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View Full Version : 1940 election if FDR hadn't run


Little Nemo
09-01-2011, 02:12 PM
Let's say that Roosevelt had not run for a third term in 1940. Assume that tradition was too strong or there was an earlier version of the 22nd Amendment in effect. So he's stepping down but otherwise everything is the same as it was in real history.

Who would have been the Democratic nominee in 1940? There were some challenges against Roosevelt: Vice President John Nance Garner and Postmaster General James Farley (who had been Roosevelt's campaign manager in past elections) sought the nomination. Senator Millard Tydings and Secretary of State Cordell Hull also got some votes at the Democratic Convention. If Roosevelt had been running, would one of these men have become the nominee? Or would some other prominent Democrat (maybe Senator Burton Wheeler or Speaker of the House William Bankhead) have stepped forward with Roosevelt out of the running?

Would any of these men have been able to beat Wendell Willkie? Would Willkie have even been the Republican nominee?

And how would American history have been different is somebody else had been President from 1941 to 1945 (obviously a critical period in world history)?

etv78
09-01-2011, 04:27 PM
Can't guess on the nominee. But assuming he was healthier than FDR, the postwar period would have been somewhat different, mostly because the bomb would've been known to the President longterm, and not a few weeks (if that).

Bartman
09-01-2011, 05:03 PM
Can't guess on the nominee. But assuming he was healthier than FDR, the postwar period would have been somewhat different, mostly because the bomb would've been known to the President longterm, and not a few weeks (if that).
My guess as to the likely candidate would have been John Garner who ran against FDR while serving as his VP. He was getting most of the support in early polling and was considered the front runner.

In that case it would have been a interesting race where the the Republican Wilkie was a former Democrat and both candidates would be running against FDR's New Deal. Garner probably still picks up the win, it is difficult to imagine the Republicans winning in 1940 regardless of candidates.

kunilou
09-01-2011, 05:11 PM
You're forgetting Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace, who ended up being Roosevelt's choice for VP on the ticket.

Most likely, it would have been a typical Democratic convention of the era, with favorite-son candidates, multiple ballots (it took four ballots for FDR to win the nomination in 1932 and Adlai Stevenson three ballots in 1952), and plenty of back-room deals (which is how Garner wound up as VP.) So that question is pretty much unanswerable.

As for the eventual nominee vs. Wilkie, Wilkie was an internationalist, but the Republican Party as a whole leaned toward isolationism. The Dems also had strong support because of the New Deal. I think a Demo would have won the election, but not carrying 38 states.

Little Nemo
09-01-2011, 05:58 PM
Can't guess on the nominee. But assuming he was healthier than FDR, the postwar period would have been somewhat different, mostly because the bomb would've been known to the President longterm, and not a few weeks (if that).That's assuming there was a bomb. A different president might not have funded the Manhattan project.

Little Nemo
09-01-2011, 06:02 PM
You're forgetting Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace, who ended up being Roosevelt's choice for VP on the ticket.I find it hard to believe Wallace could have gotten the nomination for President. He was considered (correctly) to be way off to the left by the party leadership. Wallace barely got the Vice Presidential nomination and Roosevelt had to push that through.

colonial
09-01-2011, 07:02 PM
Can't guess on the nominee. But assuming he was healthier than FDR, the postwar period would have been somewhat different, mostly because the bomb would've been known to the President longterm, and not a few weeks (if that).
What do you mean by this?

Fission was discovered (in Germany) in 1939, and, prompted by Albert Einstein's personal appeal,
FDR ordered formation of a group to study the possibility of nuclear weapons. However, FDR died
in 4/45, and the bomb was not tested until about three months later, in 7/45. Therefore the bomb
was not "known" "longterm" as a reality by anyone prior to its use. On the other hand, whoever was
elected president in 1940 would have been aware of the bomb's potential for development.

colonial
09-01-2011, 07:15 PM
I have read that Wendell Willkie was a staunch supporter of the UK,
going so far as to testify in favor of Lend Lease.

etv78
09-01-2011, 07:50 PM
What do you mean by this?

Fission was discovered (in Germany) in 1939, and, prompted by Albert Einstein's personal appeal,
FDR ordered formation of a group to study the possibility of nuclear weapons. However, FDR died
in 4/45, and the bomb was not tested until about three months later, in 7/45. Therefore the bomb
was not "known" "longterm" as a reality by anyone prior to its use. On the other hand, whoever was
elected president in 1940 would have been aware of the bomb's potential for development.

What I meant: Truman only learned of the bomb after FDRs death.

kunilou
09-01-2011, 08:40 PM
I find it hard to believe Wallace could have gotten the nomination for President. He was considered (correctly) to be way off to the left by the party leadership. Wallace barely got the Vice Presidential nomination and Roosevelt had to push that through.

But he would almost certainly have been Iowa's favorite son candidate, also getting support from the farmer-labor (i.e., progressive) factions of the party in Midwest. In short, he would have been one of the smoke-filled room power brokers.

Tom Tildrum
09-02-2011, 10:22 AM
I find it hard to believe Wallace could have gotten the nomination for President. He was considered (correctly) to be way off to the left by the party leadership. Wallace barely got the Vice Presidential nomination and Roosevelt had to push that through.

In some ways, the more interesting counterfactual is what might have happened if Roosevelt/Wallace won in 1940, but FDR had died before the next election. I don't imagine the conduct of the war would have changed tha much, but would a President Wallace have handled the outset of the Cold War differently?

astorian
09-02-2011, 10:41 AM
Worth noting: not only did the Republicans nominate a Liberal internationalist New Yorker (Wendell Willkie), the runner-up was ALSO a liberal internationalist New Yorker (Tom Dewey).

The isolationists weren't as strong as they're often assumed to have been.

Little Nemo
09-02-2011, 12:59 PM
In some ways, the more interesting counterfactual is what might have happened if Roosevelt/Wallace won in 1940, but FDR had died before the next election. I don't imagine the conduct of the war would have changed tha much, but would a President Wallace have handled the outset of the Cold War differently?I once thought about writing an AH story on this premise. My idea was that a Wallace administration would have been pro-Soviet and the post-war realignment would have been a turn against Britain and its Empire (there historically was a lot of American ill will towards British imperialism). The fifties would have had a cold war between the Americans and the Soviets against the British and the French with proxy "wars of liberation" being fought in the third world. HUACC would have been investigating people on suspicions of having Imperialist sympathies and the Iron Curtain would have run along the Canadian border.

Little Nemo
09-02-2011, 01:13 PM
Worth noting: not only did the Republicans nominate a Liberal internationalist New Yorker (Wendell Willkie), the runner-up was ALSO a liberal internationalist New Yorker (Tom Dewey).

The isolationists weren't as strong as they're often assumed to have been.My understanding is that Dewey wasn't much of an internationalist. In general, he ran on a platform of domestic issues. His foreign policy was basically that the war in Europe wasn't an American problem.

When Dewey first began running for President, that was a good position to hold. Most Americans believed the same thing. Dewey's main competition was coming from people like Taft and Vandenberg, who were also isolationists.

But then France fell in the summer of 1940 and American suddenly started worrying that this war was more serious than the first world war. Voters now wanted somebody with foreign policy experience who would "do something" about Europe. Roosevelt, who had been arguing for doing something all along, obviously benefited from this change in public opinion. The Republicans front runners all now looked out of touch and it was this that created an opening for Willkie who, like Roosevelt, was a confirmed interventionist.

Little Nemo
09-02-2011, 01:17 PM
As for the New York connection, Roosevelt was a New Yorker. So was Farley, his closest challenger for the Democratic nomination. So was Willkie, the Republican nominee. So was Dewey, his closest challenger for the Republican nomination. And so was Norman Thomas, the Socialist candidate who came in third in the general election.

Tom Tildrum
09-02-2011, 04:26 PM
That sounds like a great story about Wallace. Getting back to the OP, would Truman have been a non-factor if FDR had not run in 1940?

Left Hand of Dorkness
09-02-2011, 04:36 PM
The Plot Against America (http://www.amazon.com/Plot-Against-America-Novel/dp/0618509283) imagines Lindbergh defeating FDR and signing a nonaggression pact with Hitler. Pretty compelling book.

kunilou
09-02-2011, 04:40 PM
Getting back to the OP, would Truman have been a non-factor if FDR had not run in 1940?

Truman was a still a first-term Senator in 1940, considered to be a tool of Kansas City's Pendergast machine and probably wouldn't even have been re-elected without the last-minute support of the St. Louis party apparatus. He wouldn't have had any national standing at all if it weren't for his Senate oversight committee work during the war.

2sense
09-02-2011, 06:54 PM
In the scenario laid out in the OP, FDR would still be alive and still be the most powerful Democrat. He wasn't exactly known for his reluctance to meddle. He would have had a big say in his successor. I'm reading that Traitor to His Class book right now. According to the author, Roosevelt was considering Harry Hopkins before committing to run again.

Beware of Doug
09-02-2011, 10:27 PM
As for the New York connection, Roosevelt was a New Yorker. So was Farley, his closest challenger for the Democratic nomination. So was Willkie, the Republican nominee. So was Dewey, his closest challenger for the Republican nomination. And so was Norman Thomas, the Socialist candidate who came in third in the general election.You probably cannot underestimate the importance of New York in progressive political thought in the pre-WW2 era - Democratic or Republican. We were in an embryonic information era, I think, where you had to be geographically close to the centers of the media (ie: New York) to take any real advantage of it.