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The Presidency of Harry S. Truman

The Presidency of Harry S. Truman. Part II: Domestic Policy & Events. Post-WWII transition to peacetime economy. During the war, the federal govt intervened to unprecedented levels controlling prices, wages, and production.

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The Presidency of Harry S. Truman

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  1. The Presidency of Harry S. Truman Part II: Domestic Policy & Events

  2. Post-WWII transition to peacetime economy • During the war, the federal govt intervened to unprecedented levels controlling prices, wages, and production. • Truman lobbied for expanded liberal agenda that built on the New Deal. • Post-war inflation + consumer shortages = GOP victory in 1946 • Truman went on the attack and worked to energize the New Deal coalition of liberals, Blacks, Labor, and urbanites. To do this he will employ a combination of executive orders & presidential vetoes. • Truman’s Domestic Policy Agenda – Fair Deal focused on: • Civil Rights • Expansion of Social Security • National Health Care • Higher minimum wage / Federal Housing Act

  3. Republican Opposition 1946 Mid-term Elections: *Republicans win back control of Congress for the first time since 1932. Why? • Post-war inflation • Labor unrest • Growing alliance between the GOP & Southern Conservative Democrats

  4. 1946 Republican Victory

  5. Truman & Labor Unions • By 1945, union membership – 15 million • All major industries had been unionized – esp by CIO • Wanted to expand on war-time labor gains by agitating for structural changes • CIO’s “Industrial Democracy” ideology called for workers/unions to shape business/economic development • Main Goal: Control of workplace, unions were working to be coequals with management. • End of WWII brought an end to govt price controls and over-time, when added to inflation = strikes! • 1945 strikes = greatest work stoppage in US History • Concerned with wages & inflation, Labor compromised, accepting job security assurances of higher wages; while corporate maintained full control of management. *Truman’s record was mixed, classic political opportunist.

  6. Republicans Push Back on Labor:Taft-Hartley Act (1947) • Effort to decrease gains made by Labor during the New Deal & WWII – especially Wagner Act • 1st major effort to roll back part of the New Deal • Passed over the veto of Truman • While criticized by Labor as the “slave labor bill”, severely restricted the activities and power of  labor unions. Robert Taft was a leading conservative member of the GOP

  7. Civil Rights, WWII, and Truman • Under pressure from A. Phillip Randolph, FDR issued Executive Order 8802, which created the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC), to investigate discrimination in defense industry employment. • Veterans often led the way on civil rights by challenging segregation and discrimination. *Truman had a mixed record on civil rights. While his voting pattern in Congress suggested a commitment to civil rights, his actions suggested that his support was more political than genuine. (He needed Black & Liberal votes!) • Lobbied Congress to support a permanent FEPC, but would not address challenges to existing FEPC • In 1946, met with a delegation to discuss calls for anti-lynching legislation. Moved by their stories, Truman created the Committee on Civil Rights to investigate and make recommendations. He will later ask Congress to implement all the recommendations. • Truman is the first president to address the NAACP – Civil Rights becomes a moral issue. • Truman soon back tracked in the face of white opposition. Southern Democrats threaten to bolt the party. In response, Truman refrained from introducing any legislation to implement the CCR’s recommendations. • In July 1948, under pressure from Randolph, Truman issues an executive order desegregating the U.S. Military.

  8. Truman & Civil Rights

  9. Truman’s 1948 Strategy for Reelection • Do just enough to keep Blacks interested and loyal • Don’t go too far so as to alienate the South • Support Labor • Keep Liberals satisfied and engaged

  10. The 1948 Campaign States’ Rights Party (Dixiecrats): • Northern Liberals win a strong civil rights plank at the Dem Convention. • Conservative Southern Dems bolt the part and form the States’ Rights Party. • South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond is the nominee. • The Dixiecrats were determined to protect what they portrayed as the southern way of life beset by an oppressive federal government.

  11. The 1948 Campaign Progressive Party: • Candidate – Former VP, Henry Wallce • His platform advocated friendly relations with the Soviet Union, an end to the nascent Cold War, an end to segregation, full voting rights for blacks, and universal government health insurance. 

  12. The 1948 Campaign Republican Party: • Candidate – Gov. Thomas Dewey (NY) • Runs on record as… • Anti-communist • Moderate critic of New Deal • Honesty • Tax cuts • Commitment to debt reduction • Law & Order • Like Hoover, he was not very charismatic and did not connect well with voters.

  13. The 1948 Campaign Truman’s Political Move: After the Democratic Convention, Truman called a special session of Congress to address his important legislative agenda. The GOP controlled Congress refused to move on the bills and was branded the “do Nothing Congress” by Truman & Democrats. * During the campaign, Truman warned that the GOP would repeal the New Deal. This was often followed by a reminder that the Democrats had saved the country.

  14. Politics of Anti-Communism at Home Pre-Truman Anti-Communism: • 1919 Red Scare • Conservatives branded the New Deal the “New Red Menace” • 1938 HUAC became a permanent standing committee • 1940 Smith Act was used to prosecute Americans for advocating communism

  15. Politics of the Truman Doctrine • By declaring a “holy war” against communism, Republicans feared that Democrats were creating a permanent war emergency to justify continued and expanded federal control . • Continued consolidation of the Executive Branch with 1947 National Security Act which created: • The Dept of Defense • The Joint Chiefs of Staff • The National Security Council • The Central Intelligence Agency • If Truman wanted GOP support on foreign policy, he would have to compromise on domestic anti-communist efforts. • Exec Order 9835 created the Federal Employee Loyalty Program . • 1947 HUAC began to investigate suspected subversives. An aggressive member of the committee was a freshman congressman from California, Richard Nixon.

  16. Chambers vs. Hiss In 1948, Whitaker Chambers accused New Deal insider and diplomat, Alger Hiss, of being a communist and a Soviet spy. In 1950, Hiss was found guilty of perjury. The Hiss Trial further divided the nation with Liberals defending Hiss and confirming conservative charges that Liberals are soft on communism The 1949 revelations about Soviet successful efforts to steal atomic secrets did help the Hiss apologists. *Post Cold War research has confirmed that Hiss was a spy.

  17. The Rise of Joseph McCarthy In 1950, McCarthy gave a speech in WV and claimed that the US State Dept was riddled with communists. *A 1950 Gallup Poll found that 50% of Americans supported McCarthy, while only 29% thought his efforts were politically motivated.

  18. “McCarthyism” McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.

  19. Truman & Israel On May 15, 1948, the United States became the first country to officially recognize the state of Israel. Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Abba Eban (center) with Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion and U.S. President Harry Truman (1951).

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