France also had the strongest fortress ever built, at the time: the maginot line.
- French Airforce had over 2900 planes(1,114 fighters, 1,002 bombers). All modern most were built after 1934. Some historians believe Germans only advantage was superior air, but even this is not a consensus opinion.
So how did France lose and lose so big? French leadership was trying to fix mistakes they had made in WWI and believed any new war would play out as the last war had. France expected a slow moving defensive war, while the Germans were strategizing for a war of mobility with integrated air, armor and infantry. In WWII french leadership had built the strongest fortifications ever which they deemed would give them a further edge in any war. Only the Germans bypassed the Maginot line and used a new tactic called Blitzkrieg which combined air, armor, and infantry in tandem to out maneuver their enemy. It's basically the same tactics the American general Shwartzkauf used in the first gulf war. This new type of warfare caught the French entirely off guard and they had no answer for it.