United States presidential election, 1940

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In the United States presidential election of 1940 President Franklin Roosevelt was not as popular as he was four years before. During his term he had tried have legislation passed that would allow him to appoint additional judges to the US Supreme Court in order to secure a majority that agreed with his New Deal proposals. However, Congress rejected his plan, and the number of justices remained nine. Also, his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, was very outspoken and didn't fit the usual First Lady role. Conservatives tended to disapprove of her actions.

In the 1940 campaign, Republican opponent Wendell Willkie charged that Roosevelt had boasted of his part in the appeasement of German Chancellor Adolf Hitler in the Treaty of Munich. Secretary of State Cordell Hull denied this at the time however Hull later admitted [1] that Roosevelt did indeed send a "message to Mussolini" [2] and one to Hitler [3] encouraging negotiation over confrontation.

candidates popular vote electoral vote
Franklin Roosevelt 27,307,819 449
Wendell L. Willkie 22,321,018 82
Norman Thomas 99,557 0
Roger W. Babson 57,812 0
Earl Browder 46,251 0
John W. Aiken 14,892 0



On June 21, while French officials were meeting with Hitler in the Compiegne Forest in the same dining car which Marshal Foch signed the Armistice with Germany in 1918, Republicans were gathering for their nominating convention in Philadelphia. The war was the looming issue. The government had appropriated billions for defense and unemployment from the 1937 Crash was beginning to move down. The Gallup poll showed an 83 percent overwhelming opposition to war. Former President Herbert Hoover addressed the Convention:

In every single case before the rise of totalitarian governments there has been a period dominated by economic planners. Each of these nations had an era under starry-eyed men who believed that they could plan and force the economic life of the people. They believed that was the way to correct abuse or to meet emergencies in systems of free enterprise. They exalted the State as the solvent of all economic problems.

"These men are not Communists or Fascists. But they mixed these ideas into free systems. It is true that Communists and Fascists were round about. They formed popular fronts and gave the applause. These men shifted the relation of government to free enterprise from that of umpire to controller. Directly or indirectly they politically controlled credit, prices, production or industry, farmer and laborer. They devalued, pump-primed and deflated. They controlled private business by government competition, by regulation and by taxes. They met every failure with demands for more and more power and control ... When it was too late they discovered that every time they stretched the arm of government into private enterprise, except to correct abuse, then somehow, somewhere, men's minds became confused. At once men became fearful and hesitant. Initiative slackened, industry slowed down production.[4]


Roosevelt adviser Harry Hopkins took charge of Roosevelt's campaign because he was well acquainted with Democratic leaders while administering relief. Roosevelt’s ambition for a third term was being supported largely by the political machines.[5] Hopkins was in constant communication with the President on every move that was made and with were political bosses Ed Kelly of Chicago, and Frank Hague of Jersey City.

Roosevelt won the Democratic nomination for a third term and the general election.

General election

There were 531 electoral votes. All FDR needed was a majority - 266. He could count on 157 from the Solid South (including Oklahoma and Arizona). He would need only 109 more from the North. The North had 374 electoral votes. He would need only a little over one third of the northern votes and four states could supply this - New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Massachusetts.


  1. Cordell Hull, Memoirs, New York Times, January 26 to March 6, 1948.
  2. President Roosevelt to the Ambassador in Italy (Phillips) with a Message to Mussolini, Telegram, September 27, 1938, U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943, pp. 427).
  3. President Roosevelt to the Chancellor of Germany (Hitler), Telegram, September 27, 1938, U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943, pp. 427-428).
  4. http://www.threeworldwars.com/world-war-2/ww2-background.htm
  5. Edward J. Flynn, "You're The Boss,", New York, Viking pps. 156, 157.