President Harry S Truman: The Nomination and a Party Divided

About the nomination of President Harry S Truman by the Democratic Party and its splintering with Thurmond and Wallace running their own race.

PRESIDENCY

Nomination:-July 15, 1948.... As the Democratic convention assembled in Philadelphia, most delegates agreed that the President faced a hopeless fight in his drive to win the election in his own right. In his 1st 3 years in office, he had presided over the difficult economic conversion from war to peace and the beginnings of a frustrating "Cold War." In the midterm elections, the Republicans asked the country "Had Enough?" and the answer was a resounding "Yes," as the GOP gained control of both houses of Congress for the 1st time since 1930. In the face of such overwhelming popular sentiment, one Democratic senator, J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, even suggested that the President resign.

Truman not only ignored such proposals, but pushed ahead with plans for the campaign of 48. Democratic chieftains searched desperately for a more popular alternative, and for a while there was widespread talk about a movement to draft Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower for the nomination. Eisenhower, however, soon declared himself unavailable and the Democrats had to settle for Truman. "We're Just Mild About Harry," declared numerous signs at the national convention.

Truman's situation was made even more difficult by the breakup of the old New Deal coalition. Many liberal intellectuals disagreed with the President's anti-Communist stance and insisted that the Soviet Union was actually a peace-loving nation, forced into hostility by the American policy of "containment." Led by former Vice-President Henry A. Wallace, they organized the Progressive party to block Truman's reelection. Wallace, with his impressive credentials and personal following, actually believed that he could win, and most commentators agreed that the left-wing Progressives would draw at least 5 million votes from the Democratic ticket.

The final nail on Truman's "political coffin" was the mass defection of the Southern Democrats. When the convention adopted a platform plank endorsing Truman's strong civil rights program, the Southerners bolted, and organized their own "State's Rights" or "Dixiecrat" party. Their candidate was Gov. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who waged a regional campaign with strong appeal to Southern anti-Negro sentiment.

At 2 in the morning, Truman appeared before the convention to make a fighting acceptance speech. In an effort to rally disheartened delegates he promised that he and Sen. Alben Barkley (his chosen running mate) would "win this election and make these Republicans like it-don't you forget that." As one commentator observed, he was the only man in the country who actually believed he could win.

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