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

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Busch (government, Claremont McKenna Coll.; Reagan's Victory: The Presidential Election of 1980 and the Rise of the Right), who has written about several more recent presidential elections, turns here to Harry S. Truman's 1948 victory over Thomas E. Dewey—a well-chronicled event. Busch differentiates his book by placing more focus than past authors on certain components of the election such as the concurrent congressional contests; by thoroughly analyzing and synthesizing the work of many prior scholars; by including appendixes such as state-by-state primary and general election results, in addition to a strong bibliographical essay; and by offering his own interpretation of Truman's victory, which he considers less of an upset than the popular view would have it, and as much the "last gasp of an era" as it was an affirmation of the New Deal. VERDICT The results are something of a handbook on this important election, and scholars will value it for that. General readers looking for a David McCullough-esque narrative will not find it here, however, and may want to turn to David Pietrusza's 1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America.—Robert Nardini, Niagara Falls, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700618675
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 10/11/2012
  • Series: American Presidential Elections
  • Pages: 292
  • Sales rank: 975,092
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew E. Busch is Crown Professor of Government and George R. Roberts Fellow at Claremont McKenna College. His dozen books include Reagan's Victory: The Presidential Election of 1980 and the Rise of the Right (also from Kansas), and most recently Epic Journey: The 2008 Elections and American Politics.

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Table of Contents

Editor's Foreword

Author's Preface

Introduction

1. January 1, 1948

2. The Contenders

3. Divided Democrats, Divided Republicans

4. The Conventions Name Their Candidates

5. Truman Defeats Dewey

7. Interpretations and Legacies

Appendix A: 1948 Republican Primary Results

Appendix B: Harry S. Truman Nomination Acceptance Speech, July 15, 1948

Appendix C: 1948 Presidential General Election Results

Appendix D: Harry S. Truman Inaugural Address, January 20, 1949

Notes

Bibliographic Essay

Index

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