Blue and red illustration of man with a thumbs-down gesture and red text over a white background
GREENDUCK CO. CHICAGO
This "thumbs-down Uncle Sam" button was for the campaign of Wendell Willkie, a Republican who opposed incumbent president Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. With the two-term limit tradition rather than law, Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented third term with Henry Wallace as his running mate. Willkie, a businessman from New York, campaigned against Roosevelt's New Deal programs as wasteful and ineffective in ending the Great Depression. He also portrayed FDR as too eager to have America join World War II, and instead advocated military aid, but not necessarily troops, to the Allies. Yet Willkie was hurt by being a symbol of big business, which many felt helped cause the economic crisis in the first place. Roosevelt won with 54.7% of the vote to Willkie's 44.8%, 449 electoral votes to 82.
Roosevelt became the second of only three U.S. presidents to win re-election with a lower percentage of both the electoral vote and the popular vote than in the previous election (James Madison in 1812 and Barack Obama in 2012 were the other two). The U.S. did join the war effort after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Roosevelt then won a fourth term in 1944, and upon his death in April 1945 was succeeded by Vice President Harry S Truman. After suffering numerous heart attacks, Willkie died in October 1944.