The Charlotte News

Tuesday, July 16, 1940



Third Term

Mr. Roosevelt's Motives And His Chance To Win

So far as the rank and file of the Democratic politicians gathered at Chicago are concerned, the explanation of the forthcoming renomination of Mr. Roosevelt for a third term is easy and simple. It is just that they believe that Mr. Roosevelt is the man with the best chance of being elected as against Mr. Willkie. And the first principle of politicians is that the party must always win.

They may hate the man who they believe has the best chance to lead the party to victory, may despise everything he stands for, may gravely doubt that he is the man to do the best thing for the country. All the same, they will back him without hesitancy, for the party must be in power if there are to be jobs for themselves and their clients.

To be sure, most Democratic politicians appear to esteem their present leader. But they would swallow their dislikes and disapproval if that served their personal interest.

As for Mr. Roosevelt himself, his desire to be renominated is probably based on three things. First, his reluctance to give up the power which he thoroughly enjoys. He may be tired. He looks tired in all his late photographs and no doubt there are moments when he wishes that he were simply the Squire of Hyde Park again. But by and large, the love of power and glory, strong in all Roosevelts, is the dominant factor in his nature, and undoubtedly has a great deal to do with his decision to run again.

Second factor is probably his fear that the reforms of his Administration will be sabotaged and destroyed if a man not under his control comes into power. Part of that is itself probably to be charged to vanity and his concern for his place in history. But undoubtedly part of it is also the firm conviction that these reforms are right and necessary and that he alone can be trusted to carry them out in an understanding spirit.

A third factor is his obvious conviction that he alone is fitted by experience and knowledge to direct the nation in dealing with the menace of Hitlerism.

As for the second consideration, his reforms, he is probably unnecessarily concerned. There are elements in the country, of course, which are still unreconciled to the Roosevelt liberalism even in principle. But Mr. Willkie has made it quite plain that he is not their champion, and these elements are not likely to be in the saddle, whoever wins.

Most of the Roosevelt reforms are probably here to stay, anyhow. What is to be expected is that they will be modified and consolidated into a coherent whole. But that would have to come in any case. Mr. Roosevelt's apparent conviction that only he can see them through is not borne out by the record. The plain fact is that the administration of the reforms has been exceedingly poor, that often they have been made to operate at cross purposes and always they have been made to cost too much and to involve too much unnecessary irritation. A part of the hatred for them which obtains in some circles is certainly due to just that.

As for the third factor, the taste for power, it represents, of course, Mr. Roosevelt's best chance to be re-elected. From the standpoint of experience and knowledge, he certainly is the best qualified man in the country to appraise the perilous foreign situation. He has correctly diagnosed the case of the European war and its relation to us from the beginning, and if the leaders of the country had not stubbornly refused to listen to him months ago, we might not now be in the position we are in. Against that, however, is the fact that he has certain faults which make him less than perfectly qualified for leadership in foreign relations and for the rapid building of an adequate defense.

One of them is a kind of vague grandiloquence, a fondness for vast and nebulous schemes which exceed what is necessary and which are of very doubtful practicality. Another is his tendency to take words for deeds, and to think that appropriating billions will solve everything. Still another is his tendency to let political considerations interfere too much with things which plainly ought to be done.

Nevertheless, many millions of Americans see him as overwhelmingly the best bet against the Hitler menace. And if Hitlerism is the most pressing concern of the country in November, that sentiment may well carry him over. On the other hand, if the greatest concern of the country at that time is with more purely domestic matters, he is likely to be beaten by Willkie.


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