Barone speculates on the possibility that Obama will pull a Harry Truman, that is come from behind in the polls and win unexpectedly. Barone seems skeptical.
In addition, Truman’s victory was brought about by two “F factors” — the farm vote and foreign policy — the first of which scarcely exists today and the second of which seems unlikely to benefit Obama in the same way.
When the nation went to war in the 1940s, 1 in 4 Americans still lived on farms. The 1948 electorate still reflected that America. Voter turnout was actually lower than it was in 1940, and the vast postwar demographic changes were not reflected in elections until turnout surged in the contest between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson in 1952. Truman promised to keep Depression-era farm subsidies in place and charged that Dewey and the Republicans would repeal them. That enabled him to run ahead of Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 showing in 13 states with large farm populations, from Indiana to Colorado and Minnesota to Oklahoma.
Without that swing in the farm vote, Truman would not have won. Dewey, waking up to find that he would not be president as he and almost everyone expected, spotted that immediately the morning after the election.
Today only 2 to 3 percent of Americans live on farms. Farm prices currently are running far ahead of subsidy prices. Obama is not going to be re-elected by the farm vote.
The second F factor that helped Truman was foreign policy. As Ornstein correctly notes, Truman’s Cold War policies — the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan — were supported by Republican congressional leaders and by Dewey. Top Dewey advisers were taken into confidence by Truman’s foreign policy appointees. It was the golden era of bipartisan foreign policy.
But on one policy, Truman went further than his top advisers and Dewey’s. When the Soviets blocked land access to West Berlin in June 1948, Truman’s advisers — men of the caliber of George Marshall and Omar Bradley — said that it was impossible to supply food and fuel to Berlin and that we should just abandon it.
At a crucial meeting in July 1948, Truman listened to this advice. After others had finished talking, Truman said simply, “We’re not leaving Berlin.” Gen. Lucius Clay, our proconsul in Germany, set about organizing what became the Berlin Airlift.
Gen. William Tunner, who had run the wartime airlift from Burma to China, made the Berlin Airlift work. Vast quantities of food and coal — far more than experts had estimated — were brought into Tempelhof Airport on planes landing in foul weather every 90 seconds. And the pilots took to throwing out pieces of candy to the hungry kids lining the runways.
Andrei Cherny, now the chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, tells the story in his book “The Candy Bombers.” He argues persuasively that the Berlin Airlift — an example of American strength, determination, technological prowess and generosity — played a key role in re-electing Truman.
Well, we already know that Obama will not be known in history for his tough foreign policy.
All I can say to Barak Obama is, “Mr. President, I knew Harry Truman, Harry Truman was my friend, and Mr. President, You’re no Harry S. Truman”.
Well, I didn’t really of course, that was before my time, but you get the idea.