An Important History Lesson For This Year

There is a favorite quotation that said that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. This could be coming true in this year’s election. One of my favorite cartoon programs from my youth was the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. One segment on that show featured a very brainy dog and his boy, an eager lad named Sherman. Peabody the dog had invented a “way back machine” that could go back in time where they could change history. For this piece, let’s set the “way back machine” to the year of my birth, 1948.

Like 2024, the year 1948 was a presidential election year and the incumbent President, Harry Truman was running for a full term after  becoming President following the death of Franklin D Roosevelt three months after his fourth inauguration. As an “accidental president”, Harry Truman had the weight of the world thrust on his shoulders dealing with the conclusion of the Second World War and one if his first decisions as President was to order the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan. As President, Truman wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and his presidency had many controversial moments.

However, in 1948, things were not looking good for his election to a full term as President. In the 1946 mid term elections, the Republican party captured control of both houses of congress for the first time since 1930. Then the economy was plagued with rampant post-war inflation. In fact, the annual rate of inflation for 1947 was the highest since the end of the First World War at a 14% annual rate. Then, after four years of wage and price controls, labor wanted more money and there were many strikes by unions wanting better wages and benefits. At the beginning of 1948, the Republicans were smelling blood.

Their presidential candidate in 1948 was the polished New York governor Thomas E Dewey who gave FDR the toughest battle of any of his presidential elections. He was also a good eighteen years younger than Harry Truman. He was the governor of New York and very popular in a key state. All the polls were showing that President Truman was trailing Dewey and that he would become another Vice President who failed to win a full term of his own.

In addition to a strong younger Republican candidate, Truman had to deal with divisions in his own Democratic party. South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond ran as the candidate on the “Dixiecrat” ticket in opposition to Truman’s executive order integrating the armed forces in 1947. He also faced another candidate from the progressive wing of the Democratic party as FDR’s former Vice President, Henry Wallace who was dumped in favor of Truman in 1944 because of Wallace’s alleged ties to communists. Faced with two candidates from his own party, few gave President Truman a chance of winning a full term in November.

But Harry Truman had an ace up his sleeve. During the summer of 1948 and into the fall, he embarked on a multi-state railroad trip across the nation conducting campaign speeches at whistle stops. His major campaign issue was against the “do nothing” Republican congress that had failed to pass some important legislation that President Truman had sent to congress. He went on a barnstorming tour of the country focusing on the midwestern states and in the west. At one whistle stop, a man yelled at President Truman to “give ‘em hell, Harry.” That became the theme of his campaign, as President Truman was going to give those “do nothing” Republicans hell.

Still, the pundits and many newspapers didn’t give President Truman a chance of winning the election on November 2, 1948. In fact, the Republican leaning Chicago Tribune printed a headline for their edition on November 3, 1948, that Dewey had defeated Truman.

But the results of that election were a convincing win for President Harry Truman. He managed to win 49.6% of the votes, carrying 28 states and winning 303 electoral votes. Republican Thomas Dewey won 41.5% of the popular vote and carried 16 states winning 189 electoral votes. Strom Thurmond won 2.4% of the popular vote but won 39 electoral votes from four states in the deep south.

On November 3, 1948, a jubilant President Truman was shown holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with their headline that was dead wrong. Truman’s win helped his Democratic party retake control of congress from the “do nothing” Republicans.

Thomas Dewey served out his term as New York governor and went into the private practice of law. He never ran for public office again. He died in 1971 at the age of 68. Strom Thurmond was elected to the Senate after he was term limited as South Carolina’s governor. He still holds the record for a one-person filibuster where he spoke for 57 hours against the Civil Rights Act of 1957. After the filibuster, the act was passed. He became the longest serving and oldest Senator in history when he finally retired in 2002 at the age of 100. Harry Truman lived for twenty years after the conclusion of his presidency, dying on December 26 1972 at the age of 88. Now many presidential historians rank him among the top ten best Presdients of the United States. Despite his unpopularity, history has recognized that Harry Truman was a good President. 

As for myself, I arrived on this earth on September 21, 1948. The Cleveland Indians won the World Series in 1948, and the Cleveland Browns won another All-American Conference championship in 1948, going undefeated in a 14-game season. In addition, the Cleveland Barons Hockey team won the Calder Cup as American Hockey League champions. It was a good year.

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Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 16, Issue 3, Posted 8:59 AM, 03.01.2024