6. James Farley was credited with being the genius behind Roosevelt’s election wins, but never managed to land the top job himself
In 1924, James Farley met Franklin Roosevelt at the Democratic National Convention. Almost straight away, they bonded. More than that, they both saw enormous potential in the other man. Four years later, Roosevelt appointed Farley his campaign manager when he ran for New York governor. FDR won, of course. And then he won again in 1930, with Farley’s astute analysis of key voters and tactics widely credited with being a main cause of Roosevelt’s success at the polls. In 1932, FDR decided to go for the big job. Farley, the son of brick-making immigrants, was dubbed the presidential ‘kingmaker’ as the nation went to the polls.
In return for his invaluable help, President Roosevelt named Farley the U.S. Postmaster General. He also appointed him the chairman of the Democratic National Committee as well as the New York State Democratic Committee, giving him a huge amount of influence. At the same time, Farley’s position on the board of Coca-Cola meant that he cashed in and made a small fortune when the American Army decided to make the fizzy drink an essential item for troops serving overseas in the Second World War.
For a short spell prior to FDR’s initial election to the White House, and then during his re-election campaign four years later, Farley was arguably the most powerful political figure in the whole country. According to some scholars, he was pulling the strings and had the power to make or break the presidency. But his power could only last for so long. In 1940, he and Roosevelt clashed head-on. FDR wanted to run for a third term. Farley believed a President should be restricted to two terms (and, it’s believed he also had presidential ambitions of his own). In the end, FDR ran again and won. The Kingmaker’s hold on American politics was over.
But perhaps Farley did have one last trick up his sleeve. When his old friend Harry Truman became President, Farley worked with him to alter the 22nd amendment of the Constitution. From that point onwards, no President would be allowed to serve for more than two terms.