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Harry S Truman Fiftieth Election Anniversary 1948-1998
Introduction Nomination Campaign Election Inauguration Links


July 1948

photo of Harry S Truman

PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN BEGAN 1948 WITH A JANUARY STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS designed to unveil his campaign plans for the November election. His fierce determination in foreign affairs was incongruous with a rather lackluster performance on domestic issues and, with an election less than ten months away, it was time for Truman to show his presidential ability. He came out strong: advocating civil rights, federal aid for education, an extension of unemployment and retirement benefits begun under New Deal legislation, health insurance, rent control, rural electrification, and a higher minimum wage. Having been thrust into the presidency upon Roosevelt's death, Truman now wanted to continue and even extend what he considered the most important of the New Deal legislation — creating what was later termed "Fair Deal" legislation for the American people.


photo of Dwigth Eisenhower

From 1945 through 1948, Truman dealt ably with foreign affairs, from ending World War II — assisting with post-war settlements and guiding the beginnings of the United Nations — to helping create new world policies, including the Marshall Plan, which was a comprehensive economic aid package to war-torn Europe. The origination of the Truman Doctrine pledged American support to any free peoples resisting outside pressure, and attempted to halt Communist aggression. Despite these foreign affairs successes, in the years marking the beginning of the ideological struggle for world power and influence known as the Cold War, few expected Truman to run for his own term in 1948. Again, his domestic record was uninspiring. The Republican Party had gained control of Congress in the 1946 elections and was fighting him on every issue, and his own party was showing signs of fragmentation between southern conservatives and its liberal wing. The splintered party did not want to nominate him for the presidency, but also did not want to overturn years of tradition by failing to nominate an incumbent. Early attempts to win Dwight Eisenhower, a war hero whose political leanings were unknown, as the Democratic candidate failed.


photo of Alben Barkley

Personally convinced of his ability to lead the nation, Truman entered the muggy Philadelphia Convention Hall on July 14, 1948, with aging Kentuckian Alben W. Barkley as his running mate and a plan to revive the New Deal — winning coalition of labor, farmers, and the black voters. Although the convention fell apart in a battle over civil rights, with delegates from Alabama and Mississippi walking off the floor, Truman's rousing, combative acceptance speech, delivered at 2 a.m., pulled the remaining delegates together and fired a direct shot at the Republican Party. He announced plans to call the Republican-dominated Congress back for a special session to pass legislation to help the average citizen. Their failure to do so earned them the scathing label "do-nothing Congress" and supplied Truman with campaign fodder.


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