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Other titles in the Pivotal Moments in American History series:
Roosevelt's Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War (Pivotal Moments in American History)by Richard Moe
Synopses & Reviews
Countless histories have been written about Franklin Roosevelt's creation of the New Deal and about his leadership during World War II, but none has attempted to bridge these two epochal events. In Roosevelt's Second Act, Richard Moe offers a refreshingly original look 32nd president, arguing that the economic policies of FDR's first two terms and the wartime leadership of his second two are bridged by one pivotal moment: the election of 1940, when his decision of whether to run for an unprecedented third term was driven by the war consuming Europe.
After Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939, Great Britain and France immediately declared war, but it would take many months before serious military action began. Once all-out war started in the spring of 1940, the fate of Britain became inextricably entwined with FDR's agonizing decision of whether to run again, and, for the first time in American history, break the unwritten rules established by George Washington himself. FDR found himself at a place where no other president had been, wanting to help the democracies of Europe to survive without drawing his country into an unwanted war, and with precious little time to do so. For months Roosevelt refused to say whether he would run again or not, but after the Republicans surprisingly nominated the attractive Wendell Willkie in July 1940, FDR believed there was not another Democrat who would continue his policies and who was capable of winning the election. With Hitler on the verge of conquering Europe, the stakes couldn't have been higher — and the decisions that FDR and the country faced would make 1940 one of the most fateful years in American history.
Offering a critical examination of Roosevelt's actions and motives from September 1939 to the end of 1940 and subjecting them to insightful analysis, Roosevelt's Second Act fills an important gap in presidential history. Through the double narrative of the war in Europe and the 1940 election, Moe offers a brilliant depiction of the duality that was FDR: the bold, perceptive, prescient and moral statesman who set lofty and principled goals, and the sometimes cautious, ambitious, arrogant and manipulative politician in pursuit of them.
Winner of the 2013 PROSE Award, U.S. History category
"In Roosevelt's Second Act Richard Moe has shown in superb fashion that what might seem to have been an inevitable decision of comparatively little interest was far from it."
On August 31, 1939, nearing the end of his second and presumably final term in office, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was working in the Oval Office and contemplating construction of his presidential library and planning retirement. The next day German tanks had crossed the Polish border; Britain and France had declared war. Overnight the world had changed, and FDR found himself being forced to consider a dramatically different set of circumstances.
In Roosevelt's Second Act, Richard Moe focuses on a turning point in American political history: FDR's decision to seek a third term. Often overlooked between the passage and implementation of the New Deal and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, that decision was far from inevitable. As the election loomed, he refused to comment, confiding in no one, scrambling the politics of his own party; but after the Republicans surprisingly nominated Wendell Willkie in July 1940, FDR became convinced that no other Democrat could both maintain the legitimacy of the New Deal and mobilize the nation for war. With Hitler on the verge of conquering Europe, Roosevelt, still hedging, began to maneuver his way to the center of the political stage.
Moe offers a brilliant depiction of the duality that was FDR: the bold, perceptive, prescient and moral statesman who set lofty and principled goals, and the sometimes cautious, ambitious, arrogant and manipulative politician in pursuit of them. Immersive, insightful and written with an inside understanding of the presidency, this book challenges and illuminates our understanding of FDR and this pivotal moment in American history.
About the Author
Richard Moe was president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation from 1993-2010, chief of staff to Vice President Walter Mondale, and served on President Jimmy Carter's senior staff. His books include The Last Full Measure: The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers and Changing Places: Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl. He lives in Washington, D.C. and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Table of Contents
Introduction - History Repeating Itself
Chapter 1 - Prelude to War
Chapter 2 - Succession
Chapter 3 - Methods Short of War
Chapter 4 - Redefining Neutrality
Chapter 5 - The Sphinx
Chapter 6 - A Year of Consequence
Chapter 7 - A Hurricane of Events
Chapter 8 - The Republicans
Chapter 9 - The Decision
Chapter 10 - Preparing for the Showdown
Chapter 11 - Chicago - Following the Script
Chapter 12 - Chicago - Unscripted
Chapter 13 - Drafts and Destroyers
Chapter 14 - The Pivot
Chapter 15 - To the Finish Line
Epilogue - The Mandate
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