If Germany had not gone to war in 1939, but had waited (as I understand his generals urged Hitler to do) until 1941, would Franklin Roosevelt have been elected to an unprecedented third term? Or was FDR’s reelection due to domestic politics as much as the world situation. Would the Democrats have nominated him to begin with, or found another candidate? And if the Republicans had won in 1940, would they have been more isolationist than the Roosevelt administration, which was blatantly hostile to Germany even before 12-7-41?
My reading says the third term was a squeeker. One tends to forget in hindsight that the conservatives of his day didn’t just dislike and disagree with Roosevelt, they flat out hated his guts. Funny thing is, from our perspective, the New Deal wasn’t all that radical, common decency, actually.
One interesting side note I came upon: when Roosevelt got Einstiens letter about the possible use of nuclear power for weapons, he was inclined to dismiss it out of hand, he apparently received delusional plans for super weapons on an almost daily basis. By sheer chance, an intelligence report mentioned that Germany had embargoed the export of Czech uranium.
And the little light went on…
If the Germans had delayed the war, I doubt it would have lead to FDRs defeat. FDR was strongest in the South and in those states likely to have been hurt the most by the depression.
I looked at the electoral results. Rather interesting. FDR carried most of the larger NE states by rather small margins, usually in the range of 3-6%. The actual outcome was 449-82.
I took all states FDR won by less than 10% and gave to Wellkie. Wellkie would have won 288-243. It seems almost impossible to me that FDR would have lost any of those 10%+ states if there had been no war, and several I have mentally switched seems unlikely as well. Just holding Penn in this group, where the spread was 7%, would have reelected FDR.
I might add, seeing some of these vote totals surprised me. Several of the western states I think most people would now consider Republican strongholds, FDR carried by 15% or more. While economic times were still bad, FDR was credited by many with saving their butts.
I thought that FDR only broke the tradition of two terms because there was a war going on and he felt that having the same leadership would be better for the country. If Germany did not start the war until 1941 then Roosevelt might never have run again.
Would Roosevelt have run again? My opinion, yes–even before 9/1/39, he was laying the groundwork. He encouraged several of his subordinates to run to ensure that no clear favorite would emerge, and refused to issue a categorical statement of non-candidacy which would have cleared the field. After Hitler’s takeover of Austria and Czechoslovakia, the international situation was already unsettled enough to provide the necessary “cover” for the 1940 convention to break the “no third term” tradition.
Would he have won? Probably. As it turned out, Willkie and Roosevelt weren’t that far apart on foreign affairs, so the campaign ended up being fought largely on domestic issues and personality anyway. Of course, people do tend to rally around the incumbent in times of crisis (that is, after the fall of France in June 1940), and absent a European war the economy wouldn’t have been doing as well. But I still think FDR could have won.
If the Republicans had won, would they have pursued a more isolationist policy? Well, obviously, it would depend on who the candidate was. Under Willkie, probably not. But absent a war Willkie might not have been the nominee. If Robert Taft had been nominated and elected, and then war had broken out and France had fallen, it might have been tough patooties for Great Britain.
From your perspective, perhaps. From the perspective of others, ‘The New Deal’ was useless load of socialism.
It’s plausible to expect that the Republicans would still have nominated Wendell Willkie, who came fairly close to winning anyway. A corporate lawyer by background, he campaigned against the New Deal’s excesses and promoted business-investment-based actions anyway (never mind how the Depression started) - what, you’re surprised the election was decided by the economy? But he was also a strong, even unrealistic, internationalist, and an early proponent of the UN - as a foundation for a one-world government, nonetheless. It seems unlikely he’d have been more reluctant to enter the war than FDR was - I’d bet the troops and planes would have been on the way to Britain well before Pearl Harbor.
The Democrats would likely have gone with a continuer of the New Deal - no telling who, but let’s say it was Henry Wallace, whom FDR let the 1940 convention nominate as his VP. He was an agrarian populist with isolationist leanings, and became a leader of the US socialist movement after the war. Don’t bet on Wallace, or anyone else the Democrats would have plausibly nominated, to do anything to get the US involved at the expense of expanding social programs. There’s even reason to think that FDR only acted when Eleanor (domestically) or Churchill (internationally) convinced him it was the right thing to do.
Would Willkie have beaten Wallace? I’d guess so - FDR’s personal popularity undoubtedly got him a lot of votes that would not have translated to another candidate.
Any other ideas?