Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965; Kefauver, Estes, 1903-1963; Barkley, Alben William, 1877-1956; Russell, Richard B. (Richard Brevard), 1897-1971; Harriman, W. Averell (William Averell), 1891-1986; Rayburn, Sam, 1882-1961; Sparkman, John, 1899
Presidential campaign, 1952; McCarthyism; Korean War, 1950-1953; International relations; Presidential candidates; Legislators; Political conventions; Governors

Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman, December 22, 1952. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.

December 22, 1952

Consideration of the Nov. 4th election is interesting. The majority of the Republican candidate was 6,600,000 odd votes.

27,300,000 cast for the Democrats and 33,900,000 for the Republican Dixiecrat, Shivercrat, anti Korean Bible-belt coalition. It was the greatest turnout of votes in the history of the country. It was an appalling campaign made up of lies, misrepresentation and bald demagoguery mixed with a holy approach in a long faced Cotton Mather manner by the Republicans. No effort on the part of the Democrats to have the people understand the real issues was successful. Military hero glamour, character assassination (McCarthyism) and promises of world peace (which are impossible of fulfillment) gave the Catholics, the Protestant Bible Belt and the "sisters and the cousins and the aunts" along with the mammas, the sweethearts and the wives of the fighting men an incentive to go out and vote "agin the government."

Massachusetts, which gave the Democrats a majority of 242,000 in 1948, gave the coalition 200,000 in 1952. Missouri gave the coalition a majority of about 30,000 in 1952. The Democrats carried it in 1948 by 262,000. New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas were all swayed by a quasi-religious, anti-administration feeling, based on the ideas mentioned.

The country from an economic standpoint was never in better condition. The gross national product runs in the neighborhood of 344 billion dollars, national income 290 billions, both records for all time.

There are 63,300,000 employed in civilian pursuits and only 1.4 million out of work, another all time high record for holders of jobs.

More farmers own farms, have more conveniences than ever before in this or any other country. Wages for all workers are at an all time high. Business profits are at record rates. Yet Propaganda, character assassination and glamour overshadowed these hard facts.

For seven years the country had faced the Soviet threat-in Iran, in Greece and Turkey, in Berlin and in Korea and Indo-China-and faced it successfully. Yet one demagogic statement made the people forget!

Had the election of the President been close, the Democratic loss could have been laid at the door of the management of the situation from Jan. 1 '52 until the election.

The Governor of Illinois was urged in Jan. and Feb. to agree to be the Democratic candidate. He refused and kept refusing until the day came around for nominations of candidates for President by the Democratic Convention.

In the meantime a fakir from Tennessee who had made some glamorous investigations of local crime conditions was openly campaigning from one end of the country to the other for the nomination. There were native son candidates from Oklahoma, N.Y. & Mass. A meeting of some leading Democrats had been held and it was decided to put the name of Vice President Barkley before the Convention. This meeting was held in June after the Gov. of Ill. had again refused the support of the leading Democrats who would control the Convention.

The Convention met, was welcomed by the Mayor of Chicago and the Governor of Illinois. The Gov. made a fine speech.

Barkley held a meeting with some labor leaders on Monday, was refused their support and withdrew over the protest of his friends.

On the morning of the day for the nominations for President the Governor of Illinois called the White House and asked if the President would be embarrassed if he allowed his friends to nominate him. He was informed that there would be no embarrassment. But he let the old counterfeit, fence straddler, the Governor of Indiana, do the nominating.

The Tennessee Senator had been nominated, as had the Senator from Oklahoma, the Governor of Mass., who had been the keynote speaker. Mr. Harriman from New York and one or two others-Dick Russell from the South being one of them.

The Convention had been very skillfully handled by its National Committee Chairman, together with its temporary Chairman and key-note speaker, the Gov. of Mass., and by the permanent chairman, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who has no equal as a presiding officer.

The balloting began. On the third ballot the Sen. from Tenn. had 360 votes, the Gov. of Ill. 330, the Sen. from Georgia 267, Harriman 87, the Gov. of Mass. the Mass. delegation etc. The Convention recessed as the President arrived in Chicago for the purpose of presenting the nominee to the Convention.

At a dinner at the Saddle and Sirloin Club it was decided that Mr. Harriman and the Gov. of Mass. would withdraw in favor of the Gov. of Ill. When the Convention reconvened this was done and the nomination of the Governor of Illinois was assured.

After the acceptance speech a conference was held behind the stage and Senator Sparkman was agreed to as the candidate for Vice President. Those present were Sam Rayburn, Adlai Stevenson, Frank McKinney and the President.

Then the Governor set up a headquarters in the City of Springfield, presided over by Wilson Wyatt of Louisville, Kentucky, former Mayor of Louisville and former President of A.D.A.

The Governor then fired Mr. McKinney and had Ste. Mitchell made National Chairman of the Democratic Committee. That made the National Headquarters in Washington and the Governor's Hqtrs. in Springfield, both to be presided over by amateurs. This is no reflection on either Mr. Wyatt or Mr. Mitchell but merely a statement of fact. The Chairman of a great political party must know what it is all about and he can't learn it in three months and from the top place.

There have been many Chairmen of the National Committee and there have been some very good ones. Frank McKinney was one of the very good Chairmen, in fact there has never been a better one. The organization was set to go as it had never been set before. When McKinney was fired the organization fell apart and the best efforts of all concerned were not up to making a going concern out of the two-headed arrangement.

That did not cause us to lose the election. I doubt if anyone could have won on the Democratic ticket in 1952. But we did not get all the votes we were entitled to, even in a losing year.

Had Stevenson agreed to go when he was urged to do so in January or February he could have been sold to the country before the convention. There would have been no other candidates with the possible exception of Russell of Georgia and it is doubtful he'd have let his name be used at the Convention with the Governor of Illinois. It would have been easier to finance the campaign-which the Committee was unsuccessful in doing.

The Governor wrote a letter to an Oregon paper and referred to "the mess in Washington." Of course the opposition pounced on that phrase and made a campaign slogan out of it.

The Governor found it very difficult to believe that a life-long politician can be an honest man. He did not and does not yet understand the necessity of organization from the precinct to the National Committee.

He and Franklin Roosevelt had experienced contact with two rotten, money grabbing machines-Kelly-Nash and Tammany Hall. It did not occur to the Governor or to the President that even these terrible machines usually present honest men for public office. Republican machines like Vare's of Pa., Pratt's of N.Y., Green-McCormick and big Bill Thompson's and the notorious Cox Machine of Cincinnati placed the crooks in office. There were never worse personal and political crooks than Pratt, Vare, Penrose, Bill Thompson, Green and the later Philadelphia City administration.

The Press-the vaunted "free" press-supported all these iniquitous Republican Machines. The outstanding crooks were all Democrats according to the "free press."

There are more honest men who are professional politicians than there are honest bankers and business men. The word of a successful man in politics is worth more than the bond of a banker, of a big business man.

So the Governor distrusted the President, the Chairman of the National Committee and the Democratic Party. He had read Bertie McCormick's awful Tribune and Hearst's Chicago sewer sheet until he more than half believed what they had to say about Roosevelt's New Deal and the President's Fair Deal. A half hearted approach never won in a political campaign. That approach did not win for Scott Lucas in Illinois, for Ernest McFarland in Arizona, for the old white hatted counterfeit in Indiana nor for various Congressmen and Senators who tried to play both sides of the street.

A man running for office must believe in his cause and make the people believe it and in him.

Had the election of 1952 been close, the discharge of the National Committee Chairman, the lack of faith in the Administrations of Roosevelt and Truman would have lost that election even to Robert Taft.


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