[October 2, 2020] Now that we are entering into the last few weeks before a major presidential election in the United States, it is a good idea to look at another contentious election. Harry Truman was a great leader but one that stirred controversy and divisiveness when the nation was trying to heal from World War II and later as it fought a war in Korea. His 1948 opponent was Republican Thomas Dewey and favored to win the election in a landslide.
A famous photograph of Harry Truman holding up the Chicago Daily Tribune’s front page says, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” This election was not unlike the Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump election in 2016 when several news magazines had “Hillary Wins” on the front cover. Pundits predicted Clinton would win “one hundred million to one.”
“All the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.” – Harry S. Truman
Any person who thinks that Post-War America had it good and that there were few severe problems is blind to that time’s propaganda. Worldwide, it was a challenging economic and political recovery from the war, passions still ran high, and large swaths of cities had been utterly destroyed. The physical infrastructure rebirth was only eclipsed by the social rebirth that threatened world peace once again.
President Truman’s tenure was dotted with many now-famous events that plagued him:
- The decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan
- Establishment of the CIA
- The Civil Rights Movement
- Immigration in Post-War America
- The invasion of Manchuria by the Soviet Union
- Control of Nuclear Weapons
- Japanese-American Internment
- Justice at Nuremberg
- Recognition of Israel
- Steel Strike of 1952
- The Blockade of Berlin by the Soviets
- The firing of General Douglas MacArthur
- The Marshall Plan
- Beginning of the Cold War
- The Korean War
As well, Truman had to deal with the bloated bureaucracy that had sprung up in Washington, D.C., created by President Franklin Roosevelt to help run the war. Peace was upon the nation, but there was plenty of political fighting that remained when the military fighting was done.
I end this article with the words, again, of Harry Truman, “It sure is hell to be president.”