Monday, July 1, 2013

"1940", by Susan Dunn

Although it is an intriguing part of the book, "1940" is about much more than the presidential election of that year.  It is about the buildup to the second world war and the great divisions in America in 1940.  With a backdrop of the tragic events occurring in Europe, it captures in descriptive detail the buildup to America's critical involvement in the second world war.

It is amazing and distressing to read about the misguided isolationist movement of the late 1930s in America.  One of Hitler's greatest aides and propagandists was Charles Lindbergh, American aviation hero.  A quite shameful picture is painted of Lindbergh as he embraces Hitler and the Nazi movement.  He is joined by a great many well-meaning, misguided Americans, who embrace an isolationist movement in America as Hitler now denominates all of Europe by mid-1940, with the exception of Great Britain.

Isolationists include many industrialists such as Henry Ford, many Midwestern Republicans including 1936 GOP presidential candidate Alf Landon and many Midwestern U. S. GOP Senators, many anti-Semites who could care less about what is happening to Jews worldwide, many anti-New Deal Republicans, and many other anti-FDR Americans.

Author / historian Susan Dunn captures the excitement at both major party conventions in 1940, as thankfully for America and for western civilization, moderate interventionist Wendell Willkie is triumphant at the GOP convention in Philadelphia, and Franklin Roosevelt is easily nominated for an unprecedented third term at the Democratic convention in Chicago.

With charismatic Charles Lindbergh, who shamefully called for surrender to Hitler's demands, a central character in the first third of the book, historian Susan Dunn brings to life the debates, the high-powered players, and the dawning awareness of the Nazi threat as the presidential election looms.  In strict contrast to present day hyper-partisan bickering and fighting across party lines, Willkie and FDR help bring America together as the German threat to Western Civilization worsens.  With December 7, 1941 just over the horizon, in spite of so many American isolationists so firmly on the wrong side of history, America begins to unite behind the stunning and brilliant leadership Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and with the patriotic aid of Wendell Willkie. 

Above is an assortment of campaign pins from the election of 1940 from my personal collection of political Americana.  "1940" helps bring alive pieces from the 1930s and 1940s from my collection, one of the 'golden ages' of political buttons.

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