Dewey Defeats Truman: The 1948 Election and the Battle for America’s Soul

Houghton Harcourt. Jul. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9781328585066. $30. HIST
Baime (The Accidental President) examines the 1948 election, which was, in his words, “a fight for the very soul of American government.” As Baime demonstrates, the contest between Thomas E. Dewey and Harry S. Truman, who mostly agreed on Cold War foreign policy, may have been less significant ideologically than the conflict over the New Deal and the rise of segregationist Strom Thurmond, who sought the nomination on behalf of the Dixiecrat Party. Baime explains that the differences between mainline Democrats and Republicans were primarily focused on U.S. social policies, along with the role of the federal government toward the needs of African Americans and the growing middle class. In comparing the unexpected results of the 1948 and 2016 elections, Baime explores the significance of new media, as well as party presumption and personality differences. Notably, he explains how Truman won in 1948, despite the reach of early TV and newspaper endorsements of Dewey. That several books have been written on the 1948 election, including Truman’s Triumphs (2012) by Andrew Busch, is a testament to the interest in the quintessentially direct Truman overcoming a rather austere Dewey.
VERDICT A valuable addition to reflections on Truman and the factors that motivate voters.
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