Sunday, October 30, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Wendell Willkie -- Democrat?

Today's campaign collectibles from a calmer time takes us the rather strange 1940 contest -- between two Democrats?
Wendell Willkie was an attorney and business leader in Ohio and most definitely a Democrat -- until 1939, when he realized that Franklin Roosevelt would seek an unprecedented third term.
Willkie changed party affiliations. Ronald Reagan often gets credit for the line "I did not leave my party. My party left me," but Willkie used it first.
The Democratic convention found FDR challenged by his vice president, John Nance Garner, who finished third and found himself bounced from the ticket. He was replaced by Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace -- hence the corn on the pin -- despite Wallace being deemed too liberal and too eccentric.
Willkee was a colorful dark house candidate in a crowded GOP field that included Thomas Dewey, former President Herbert Hoover and Michigan Sen. Arthur Vandenberg. His convention-selected running mate, Senate Minority Charles McNary, was actually the leader of a "Stop Willkie" movement.
With war on the horizon, Roosevelt won handily. But FDR did tap his vanquished rival as an international emissary, and Willkie gave the president his full support -- much to the chagrin of the party he was, in theory, leading.
There was also talk of Willkie accepting Wallace's spot as FDR's vice president in the 1944 election, which eventually went to Harry S. Truman.
Willkie never did make it to that election, dying of a series of heart attacks in October, 1944, at just 52 years old.

The 1940 election spawned all kinds of cool pins given the unprecedented nature of FDR's bid for the third term and the awesome alliteration of Willkie's name.

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