Thomas E. Dewey – probably not a name that rings a lot of bells in the world of present-day Politics. But in 1944 and in 1948 he was the GOP’s Great White Hope – first in an attempt to thwart a 3rd term Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and second in 1948 in an attempt to unseat Harry S. Truman, who had taken over the job when FDR died in 1945.
The New York Governor, who was previously Crime Commissioner for the State, had a degree of credibility and name-recognition going for him. The man who jumped feet-first into fighting organized crime and who was responsible for catching many large Mafia fish during his tenure, was something of a folk hero – at least to the GOP, who were desperately trying to get back the White House, which had eluded them since 1932.
Dewey represented the Progressive, or Liberal wing of the Republican Party. Dewey was opposed to the conservative GOP of Robert A. Taft, he was an advocate for the Professional and Business community of the Northeastern U.S., what became known as The Eastern Establishment. This Eastern Establishment favored conservative business and economic practices, while favoring the New Deal in the area of Social-welfare reforms. And even though Dewey lost to FDR in 1944 and lost in an upset election to Harry S. Truman in 1948, he was still a leading light in the Liberal faction of the GOP – a faction which played a large part in the election of Dwight D.Eisenhower in 1952. It was also Dewey who convinced Eisenhower to select Richard Nixon as his running mate in 1952, and convince him again in 1956 to keep him as VP, against Eisenhower’s wishes to drop him from the ticket.
Dewey was succeeded by Nelson Rockefeller as head of the Progressive/Liberal wing of the GOP.
Dewey is probably not remembered so much nowadays because the Progressive/Liberal wing of the GOP hasn’t existed since 1964. But Thomas E. Dewey serves a reminder that the makeup of our political parties was a large an all-inclusive umbrella in the past. And it was that diversity within each of the parties which kept things on track (much of the time).
So, in case you’ve never heard of Thomas E. Dewey, or heard about him but never heard him – here is a campaign address, given on September 25, 1944.