Election 1940: Willkie Fears Dictatorship in Third Term (9-17-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 17, 1940)



Texans Told That South Must Choose in Conflict of Traditions

By William H. Lawrence, United Press Staff Writer

Amarillo, Texas, Sept. 17 –

Wendell L. Willkie, carrying his campaign deep into the heart of Southern Democratic territory, told Texans here today that they are faced with a “conflict of traditions” and called upon them to abandon the Franklin D. Roosevelt banner in the coming election.

The conflict of traditions, he said, came between the traditions of the South voting Democratic and the tradition of a President serving not more than two terms.

“I’ve talked to many people from the South individually”, he said as he began an extemporaneous address to a crowd variously estimated at between 10,000 and 40,000 in Elmwood Park.

They say: “Wendell, we believe in everything you believe in. Your social, economic and political ideas are our ideas.” But they say, “We have a great tradition in the South, a tradition 80 years old or more – and that’s the tradition of voting Democratic.” They say it’s difficult for us to abandon that tradition because that tradition arose out of necessity.

The South became Democratic following the Civil War when a super federal government reached down into the most intimate domestic economy and life.

Mr. Willkie said it was this “super federal government” after the war that made Democrats of Southerners.

The Republican nominee said he liked traditions but that “the people of the South today are faced with a conflict of traditions.”

In order to follow the tradition of voting Democratic in 1940 – thy must abandon tradition which is theirs and the whole country’s – a tradition 160 years old that was firmly imbedded in the minds of the country that when the Republic of Texas was established, Sam Houston saw that there was written into the Constitution a provision for rotation in office because he knew that it was subversive to have long continuance in office.

I put it up to you very frankly, people of the South. You face a conflict of traditions and you must judge which you value the most.

The only difference between this great democracy of ours – the only last untouched democracy in the world – and totalitarianism is the continuation in office of one man.

Six Bands Play

Six bands played “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You” as Mr. Willkie drove through streets lined by thousands. Sitting in the tonneau of an auto, Mr. Willkie waved first to one aside and then the other as his car took him the mile and a half from the railroad station to the park.

Mr. Willkie said Germany, Russia and Italy “found their indispensible man and where is their democracy?”

The people who have lost their liberty lost because they followed one man who said he was indispensable. For 160 years every leader in America, every political leader for which the people have reverence, has spoken in favor of and has upheld the rotation of those in power.

What tradition are you going to preserve? Are you going to abandon tradition in the United States? Every person has a high personal regard of Mr. Roosevelt, but think of those about him: Think of the mothball coterie of the brain trustees about him.

Raps Advisers

Democracy functions through the process of discussion, Mr. Willkie said, declaring it is essential to give people opportunity to judge merits.

He said he came before the people “personally so they can judge my views.”

Who answers me for the Democratic Party? Why morning after morning it’s the silver-tongued – I say silver-tongued deliberately – boss of the Bronx (Edward J. Flynn).

He then quoted Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s denunciation of Mr. Flynn as a political boss responsible for “misconduct” in city government.

Who are the men who are advising Flynn? They include Mayor Frank Hague of New Jersey, and that great mayor of Chicago, who speaks through the voice of the sewer superintendent.

Crowd Looses Boos

There were boos from the crowd as Mr. Willkie mentioned Mr. Flynn, Mr. Hague and Mayor Edward J. Kelly.

Mr. Willkie said that Mr. Roosevelt had conferred with an Argentine diplomat about lifting restrictions on importation of foreign beef and that Mr. Roosevelt had found it necessary to say through his secretary the next day that nothing definite had been done.

Now when I’m President of the United States, the cattle growers and sheep growers will know definitely the rules under which they’ll operate.

The Republican nominee said he was fortunate to have as running mate Senator Charles L. McNary, sponsor of the “first real farm bill” which had as its aim “parity prices for agriculture.”

Pleads for Democracy

Mr. Willkie said:

Please don’t let prejudices and traditions interfere with whatever you can do to preserve our way of life.

The democratic way of life always passes out under democratic adversity. In seven and a half years, the administration in power has spent $60 billion, increased public debt to nearly $50 billion and I say this great sinking weight is on you.

The Republican candidate came here today, enthused by what he said were “unbelievably enthusiastic” crowds which greeted him in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma – the Democratic southwest – yesterday.

At Coffeyville, Kansas yesterday, he appealed directly to the Democrats to bolt their party’s nominee and support him, a Republican candidate who he said upheld the anti-third term traditions of Thomas Jefferson.

The founder of the Democratic Party established the two-term tradition, he reminded his thousands of listeners.

He said he stood on the 1932 Democratic platform on which Mr. Roosevelt was first elected. He called it “the most remarkable party platform that has been adopted in many a year.”

Surely no Democrat will vote against me who believes in the Democratic platform of 1932. I believed in it then – I voted for it – and I still believe in it.

Are there any Democrats in this audience or in the South or in Oklahoma who rallied around that great liberal crusade of 1932, that most remarkable party platform that had been adopted in many a year – would any of these Democrats vote against me?

As I see it, everyone of them should not alone be for me, but they should be out helping me battle in this crusade?

His crusade, he said at Coffeyville, was “the battle of America” against “danger from without and from within.”

The return to office of the Roosevelt Administration would result in “an American totalitarian government before the long third term Franklin Roosevelt is finished,” he predicted.

I deny that intentions – is the defender of democracy. I charge that his influence has weakened, rather than strengthened, democracy throughout the world. I charge that here in America he has strained our democratic institutions to the breaking point.

Mr. Roosevelt has lost faith in the American people, the Republican candidate charged, and added that the President’s doubt had weakened the country and pushed it toward unconstitutional government.

Criticizes Distrust

The President also is being pushed toward dictatorship, Mr. Willkie said, by the foreign situation, “failure” of domestic policies, “incompetence” to deal with business, and “cynical advisers who have invented all sorts of tricks to short-circuit the democratic process.”

Mr. Willkie said the President, not trusting the American people, had misrepresented the strength of our military establishment, meanwhile “helping to drag the Old World back to chaos” and “materially assisting Hitler in his aggressive plans.”

For instance, he torpedoed the London Economic Conference in 1933 at the very time when the democracies were ready to come together on a strong united economic policy. And he was the godfather of that un happy conference at Munich – the conference from which the word ‘appeasement’ was born – the conference from which Hitler went forth to destroy the European democracies.

His Tulsa Appeal

In Tulsa last night he appealed for the votes of farmers, oil men and Indians.

Is there anybody in this audience in the oil business or related to the oil business who does not know that if the federal government, and its bureaucracy, would relieve that industry for expansion, that more people would be employed?

Is there any farmer in this audience or in the state of Oklahoma who has to do with the many regulations of the federal government who will not say that he would be more prosperous, and therefore could contribute more to the society and economic welfare if the administration of the laws were brought closer to the people of Oklahoma?

Is there any man or woman in this audience in the state of Oklahoma of Indian blood, or part Indian blood, or part Indian blood, but who knows that he can create a more prosperous society or particular segment of society in which he lives if the heavy hand of the fantastic social regulations of Washington is removed from the Indians?

50,000 in Tulsa Crowd

Police Inspector George Rief of Tulsa said that 50,000 persons heard Mr. Willkie at the fairgrounds there. They overflowed the grandstand and temporary seats and poured out onto the field virtually under the candidate’s feet. Thousands more lined a parade route from the special train to the grounds.

Mr. Willkie made a rear platform appearance at Claremore, Okla., hometown of Will Rogers. He paid tribute to the late cowboy humorist and asked the Oklahomans, some of whom knew Mr. Rogers:

What do you think he would have written about that draft in Chicago? What do you think he would have written about that non-political speech in Chattanooga?

Despite five rear platform talks and two lengthy addresses yesterday, Mr. Willkie’s voice, which almost failed Saturday and required expert care Sunday, seemed to improve. Many on his special train said that his Coffeyville speech yesterday – officially opening the campaign – revealed an improved radio voice.

At Coffeyville, where he taught school in 1913 and 1914. Mr. Willkie addressed about 50,000 persons. Estimates of the crowd ranged from 30,000 to 70,000.