“…to Serve The World-not To Dominate It”
United States policy, Henry Wallace said in his spirited challenge to Truman and Dewey in 1948, should be
December 1976 | Volume 28, Issue 1
Wallace returned to a triumphant rally at New York’s Yankee Stadium on September 10. “Fascism has become an ugly reality—a reality which I have tested,” he announced.
In Los Angeles on October 2 Wallace addressed a paying audience of twenty-two thousand, while only sixteen thousand had come to hear Truman—without charge—at the same stadium the week before. Such figures, however, were illusory and represented hard-core support in strongholds like New York and California. All polls showed that Wallace had slipped badly.
The President had succeeded in exploiting Wallace’s most vulnerable point—that a Wallace vote would ensure a Republican victory. “Don’t waste your vote,” Truman urged, insisting that Communists had “lined up solidly to put a Republican President in the White House.” Later surveys showed this approach had cut deeply into the Progressive vote, that even devoted Progressive workers at the moment of reckoning in the voting booth had pulled the Truman lever in terror of placing Dewey in the White House.
Truman achieved another climactic stroke, virtually stealing the peace issue from Wallace. Although rejecting a summit meeting after the Wallace-Stalin letters in May, the President asked Chief Justice of the United States Fred Vinson on October 3 to head a peace mission to Moscow. Suddenly the announcement of the mission, for which the White House had booked all networks, was cancelled. The State Department had supposedly persuaded the President to ban all direct negotiation until the end of the Berlin blockade. Further, conservative Republicans branded it Democratic appeasement. At the moment, the abrupt cancellation seemed like an administration blunder. But in the next month Truman turned it to his advantage, posing as an aggressive peace-seeker whose efforts had been thwarted by the hardliners.
Meanwhile the Progressive command, desperate to- eradicate the image that its Congressional candidates were “spoilers” intent on defeating liberal opponents of the Marshall Plan, announced that in twenty-six out of thirty-five marginal districts they would pull out their candidates and either endorse or not oppose the Democrats. In Minnesota, for example, the Progressives pulled out of the Senate race against Hubert Humphrey.
But nothing seemed to help at this point. The returns on Election Day were a devastating blow to Wallace, who received only 1,157,140 votes nationwide. Truman was re-elected in a startling upset, winning 49.51 per cent of the votes to Dewey’s 45.13 per cent. Senator Strom Thurmond on the States’ Rights line even outpolled Wallace, 2.40 to 2.38 per cent.
No important Progressive candidate survived except Vito Marcantonio of New York, who won in a threecornered race. Further, Marcantonio’s American Labor Party accounted for over a half million votes in New York State, about half of Wallace’s national total.
In many key states, like California and Massachusetts, the Progressive organization had simply fallen apart. Legal and technical obstructions denied Wallace considerable numbers of votes. In Ohio, where the courts allowed only an “independent electors” list with no Wallace identification, the resulting confusion probably invalidated about 150,000 votes. The worst thefts probably occurred in the South—Georgia, for example, with 80,000 petition signatures recording 1,600 votes. If all Wallace votes had been tallied, the total would probably have run about 2.25 million.
Was the Wallace campaign with all its agony worthwhile? On the prime issue of peace, Baldwin contends, “We won for the world that precious gift of time.” His estimate may be exaggerated, just as the threat of a Russian war was probably exaggerated. Yet Wallace undoubtedly forced Truman in the last months to reshape his image into that of the peace candidate, to soften his confrontation policy through numerous compromises like the settlement of the Berlin blockade.
Wallace’s main impact was to goad the country into more radical programs. His southern campaign was an impressive breakthrough. In New York the following year, the American Labor Party would run a black candidate for Manhattan borough president and establish a precedent that would soon give black candidates a monopoly on that office. In civil rights, in labor policy, in government economic planning, Wallace pushed Truman into postures he had long evaded. “The men who see eye to eye with Mr. Wallace on domestic, economic and social questions are among those who can rightfully claim a share of the credit for Mr. Truman’s victory,” the Wall Street Journal concluded.
By the time of the second Progressive Party convention in February, 1950, Wallace had grown increasingly skeptical of Soviet peace policy. He insisted that the convention announce bluntly that “we are not apologists for Russia” and that Russia and the United States (“the two big brutes of the world,” he called them) had “both made mistakes in foreign policy.” When left-wing delegates demurred at such sharp treatment of Russia, Marcantonio forced them to accept Wallace’s demands for party unity.