Saturday, August 28, 2021

the last book I ever read (Truman by David McCullough, excerpt seventeen)

from Truman by David McCullough:

Having kept so silent and so uncharacteristically detached during the off-year elections in 1946, only to see his party and himself humiliated, Truman now relished the prospect of taking on the Republicans in an all-out, full-scale championship fight, as he said. He was nothing if not a partisan politician and this was the fight he simply could not walk away from. He had much he wished still to accomplish. And he knew how quickly his own and New Deal programs, the liberal gains of sixteen years, could be undone by a Republican President and a Republican Congress. He felt it his duty to “get into the fight and help stem the tide of reaction,” as he later wrote. “They [the Republicans] did not understand the worker, the farmer, the everyday person… Most of them honestly believed that prosperity actually began at the top and would trickle down in due time to benefit all the people.”

He saw himself battling as Jefferson had against the Federalists, or Jackson staging a revolution “against the forces of reaction.” In the long line of Republicans who had occupied the White House, he admired but two—Lincoln, for his concern for the common man; Theodore Roosevelt, for his progressive policies. To Truman, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were the giants of the century, and he had no choice, he felt, but to fight for the Democratic heritage that had been passed on to him. “What I wanted to do personally for my own comfort and benefit was not important. What I could do to contribute to the welfare of the country was important. I had to enter the 1948 campaign for the presidency.”

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