President Truman addressing fellow Democrats at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on March 29, 1952. Harry S. Truman had the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Franklin Roosevelt when, as vice-President, he was thrust into the role of Commander-In-Chief when FDR died in April of 1945. Given the onerous task of rebuilding a post-war world, dealing with mounting domestic problems as the nation re-tooled itself for peace. Gearing up when the Korean War erupted only five years later. Dealing with a GOP majority in Congress on top of the Red Scare, Cold War and an assassination attempt. Narrowly escaping defeat in 1948 and trying to complete many of the unfinished plans originated by FDR and The New Deal, including a plan for Healthcare which was put on hold when Pearl Harbor plunged us into war.
But with all that, it still came as a surprise when, towards the end of this address, Truman announced to the gathering, and to the world via radio, that he was not going to run for President in 1952. The shock of the announcement cast a shadow over the rest of his address, which is as timely today as it was in 1952.
Below is a printed excerpt from that address:
President Truman: “The real Republican campaign is not going to be fought on the issues. The Republicans are going to wage a campaign of phony propaganda. They are going to try what we might call the “white is black” and the “black is white” strategy. The reasoning behind it is this: The Republicans know that the Nation is strong and prosperous, that we are building up defenses against communism, that the Democratic administration has worked for the good of the people. The only chance for the Republicans, therefore, is to make the people think the facts aren’t so. The job for the Republicans is to make people believe that white is black and black is white.
This is a pretty difficult way to win an election. It wouldn’t appeal to anybody but very desperate Republican politicians. But the Republicans have some reason for thinking it might succeed. They will have the support of most of the press, and most of the radio commentators. And they may have the professional poll-takers with them again–as they were in 1948. The Republicans, as always, will have a lot of money. They have slick advertising experts. And they don’t have too many scruples about how they use them. Remember that carpetbagger from Chicago who got convicted for the way he elected a Republican Senator in Maryland in 1950? They will try that all over the country.
The Republicans are all set to try this “white is black” technique. And this is the way it will work. First of all, they will try to make people believe that everything the Government has done for the country is socialism. They will go to the people and say: “Did you see that social security check you received the other day–you thought that was good for you, didn’t you? That’s just too bad! That’s nothing in the world but socialism. Did you see that new flood control dam the Government is building over there for the protection of your property ? Sorry–that’s awful socialism! That new hospital that they are building is socialism. Price supports, more socialism for the farmers! Minimum wage laws ? Socialism for labor! Socialism is bad for you, my friend. Everybody knows that. And here you are, with your new car, and your home, and better opportunities for the kids, and a television set–you are just surrounded by socialism!”
Now the Republicans say, “That’s a terrible thing, my friend, and the only way out of this sinkhole of socialism is to vote for the Republican ticket.”
And if you do that, you will probably have a garage and no car, a crystal radio set and no television–and probably not even a garage to live in, but a secondhand tent out on the lawn. I don’t believe people are going to be fooled into that condition, because they went through it once before.
Now, do you think they can sell that bill of goods? This country today has more freedom for all its people than any country in the history of the world. And all the efforts of all the Republican politicians can’t convince the people that this is socialism.”
Here is his complete address, including his announcement of withdrawal from consideration for the Presidency in 1952.