Email this review


A new study or the 1948 election that has long been called the greatest upset in American political history. Donaldson, (History/Xavier Univ.) provides persuasive analyses of postwar politics, the tactics of contending political parties that marked the breakup of the old FDR New Deal coalition after WWII. To many voters, “Plain Harry” Truman was a drastic letdown after the charismatic and innovative FDR. Truman had little use for New Dealers and was heard to call them “crackpots” and “the lunatic fringe”. He replaced the FDR cabinet with his political cronies and old war buddies. Donaldson finds that only FDR could hold together his unlikely coalition of leftists, liberals, aggressive labor unions, conservative farmers, newly united northern African-Americans, professionals and right-wing southern white supremacists. Truman walked a tightrope between these contending forces. In addition, Donaldson points out that Republicans drew away many old FDR voters who perceived the Yalta conference as a sellout to the Soviet Union. The GOP captured Congress in the 1946 elections as Truman’s popularity declined. All polls predicted a Republican landslide in 1948. Truman found he couldn—t please all factions and decided to abandon the far leftists and the extreme southern white supremacists, both of whom formed new parties led respectively by Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond. Truman’s feisty “whistle stop” train campaign and “give them hell, Harry” speeches endeared him to millions of Americans In the west and south and in large cities. He regained many lukewarm voters with no other place to go except to the newly animated Harry. Donaldson argues that the overconfident Dewey lost the election with his bland, boring campaign speeches as much as Truman won it in a close popular vote. An excellent history of a remarkable event in a tumultuous time in America. (For another look at this election, see Harold I. Gullan, The Upset that Wasn’t, p. 1432.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8131-2075-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998


NonfictionTHE HIDDEN WHITE HOUSE by Robert Klara
by Robert Klara
Indie1948 by David Pietrusza
by David Pietrusza
NonfictionINVISIBLE by Stephen L. Carter
by Stephen L. Carter