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Henry Wallace's 1948 Presidential Campaign and the Future of Postwar Liberalism

Thomas W. Devine

Publication Year: 2013

In the presidential campaign of 1948, Henry Wallace set out to challenge the conventional wisdom of his time, blaming the United States, instead of the Soviet Union for the Cold War, denouncing the popular Marshall Plan, and calling for an end to segregation. In addition, he argued that domestic fascism--rather than international communism--posed the primary threat to the nation. He even welcomed Communists into his campaign, admiring their commitment to peace. Focusing on what Wallace himself later considered his campaign's most important aspect, the troubled relationship between non-communist progressives like himself and members of the American Communist Party, Thomas W. Devine demonstrates that such an alliance was not only untenable but, from the perspective of the American Communists, undesirable. Rather than romanticizing the political culture of the Popular Front, Devine provides a detailed account of the Communists' self-destructive behavior throughout the campaign and chronicles the frustrating challenges that non-communist progressives faced in trying to sustain a movement that critiqued American Cold War policies and championed civil rights for African Americans without becoming a sounding board for pro-Soviet propaganda. Thomas W. Devine is professor of history at California State University, Northridge.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

In the election of 1948, Henry A. Wallace set out to challenge conventional wisdom. At a time when both major parties supported President Harry Truman’s foreign policy, Wallace claimed that militarists and international bankers had taken over the government and were deliberately leading the nation down the road to war. Though public opinion polls...

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1 A Frenchman Named Duclos: The Communists and the Origins of the Progressive Party

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pp. 1-34

The origins of Henry A. Wallace’s Progressive Party occasioned heated debate among political partisans throughout the presidential campaign, and they remain a topic of some controversy. Beginning in 1948, critics of the Progressive Party contended that the Communists, on orders from Moscow, had conceived the idea, organized the party according to a “detailed...

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2 I Shall Run as an Independent Candidate for President: Launching Gideon’s Army

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pp. 35-70

After reading a New York Times translation of the Zhdanov manifesto in mid-October 1947, Michael Straight, the young publisher of the New Republic, grew worried. As he would reveal thirty-five years later, Straight was no stranger to the international communist movement. During the 1930s, he had been involved with Soviet espionage as an associate of the ...

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3 One Robin Doesn’t Bring No Spring: Early Victories and Mounting Attacks

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pp. 71-94

Before February 17, 1948, few people outside of New York City had even heard of Leo Isacson, the American Labor Party (ALP) nominee for Congress who was running in a special election to be held that day in the Bronx. The next morning, however, news of Isacson’s astonishing two-toone victory grabbed front-page headlines across the country. In trouncing...

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4 Wall Street Is in the Saddle: Henry Wallace’s Critique of Containment

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pp. 95-122

As the New Party’s fortunes appeared to be on the upswing, Wallace’s views, particularly on foreign policy, came under closer scrutiny. Since late 1947, the former vice president had been denouncing the Marshall Plan in particular as an imperialist plot hatched by Wall Street bankers. Wallace had initially supported Secretary of State George C. Marshall’s proposals for...

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5 Like a Silken Thread Running Through the Whole Thing: Lead-Up to the National Convention and the Crafting of a Third Party Platform

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pp. 123-155

On the morning of July 23, 1948, Henry Wallace arrived by day coach at Philadelphia’s Broad Street Station. Senator Glen Taylor of Idaho, his intended running mate, and a crowd of some fifteen hundred ardent supporters welcomed their standard-bearer with songs, cheers, and waving banners. Acknowledging their adulation, a beaming Wallace declared,...

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6 The Whole Place Has Gone Wallace Wacky: The Founding Convention of the Progressive Party

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pp. 156-179

On the evening of Friday, July 24, attention shifted from press conferences, platform writing, and other preliminaries to the opening of the convention itself. With great fanfare, some thirty-two hundred delegates and alternates crowded into steaming Convention Hall to baptize their new “people’s party.” Under blazing television lights—a new attraction in...

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7 Rolling Downhill: Post-Convention Fallout and Dropouts

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pp. 180-199

“It was a great convention,” Frederick Schuman wrote to Beanie Baldwin three days after leaving Philadelphia. “You did a magnifi cent job. It’s a good platform. The extent of the smear campaign encourages me. The boys are afraid we are going places. Let’s go!” Henry Wallace shared Schuman’s unbridled optimism. Referring to the third party’s previous...

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8 Too Damned Long in the Woods to Be Fooled by Weasels: Youth, Labor, Spies, and the Post-Convention Campaign

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pp. 200-232

Though the quarrels within state and local party organizations raised some concern, the national leaders of the Progressive Party focused primarily on mobilizing two core constituencies—youth and organized labor—as they prepared for the fall campaign. From the outset, the Wallace crusade had demonstrated a special appeal to young people. Not surprisingly, the...

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9 Thirty Years Too Soon: Gideon’s Army Invades Dixie

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pp. 233-268

On August 29, 1948, Henry A. Wallace boarded a plane to Norfolk, Virginia, thereby launching a weeklong, seven-state southern tour that would provide his third party crusade with many of its most dramatic moments. Wallace’s decision to challenge segregation in the heart of the Jim Crow South grabbed front-page headlines throughout the country, winning the Progressive Party the most sustained media coverage it would receive during...

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10 Truman Defeats Wallace: Denouement

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pp. 269-285

As he made the long walk from the Yankee Stadium home-team dugout to the podium erected at second base, the deafening cheers and shouts from the throng of nearly fifty thousand people struck a stark contrast to the less welcoming salutations Henry Wallace had received throughout most of Dixie. If nowhere else, the Progressive Party’s standard-bearer could...

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pp. 286-292

The final election results proved a devastating blow to the Progressive Party and all those associated with it. The presidential ticket finished an embarrassing fourth behind the Dixiecrats, polling only 1.1 million votes, 2.37 percent of those cast. The narrowness of Wallace’s appeal was equally striking. Thirty-seven percent of his nationwide total came from New York City. In California, his second strongest state, 53 percent of the votes came ...


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pp. 293-354


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pp. 355-394


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pp. 395-398


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pp. 399-408

E-ISBN-13: 9781469607924
E-ISBN-10: 1469607921
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469602035
Print-ISBN-10: 1469602032

Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Wallace, Henry A. (Henry Agard), 1888-1965.
  • Political campaigns -- United States.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 1948
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1953.
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