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How the Parties Choose their Candidates

Truman v. Dewey (1948)

Truman v. Dewey (1948)

The Greatest Upset in American History!

The Tribune got printer happy

President Harry S Truman is probably one of the most reluctant President in the history of the United States.  Truman started off as Vice-President for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was only Vice-President for eighty-two days when FDR suddenly died of a brain aneurysm on April 12, 1945.  Now Harry Truman, who had barely seen Roosevelt and had never been briefed on the Atomic Bomb or the situation in the Soviet Union, was now the President of the United States, leading the country through the last days of World War II.
Less than a month into his first term Truman announced to the world that on May 8, 1945 Germany had surrendered, thus ending the war in Europe.  However, the was was still raging in Japan and Truman needed to do something about it.
It came to Truman's attention that the United States had been developing a secret weapon of mass destruction called the Atomic Bomb.  On August 6, 1945, Truman gave the order to have this secret weapon dropped on a city in Japan called Hiroshima.  There was mass destruction.  Truman again gave the order to drop the bomb on August 9, this time on Nagasaki.  The destruction caused by these two attacks was devestating for Japan and they were forced to surrender, officially ending World War II.  However the decision to drop the bombs was a very controversial one and many people argued whether such force was necessary to make Japan surrender.
Despite the victory of the allies, Truman’s diplomatic situation stayed loaded with difficulty.  Following the end of the war the Soviet Union, once the United States’ most powerful ally, was determined to control Eastern Europe rather than return them to their pre-war governments.  Tension over Europe, over whether nuclear information should be shared, over Communist militancy in Western Europe, and over the Soviet’s exclusion from the reconstruction of Eastern Asia and Japan, led to the rapid deterioration of Soviet-U.S. relations and the start of the Cold War.  Truman was quickly becoming very unpopular.
Meanwhile, the Republicans were busy preparing for the 1948 election.  Both the Republicans and Democrats wanted Dwight D. Eisenhower, the popular was hero, as their candidate, but he refused both parties.  The Democrats then settled for the incumbent President and the Republicans chose Thomas E. Dewey, the Governor of New York.
At the time, Dewey was very a very well known man.  He fought crime and corruption and governed New York State which, as the time, was the most populated state.  He was also a very young man and it was thought that the country would favor him over the sixty- four year old Truman. 
The Republicans were very confident with him as their candidate and truly believed he would win and, in truth, the odds really were on Dewey’s side.  The Republicans had gained control of Congress for the first time since the Great Depression, which was very big.  Also, Truman was quite unpopular and it was very obvious.  The biggest news may have been that the “Dixiecrats” were created and the Progressive Party re-invented themselves, splitting the Democratic Party up.  There was no way that Dewey could lose this election.
Dewey ran the election on a platform that promised progressive but fiscally sound domestic programs, along with continued support for foreign policy.  Dewey traveled throughout the country, campaigning unemotionally, and made speeches filled with empty, obvious statements.  The Louisville Courier-Journal summed up Dewey’s campaign by saying, “No presidential candidate in the future will be so inept that four of his major speeches can be boiled down to these four historical sentences: Agriculture is important.  Our rivers are full of fish.  You cannot have freedom without liberty.  Our future lies ahead."
Truman, on the other hand, ran a campaign against the 80th Congress in which he denounced the Republicans as anti-labor, anti-displaced persons, and anti-average small Americans.  Truman labeled them the “Do Nothing Congress,” which would prompt people to shout, “Give ‘em hell, Harry,” which became Truman’s campaign slogan.
Things got bad for Dewey as the election went on.  Farm prices dropped which convinced many farmers to vote Democrat and the Progressive and “Dixiecrat” parties were not taking the support from Truman as he had hoped.
When it came time for Election Day, people were still convinced that Dewey was going to win the election.  One newspaper, the “Chicago Tribune” printed their headline during the night to be released immediately in the morning and that headline said “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.”  That headline was wrong because Harry Truman scored one of the biggest upset victories in the history of the United States when he defeated Dewey by two million popular votes and won the electoral college 303-189.
In this case, Dewey was chosen because he was popular, well known, and young but it was still not enough to derail the older, wiser Truman who went on to enjoy a second and final term.

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