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In 1948, President Harry Truman was considered by the corporate media of the day as a sure loser to Republican Tom Dewey.

There were two other Democratic candidates that year -- racist Strom Thurmond and progressive Henry Wallace, who would siphon off substantial votes, and a few states, from Truman.

But he didn't give up.

Truman spent about half of September and October doing whistle-stop train campaigning, two transcontinental trips plus shorter trips in the East.

At a whistle-stop in Harrisburg, IL, someone shouted "Give 'em hell, Harry."

Truman responded, "I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell."

Telling the truth about Republicans won Truman an improbable victory in 1948.

The killer bit below, probably part of his whistle-stop tour stump speech, is some of the best-truth-telling about Republicans ever.

This is great:

Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke.

They stand four-square for the American home -- but not for housing.

They are strong for labor -- but they are stronger for restricting labor's rights.

They favor minimum wage -- the smaller the minimum wage the better.

They endorse educational opportunity for all -- but they won't spend money for teachers or for schools.

They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine -- for people who can afford them.

They consider electrical power a great blessing -- but only when the private power companies get their rake-off.

They think American standard of living is a fine thing -- so long as it doesn't spread to all the people.

And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.

What Truman said in 1948 is still true today.

The direct and clear language appealing to the working-class majority has been somewhat lacking on our side lately.

In 1946, the Republicans won 55 House seats and 12 Senate seats, and a majority in both houses.

Truman campaigned relentlessly against the "Do-Nothing Congress" that, among other things, passed Taft-Hartley over Truman's veto.

In 1948, the Democrats won 75 House seats and nine Senate seats, retaking both majorities; Democrats would hold the House majority until 1994.

Then as now, that's the real battle -- against a retrograde far-right Congress elected by a fluke and aided and abetted by the corporate media.

William Manchester's The Glory and the Dream has wonderful examples of the clueless corporate media of 1948 -- there's a lot more more than the Chicago Tribune's iconic "Dewey Defeats Truman" banner headline.

A Newsweek story in October was headlined "Fifty political experts unanimously predict a Dewey victory."

A staffer brought the magazine back to Truman on the train, and Truman "said lightly, 'Oh, those damn fellows, they're always wrong anyway. Forget it boys, and let's get on with the job.'"

The last issue of Life magazine before the election called Dewey "the next President" in a caption.

The New York Times reported that its national staff had "studied voter sentiment in every state" and concluded that Dewey would win in a landslide and Republicans would retain their majorities.

The Times added that they had polled 47 of the "shrewdest journalists covering Dewey," and they "unanimously agreed that the governor would win handily."

The Detroit Free Press ran an editorial on the day after the election calling Truman a "lame-duck" and urging Secretary of State George Marshall to resign immediately and Truman to appoint Dewey foreign policy adviser John Foster Dulles in his stead.

In a column published that Wednesday, Village insiders Joseph and Stewart Alsop worried similarly that "events will not wait patiently until Thomas E. Dewey replaces Harry S. Truman."

Truman countered the media onslaught against him simply and directly:

Everybody's against me but the people.
The media are far more and way different today; nobody spends a month campaigning on a train anymore; and the far-right is better-funded and organized than then.

But the essential lesson of 1948 remains -- when a Democratic President forcefully denounces far-right Republicans and a do-nothing Congress as enemies of the working-class majority of voters, he will win re-election and Congressional majorities.  


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Comment Preferences

  •  Want to be embarassed? (6+ / 0-)

    Explain the American 'safety net' and health system to a foreigner.  We are barbaric.

    What we are seeing is a return to journalism as a contact sport. - Me

    by nolagrl on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:51:17 PM PDT

  •  Give 'em hell, Devtob! nt (7+ / 0-)

    There's no such thing as a free market!

    by Albanius on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 09:31:44 PM PDT

  •  Additionally (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    notrouble, Laborguy, devtob

    In 1948 there were no 24/7 news programs, and especially Fox but there was voter suppression.  Also, Citizens United didn't exist and the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove were little tykes plotting how to cheat and win their grade school elections.

    Never be afraid to voice your opinion and fight for it . Corporations aren't people, they're Republicans (Rev Al Sharpton 10/7/2011)

    by Rosalie907 on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 10:20:49 PM PDT

    •  True ... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WisePiper, BachFan, devtob, Crider

      ... but in 1948 there were certainly numerous right-wing national media types both on radio and in the newspapers who were all too happy to help the Republicans in their attempt to paint Truman as a corrupt hack politician beholden to "big labor" and the Democratic big-city politicial machines.  From 1950 on. the rise of Senator Joesph McCarthy, who (along with the GOP establishment) eviscerated President Truman and the Democrats as being "soft on communism", was aided and abetted by these same voices.  The difference back then was that there were also journalists of the stature of Edward R. Murrow who were part of the national "corporate" media, yet still prepared to risk their careers by pushing back against McCarthyism and the lunatic right.  Sadly, it's hard to find such displays of integrity and courage amongst the vast majority of broadcasters and pundits who make up the mainstream corporate media today, and thus the GOP keeps moving farther and farther to the lunatic right supported by the likes of Fox News and Limbaugh and virtually unchallenged by CBS, NBC, ABC, etc., etc.

      These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

      by Laborguy on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 10:52:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The internet has replaced tv (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        which means that media has changed again and the standard newspaper, radio and television are obsolete - or at least rendered only one voice amongst many.

        I for one, would love to see televisions taken out of public spaces like waiting rooms and bars.  (Okay - need them in bars for Saints games...)

        But under 40 generally parses their own news and data base.  
        Perhaps it's time to relook at Marshall McLuhan.  

        We made it through puberty - how awful can dying be?

        by nolagrl on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 10:16:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good post (6+ / 0-)

    "What Truman said in 1948 is still true today.

    The direct and clear language appealing to the working-class majority has been somewhat lacking on our side lately."

    I couldn't agree more, but must say that I am also pleased that President Obama has recently been channelling Harry Truman and running a tough campaign against Romney, pulling no punches.

    The stakes for the American middle class are as high as they have ever been, and I hope and expect President Obama will continue to hit Romney and the GOP even harder, especially during and after the Dem Convention.

    These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

    by Laborguy on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 10:59:11 PM PDT

    •  My dad was a Seattle policeman when Harry (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laborguy, devtob

      came through town on his whistlestop.  The police helped with security and the drill team my dad was on performed for Truman.  

      Truman thanked them and said if he was elected he wanted them to be there for the inaugeration.  My dad had been a cop for 30 years by then and took the thanks with a grain of salt.

      Sure enough, after the election the drill team got an invitation to go to DC.  I remember seeing my dad off at the train station, confused about us living in "Washington" and my dad going to "Washington".  

      Needless to say, no one could say an unkind word about Truman to my dad after that, and it stayed with me all these years.  

  •  Obama should use Truman's language VERBATIM. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, devtob, Andrew F Cockburn

    Great post.

    "The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave." -- Patrick Henry

    by BornDuringWWII on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 12:09:06 AM PDT

  •  Did Bill Clinton influence Obama? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Clinton believes that he got reelected by moving to the right (welfare reform, etc.) and using his force of personality (I feel your pain). But he was up against weak candidates in both elections. Did he give advice to Obama to move to the Right to get reelected?

    I think that it's clear now that Obama has to move to the Left to appeal to a majority of the voters. He is doing it, but slowly. He also doesn't have Clinton great appeal of personality.  Truman is the right model for Obama. The economy as an issue gets moved onto Obama's side if he can make the populist point that the bankers are not on your side and it's all about the people v the privileged. He has to walk a fine line as he has spent 4 years courting big oil, Wall Street, etc. But they will realize that he needs to get reelected and that after the election Obama needs them and will again shift to the Right. And Obama has to realize that the powerful will not help him in this election cycle and therefore his major option is to move to the Left.

  •  Different era, Different Democratic party (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Back then, the leader of democratic party didn't throw his constituents under the bus, nor did they try to triangulate.

    The age of FDR ended in 1976 with the election of our first neoliberal president Jimmy Carter who was disdainful of organized labor, introduced supply side economics, and brought the evangelical religious right into national politics.  Since then we have had Carter, Clinton, and Obama, all three have governed from the right of Richard Nixon.

    On top of that is the dependence of the Democratic party on campaign "contributions" from the wealthiest two percent.  Here is an example from a current democratic leader:

     “Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means – law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists,” Barack Obama wrote in his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope:

    As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate. … They had no patience with protectionism, found unions troublesome, and were not particularly sympathetic to those whose lives were upended by the movements of global capital.

    “I know that as a consequence of my fundraising I became more like the wealthy donors I met,” Obama confesses a few paragraphs later.

    Which is why Obama is solicitous of Wall Streeters like Jon Corzine, but won't push for the EFCA or an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to make Union organizing a protected civil right.  Did you see Obama stand with the public union members in Ohio or Wisconsin?  Do you think Truman would have acted the same way?

    Personally, I would rather the democrats use the "Class War" card to mobilize their constituents in the same way that the Republicans play their "Culture War" card, but with the DLC in positions of power, it aiin't gonnna happen.

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