Selection of Nominees for the Presidency

June 19, 1939

Report Outline
The Tradition Against a Third Term
Leading Candidates Before Conventions
Presidential Influence on Nominations
Party Machinery in Nominating Conventions

The Tradition Against a Third Term

Although trial balloons are being sent up for many candidates, the line-up for the 1940 presidential race will not be clarified until President Roosevelt definitely states his position with respect to a third term. The history of national conventions in the past indicates that in the year that will elapse before the major party nominations are made the changing status of various candidacies should not be taken too seriously.

The validity of the third term tradition will be hotly argued unless or until the President eliminates himself from consideration. Secretary of the Interior Ickes, writing in the June 20, 1939, issue of Look, said:

To deny the people, through political humbug, the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they want the President for a third term is to deny democracy itself. Some persons honestly believe there is a tradition against a third term which has all the force of a constitutional prohibition. Yet on the subject of a third term the Constitution is eloquently silent…George Washington is usually credited with the founding of this “tradition.” Yet in 1788 he wrote to Lafayette: “I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the services of any man who, on some great emergency, shall be deemed universally most capable of serving the public.” And it is not too much to say that were Jefferson president today, he would consent to run for a third term in order to defeat economic royalism——or fascism. At the Constitutional Convention, Washing-ton never mentioned a limit on presidential terms. It is curious that the founding fathers should not have set a limit if they wanted one.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Presidential Candidates and Campaigns
Jan. 15, 2021  The Biden Presidency Updated
Jan. 31, 2020  Presidential Primaries
Nov. 16, 2018  The Presidency
Jan. 06, 2017  Trump Presidency
Mar. 06, 2015  Presidential Power
Feb. 03, 2012  Presidential Election
Jan. 30, 2009  The Obama Presidency
Aug. 08, 2008  Political Conventions
Jul. 18, 2008  Race and Politics
Apr. 20, 2007  Electing the President
Dec. 30, 1988  Promises vs. Problems
Jul. 10, 1987  Presidential Nomination Process
Feb. 03, 1984  Choosing Presidential Nominees
Jun. 06, 1980  Choosing Presidential Candidates
Apr. 09, 1976  Presidential Campaign Coverage
Feb. 23, 1972  Political Conventions
May 27, 1964  Foreign Policy Issues in Election Campaigns
Sep. 21, 1960  Voting in 1960
Jan. 06, 1960  Presidential Primaries, 1960
Jan. 04, 1956  Campaign Smearing
Nov. 30, 1955  Presidential Possibilities, 1956
May 09, 1952  Open Conventions
Jan. 16, 1952  Presidential Primaries, 1952
Oct. 12, 1949  Modernization of the Presidential Election
Jan. 14, 1948  Presidential Primaries
May 01, 1944  Foreign Policy in National Elections
Jan. 01, 1944  Choice of Candidates for the Presidency
Apr. 08, 1940  Republican Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Apr. 01, 1940  Democratic Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Jun. 19, 1939  Selection of Nominees for the Presidency
Aug. 19, 1938  Nomination by Primary
Mar. 11, 1936  Voting in Presidential Elections
Feb. 18, 1936  Presidential Candidates, 1936
Mar. 03, 1932  Decline of the Presidential Primary
Aug. 25, 1931  Presidential Candidates, 1932
May 05, 1928  National Nominating Conventions
Sep. 03, 1927  Presidential Candidates—1928
Jun. 14, 1927  Patronage Influence in Nominating Conventions
Sep. 11, 1926  The Future of the Direct Primary
Jul. 02, 1924  Proposed Reforms of Presidential Nominating Methods
Jun. 04, 1924  The Machinery of the Political Conventions
Mar. 15, 1924  Presidential Candidates and the Issues
Sep. 05, 1923  The Passing of the Second Term
Campaigns and Elections
Powers and History of the Presidency
Term Limits