Franklin D. Roosevelt won elections for his first two presidential terms in landslides and became the only U.S. president to win a third and fourth term. However, the Democratic president’s popularity was not universal, neither within his party nor even on his own presidential ticket. His first vice president, John Nance Garner III, was so vehemently opposed to FDR’s policies and his idea of running for an unprecedented third term that Garner entered the 1940 race to be the Democratic nominee for president.
Although Garner had many supporters in the more conservative wing of the Democratic Party, FDR was able to outsmart him, arranging his own “spontaneous” nomination at the 1940 Democratic National Convention. FDR dumped Garner for a new running mate at the convention, and for the rest of FDR and Garner’s tenure together, the relationship between the two men remained decidedly cool.
Garner broke with the presidential agenda
Like many vice-presidential candidates, Garner was one of his party’s presidential primary candidates the year FDR hired him to be his running mate. FDR’s first election was in 1932, a period in which the Democratic Party’s base included both white conservatives in the south and Catholics and immigrants in the north and west. It was an awkward coalition, and bringing in Garner — a conservative Democrat from Texas — helped FDR — who was then governor of New York — build support within his party.
Roosevelt and Garner won the 1932 election in a landslide, overthrowing incumbent President Herbert Hoover, who carried only six states. FDR immediately got to work devising legislation to deal with the Great Depression; and in doing so played a greater role in shaping legislation than any president before him. Garner, who had served in the United States House of Representatives for 30 years and had briefly served as its speaker, used his connections with members of Congress to push for the legislation. At least, the first years.
Garner was an anti-labor conservative who opposed the amount of federal spending in the New Deal. In 1935, Garner grew increasingly dissatisfied with the legislation he was supposed to promote, as FDR pushed forward the Wagner Act, which established the right of workers to unionize; the income law, which introduced a wealth tax; and the Social Security Act – all of which Garner personally opposed.
In 1936, FDR and Garner won a second term in the biggest political landslide since the modern development of the Republican and Democratic parties. Alf Landon, the Republican challenger, carried only two states and received eight electoral votes. However, after this victory, FDR made a series of decisions that weakened him politically.
Roosevelt’s attempt to balance the federal budget helped bring about a short-term recession, and his decision not to consult many people before revealing his 1937 “do the trial” plan eroded some of his popularity. With the president’s popularity declining, Garner made little effort to hide his contempt for the Supreme Court’s plan among members of Congress, writes Robert A. Caro in The Lyndon Johnson Years: The Road to Powerand the plan ultimately failed.
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Garner decides to enter primary school
During FDR’s decline in popularity, “Garner probably felt a little freer to criticize Roosevelt and the Supreme Court’s packing plan, but he was not alone,” says David B. Woolner, professor of history at Marist College and senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.
“We tend to forget that Roosevelt’s greatest enemies in many ways were not the Republicans but the Democrats,” he says. “Conservative Democrats in the South were really hostile to Roosevelt’s New Deal, and Garner represents that same wing of the Democratic Party.”
Garner’s biggest rift with FDR occurred during the 1938 midterm elections, when FDR led what Garner saw as a “purge” of more conservative Democrats in Congress by backing more liberal candidates in the primaries. democrats. Garner considered these conservative Democrats colleagues and friends, and he was angry that FDR supported more liberal candidates.
Shaken by growing speculation that Roosevelt might seek a third term, Garner eventually entered the Democratic primaries in late 1939. According to a Gallop poll in March, 45% of respondents said they would like to see Garner elected president. if Roosevelt didn’t. do not run ; and 53% of Democratic respondents said they opposed FDR’s bid for a third term.
But despite opposition from the conservative wing of the party, Roosevelt remained a powerful and generally still quite popular president. The outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 and the escalation of the war in 1940 may also have made keeping the current president seem like a safer bet.
In any case, Roosevelt ended up beating Garner without even showing up in the primaries (which were still a new development and not yet as important as they would later be in determining a candidate). At the 1940 Democratic National Convention, where FDR staged his own nomination, the incumbent received 946 of the delegate votes, while Garner received 61.
Instead of choosing the vice president who had become openly hostile to his program, FDR chose the far more liberal Henry A. Wallace as his running mate. FDR and Garner finished their terms together, but after Garner left the White House, Woolner said, “I’m not sure the two men ever even spoke to each other again.”