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Newstalgia Reference Room: Wendell Willkie - June 28, 1940

(Wendell Willkie - not what the country, or many Republicans had in mind at the time) Another voice most people (at least of a certain age) have ne
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(Wendell Willkie - not what the country, or many Republicans had in mind at the time)

Another voice most people (at least of a certain age) have never heard. Wendell Willkie was the ill-fated dark horse Republican candidate for President during the 1940 elections. Willkie was a former Democrat and Wall Street lawyer who broke with FDR over the New Deal and switched parties. His winning of the nomination came as a surprise to the Republican base, who were betting on either Thomas E. Dewey or Robert A. Taft to clinch the nomination. But the idea of "changing horses in mid-stream" (a popular campaign phrase) and the War in Europe added to a feeling of anxiety at the thought of a change of parties in the White House. Even so, the margin of victory for FDR was narrower than the previous election. After his defeat, Willkie wound up being recruited by FDR and was a staunch supporter of Lend-Lease program and aid to the Allies prior to our involvement in the War as well an early supporter of Civil Rights before his death in 1944.

Here is Willkie's acceptance speech at the Republican Convention on June 28, 1940.

Wendell Willkie: “I stand before you without a single pledge or promise or understanding of any kind except for the advancement of your cause and the preservation of American democracy”.

Not exactly the most calming of words in retrospect. France had fallen to the Germans a few days earlier. The Blitz was in full force over England and there was a very real threat of impending invasion. For isolationists, it was probably good news, but the majority of Americans had big doubts.

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