Dictators Don't Debate

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Orange text on a white background.

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This button dates to the 1940 presidential election and the showdown between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie. Roosevelt won the elections of 1932 and 1936 and was running for a third time. This had never been done in American politics, and many Republicans viewed this as Roosevelt trying to become a dictator. Also, Roosevelt turned down Willkie’s challenge to a live radio debate. Button makers, independently of the Willkie campaign, had a field day making and selling buttons critical of both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and “Dictators Don’t Debate” is one of many 1940 election buttons found in collections.


CAMPAIGN SLOGANS & CANDIDATE'S NICKNAMES. Tedhake.com. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.tedhake.com/viewuserdefinedpage.aspx?pn=nicknames.

Lot Detail - Willkie Slogan Lt Red on W: "Dictators Don't Debate". Oldpoliticals.com. (2020). Retrieved from http://www.oldpoliticals.com/lot-8007.aspx.

Presidential Debates in History - Bill of Rights Institute. Bill of Rights Institute. Retrieved from https://billofrightsinstitute.org/elessons/presidential-debates-in-hist….

Willkie Campaign Buttons and Stamp, ca. 1940 - Cornell University Library Digital Collections. Digital.library.cornell.edu. Retrieved from https://digital.library.cornell.edu/catalog/ss:10637417.

Catalog ID PO0808