Some Pennsylvania Democratic leaders want Philadelphia to host the 2016 party presidential nominating convention. The city last hosted a national convention in 2000, when the Republicans nominated George W. Bush. But in 1948, the city hosted three national conventions and Pennsylvania politicians were major players in the nomination activities. Below is an account of the decisions and activities at those conventions, and the role Pennsylvanians played in the 1948 election. Excerpts are modified from my 2008 book, Pivotal Pennsylvania: Presidential Politics from FDR to the Twenty-First Century.
At the beginning of 1948, few observers believed that President Truman was likely to win election to a full term. Truman had assumed the presidency after Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945. As often is the case, the American public warmly welcomed the new president. His approval rating as measured by a Gallup poll pushed 90 percent, but within a year it dropped to the low thirties. What happened?
Truman was handed two serious and growing problems, one a worsening economy and the second the expanding complexities of the Cold War. On the domestic front, when Truman ended the price controls that had been in effect during WW II, the resulting inflation fueled demands from unions that wages be raised. That in turn led to strikes in major sectors of the economy – steel, coal and automobiles. The new president twice ordered government seizures of the mines. Reacting abruptly and quickly in the face of a national railway engineer’s strike, Truman seized the rail system. Angry at the president’s action, a large number of labor unions deserted the Democrats in the 1946 midterm election, despite Truman’s persistent opposition to the Taft-Hartley Act, the 1947 law that Congress passed over his veto that placed restrictions on labor union power and activities. READ MORE »