Sunday, November 4, 2012

Berowne's 142

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Q" is for "Qualified")

What with the U S presidential election so close, I thought the above looked like a typical political loser. :-)
Which got me to thinking about a very special event of a few decades ago.
In my heavy-handed, portentous way, I hereby state that the presidential election of 1948 was the greatest political upset in American history.
And - yes, I know it’s getting repetitious, but – Berowne was there. :-)
Virtually every prediction and poll had indicated that incumbent Harry S. Truman would be defeated decisively by Republican Thomas E Dewey.
We all – voters of every political party – seemed to feel that Harry Truman was about the least likely, least qualified presidential candidate anyone could think of.
He had, of course, not been elected; he had been thrust into the office by the death of President Roosevelt.
His previous record wasn’t all that awesome. He had run a haberdashery – men’s ties, gloves, hats, etc. - in downtown Kansas City, but had gone bankrupt. He had only a high-school education, no college.
The picture of him used during his campaign showing his service in World War I made him look more goofy than heroic.
But the biggest mark against Harry was the fact that FDR had obviously thought so little of him. Truman had been the vice-president but Roosevelt rarely even spoke to him, never informed him of decisions, met with him only twice.
So the Democratic campaigner in 1948, the haberdasher, stepped up to the plate with quite a number of strikes on him even before he began.
But all the foregoing wasn’t nearly as important as the disaster, the shipwreck that the Democratic Party, which Harry was supposed to lead, had turned into. It was like the Titanic and the iceberg, but with a twist.
If the Democratic Party was the Titanic, the iceberg had sliced it into three parts.
A huge chunk – the Southern wing - couldn’t stomach Truman; they just got up and walked out. They formed a new party, the Dixiecrats, dedicated to the racist idea of movimg forward with their beloved system, segregation, forever alive.
So Truman’s political right was gone. So was his left.
Another huge chunk, politically-left Democrats, who felt that HST was too middle-of-the-road for them, also took off and formed the Progressive Party.
That left Harry as the Dem’s presidential candidate, all alone by the telephone, heading up the tattered remains of the Democratic Party. There was some question that its wounds would ever heal. But anyway, everyone, including me, was convinced Harry Truman didn’t have a chance at winning.
For the Republicans, however, things looked bright, couldn’t have been brighter.
It’s true that their candidate, Thomas E Dewey, didn’t look all that impressive as presidential material. (One commentator wrote that “He looks like the little man on top of the wedding cake”.)
But Dewey, watching with pleasure the amazing disintegration of the Democratic Party, was convinced that all he had to do was avoid shooting himself in the foot and he’d be in. It made sense.
He traveled here and there around the country, giving speeches that were boringly predictable, with platitudes aplenty. He informed his audiences that agriculture is important. We must move forward. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom without liberty. Our future lies ahead of us. That kind of thing.
Now, I was working in radio in New York at that time. On election night our announcers would go to the various headquarters to report back in. The choice assignment was the Republican HQ because the newspapers reported that they had been stocking up for an unprecedented party – a victory shindig with numerous buffet tables loaded with a spectacular collection of delectable viands and victuals, along with, of course, a wide variety of potables. The attending news media would be welcome to dig in.
At our station, we announcers all drew straws; the short straw got to cover the Republicans. I wasn’t a member of that political group, but I would compromise and put aside my prejudices if I could get at those buffet tables.
Believe it or not, I got the short straw; I eagerly headed for the big party.
Well, I was there for twelve hours, from 7 pm to 7 am, and there was no decision, no definite election results; it kept being too close to call. And all that glorious food stayed in the kitchen.
I gave up and went home at 7 am, not knowing – no one knew at that time – who had been elected, and I collapsed into bed. When I woke up around 2 in the afternoon, I learned that Truman had won.
Here’s the famous picture of that time: the Chicago Tribune, humorously referred to as “the world’s greatest newspaper,” couldn’t wait for the actual results.
Seems that Harry had spent his campaign with a solid discussion of the issues while Dewey stayed with his platitudes, and that had paid off for Truman.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

52 comments:

Helen said...

Mag in First Person ... doesn't get better!

Catfish Tales said...

Wow, such interesting reportage, Berowne. And YOU actually were there. Wow again!

kaykuala said...

This inside story is most interesting. It goes to show over confidence is further eroded by wrong news fed to Dewey! Thanks for sharing Berowne!

Hank

Daydreamertoo said...

Wonderful slice of American pie. It just goes to show you, can't count your chickens til they hatch...
Enjoyed this, thank you

joanne said...

thanx for the intriguing info....interesting and at times, quite amusing...great post

jaerose said...

What a great montage..I hate platitudes..in any arena of life..nicely dished up..(as ever)..Jae

Tess Kincaid said...

Another fascinating story, Mr. B...unique take from the pic...I never would have thought loser...

Other Mary said...

Oh...I feel sooo boring after reading your blog. Your life is a bit Forest Gump-ish, B.

Berowne said...

Other Mary: "Your life is a bit Forest Gump-ish, B."
And these comments are like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get. :-)

Berowne said...

Joanne: "Quite amusing...great post."
Quite encouraging...great comment.

Gail said...

I've read these facts and have lived them through my father's stories. Interesting take on the prompt.

Roger Owen Green said...

One of my favorite elections! And I wasn't even there...

Mama Zen said...

What a great tale!

Linda said...

I've never heard this story told quite this way, with a delicious buffet going to waste! Thank you for sahring, Berowne.

Kathe W. said...

hmmmm very familiar.....thanks Berowne!

ReBelle said...

Enjoyed your look back!

Berowne said...

Linda: "...with a delicious buffet going to waste!"
Yes, I still regret missing that feast. :-)

ninotaziz said...

I can't think of anything for this image but I LOVED your story.

Kutamun said...

Whats that old saying about believing none of what read, half of what you hear and a quarter of what you see ? . Funny game , democracy . Thanks Berowne

SueAnn Lommler said...

Fantastic lesson....wonderfully written.
Hugs
SueAnn

jabblog said...

A fascinating insight into the politics of the time. Nothing is ever certain. I remember Neil Kinnock, leader of the Labour party, behaving as though he'd won the 1992 election before the votes had been counted.
There's so much speculation these days that the final result is often rather a let-down.

Berowne said...

Thanks, jabblog. Glad to hear the U K viewpoint.

Sue J said...

I enjoyed reading this - first hand too. Just goes to show it's not over 'til it's over.

Carrie Burtt said...

I say we vote for you for president Berowne....wise you are for sure! There is a fascinating lesson in every post you provide! Love that! :-)

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Berowne, once again, YOU WERE THERE. This is another amazing story from you fascinating life. I have always loved that photo, because it shows the folly of incompetent media... and don't get me started on that.

Overconfidence is never good. Pride goeth... Glad to be back from vacation, energized... Peace, Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/11/05/healing-and-healing/

Karen S. said...

Wow, and wow....thanks for bringing such interesting news!

SilverGardenia said...

Wish you could have had the food. At least it makes a good story. Thanks for sharing.

Lyn said...

Inspired history..who else could look at beautiful Charis, (same boots as Truman)and get these results..I salute you!

phil said...

What a great story, Berowne, especially about the three-way Dem split, something I knew nothing about.

I think I'll watch "Give'em Hell, Harry" on election night. Great movie.

Berowne said...

What a pleasure to hear from phil, Lyn, SilverGardenia, Karen S, Sharp Little, Carrie B, Sue J and SueAnn L - thanks so much for the comments.

Tigerbrite said...

Great post, so interesting. Must have been some red face at the Chicago Tribune, what a faux pas. LOL

Karen said...

A great post, too bad you didn't get any grub!!

Leslie: said...

I love coming by to see what I'm going to get (pass the chocolates!) lol

Leslie
abcw team

Nico said...

More people might be interested in history if it were taught like this--like a family story told in the living room, a fire in the fireplace, this is how it happened, kids. Wonderful!

Berowne said...

What a great comment, Nico; thanks.

Sheilagh Lee said...

sometimes it surprising who wins and the newspapers had to guess. I think I still have the appear that said Gore won when he didn't. Great story Berowne

Carver said...

Great post for the letter Q. Although I don't remember that election (I was born in 1957) I've seen that shot of him with the incorrect newspaper headline and love it.

Robyn Greenhouse said...

Such a great history lesson here and how amazing to have been so involved!

Mary Ann said...

So I guess there is more than one way to "shoot yourself in the foot" politically.

Sue said...

What fascinating stories you tell. Makes me wish I knew you in person so I could invite you over to dinner!

=)

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

I never tire of reading this story--and to "hear" it from one who was a part of history's unfolding makes it even more exciting. Thank you!

Serena said...

I really enjoyed this. I didn't know anything about this and your telling was very interesting. This is a great way to learn some history. I'm glad I visited and will definitely be visiting often.

oldegg said...

Your personalizing of your stories is such that it is almost like a favorite uncle chatting to you sitting by the fire while you hang on to every word.

Hausfrau said...

Very cool, Berowne--and leave it to you to make the leap from Charis Weston to Harry Truman!

Berowne said...

That comment of yours, oldegg, is strikingly different - and very much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

HA! I thoroughly enjoyed the history intwined.

stu pidasso

RMP said...

thanks for sharing. yesterday one of my colleagues shared she was unable to use the limerick she wrote with her students 'cause it had the wrong winner; it made me think of the election here that you spoke of. The teacher (who is older than me--though not by much) had never heard the story. I thought it odd because that newspaper is one funny piece of history.

Lady In Read said...

Berowne, as always, informative, interesting, and so much FUN!!

Berowne said...

Comments like yours, Lady in R, are just as much fun to read - thanks hugely.

Paula Scott said...

It would seem that this would count as a primary source? Really interesting to hear it told by one who was there.

Stafford Ray said...

Seems like the issues still matter! I have beside me the pre-election edition of our Murdock national Newspaper, The Australian and in the top right corner is a direction to P10 where journalist, Peggy Noonan says "Why Romney will steal the Presidency". Wishful thinking, Rupert.

mywordwall said...

Wow! a first hand account of history. What could be better than that? :-) Thank you.

 
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