The decision in September by Malcolm S. Forbes, Jr., millionaire businessman sans political experience, to launch a bid for the White House in 1996 prompts comparison with another millionaire businessman and political neophyte, Wendell L. Willkie, who defied conventional wisdom 55 years ago and won the GOP nomination to oppose Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 Presidential election.
Forbes himself relishes the comparison. Indeed, he has drawn inspiration for his run from the example set by Willkie (em a Hoosier, a Democrat for much of his life, and perhaps the most famous dark horse Presidential hopeful of this century.
It was not Forbes, however, who resuscitated and resurrected the spirit
of Willkie, which, it seems, has guided and inspired Newt Gingrich and the
Republican-controlled 104th Congress. Willkie, in fact, is the spiritual patron of the Contract With America.
A National Symbol
Gingrich has pledged to "devolve the New Deal" and to dismantle federal programs established by FDR. He has embarked on a crusade to "replace our centralized, micromanaged, Washington-based bureaucracy."
Willkie criticized such a bureaucracy before it was even put into place, making himself a national symbol of opposition. He led the conservative backlash against the New Deal, which big business deemed a frontal assault against free enterprise and the American way of life.