The Democrats regained the presidency in 1912 under Woodrow Wilson, but only because the candidacy of Theodore Roosevelt on the Progressive party ticket diminished the Republican vote. Under Wilson's progressive policy, known as the New Freedom, some fruitful reform was enacted, but the idealism he had inspired waned after World War I. Democratic presidential candidates were defeated in the next three elections, but in 1928 urban Democrats made key inroads into important urban voting blocs.
The economic depression that began in 1929 helped to sweep the Democrats and Franklin Delano Roosevelt into office in 1932, and with his New Deal the Democrats were again identified as the party of reform. Roosevelt was reelected in 1936 with the largest plurality in the nation's history, and in 1940 he became the first U.S. President to be elected to a third term. After leading the country for three years in World War II, he was reelected for a fourth term in 1944.
Upon his death (Apr., 1945) he was succeeded by Harry S. Truman. In 1948, despite the withdrawal from the Democratic convention of many Southern Democrats (whose subsequent nominee was J. Strom Thurmond) and despite the candidacy of Henry A. Wallace, Truman narrowly defeated the Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey. Adlai E. Stevenson, the Democratic nominee in 1952 and 1956 was easily defeated by Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.