As the 1948 presidential campaign begins to heat up, the Democratic Party hammers out a platform that contains a stirring defense of the foreign policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Harry S. Truman. The tone of the platform indicated that foreign policy, and particularly the nation’s Cold War policies, would be a significant part of the 1948 campaign.
Throughout 1948, President Truman had been put on the defensive by Republican critics who suggested that former President Roosevelt had been too “soft” in dealing with the Soviet Union during World War II. The Republicans also criticized Truman’s Cold War policies, calling them ineffective and too costly. By the time the Democratic Party met to nominate Truman for re-election and construct its platform, Truman was already an underdog to the certain Republican nominee, Governor Thomas E. Dewey. The foreign policy parts of the Democratic platform, announced on July 13, 1948, indicated that Truman was going to fight fire with fire. The platform strongly suggested that the Democratic administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt was primarily responsible for America’s victory in World War II, and was entirely responsible for establishing the United Nations. After World War II, the document continued, Truman and the Democrats in Congress had rallied the nation to meet the communist threat. The Truman Doctrine, by which Greece and Turkey were saved from communist takeovers, and the Marshall Plan, which rescued Western Europe from postwar chaos, were the most notable results of the Democrats’ foreign policy.
Some of Truman’s advisers had cautioned him to take a more conciliatory stance on foreign policy issues in the platform, emphasizing the bipartisan nature of U.S. foreign policy since World War II. The pugnacious Truman would have none of that. He was proud of his record of “facing up to the Russians,” and decided to rise or fall in the 1948 election based on his accomplishments both at home and abroad. Events proved Truman wise in his approach. Despite the fact that nearly every newspaper and polling organization in the United States picked Dewey to triumph, Truman squeaked by in 1948 in one of the most memorable political upsets in American history.