Roosevelt, from Munich to Pearl Harbor: A Study in the Creation of a Foreign Policy

By Basil Rauch | Go to book overview

9.
"Because America Exists"

FROM LATE JUNE TO NOVEMBER 6, 1940, THE PRESIDENTIAL campaign interposed in the development of Roosevelt's new policy of aid to the Allies. Ordinarily, politicians dread untried issues when they appeal to the electorate for another term in office. Such issues arouse fears which lend themselves temptingly to exploitation by the opposition, simply because they are new. It is safer to concentrate on ancient and universally accepted principles.


The Third-Term Decision

Besides this tradition of passivity at election time that Roosevelt had to overthrow, he decided to challenge the deep-seated prejudice against a third term. Dozens of explanations have been offered for his final decision to make this challenge, most of them flattering or contemptuous in strict accordance with their authors' prior attitudes towards the President and his policies, but none of them separates out what may have been the most important specific factor. He had been led by the necessities of the hour to sketch, in May and June, a design for American rearmament and aid to the Allies which could not be filled out for months to come. If he refused nomination for a third term at the Democratic Convention early in July, his decision would throw into doubt the fulfillment of the design not merely after January, 1941, but instantaneously. This was inevitable because the Democratic Party was split into factions with varying attitudes towards foreign policy, and the struggle for power among them, no matter who was nominated, would postpone firm determinations regarding the continu

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