“There are only three certainties in this world,” as the saying used to go, “death, taxes, and Roosevelt.” On July 11, 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt further solidified this idiom by becoming the first — and only — U.S. president to announce he would seek a fourth term in office.
In the midst of World War II, Roosevelt decided the country would be best be served with consistency in the executive branch. Unlike in 1940 when he did not openly campaign for re-election, and allowed himself to be drafted at the Democratic Convention, the President declared that he would seek an unprecedented fourth term in the 1944 election.
At the time, The Saturday Evening Post was skeptical of Roosevelt’s performance, calling the New Deal “dictatorial, inept and bumble-puppyish” and his foreign relations puzzling. In a July 22, 1944, editorial that appeared after Roosevelt made his announcement, the Post was particularly critical of Americans’ support of FDR’s foreign policy: “Where, the goggle-eyed voters will be asked, can you find a Republican qualified to chat about matters of state beside Winston Churchill’s bathtub?”
But the Post’s disfavor couldn’t stop the Roosevelt campaign. In selecting a vice president, Roosevelt favored his then VP, Henry A. Wallace, to continue on the ticket in 1944, but when the conservative members of his party objected to Wallace, Roosevelt leaned toward James Byrnes instead. When the more liberal wing of the party objected to Byrnes, Roosevelt chose the middle-of-the-road option, Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman.
Roosevelt would go on to win the presidency; however, he would not finish his term. He succumbed to cerebral hemorrhage in April of 1945, leaving the rest of his term, and the end of the Second World War, to President Truman.
On February 27, 1951, the states would ratify the 22nd Amendment, thereby enshrining in law that presidents could serve only two terms. The Amendment guaranteed Roosevelt’s legacy as the longest serving president in American history.
Featured image: The Life of Franklin D Roosevelt, Archives New Zealand
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