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HARRY S. TRUMAN Former Missouri county judge who entered national politics in 1934 when he was elected to U.S. Senate as part of the New Deal wing of the Democratic Party He was re-elected in 1940

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harry s truman
  • Former Missouri county judge who entered national politics in 1934 when he was elected to U.S. Senate as part of the New Deal wing of the Democratic Party
  • He was re-elected in 1940
    • Gained national recognition by uncovering several sensational cases of waste and corruption by defense contractors
  • Chosen by FDR to be his running mate in 1944
    • Because of his liberal credentials and newly won national reputation
up and down
  • Truman appeared totally unprepared for presidency
    • FDR had not included him in anything so he appeared bewildered and ineffectual during his first months in office
  • Republicans capitalized on his apparent weakness and won first majority in Congress since 1930
    • 1946 Congressional elections
  • New Republican-controlled 80th Congress was reactionary
    • Determined to destroy all the gains of the New Deal
    • Truman regained much prestige and public support by resisting these efforts
1948 election

Result was one of the biggest upsets in American electoral history

Truman crisscrossed the country by train, attacking the “do-nothing” Congress and warning all those who had benefitted from the New Deal that they would be hurt if Dewey won

Truman’s main opponent for re-election in 1948 was Thomas Dewey, former governor of New York

Dewey initially had a huge lead in the polls

But he was a stiff, cold man and the voters never warmed up to him

All the polls predicted he would lose, but Truman won by 2 million votes

He also had the negative record of the 80th Congress to explain

the fair deal
  • By electing Truman, voters announced that they did not want to go back to the bad old days of Herbert Hoover
    • But they didn’t want to go forward very fast or far either
  • Truman did have a package of domestic reform proposals known together as the “Fair Deal”
    • Mostly blocked in Congress by a coalition of Republicans and southern Democrats
    • All chance for reform disappeared when it was revealed in 1950 that several of Truman’s top aides had taken bribes
1952 presidential campaign
  • Truman did not run for re-election in 1952 and the Democrats nominated Adlai E. Stevenson, governor of Illinois
  • Republicans nominated Dwight David Eisenhower (“Ike”), former Allied commander in Europe during WWII
    • Was a popular figure and had a benevolent, grandfatherly demeanor
    • Selected Senator Richard Nixon of California as his running mate
      • Because of his reputation as a hard-line anti-communist and his skills asa hard campaigner
exciting campaign
  • Press revealed that Nixon had accepted money illegally
    • But Nixon slithered out of this tight spot by giving televised “Checkers” speech in which he denied taking any money, cried, and claimed that the only gift he had ever accepted was a black-and-white cocker spaniel puppy that his daughter named “Checkers”
      • Public fell for this and Eisenhower kept him on the ticket
  • Democrats then lost ground
    • Stevenson seemed too smart, sarcastic, and irreverent of many voters and he was divorced
    • Republicans painted him as vaguely un-American and out-of-touch with concerns of ordinary Americans
1952 election

Eisenhower/Nixon won huge landslide victory. Won by 7 million votes

ike as president
  • Eisenhower was a rather indifferent, even a bit lazy, leader
  • Allowed his staff to carry on most day-to-day business while he spent many happy hours playing golf
    • Critics attacked him for this but most voters didn’t seem to care
  • In those areas where he did take the initiative, he tended to favor big business and the growing white suburban middle class over wage-earners, urban dwellers, and minorities
legislative achievements
  • Pushed a series of highway acts through Congress
    • Made credit for home buyer easier and accelerated middle-class exodus to suburbs
  • Got Congress to pass Highway Act of 1956
    • Created interstate highway system
    • Helped empty central cities and eventually destroyed long-distance and commuter passenger traffic on railroads
      • Made U.S. more dependent on the automobile
  • After WWII segregation continued as usual in the South
  • Segregation in the North existed on an unofficial level
    • Blacks excluded from white social clubs, restaurants and hotels, landlords would not rent to them and real estate agents would not sell houses to them in certain areas
      • Forcing them into clearly defined areas in cities known as ghettos
    • Unions would not accept black members, depriving them of the chance to get skilled jobs
  • Bigotry even persisted in the arts and sports
    • No black players in MLB until Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947
racial stalemate
  • Struggle for civil rights was carried on mainly by African-Americans themselves
    • Walter F. White (head of the NAACP) and A. Philip Randolph (president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters) pushed for federal legislation that would help African-Americans
      • Federal anti-lynching act, end of poll tax in federal elections, and to job discrimination on federal construction projects
      • But none of these goals were attained because of well-organized resistance of southern Democrats and conservative Republicans in Congress
warren court
  • Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren
    • Appointed by Eisenhower
    • Beginning in 1953
    • Most other justices were liberals appointed by either FDR or Truman
  • Court was eager to extend its power into areas it had never entered before
    • “judicial activists”
    • Began to break down barriers that had blocked racial progress for so long
brown v board of education of topeka
  • Lawsuit brought by Oliver Brown against Board of Education of Topeka
    • Argued that his son had received an inferior education in a segregated all-black high school and wanted him enrolled in the white high school
      • Represented by Thurgood Marshall
        • African-American lawyer who worked for the NAACP
  • Court ruled in favor of Brown
    • Warren stated that segregated schools violated the 14th Amendment which guaranteed all persons “equal protection” under the law
little rock
  • Border states in upper South generally complied with Brown
  • Not the case in the Lower South
    • People formed “white citizens councils” to resist integration by boycotts
    • KKK revived and employed threats of violence
  • Arkansas KKK (supported by governor Orville Faubus) used violence to prevent integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957
    • Eisenhower used federal troops to enforce Brown decision
  • Eisenhower was willing to march with the times in racial matters when he was forced to—but he clearly did not want to lead the parade
election of 1956

During his second term, Eisenhower spent even more time playing golf than he had during his first term

Eisenhower/Nixon beat Stevenson in 1956 by an even bigger margin than they had in 1952

Yet he did warn, in his parting speech as president, about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex,” that the close alliance between the defense industry and the government was unavoidable but it nonetheless represented a grave threat to the country’s liberties in the long run

nixon kennedy
  • Republicans nominated Richard Nixon as their presidential candidate in 1960
  • The Democrats nominated John F. Kennedy
    • Senator from Massachusetts
    • Roman Catholic
    • Also Harvard educated, a naval hero in WWII, and the son of a wealthy and conservative businessman
    • Put together a brilliant young staff and had lots of money
  • All this allowed him to overcome party fears that voters would reject a Catholic
the candidates
  • Closest election in U.S. history
  • Nixon was the more experienced of the two
    • But liberals hated him for his role in the communist witch-hunts of the 1950s and many moderate voters resented the unsavory tactics he routinely employed in his campaigns
      • Called him “Tricky Dick”
  • Kennedy seemed too inexperienced and young to many voters
    • Being Catholic also hurt him in the South and rural Midwest
1960 election
  • Race became a popularity contest
  • Nixon had initial lead but blew it in a series of televised debates with Kennedy
    • Reinforced Nixon’s image as a shady character because he sweated, shifted his eyes around, and, in general, came across as a slimeball
    • Kennedy came across as calm and intelligent
  • Good use of television, plus strong support of northern blacks, Catholics, liberals and some suspect vote counting in Chicago and south Texas gave Kennedy the victory
    • Won by only 100,000 votes
the good life
  • Prosperity was the main reason for the conservatism of the 50s
    • During the war, over 12 million servicemen yearned for the day they could return home to normal lives
    • Women looked forward to starting families and owning their own homes
    • Dream of private satisfaction would deeply influence values and attitudes of postwar generation
  • Birthrates skyrocketed after 1945 and average family size increased
  • “Togetherness”: new commitment to close family life that revolved around children, suburban houses, and television
g i bill
  • Some economists forecast disaster once the huge stimulus of government defense spending stopped with the end of WWII
  • To prevent this disaster, Congress passed the “G.I. Bill of Rights” in late 1944
    • Granted honorably discharged vets monthly allowances for education, low interest loans to buy farms, businesses, and homes, and unemployment compensation for one year
  • G.I. Bill of Rights ultimately cost billions of dollars but it did ease the problem of postwar adjustment and created a huge pool of trained people who would serve the country and the economy well for many years to come
economic boom
  • Luck also played role in postwar economic recovery
    • During the war, high wages and acute shortage of new homes and consumer durable goods led to a very high rate of savings
    • Once the war ended, Americans began spending their savings like crazy
  • After a short period of inflation and scarce consumer goods, industry quickly completed the conversion to peacetime production, caught up with consumer demand, and began a sustained boom period
william j levitt
  • Right after the war, there was a tremendous housing shortage
  • Then came William J. Levitt
  • He used standardized components and mechanized construction techniques and equipment to create gigantic housing developments
    • His houses all looked the same but they had all the modern comforts and sold for $10,000 (on a 30-year FHA or GI Bill mortgage)
  • Levitt built two large developments on Long Island and eastern PA
    • But his procedures caught on and there were soon “Levittowns” all over the country
change in workforce
  • Traditional blue-collar occupations in farming, mining, and factories declined during the 1950s and more Americans began to work at such white collar occupations as advertising, technical and clerical services, publishing, accounting, and teaching
  • By 1960, there were more white-collar workers in the U.S. than blue-collar worker for the first time in history
suburban living
  • New white-collar class developed its own unique lifestyle
    • Centered around suburban living, the home, and children
  • Children became a major concern
    • Parents worried more about them than earlier generations had
      • Concerned themselves with their education, dating, orthodonists, and giving them every possible “cultural advantage”
      • Often imposed a heavy financial burden on suburban families
female workers
  • To make ends meet, many married women went to work outside the home
  • Percentage of married women in the workforce rose from 23% to 41% between 1950 and 1970
  • However, most of these women only planned to work until their husband finished school or got a big promotion
    • Few were looking for personal fulfillment in a career
    • Home and family remain the feminine ideal in the 1950s
the other half
  • Millions of people remained in the central cities and many new immigrants moved into urban neighborhoods abandoned by middle class whites for the suburbs
    • Most of the new arrivals were African-Americans from the South and Hispanics
    • Largely unskilled and uneducated, they were forced to take the lowest-paying unskilled jobs and were often caught in a web of poverty, crime, and family disruption
lack of mobility
  • Many whites assumed that these latest arrivals would eventually move up in society as they acquired he necessary skills and education for success
    • Some did, of course
    • But 20th century America did not need as many unskilled workers as it had in the past
    • Moreover, the unskilled jobs that remained paid so little that they didn’t provide enough income for family heads with dependents
  • Unemployment, underemployment, and poverty therefore remained chronic among urban African-Americans and Hispanics
    • And even if they possessed a skill, they still could not get a decent job because unions denied them membership
  • There were many poor people in America during the 1950s
    • But white America had not yet “discovered” poverty nor had the poor, with the exception of some African-Americans, discovered their own voice
      • As a result, people in the 1950s seldom heard (nor tried to hear) about those who did not share in the new affluence
  • To white Americans who had lived through the hardtimes of the Depression and the dangers of WWII, post-war America seemed to be heaven on earth
    • This attitude would dramatically change during the 1960s