Before 1932, American presidents served no more than two terms. No legislation had ever addressed the issue of presidential service. Those elected followed the long-held tradition that presidents not seek additional time in office. This dated back to George Washington who felt that two terms in office was more than sufficient. However, events and circumstances the United States had never encountered paved the way for a truly historical event in the political realm. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to four terms and served 12 years as president.
America in Crisis
When Roosevelt was elected to his first term, the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression, in which millions of Americans lost jobs and lifetime savings and hundreds of businesses and banks closed. People were looking for a leader they could trust to bring them through devastating times. Roosevelt campaigned brilliantly. He related to people of all backgrounds and economic statuses. Most importantly, Americans felt he genuinely cared about them in contrast to the current president, Herbert Hoover. He was an advocate of limited federal government intervention in the economy. Because of this, he was blamed for much of the distress the country was experiencing. Roosevelt won in a landslide.
A Man For His Time
Roosevelt seemed destined for the presidency during his tenure, 1933 to 1945. Although not without detractors who resented his big government philosophy, the majority of Americans chose to stay the course with the man who had led the country through some dire times. Roosevelt created programs that put people to work. Many of these were public works projects that built highways throughout the country and brought electricity to rural areas. His "New Deal" programs helped jump start the stagnant economy. People began to believe that their lives would get better. This was reinforced by Roosevelt, who appealed to Americans personally through a series of "fireside chats," informal speeches broadcast on the radio. Millions tuned in to hear encouragement from Roosevelt's warm, friendly and reassuring voice. He was reelected in 1936 in another landslide victory.
Popularity During Good and Bad Times
Roosevelt was elected to a third term in 1940. He was riding a wave of popularity. Americans were beginning to experience some relief from the effects of the Great Depression. Roosevelt knew that the country would probably have to enter the war which had started in Europe in 1939. Even though most citizens were against American involvement, they trusted Roosevelt and his ability to lead them through another crisis if necessary.
Roosevelt's fourth term began in January 1945. He served only a few months before dying in April. Most Americans didn't know about his failing health during the campaign in 1944. He presented himself as a proven leader on the world stage. The effects of wartime also helped him politically. America experienced an economic boom as a result of millions of jobs generated by wartime production. His leadership during World War II and its successful outcome did much to catapult him to an unheard of fourth term. His short time in office before his death prompted the passing and ratification of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1951 which formally established a two-term limit for presidents.
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