Truman’s remarkable win in the 1948 presidential election

Discussion in 'Chatter' started by JohnHamilton, Oct 19, 2019.

  1. JohnHamilton

    JohnHamilton Well-Known Member

    Before Donald Trump surprised almost everyone in 2016, Harry Truman’s surprise win in 1948 was the biggest political upset in U.S. history. Although Truman’s approval ratings were low, the remarkable part was that he won despite the fact that his party split into three factions.

    In 1948, the Democrats had held the White House since 1933. FDR had been elected to an unprecedented four terms. Harry Truman had replaced him in April 1945, and many people thought that the electorate was ready for a change.

    The Republicans nominated Thomas E. Dewey for president over Harold Stassen. Dewey’s running mate was California governor, Earl Warren. Yes, this was THE Earl Warren who would become the famous or infamous, depending on your point of view, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Here is a jugate, which is a political button with the presidential and vice presidential candidates on it. These buttons are “the holy grail” for many political items collectors.

    Sm Dewey & Warren.jpg

    The Democratic nomination was a bit in the air. At one point some Democrats thought they could get Dwight Eisenhower to run on their ticket. No one really knew what Ike’s political affiliation was. Truman had even suggested a few years earlier that he would step down and run in the #2 slot of Ike would accept the Democratic nomination. Ike declined. Here is a 1948 Eisenhower for president button. This piece is surprisingly cheap given the subsequent history.

    1948 Eisenhower.jpg

    Ultimately Truman won the Democratic nomination, but a significant number of southern delegates didn’t like that one bit. Truman had come out in favor of African-American civil rights. A group, lead by Strom Thurmond, made a big show of walking out of the convention. They formed what became known as the “Dixie-crat Party” and got on the ballot in several Southern states to run against Truman.

    The Dixie-crat jugate button is quite rare. Less than ten examples are known to the hobby, and I have only seen one offered for sale during my 30 years as a collector. It sold for something like $8,500. Here is a postcard that shows Thurmond and Mississippi Governor Fielding Wright. This piece is scarce enough.

    And yes, this is THE Strom Thurmond. He later became a Republican and served in the Senate until he was more than 100 years old.

    Dixiecrat Post Card.jpg

    Truman ran with Alban Barkley, who was a Seantor from Kentucky. All Truman items are scarce, and this Truman-Barkley jugate is no exception.

    Sm Turman &Bark.jpg

    As if Truman didn’t have enough problems, he faced another challenge on his left, from Henry Wallace. Wallace had the been the secretary of agriculture in the Roosevelt administration and then had moved up to vice president in 1941. Wallace was very liberal and often expressed positive views about the Soviet Union and Communism. At one point he had compared the Stalinist Communists to the “young Christians.” That was too much for many Democrats in 1944, and they dumped him from the ticket in 1944 and replaced him with Truman.

    Wallace thought that he was the natural heir apparent to Franklin Roosevelt. That was reflected on this classic Wallace 1948 button. He won the nomination of the Progressive Party.

    Wallace - FDR.jpg

    Wallace had a big ego, but he needed to have a vice presidential running mate. That turned out to be Glenn Taylor, an Idaho Congressman. There are no known Wallace - Taylor jugates.

    Going into the 1948 campaign, this button expressed the opinion of just about everyone, except Harry Truman.

    Dewey is due.jpg

    Truman hit the campaign hard and criss-crossed the country. Dewey played it safe. "Give hell Harry!" became a battle cry. Truman's crowds were large, loud and enthusiastic. Dewey acted like he had it won.

    In the election, Truman won the Electorial College with 303 votes. Dewey received 189 votes while Thurmond got 39 votes, all from the deep south. Wallace didn't win any votes, but he may have drawn enough votes from Truman in New York State to tip the result to Dewey.

    This has become a classic Truman pose with the president holding a Chicago newspaper that pre-maturely announced his defeat.

  2. Mopar Dude

    Mopar Dude Well-Known Member

    I do enjoy your collection. And it’s even more riveting with your grasp of the history that went along with it.
    JohnHamilton likes this.
  3. Mopar Dude

    Mopar Dude Well-Known Member

    @JohnHamilton Did your interest in political history come from you interest in collecting presidential memorabilia?
  4. JohnHamilton

    JohnHamilton Well-Known Member

    No, it came from my mother who loved history. She was not any kind of collector, but the numismatic and political item collecting came from that. My father used to read a lot of history book too.
    Mopar Dude likes this.

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