Truman's Triumphs: The 1948 Election and the Making of Postwar America

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University Press of Kansas, 2012 - 280 pages
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The Chicago Tribune headline "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" remains infamously wrong about the outcome of the 1948 presidential election. But, as Andrew Busch reveals, there is much more to this story than the well-worn image of a victorious and beaming President Harry Truman parading the newspaper's erroneously headlined front page for all to see.

Primarily a contest between Truman and challenger Thomas Dewey, the 1948 presidential race offered something for everyone, including two third-party candidates (Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace), triumphant grit, tragic hubris, dangerous naiveté, accidents of fate, accusations of betrayal, foreign crises, the birth of Israel in the Middle East, a dramatic special session of Congress, internecine battles among unions and liberals, spies, extremists galore (including Ku Klux Klansmen and Communists), the first televised convention, wayward polls, and, of course, a final result that surprised many.

Amid a small library of books on the topic, Busch's stands out by offering the best scholarly study available—and the most readable. His fresh account goes beyond previous work by examining more closely the nomination season, key congressional elections, and the state of public opinion. He also digs into splits in both parties—the Democrats seeing Southern segregationists and the far left run their own candidates and the Republicans facing a division between philosophical wings representing the 80th Congress and the presidential ticket—and tells why the Republican schism proved more damaging. He concludes that the election was especially significant as an affirmation of the New Deal, of anti-Communist containment, and of gradual progress in civil rights-all of which established the political baseline for postwar America.

Even readers knowledgeable about Truman's 1948 victory will discover new findings in this fresh and revealing account of that dramatic race. Truman's Triumphs recalls a contest with more twists and turns—and a different outcome—than most contemporaries anticipated, and makes engaging reading for scholar and history buff alike.

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