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Henry Wallace – Accepting the nomination for vice-President – September, 1940 – MBS – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Election 2020 may be over, but the drama and the attempted chaos continue. It’s never too late to listen to those voices from other elections in other decades to draw at least some parallels between now and 80 years ago (although, you’d be hard pressed to find anything that even remotely resembles the current state of affairs we’re in).
But in 1940 it was an unprecedented Third term for FDR and the selection of former Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace as his running mate.
As Agriculture secretary, Wallace oversaw the implementation of significant New Deal measures, most notably the Agriculture Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933. The AAA involved aggressive government measures to prevent overproduction and to control farm prices. The destruction of crops and livestock were not popular at a time when 25 percent of Americans were unemployed, but farm prices did rebound and the program was reasonably successful. Wallace was a loyal ally to Roosevelt, even supporting his highly controversial “court-packing” plan in 1937.
When Roosevelt and Vice President Garner acrimoniously split in 1940, Roosevelt offered Wallace the nomination. Support within the party was limited, and opposition to his nomination was substantial enough that he did not even deliver an acceptance speech at the convention. Nonetheless, the endorsement of Roosevelt ensured his name on the ticket, and the two swept to a landslide victory. As United States became increasingly involved in World War II, Wallace’s duties expanded as Roosevelt’s attention was absorbed by international affairs. He was a member of the President’s war cabinet and presided over the Bureau of Economic Warfare (BEW), which was in charge of procuring strategically important materials. As BEW chairman, however, he engaged in bitter bureaucratic battles with Commerce Secretary Jesse Jones and eventually lost his position when Roosevelt intervened and dissolved the agency. The dissolution was a substantial political defeat for Wallace.
A voice from the deep-distant past, but one which resonates to a certain degree over our present. Here is an extended excerpt of his Acceptance Speech, as delivered in Des Moines Iowa on September, 1940.