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Remember the Election of '48?

Remember the Election of '48?

President Truman, his wife and daughter wave from the train during the 1948 campaign. (Photo by Abbie Rowe, U.S. National Park Service)

“Dewey’s in the White House winding up the clock ...”

I’ve matured so much that nobody I know remembers when I was born. Now, armed with advanced age and growing perspective, I’ve been watching and listening ad nauseam to the ongoing, never-ending circus of our presidential campaign. Although born when FDR was president, I’ve been thinking about the first election I remember after his death — Truman vs. Dewey, 1948.    

It was a different time then. Now the technological revolution has taken place. The campaign talk permeates our waking hours, day after day after day. Our forefathers must be feeling darned uncomfortable tossing in their graves. Of course they couldn’t have imagined our modern-day scenario then.

Lots of Republicans are lining up to “debate.” Which one will stumble to the top of the heap? It boggles my finite mind to think about it, so I’ll go back to my first sweet encounter with politics, the presidential elections in 1948. Remember Dewey and Truman?  

I was allowed to stay up all night to hear the election returns. I had been taunted for many weeks by my fourth-grade classmates with “Dewey’s in the White House winding up the clock; Truman’s in the garbage can eating up the slop.” A simpler time indeed. This took place in Republican northern Illinois, a good distance outside of Chicago and its Democratic machine.  

That election night, Mom, Dad and I tallied the returns spewing forth from the big, old Phillips radio in the living room. After the huge upset (you don’t remember a President Dewey), I went off to school the next day bleary-eyed but ecstatic to announce to my class that in fact Mr. Truman had won the election.

I’ll never forget the tone in my teacher’s voice when she announced to the class, “We’ll have no more talk of politics in the classroom, Sandra.” So much for civics lessons, but at least I had boned up on arithmetic the night before. I learned a thing or two about political parties. I didn’t know at that point my reputation would often revolve around being an outspoken Democrat before I really knew what that meant. Neither party is the same today. But, I’m still a Democrat in spite of some bumpy roads and misguided diversions. 

Befuddled isn’t a strong enough word to describe my interpretation of the debates taking place this year. Years after the 1948 election, I learned the main concerns at that time were the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift. Where have we gone astray? Both those monumental issues were based on being part of humankind.

Solutions to save refugees, slowing down global warming for the planet’s survival, alleviating worldwide hunger, curtailing arms altogether, and striving to be more human should be discussed once in a while. Disasters, wars, natural catastrophes and human suffering we learn about almost instantaneously. I’ll quit there. With the Pope coming to our shores, maybe he’ll help our politicians and wannabes recalculate. After all, if the GPS can do it — why not the politicians?

Sandra Brian Lore

Sandra Brian Lore had a typical small-town and suburban life outside Chicago — until she served for 32 years in the Foreign Service.

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