Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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Harry S. Truman
1945-1953


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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  276. Address in Tacoma at a Rally in the Armory  
October 2, 1952

Senator Magnuson, ladies and gentlemen:

I want to thank you very much for that welcome which you have given to the President of the United States. I want to warn you that I am here tonight in my political capacity--as leader of the Democratic Party. The President has enough functions to keep five men busy, but under our Constitution and our traditions, he has to perform them all himself.

I am out here on a political mission. But I regard it as one of the most important missions I have ever had to perform, because nothing is more vital to the future of our country than this coming election. I am here to persuade you to vote for the Democratic candidates for President and Vice President, and for all the other offices on the Democratic ticket.

I cannot make this request out of any selfish interest on my part. I make it because I love my country and am deeply interested in its welfare.

The people of the United States have bestowed upon me the highest office within their power. For that I shall be eternally grateful. I ask nothing more of them for myself. I have discharged the duties of that office to the very best of my ability. As to how successful I have been, opinions differ-I may say that they differ very widely indeed. But in one respect, at least, I think my administration will compare favorably with any other in our history--and that is in building a structure of government policies that will contribute to lasting peace and continued prosperity.

I feel sure that I leave office with this country on a firmer economic basis than it was when I came in. The progress of this part of the country is an example of what I mean.

All day today, as I have crossed this beautiful State, I have seen the fruits of the great enterprise of you people of the Northwest. Never has there been as much growth, as much activity, as there is today--that is true up and down this land of ours just as it is here in the great State of Washington--true all over the country.

Private enterprise is confident of the future. Large and small businesses alike are enjoying good profits. Their customers have money which comes from good farm prices, from good wages--and steady work for all who want to work.

In this country we have almost forgotten that there can be such things as mass unemployment, bank failures, dollar-a-day wages, and 30-cent wheat--those sorry symbols of Republican rule. Business has been confident, and rightly so, that with the Democratic Party in control of the national Government we will never return to those days. And so business is building for the future.

Now, my friends, what is the reason for this ?

It's very simple. The programs of the Federal Government in the past 20 years have made America a land of individual security, and at the same time a land of unequaled opportunity.

In these 20 years, the Democratic Party has demonstrated over and over again these two objectives--individual security and opportunity-go together.
You can see it in every field.

The Democratic Party has put some security into agriculture, by means of price supports and other measures--and now the opportunity for private enterprise in farming is greater than it has ever been.

The Democratic Party put some security into the banking system--and the opportunities for private enterprise in banking are greater than they ever have been.

The Democratic Party has done something about slums through public housing, and has put a floor under mortgage values-and the number of houses built by private enterprise is at the highest level in the history of the country.

The Democratic Party introduced social security for the aged and the widow and the orphan--and the number of life insurance policies in force is greater than it ever has been.

The Democratic Party has built giant dams in the Northwest and elsewhere in the country--and private industries are springing up and flourishing wherever these dams have been constructed.

These are just examples, which could be multiplied many times over.

In doing these things, the Democratic Party has been following a great American tradition--a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the country. This is the tradition of combining public action with private action, in order to build up the economic life of the country. It began with Federal aid to education, back in 1787, when Congress set aside a portion of public lands to support schools in the Northwest Territory.

In fact, our Founding Fathers were great believers in having the Government do for the people what the people could not do for themselves. Back in 1813, for example, the Federal Government financed the distribution of smallpox vaccine throughout the country. That was the first Government health program. It was sponsored by James Madison, who drafted the Constitution. I don't know whether anybody then set up a howl about "socialized medicine" or not. I think probably not is the answer, because that was before the Republican Party was invented.

In our time, the Republican Party has opposed most of the great programs by which our Government has undertaken to help the economic life of the country. The Republican Party has blindly turned its back on this great, old American tradition of public action for public good.

The reason, I think, lies in the fact that the Republican Party has become a collection of special interest groups. A special interest group, by definition, can never see beyond the limits of its own greediness.

The insurance companies, for example, back in 1935 and 1936, couldn't see anything in social security beyond the fact they would not be writing the insurance policies. So they were violently against it, and they got the Republican Party against it. And yet now they have more insurance policies in force than ever any country had in the history of the world.

The utility companies couldn't see anything in those great public power projects beyond the fact that private companies would not be making a profit out of the power. So they were against these projects, and then automatically the Republican Party came out against them, too.

The real estate lobby couldn't see anything in low-cost public housing beyond the fact that houses were going to be built and their members would not make any money out of them. So they were against public housing, and automatically the Republican Party is against it, too.

And so it goes, down through the whole list. The policies of the Republican Party are the total of all the negative attitudes of all the special groups that put up the money for it, and pull the strings.

Consequently, the Republican Party is a most dangerous group to put in charge of the affairs of this country. The Republican Party is always looking at the country through the wrong end of the telescope. They see it small, and the Democrats see it big. They see it as a limited economy, to be divided up between the vested interests. We see it as an unlimited expanding economy, with constant possibilities of growth, and opportunities for everybody--including even these special interests I am talking about. They profit from that policy, too.

The record proves, over and over, just how wrong the Republican Party has been.

In 1932, they told us that we couldn't bring the country out of depression by Government aid. They called it lifting ourselves by our bootstraps. But we did it.

Then in 1936, after recovery had become a reality, they told us that we couldn't have both recovery and reform. But we did have it.

They told us in 1940 that we could not-and should not--prepare to defend ourselves against the aggression of the Nazis and the fascists. They said we could do business with Hitler. They said we did not need defenses.

My friends, they were wrong on both counts.

Then, after we had started our tremendous mobilization program, they told us we could not produce 50,000 planes in a year.

So we went ahead and produced 100,000. I was present in the Congress, as a Member of the Senate, when President Roosevelt asked for that performance--and he got it.

After the war, we turned to building a peace, to using our expanded industrial power for better living--and they told us we could not provide jobs for 60 million people.

And today we have 62 million people at work. Great prophecy that!

Each year, my Economic Reports to the Congress have set expanded goals for national production. Those reports are usually greeted by the Republicans in the Congress with jeers.

But we have long since exceeded those goals and we are setting ourselves now for higher targets.

The false prophets told us in 1950, after the Communists invaded Korea, that we could not afford a defense program adequate to throw back the aggressors and to build our strength to withstand future attacks. This, they said, would reduce our living standards and bankrupt the country. An old Republican phrase--"bankrupt the country."

But today we are well along in such a defense program and it has not destroyed our living standards. On the contrary, it has given us new factories, new sources of power, new additions to our productive capacity, that will lift our living standards even higher after the emergency is over.
The current prophecy of the Republican Party--the thing they are saying in this campaign-is that we are headed for national bankruptcy.

Well, I don't have to answer that. Look around you. Show me any evidence of bankruptcy of this Government of ours in this country.

This is what they have been saying for the last 20 years.

They have been wrong--just as wrong as they can be--and they are still wrong, these men of little vision and no heart. They live among us, but they do not share our faith in the boundless possibilities of America, or our great dreams for the future.

In this year of 1952, the collection of special interest groups that dominate the Republican Party selected as their candidate for President a man who is totally unfamiliar with--and almost completely unaware of-the great issues between liberalism and reaction that we have fought out and decided in this country over the last 20 years.

Their candidate is a man who stepped out of civilian life 40 years ago, when he entered the Army. Since that time, down almost to the present, he has lived the specialized life of the soldier. The great issues that mean bread and butter to most of us have passed him by completely.

He doesn't know what it means not to have social security, because he has always had it--total, military security; and he has had job security, too-ever since he entered West Point. He doesn't know what it is to worry about the cost of medical care, because the Government has paid all his medical bills since he was a boy in West Point. He has had the cares and anxieties of an Army officer, but not those of an active civilian trying to make a living. He never met a payroll in his life, or carried a precinct in his life. And I hope he doesn't learn how now.

And he doesn't know a special interest lobby when he sees one.

Now this is just the kind of man the special interests can move in on, and takeover. And that is exactly what they have been doing.

The General told the Republican convention in July that he would lead them in a great crusade. But he didn't tell them what the crusade was to be about.

Like all good generals, he was waiting for his objective to be set by higher authority. He was ready to lead the troops, but he didn't know what to campaign for, or what it was to accomplish. That was a problem that he, as a military man, had never before had to decide for himself.

So the Republican Old Guard moved in, and wrote his orders for him.

The directive was drafted by Senator Taft, and subscribed to by the Republican candidate, at their famous breakfast in New York City a few weeks ago. Senator Taft left that meeting and told the press what the General stands for. The General didn't tell him. Senator Taft announced the missing objective--and the purpose of the great crusade.

Senator Taft explained that the great issue in this campaign is "creeping socialization," and that is what the General is crusading against.

"Creeping socialization"--or "creeping socialism"--those are the words that give the game away. Socialism--sometimes "creeping" and sometimes "galloping"--is the slogan and patented trademark of the special interest lobbies. Socialism is the epithet they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Now listen to this:

Socialism is what they called public power.

Socialism is what they called social security.

Socialism is what they called farm price supports.

Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance.

Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations.

Socialism is their name for anything that helps all the people.

Now, my friends, when the Republican candidate inscribes the slogan "Down with Socialism" on the banner of his great crusade, that is really not what he means at all. What he really means is "Down with Progress," down with the New Deal and down with the fair Deal. That's what the objective of the great crusade is now. Don't you fool yourselves.

This is a strange crusade for him to be leading. As the General goes campaigning down this dreary road to the past, he will come across his own footprints, the footprints of millions of his fellow Americans, going the other way. We all came along this road once, away from the past, and the General, whether he knew it or not, was along with us.

It was the New Deal that made this country strong enough to resist Hitler--and laid the foundation for that mighty military effort that the General once led in Europe. It was the fair Deal that continued our progress, and built our strength against the challenge of communism. It was the fair Deal that made it possible for us to furnish aid to the North Atlantic Treaty countries which the General, just a few short months ago, was welding into a unified defense for Europe. And I appointed him to that job. And I had utmost confidence in him, and he did a good job in Europe--and that is where he ought to stay. It was the New Deal and the fair Deal, in this broad sense, that gave the General those great opportunities to exercise his military abilities, and distinguish himself as the commander of our forces in the field.

It is a sad thing now to see this man, led around by those of little faith and no vision-campaigning against the kind of America that he once symbolized before the world. It makes me very sad.
This campaign has already demonstrated that a military man should stick to his profession. We do not need any additional proof. It would be disastrous to test the truth of the proposition any further by electing him to an office he is not qualified to fill. We certainly can spare ourselves that.

Now, my friends, we ought to elect as our President Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. He is the man who has wide experience with the greatest problems of foreign and domestic policy. He knows what it really means to fight for the people's welfare, and to resist the attacks and the corruption of the special interests. He knows the objectives of this campaign, and the objectives of this Government, without being told.

As Vice President, we ought to elect John Sparkman--a man who worked tirelessly as a representative of the people's interests for many years.

You people out here in Washington ought to take the great opportunities you have this year to elect as fine a slate of liberal candidates as I have ever seen.

Scoop Jackson, Hugh Mitchell, Don Magnuson, John J. O'Connell, and all your State officials.

Now your welfare is at stake and the welfare of this country is at stake. Your interests are the interests of the country. You, the people, are the Government. For your own welfare, for your own continued prosperity, for peace in the world, for the welfare of the greatest nation the sun has ever shone upon, I urge you to vote the Democratic ticket this fall.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:05 p.m. in the Armory at Tacoma, Wash. In his opening words he referred to Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington. Later he referred to Representative Henry M. Jackson, Democratic candidate for Senator, Representative Hugh B. Mitchell, Democratic candidate for Governor, and Don Magnuson and John J. O'Connell, Democratic candidates for Representative, all of Washington.

The meeting was sponsored by the Pierce County Democratic Central Committee.
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.