Has campaign rhetoric changed much in 72 years?
In 1940, Republican lawyer Wendell Willkie challenged President Franklin Roosevelt's bold bid for a third term. Campaigning against New Deal spending, Willkie argued that FDR's budget had been wasteful — dangerous, even — hemorrhaging money through public works while neglecting the military.
Granted, it was a different era with different issues, but the Republican attacks strike a familiar cadence:
"Greater spending, greater debts, increasing taxes! Already the national debt is at record highs.…
"Let us rid ourselves of our new deal failure before it is too late, let us end wasteful spending and return to the good old American sanity and economy. All Americans must unite to stop the new deal, with it's lust for power to perpetuate itself in office for another four years."
Labeling opponents' ideas in apocalyptic terms ("before it's too late") is a consistent thread throughout the history of American politics. But at least Wendell Willkie can give us some hope for a buried hatchet for the current contenders.
Willkie lost the to Roosevelt by 5 million popular votes and 367 in the Electoral College. But after the defeat, he became something of an ally to the third-term president, calling for the support of Roosevelt's controversial Lend-Lease Act (which supplied Allied nations with military equipment before the U.S. entered the war). FDR even tapped him to serve as a diplomat.
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