After a candidate wins the presidency in the US, he is entitled to run for a second four-year term. This means that the maximum duration a person can be a president is eight years.
This was not the case when the US constitution was written as there was no restriction on the number of terms a president could run for the elections.
However, the tradition since the days of first president George Washington, or King George as some Americans call him, was for the president to settle with just serving two terms and then paving way for someone else considering that eight years in power are enough for a president to give all he’s got.
Barring a few exceptions, when some presidents tried to run for a third term but failed; this convention was observed for about a century and a half after George Washington. Later on, President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was elected to the high office in 1932 and then in 1936 decided to run for the presidency for a third time.
What helped Roosevelt in his bid to get re-elected for a record fourth presidential term was his announcement that the US officially joined World War II in 1941Dr Ahmad al-Farraj
Roosevelt exploited his popularity after the great work he’s done during the Great Depression that hit US economy in the 1930s, and decided to run for a third term in 1940, as allowed by the constitution. Roosevelt won. In fact, Roosevelt according to historians and popular polls is viewed as one of the three greatest presidents in US history.
The other two presidents are the US’ spiritual father George Washington and Abraham Lincoln who led a war against slavery and won it uniting the US after it was almost torn apart into two separate states, one in the North and another in the South.
Most Americans thought that Roosevelt would end his presidential stint after 12 years in office, but to some people’s astonishment and others’ support, he contested for a fourth time in 1944.
The World War
What helped him in his bid to get re-elected yet again was his announcement that the US officially joined World War II in 1941 after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. It’s self-evident that people rally behind the head of the state during times of war regardless of all the circumstances as the head of state is an icon and is often the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Roosevelt won the elections the fourth time, but he did not get to fully enjoy his victory or to witness the victory of the Allied powers in the war, of which he was one of the main architects along with Britain’s Winston Churchill. Roosevelt died just a few months after his fourth term began.
Thus, Franklin Roosevelt is the only US president to have won the presidential elections four times and to have ruled the US for 13 years. This had major consequences which I will tackle in a separate article.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Dr. Ahmad al-Farraj is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah daily. He holds a Masters degree in literature from the University of Indiana and a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Michigan. He was the Dean of the Arabic Language Institute in King Saud University and a member of the university’s council. He tweets under @amhfarraj.