Yesterday, I discovered this remarkable campaign speech, delivered by Harry S. Truman in 1948. What fascinates me is that what Truman said nearly seventy years ago could be said today without changing a word.
Today the forces of liberalism face a crisis. The people of the United States must make a choice between two ways of living, a decision which will affect us the rest of our lives and our children and our grandchildren after us.
On the other side, there is the Wall Street way of life and politics. Trust the leader! Let big business take care of prices and profits! Measure all things by money! That is the philosophy of the masters of the Republican Party.
Well, I have been studying the Republican Party for over 12 years at close hand in the Capital of the United States. And by this time, I have discovered where the Republicans stand on most of the major issues.
Since they won’t tell you themselves, I am going to tell you.
They approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke.
They stand four-square for the American home, but not for housing.
They are strong for labor, but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights.
They favor a minimum wage, the smaller the minimum the better.
They endorse educational opportunity for all, but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools.
They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine, for people who can afford them.
They approve of social security benefits, so much so that they took them away from almost a million people.
They believe in international trade, so much so that they crippled our reciprocal trade program, and killed our International Wheat Agreement.
They favor the admission of displaced persons, but only within shameful racial and religious limitations.
They consider electric power a great blessing, but only when the private power companies get their rake-off.
They say TVA is wonderful, but we ought never to try it again.
They condemn “cruelly high prices,” but fight to the death every effort to bring them down.
They think the American standard of living is a fine thing, so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people.
And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.
Now, my friends, that is the Wall Street Republican way of life. But there is another way — there is another way — the Democratic way, the way of the Democratic Party.
Of course, the Democratic Party is not perfect. Nobody ever said it was. But the Democratic Party believes in the people. It believes in freedom and progress, and it is fighting for its beliefs right now.
Okay, I exaggerate. There are a few edits, for things that don’t apply today. The Tennessee Valley Authority isn’t an issue today. And, it’s arguable that the Democratic Party is fighting for any of those things today; if they were, I don’t recall hearing about them in the recent midterms.
What brought this to mind was an interview on NPR yesterday morning during Morning Edition with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. It was a fascinating interview; Sanders argued that the economy was failing many and liberal ideas weren’t being aired and liberal causes weren’t being championed, NPR host Steve Inskeep tried to make Sanders’ argument fit into the standard media narrative about how Democrats have lost “working class white voters,” and Sanders was having none of that.
Will today’s Democratic Party listen? What of today’s Republican Party? Who will embrace these ideas? Who will champion them?
Sanders could be that champion. Maryland governor Martin O’Malley could be that champion. Perhaps even Hillary Clinton.
I don’t see a Republican championing any of these ideas. Teddy Roosevelt would be disappointed; he’d support all of these, and his ghost is liable to punch the 2016 Republican nominee for President in the mouth.
Harry Truman, he knew what he was talking about.