Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

What if...

Sunday’s New York Times published a fun piece on 10 days that - if things had gone a little differently - would have changed American history. Some of the interpretations are debatable, of course, but my favorite was one I didn’t know about: the attempted assassination of FDR in 1933 that was foiled by a wobbly chair. As the Times piece puts it:

"It should have been an easy shot: five rounds at 25 feet. But the gunman, Giuseppe Zangara, an anarchist, lost his balance atop a wobbly chair, and instead of hitting President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, he fatally wounded the mayor of Chicago, who was shaking hands with F.D.R."

But for a piece of furniture, John Nance Garner might have become president.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Ted Morgan has an excellent and nicely written account of the FDR assassination attempt. Chicago mayor Anton Cermak had not been initially supportive of FDR’s nomination. After the election Cermak realized that if he was going to get federal relief funds for Chicago he was going to have to mend fences. That was why he was visiting with President-elect Roosevelt. As Morgan concluded, "Cermak gave his life for patronage." A true Cook County Democratic machine leader to the end.

It’s also very interesting that but for the XXth Amendment ratified less than a month earlier, it would not have been at all clear that John Nance Garner (as vice-president-elect and not yet vice-president) would have automatically become President three weeks later at the inauguration. History does have strange coincidences, in this case that the XXth Amendment addressed this specific occurrence: the death or disability of the President-elect between election day and swearing in.

Section 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President.

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