tv David Levering Lewis The Improbable Wendell Willkie CSPAN October 31, 2021 5:00am-5:52am EDT
it's my pleasure to introduce our next speaker david levering lewis to please join us for q&a and the youtube chat following the presentation. david levering lewis the author of islam and the making of -- professor emeritus of history at new york university a recipient of the national humanities medal and received the pulitzer prize for each volume of his baby eb dubois fee. he lives in new york city. today he will speak to us about his book "the improbable wendell wilkie the businessman who saved the republican party and his country, and conceived a new world order welcome, david. it's good to be here. among wendell wilkie's late words were whatever we do at home constitutes foreign-policy and whatever we do constitutes domestic policy.
they appear in an american program with 10 extraordinary chapters for the contemporary reader and they were stunned by their media they. if you read chapter 8 wilkie's entire platform of 1944 republican national convention with his keynesian economics its national -- the civil rights plan the civil union plan and progressivism reagan republicans would reject. on presidents' day of 1892 in ellwood indiana wendell lewis wilkie was born in a family of
six and the juniors did much of the ring after their academic mother advance and pass the state bar enjoyed her husband. the wilkie's were southern democrats and william jennings bryan. he ran in 1900 he began last wendell willkie and their brothers remember it. they remember their father urging bryant to lay out the silver and emphasized the evils
of america's new. of adventures instead. no thumping of empire in the wilkie household when the stars and stripes are hoisted over the bay in 1898. their ancestors hadn't fled militarism only to have their descendents end up as -- the family home was unusual. some neighbors called it a crazy wilke's. parents in books that the freewheeling dissertation is a free trade socialism socialism and the evils of empire. he regularly read from shakespeare from athens to rome that they were expected to identify or complete. in the fall of 1910 indiana university student newspaper misspelled its headline and
another of the six arrives. his bloomington 10 contemporaries would recall a ubiquitous extrovert whose scholarly curiosity seemed insatiable and one-man campaign for radical it addition to the social science curriculum distinguished his junior year of adding or finding 10 students to enroll in the university's first class on socialism with mark geist history of socialism. he would suggest no wonder they thought of me as a socialist. he would correct that misperception citing a man who is not something before he's 40 has no heart adding exculpatory lee and a man who is still a
social -- at 40 has no head. the fall of 1915 family finances carried wendell to high school teaching in kansas. it was a six-month appointment as the chemists assistant in order to pay for law school at indiana. this experience marked to wendell deeply. he began writing about horseback to see the conditions for himself and one day as he rode with the plantation manager peasants scampered across their path and without slowing his horse or stopping the conversation he missed the man's neck that severed the shoulder with his machete. it stunned wendell willkie to such an emotional death that he often spoke years later of how
this experience kept him from thinking like a typical millionaire even after becoming one himself. when congress passed -- approved april 1917 war request the wilkie family unlike other german-americans had signed a on. captain wilkie came on home exhilarated by the presbyterians presidents missionary league of nations. he expressed no concern at that time about the wilson frustrations national security excesses not even that it had indicted convicted and sentenced to a lifetime disfranchisement. captain willkie had fully expect did to resume his place in willkie and willkie is the
families third member on ellwood anderson street but his mother vetoed the trio plan is a recipe for mediocrity. on april fools' day of 1920 wendell willkie reported to the firestone rubber company in akron ohio. wife edith and infant son phillip soon followed. willkie was not only a democrat he was a wilson league of nations democrat and an isolationist two weeks after the senate's final rejection of the treaty of versailles and the league of nations. firestone's new lawyer rejecting the league of nations saying that he and like-minded men and women hoped to see a reverse of that november 1920.
it failed utterly when harding succeeded wilson's ohio governor gains cox and undersecretary franklin roosevelt. when the willkie's left for new york city after nine years in akron not only had firestone's prediction failed that wendell would never amount to much because he was a democrat dwindles political activism local bar association presidency and multiple board services had put them on top of akron's leadership and garnered notice by wall street kingpins. a spectacular future lay ahead, spectacular and holy unanticipated. at age 40 is committed democrat and successful lawyer would preside from new york and
atlanta over the nation's second or third largest private utility holding company, commonwealth and southern whose electric power companies of tennessee, alabama georgia mississippi and parts of south carolina served 4.5 million citizens of the mississippi delta with the fared degree of efficiency. that said, willkie's is this success would hardly ever put him between the crosshairs of that t.r.'s presidency but for the new deal deals tennessee valley authority tba -- tv and the chicago holding company. the commonwealth and edison behemoth customers electricity and gas in 32 states was consumed more than any other country in the world saving
themselves 600,000 chicagoans were commonwealth and edison's winter of 1929 great depression collapse. not all utility holding companies were stacked pyramid's. their capitalization their regional services unregulated and overpriced as with his commonwealth edison deserve their castigation as the spiderweb of wall street. publicly directed at the chicago kingpin raise the prospect of entire industry being punished with federal sanctions. campaigning two months before the 1932 presidential outcome franklin roosevelt famously lamed the depression spreading missouri on men like samuel
ansell and blamed federal electrocution of federal companies. the president said it are transforming the government's world war i power investment in muscle shoals alabama into the tennessee valley authority was among the first of the new deals prodigious 100 days accomplishments. david lowenthal to tva democracy on the march the new deal classic describe tva is the nations greatest peacetime marvel. but tva legislation was completely silent in the regional role of willkie's company in this changed our environment. no conditions for monetary compensation or outright purchase. will these commonsense before --
newspaper and magazine. asked how this business could be expected to compete with the federal entity whose product was written by the public treasury and elect tri-city yardstick was set by policy considerations instead of market forces. he insisted that tva success could they accomplished far more economically in partnership with private enterprise the practical government does this alternating advocated by experienced professionals and above all by the countries leading engineering finally tva director earnest morgan himself. morgan and willkie june 1933 university club meeting in new york and it in a pragmatic understanding that essentially
gratify the conditions on the ground. a handshake to collaborate where necessary and leave each other's imperatives until later. it must be mentioned however that law professor and his former student david lowenthal were appalled by such conciliation of a private holding company. even so that oval office meeting between the president and the holding company executive 12 days before christmas of 1934 was marked by superficial geology and as the two outsized egos pumped up like roosters. one of the few men at dr. took a special liking to labor secretary frances perkins believed. he hadn't expected to that he had some the same care or sticks as himself.
but oval office jousting occurred against an ominous back drop for the utility industry as a whole. in the state of the union address, his second on january 4, 1935 the president called for the abolition of the evil of holding companies. two weeks later a tight lipped willkie left to his second oval office conference with the death sentence rendered. do i understand then that any fervent efforts to avoid a breakup of the utility holding companies are futile avant-garde and fdr reacted roughly. in those words franklin roosevelt was guaranteed four
years of judicial media combat and wendell's chamber commerce became a rallying cry for millions who lived in fear of the new deals expensive power. loki was convinced that only roosevelt surrendered to his party senatorial western hardliners nebraska's george norris montana's burton wheeler and wisconsin's robert follett jr. and the federal beer proceeds alter of yesteryear's best and brightest ideologues tommy corcoran ben cohen willentz all nullified the government business alternative advocated by experienced professionals and above all by morgan the head of tva himself
ready to face fdr and his technocrats truly begin during the second new deal. his dedication to private industry and heretic craze that the may 1937 issue of or to magazine. he knows all the arguments yet they are persuasive not because they are new but because he frames them intelligently and hence he makes them sound good. we carry the high decibel raise up america will these evocation of the people so rugged individualist roots that called for a new deal of paternalism. in early may of 1938 wilke unveiled his liberalism address at indiana university. big government and its dark twin autocracy or two days dangers
against both dangers they presented his cajole of robust liberalism. liberalism is neither easy nor sensational. in fact the liberal attempts the most difficult thing in the world, namely to strike a balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of society. january 30, 1939 after two creepiest judicial challenges the supreme court rendered its decisive ruling on federal regulatory powers and tennessee electric power tva. the court determined that willkie's commonwealth in teen utility complainant had no standing to challenge the operations of the tva even
though once again the decision that nord the central issue of the authority's constitutionality which the court never would address. it quashed when the willkie is another matter. when general hugh johnson fdr's former nra chief speculated in his column the willkie as a gop presidential underdog the underdog served up a thigh slapping answer. if the government keeps on taking my business away his offer is the best i have. and we will go on to fdr took note of hugo johnson speculation.
the new deal political climate have become less favorable after the 1938 off year elections. on november 9 the country had a new deal six new senators and 11 new governors. whom reflected the new progressivism that gave connecticut's first gop governorships since 1930. suddenly if they are made in unexpected decision to remove the everlasting cns controversy of the 1940 presidential landscape. we now know that what happened where several secret telephone exchanges between willkie and if they are resulting in the final buyout of commonwealth and southern. on august 5 team, 1939 before newsreel cameras at the first national bank and to wall street
when david william told handed wendell willkie a check for $78.6 million roughly equivalent to 1.4 billion current dollars. when does -- when does "time" magazine all but announced this respective candidacy as president if willkie was closed as a roosevelt dared to run again for a third time. intel is warp speed solution in may and early june of 1940 the republican party regulars needed help in catching up with the political prospects. simpson in new york committee in members spoke volumes. when asked to pitch wendell willkie by a major fund-raiser it dismayed simpson who listed
the difficulties. so i'm supposed to go back to the clubhouse and tell the boys that they have to pull together enough to get the nomination for wendell willkie? they will ask me, willkie, who is willkie? and i tell them the president of the commonwealth. the next question will be where does that railroad go to and i have to explain it it's a public holding company and then they will look at me sadly and said jim we always thought you were a little erratic but now we know you are just plain crazy and that would be without my even getting to mention that he's a democrat. the story, this one is a good one. the truth about wendell willkie's unlikely fight for the presidency of the united states makes an even better one. republicans had found no ground
upon which to stand to move the nation since the great 1936 new deal landslide with their humiliated candidate al landon yet the winds of advantage is change as the national economy barely staggered back to the so-called roosevelt recession the administration sneer catastrophic abandonment of keynesian balance budgets people remained unemployed and public const nation over the president layton -- latent supreme court persisted key legislation stumbled to pass it. hence when republicans awakened the stunning midterm 1938 congressional and statehouse successes no consensus prevailed
or presidential candidate. among a small group of mostly eastern's however a twofold scenario emerged to scripted gop victory scenario for the 1948 election and then to find a surprise candidate unfettered by shop worn partisan dogma and politically ambidextrous enough to make reforms of the left palatable with the promise of prosperity of the right incredible to the left. just off stage with the party's next presidential prospects a pool of predictable unexciting possibles none of whom could fill the bill. taft former president relatedly hidebound and rigidly
isolationist vandenberg and others isolationist and the new deal legislation and duly a politically untested law in order -- from new york and herbert hoover the economically unrepentant dogged next president. no stranger to and modesty yet he was not ready to believe that right at the commonwealth and seven could lead to the republican candidacy or the presidency of the united states yet he kept company these days with -- greatly alarmed by hitler's germany and profoundly alienated by the new deals redistributionist economics who encouraged him to believe that the nation urgently needed his leadership.
dan doran was one such admirer of granny alabama born bell who abandoned her columbia ph.d. studies to marry fellow graduate student carl van dorn. three doctors achieved remarkable success of pulitzer prize biker friend she is a sunday book review editor of the new york tribune. in 1935 the van dorn's lost. it was a circle of sophisticated types that wrote interesting opinion pieces into a world where his intellect was stimulating. fdr who made certain to learn about willkie's personal affairs could be heard on the earliest oval office taping system
describing her as an awfully nice girl who writes for the magazine and so on and so forth and even helped wendell wright better and think of his ideas is genuine admiration and response to political cues of publishers of the "herald tribune" fortunate and plan the fondly were beginning to regard wealthy as a possible dark horse for the presidency. suddenly van dorn found yourself sheering willkie's mind with the managing editor of "fortune" magazine, russell davenport skull and bones ordered the service in 1918 with the aef and a major figure in henry luce's publication empire. in july of 1839 a guest at the fortune roundtable he took a
whole group of by storm davenport expostulated andis said that they davenport dedicated himself to the future as he raced home to tell marsha who would be the next president of the united states. moreover after willkie and henry luce accompanied by skip akel claire who met face-to-face. the publisher decided his initial confidence had been well-placed. he resigned his $75,000 to invest presidency on july 1, 1939 effectively reassuring anxious son phillip giving up such a good job and adequate return was assured. he returned to the practice of law in january with the firm of miller owen and bradley with
himself replacing the retiring governor nathan miller is senior partner in the rear can ask her arm of willkie owens oda sabar and gallagher. it would keep the willkie special campaign trail train on schedule. nathan miller years afterwards offered a summation of this paradoxical -- parties were to him explain to the new york governor and mere instruments not for political advancement or power but to serve human needs. when does well-connected new sponsors helped him prepare a call to action a brass ring declaration and april 1840 issue of fortune wendell's essay for the pretentious title we the
people a foundation for a put akel recovery. we the people promised a new deal and faithful to the great depression reforms a new deal with its budget talents to gradually and bureaucratic waste and communication eliminated. in truth declared wendell the people don't want a new deal anymore we want a new world. the swirl is media and david halberstam dismissed wookie is a creature of the eastern establishment cress florida republican. yet when bill defied the mold of a toady and newspaper syndicates. principle and controversial red
flag civil liberties in the new republic three months before the gop national convention fdr's justice department on behalf of present german-american born leader that fits to and to remember that any man who confesses to someone he hates prepares the way for a denial of justice to someone he loves. for the person whose manifesto localized his generation and whose young legions were overcome with convention 28-year-old attorney warned root with a political agenda. winston 33 was the grandson --
with the grandnephew of secretary of war and state recipient of the 1912 nobel peace prize. 28 years of oppression of attrition assurance, it's a generational imperative. if in this crisis of civilization the republican party turned to some ponderous isolationist or crude vote-getter i say it's morally bankrupt. he demanded the ivy league alumni obtained 15 signatures apiece to be returned in self-addressed envelopes to his place of business. the manifesto garnered 200,000 names in less than a month for the eastern elite a decided
minority of a elect are at. i days in 1940 in philadelphia at the gop national convention interior secretary believed nothing so extraordinary has ever happened in american politics is willkie's nomination. cio president john l. lewis stunned the willkie's on target and much of the country with an endorsement over the three national networks. "the new york times" switched from it they are to willkie in the last week. ambassador joseph kennedy reneged on his promise to endorse only at the last minute after ominous phonecall summoned from the white house. out of the total population of 138 ollienick who voted for fdr
willkie and election experts called it too close to call until the announced results. 38 states imported 45 electoral votes will these 10 states 80 electoral votes in 5 million votes less than fdr's. when the willkie had been an enormously appealing credible presidential candidate that represented himself as a version of roosevelt and many americans found to present more satisfying and moreover the democratic victory consolidated the new deal coalition of existing machines organized labor southern whites liberals and minorities catholics jewish and black. on armistice day and november
november 111940 at the feet of willkie delivered a pile on constructed bipartisanship over the three national radio networks that generated the greatest of auditory telegrams received by a single candidate. this is a powerful party he stipulated. let us not fall into the partisan error of the posting things just for the sake of opposition. willkie's loyal opposition speech was constructive bipartisanship and tell his parties virtual notification of principle of the obama presidency. on the morning of january 22, 1941 the gop lifted off from laguardia in a pan am flying boat to take the pulse in the
rain of fire. it was a uniquely qualifying willkie because congressional isolationism under scripps neutrality. he returned to argue before the senate foreign affairs committee altered public opinion if not the votes of his own professional republicans. but willkie presumptive is the gop during peacetime selected service came nullification of neutrality charles lindbergh and the american first committee and after pearl harbor his parties qualified negotiation of isolationism. will these evolving understanding of white supremacy in his own country put them in a
rare category surpassed by no major future political figure to date. judgment of the obama presidency is still on assessed. unquestionably instigated by the calculus of african-american -- as the great migration outreach remains surprisingly and unappreciated chapter in mid-20th century civil rights. the annual national conference bookie cast the pain of imperialism is the essence of the fight to free the peoples of its omnipresent arrogance. we seek to liberate, not to he claims that the truth was americans cracked just within
our own boundaries something that amounts to raise imperialism and added some of the unlovely and tragic characteristics of an alien imperialism. the saturday evening post that caused a firestorm protest with cases against the jewish and an inflammatory article by nonpracticing. he closed the saturday evening post rejoinder to case for minorities with the warning that our way of living together and america is a strong but delicate fabric. for god sakes let us not tear it asunder or no man knows once it is destroyed men will find its protective warmth again. pearl harbor the lindbergh's for
the time being here minded readers of what they espoused lay ready for new marching orders. to willkie channeling -- trump the new york governorship against dewey. august 26, 1942 he lifted off on a three month, 30,000-mile around the word -- world peace mission in ab 24 bomber. the leaders in turkey iran syria iraq followed by 10 days in the soviet union with stalin and his nomenclature and chiang kai-shek and madam chiang kai-shek. a picture-perfect gaze at the
impact left in the train of willkie's progress was that of "christian science monitor"'s discerning foreign correspondent to the semi- colonial nations declared edmund seventh wendell willkie wants the four freedoms taken out of the round of the abstract and clothes in a rumpled blue suit. 36 million plus americans listen to the report to the people on the four national networks for the 1940s to mid-term elections. it was a deep. message about the next chapter in the american adventure in the atlantic charter contextualizing of american exceptionalism. wendell's address offered a picture of the strange new international world awaiting this competitor it's full
enlightening gauge meant like it or not. he went on from his radio address to the american people to the u.s. supreme court on november 92 schneiderman vs. u.s. his extraordinary immigration -- against the m. moment of communist citizenship. schneiderman vs. u.s. was resolved in 1940 3x5 entry for schneiderman to the other dismay of justice frankfurter. like his service to england survival like us circumnavigation of that the globe and like us 1943 blockbuster wilke subjected to spare for post-world war.
the league of nations was the religion of my young life he has said many times. on april 8 the most influential look published in nine states during world war ii appeared. oneworld surpassed the sales of law books since 1,900,000,000 copies in seven weeks and wendell was to see his book the nurture the united united nations move it to ramification in san francisco a june of 1945. although willkie's enormous popularity or those party into formal abandonment in the isolationism it did not defeat the organizational and financial power of the gop led by pennsylvania's joseph view
delaware's -- and edgar monsanto heaney all were alienated by a person hidden they thought never daughter spoken there -- made nervous by willkie's excessive liberalism and his 1944 national convention the party of lincoln would choose duly ended nor willkie podesta did so wendell's oval office collaborator had a clinical epiphany. he joined wendell and his good friend from "look" magazine publisher for dinner at manhattan's ambassador hotel in early june of 1944. fdr wants to know if you would accept to be nominated you for vice president on the democratic ticket cliques on july 5 fdr's
stalwart speechwriter met with willkie at the manhattan regis hotel with the visionary proposal that he and willkie form a third party app to the 1944 election. he found it advisable not to accept it is nomination and person roosevelt like wendell willkie led a wendell -- trust understood death was about to claim him before his architect of the peace was finished. of all those he would deem worthy and surely not harry truman. it was wendell willkie presumed to be in good health but dead at 52 on the eve of 1944 election.
the republican party's internationalism is destined to swerve away from it optimistic origins toward a steadily anti-communism that became indistinguishable from imperialism. instead of the one world ideal the true object tree wood and in the american century. it undoubtedly would position him at the center of post-war international reconstruction and domestic politics and now contra factual to suggest that wendell willkie's commitment to power block understanding into coexistence is first-hand familiarity with the dramatis personae of eastern europe the middle east and asia that
expressed itself in vigorous councils of moderation and reproach against the cold war policies that rapidly displaced if i take charter ideals dnf tiara had made us a vision of a possible world after d-day. wendell willkie's last words were these, whatever we do constitute our policy and whatever we do abroad constitutes the rest of policy. this is a great new clinical facts. thank you. >> thank you so much david. >> my pleasure. we have a couple of questions from our viewers if they don't line. >> now, not at all. spent the first one is can you please comment on next year's relationship with -- in the 1940 election? >> it became more and more
collaborationist with many many misunderstandings and willkie feeling that if tiara was a man who was a visionary but at the same time he was also machiavellian and that impaired the perspective collaboration. >> a couple of interesting what-if questions. if willkie had not died in october 1944 what influence or impact do you think he might have had on the republican party in the post-war period and would have remained a republican or switch to the democratic hearty? >> looked at those questions are quite good and they are speculative so we can't know but i think that willkie's role in the post-war period would have been enormous and i think his
ability though two -- a republican might have been increasingly challenging because indeed the idea of a third-party that it they are proposed rather insincerely i think was an idea that willkie thought had merit and the authority began to meet with various progressives both republican and democrat and others with a view to running not domestically but new york city is the beginning of a return to politics in an eccentric way that might serve their public well. >> how realistic worth of plans for post-war political party
that willkie -- discussed during the were? >> wilke was excited about it and they were extraordinarily clever on the part of the tiara. he didn't want certainly he didn't want willkie to be in the picture for the november election which might have diminished the vote count for if they are nor did he really think it was feasible to have a party that was the last of both the republican and the democratic party. but willkie did think it was feasible and so the speculation of how well they cobbled together a third force is
engaging. of course willkie's death was really quite unnecessary and would not last much longer so there was a serious concern about the aftermath of this and that might well have been had both men lived just a bit longer that their collaboration for not willkie's becoming a democrat would have been benign. >> thank you. that's all the questions that we have for today. >> thank you. they make a wonderful talk. thank you so much and the book is titled "the improbable wendell willkie" the businessman who saved the republican party and his country, and conceived a new world order. thank you for joining us.