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The Battle before the War: War In Europe and the 1940 U.S. Senate Elections

Andrews, Peter F.

In this thesis, I investigate the foreign policy rhetoric used by candidates in two elections to the United States Senate in 1940. First, by examining the history of the 76th Congress on legislation related to the war in Europe, I develop a political framework for understanding the rhetorical developments that occurred between the outbreak of war and the beginning of the electoral campaign. I then apply this framework to the Senate elections themselves. From this investigation, I conclude that candidates who could be broadly identified as “internationalist,” by the time of the election, had adopted a position of preparedness — the notion that the United States should be socially, economically, and militarily prepared to enter the war in Europe, although entry into the war was not the goal. Candidates who believed in some degree of isolationism, in contrast, framed their position as pro-democratic, attempting to make President Roosevelt’s decision to seek a third term evidence of a sinister, anti-democratic plot. These rhetorical pivots demonstrate what politicians perceived as an American public fraught with contradictory impulses — a fear of both being caught up in foreign entitlements and a fear of tyrannical government occupying most of Europe.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
History
Thesis Advisors
Roberts, Samuel K.
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
June 2, 2014
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