• 1948 Truman Presidential Campaign
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  • Henry Wallace’s 1948 Presidential Campaign
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Henry Wallace's 1948 Presidential Campaign and the Future of Postwar Liberalism


What’s the true value of conventional wisdom? In the case of the 1948 presidential campaign, it was worth very little. President Truman, ascending to the office only after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was not particularly popular. Deciding to run for a White House term in his own right, Truman’s campaign seemed destined for failure right until the bitter end. This cartoon, by longtime political cartoonist Clifford Berryman, neatly illustrates the point.

The term returned to the national scene with the 1948 presidential campaign of former vice president Henry Wallace and his Progressive Party, whose name pointedly harkened back to Theodore Roosevelt's own third-party challenge in 1912. But the raison d'être of this party was a very un-Progressive opposition to any action by, growth of, or support for the American military. The difference was that "the enemy" was now Soviet Russia and this Progressive Party was in fact a creation of the Communist Party and its ranks were filled with Communists and fellow travelers -- the Old Left -- none of whom had had any problems with the military when it was fighting Stalin's enemy in Europe. The Communist domination of the party was recognized by many even then, and Wallace left it when he supported Truman’s policy in Korea. But not to be lost was the connection between and a position that reflexively opposed anything to do with the American military but ideologically supported collectivization of the American economy beyond what the "liberals" of the day advocated.


Truman defeated Republican Thomas E