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Why was FDR allowed to serve four terms? (Short Animated Documentary)

3 minutes 16 seconds

Speaker 1

00:00:00 - 00:00:33

It's well known that a US president can only serve 2 terms. But as most of you watching will know, there is 1 very notable exception to this. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who served 4 terms between 1933 and 1945, which was when he took the important constitutional decision to die. But given that every president before and after him had only served a maximum of 2 terms, how did the American people react to him doing this and did anybody try to stop him? Now, the two-term limit presidents abided by originated with George Washington, who, towards the end of his second term, realised that he hated his job and so opted not to run again.

Speaker 1

00:00:33 - 00:00:55

He did this not because he believed that there should be a two-term limit, but that leaders should be willing to hand over power without fuss. And later, when it became clear that John Adams wasn't going to win a second term, some of Washington's supporters asked for him to run for a third. He said no because he was too busy being happily retired and many saw this as Washington condemning third terms. But this was just convention, not law. So did any other presidents try to run for a third term?

Speaker 1

00:00:55 - 00:01:10

Well, yes, quite a few of them. The first president to openly flirt with breaking the convention was Ulysses S. Grant. However, his party refused to nominate him. After this, Grover Cleveland was offered a third run in 1896 by his party, but he was well aware that everybody hated him at this point and so he declined.

Speaker 1

00:01:11 - 00:01:33

So, the first president with any genuine hope of being re-elected to a third term was none other than Theodore Roosevelt. He was offered a third term by his party but he refused, wanting to respect Washington's precedent. However, when he realised his success had sucked, he tried to win the Republican nomination again but they stayed with William Taft. As such, new party, the Bull Moose Party. He ran against Taft, split the vote and managed a respectable second place to Woodrow Wilson.

Speaker 1

00:01:33 - 00:01:56

Wilson had hoped for a third term but his party refused to nominate him, meaning that up until FDR the convention stayed intact. So what exactly changed with Roosevelt? Well, with World War II raging in Europe, FDR believed that his opponent and professional stupid name-haver Wendell Willkie would leave Britain to its fate and also undo his New Deal policies. What made this time different was that his party agreed. Now, as you can guess, a third run was quite contentious.

Speaker 1

00:01:56 - 00:02:29

The Republican Party accused Roosevelt of being a dictator-in-waiting and that a third term was un-American. Broadly though, most Americans were much more concerned with navigating through the tumultuous times, and ultimately Roosevelt was seen as more trustworthy in economic and foreign policy matters than Wilkie, which is why he won the 1940 election handily. He ran for and won a fourth term, which shocked precisely 0 people, but he died shortly afterwards, And by 1947 there were many politicians in both parties who were concerned that long-running presidents could lead to national stagnancy. This political concern is why the 22nd Amendment was put forward. This banned presidents from serving for more than 2 terms.

Speaker 1

00:02:29 - 00:03:02

The 22nd amendment had 1 exception, Harry Truman. This was because he was already president and so he was allowed to run again if he wanted. He tried, but his unpopularity soon made it clear that his party would have preferred to elect literally anybody else and so he stood down, thereby ending the last attempt at there ever being a three-term president. I hope you enjoyed this episode with a special thanks to my patrons... Cassow Spencer Lightfoot, Winston K.

Speaker 1

00:03:02 - 00:03:02

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