Harry S. Truman 1948 Campaign Speech (Give Them Hell!)
Address in Charleston, West Virginia October 1, 1948 By President Harry S Truman: Mr. Chairman, Governor of West Virginia, distinguished guests: For the past 2 weeks I have been visiting the people of this country. I have met thousands of people and spoken to hundreds of thousands. I think I have been seen by at least 2½ million people in this country. I have a vital message to bring to the people of the United States, and tonight I want to bring that message to you. The heart of my message is this: The national election this fall will decide matters of grave importance to every man, woman, and child in the United States. It will affect the security of your jobs, your homes, and your future. You have a choice between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
Within the memory of most of us here, a clear record has been written that shows how much difference that choice can make. The Republicans wrote part of their record from 1921 to 1933. They led the country to depression, poverty, and despair. It is easy to forget what the black days of the depression were like. Let us recall a few, just a few of the bitter facts. In 1932, after 12 years of Republican bungling, more than 12 million men and women were unemployed. In 1932 the average worker in manufacturing industries was making 45 cents an hour -- if he was lucky enough to have a job. In coal mining, the most hazardous of all occupations, miners were making 52 cents an hour -- if they were lucky enough to have jobs. The working men and women in this country could not do much to help themselves, because the strength of their unions had been broken by the reactionary labor policies of the Republican administration. The Republican bubble burst in 1929, and when it burst: -- There was no minimum wage to cushion the blow. -- There was no unemployment compensation to carry the working man's family along. -- There was no work relief program to help people through the crisis. -- But the party of privilege was ready to carry big business through the crisis. It created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation for that purpose. The banks, the railways, the insurance companies -- they got relief, but not the American people. -- For the unemployed, it was Hoovervilles and soup kitchens. Veterans were encouraged to go into business for themselves -- selling apples. That is the Republican record. Most of us well remember it. The Democratic part of the record begins in 1933, when the Democratic Party began to build prosperity for business, labor, and agriculture. We wrote into law the right of the working men and women to organize in unions of their own choice, and to bargain collectively. We put a floor under wages. We outlawed child labor. We created a great insurance system to protect working men and women against the hazards of unemployment and old age. We wrote into law a system of price supports for farm products, so that the bottom would not drop from under the farmer's income the way it did in the 1920's. We put a curb on Wall Street speculation, and stopped the money changers from gambling with people's savings. With these reforms and many others, the Democratic Party brought the country to the greatest period of prosperity ever known in the history of the world. Things are far different now from what they were in 1932. The average farm income of the farmer in 1947 was $725 per person, nearly ten times as great. In 1932 it was $74 per person. The coal miner who got 52 cents an hour in 1932, gets $1.94 an hour in 1948. He deserves every cent of it, too; and I'm glad to see him get it. And business hasn't suffered too much under the New Deal! Corporations had a loss of $4 billion in 1932. But in 1947 they had a profit of $17 billion, after taxes. These same corporations -- these same corporations now claim the Democrats are hostile to business. If I were in their shoes, I would want some more of that kind of hostility. Today, signs of prosperity are all over the country. I have been all over the country, and I know what I am talking about! Farm production is greater than it ever was. Industrial production is greater than it every was. Everybody who wants a job can get one. That's the way America is today. The real question facing us in this election is whether or not we are going to keep it that way. For all this did not come about by accident. Some people would like to make you think it did. The leaders of the Republican Party would like you to believe that the country just drifted into the great depression, and that it just drifted out again into prosperity. They would like you to believe that the Democratic New Deal had nothing to do with recovery -- and that the Republicans had nothing to do with the Hoover panic. That is not true and the people know it is not true. The country was driven into depression by the policies of a Republican administration and a Republican Congress that served the selfish interests of the rich and powerful business groups. The country was brought out of the depression by the intelligent foresight and planning of the Democratic Party -- and above all by following the fundamental belief of the Democratic Party that the true road to prosperity begins with looking after the little fellow. The Republicans believe in taking care of big business first and letting the little fellow take care of himself. The Republicans would like you to forget these fundamental differences between the two parties. But during the past 2 years we have been given a sharp warning that these differences still exist, and these differences are wide and deep. That has been made completely clear by the record of this Republican "do-nothing" 80th Congress. No matter what the Republicans do or say, the Republicans cannot escape responsibility for that black record. I know, of course, that there are many fine people throughout the United States, who from habit or choice are members of the Republican Party. To them I say that the national leadership of their party has failed them miserably. I know, too, that among the Republicans of the 80th Congress there were a few liberal men who joined the battle against special privilege. You can pick these men out by their votes. They voted with the Democrats in the Congress more often than they did with their own Republican leadership. When these men went to their party caucuses they must have felt very lonesome. The record of the 80th Congress was made by the forces that dominate the Republican Party. I thank God that the men who held positions of leadership in dealing with foreign affairs were of a character which made it possible for us to work together in carrying out our foreign policy on a bipartisan basis. But on domestic issues it was a different matter. The Republican leadership started out to follow the same policies that nearly wrecked the country under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. Some people have accused me of failing to cooperate with the Republican leadership in carrying out those policies. Now, I must confess to you that I am going to plead guilty to that charge. Of course, I did not cooperate in carrying out policies that I knew would bring disaster on the American people. But I will tell you how you can get some cooperation in carrying out those policies -- if that's what you want. I will tell l you how you can achieve unity in a headlong dash toward another depression. Just elect a Republican President to go along with a Republican Congress. Just elect a man who said -- and I quote: "I am proud of the record of my party and of the 80th Congress." Just elect a man who said: "The 80th Congress delivered as no other Congress ever did for the future of our country." Apparently he will be glad to help deliver a lot more of the same kind of blows you got from the 80th Congress. But bigger blows -- and faster and more of them. What did this Republican Congress deliver for the future of the country? For one thing, it delivered a body blow at labor in the form of the Taft-Hartley Act. The fundamental purpose of the Taft-Hartley Act is to weaken organized labor. Its supporters want management to have the upper hand in collective bargaining. Do you know why? They want management to have the upper hand so that wages can be driven down. What else did the Republican Congress deliver for the future of our country? It delivered a body blow at nearly a million workers by taking away their social security rights. It delivered a body blow at millions of our veterans by refusing to provide a decent housing program. It delivered a blow at every family in the Nation by failing to act on high prices. What else did the Republican Congress deliver for the future of our country? It delivered a whole long list of blows at every foundation of our present prosperity and at our hopes for progress in the future. I can't cover them all tonight, but I will tell you about just one more. That is the rich man's tax relief bill. The Republican Congress passed a tax bill that reduced the revenues of the Government by more than $5 billion. That Congress passed it three times and I vetoed it every time. But on the third try, they passed it over my veto. I believed that the safety of our national finances required that we make large payments on the public debt in times of prosperity. I still think so. But the Republican rich man's tax relief bill has brought us face to face with the prospect of going into the red again. I believed that when the wartime taxes were reduced, the poor man should be relieved first and most. I still think so. But the Republican tax bill doesn't work that way. I warned that the tax reduction bill would add to the inflationary pressures and make prices go even higher. And it did. For most of you, the tax bill hasn't helped a bit. If you make $60 a week, your taxes were reduced about $1.50 a week. But since May, when that $1.50 began to show up in your pay envelope, prices have gone up so much that the $1.50 is already wiped out. The rich man fared much better under the tax bill. A married couple with an income of $100,000 a year got a tax cut of $16,725 a year -- $16,725 a year! That's about $12,000 more than my net salary as President of the United States. Of course, prices haven't gone up for them any more than they have for you. So I would say that they came out pretty well. Is it any wonder that we call this a rich man's tax relief bill? That's typical of the way the Republican 80th Congress delivered for the future of the country. Some time later, I am going to elaborate on just exactly what they did with the budget this year. And it fits in with this rich man's tax relief bill. It's outrageous what they did to the country on that. That Congress delivered for the interests that had their lobbyists swarming all over the Capital. It delivered for special privilege groups that put up the big money at election time. They are doing that right now in this election. That same bunch of lobbyists and people whom they represent are paying for the Republican campaign right this minute. Now, they passed a great many bills, which I vetoed. There is only one President who has a greater veto record than I have, in the short time that I have been President, and that is Grover Cleveland; and I am proud of that veto record, because I was standing there working for the people, when I was signing those vetoes. But they passed a great many -- not a great many, but several -- among them this tax relief bill and the Taft-Hartley bill. They passed those bills over my veto. But when a bill becomes the law of the land, the President of the United States has sworn to enforce the law, and as President of the United States, I have lived up to that oath which I took to support the Constitution and the laws of the United States. But if you want these bad things remedied, you had better give me a Congress for the next 4 years that is working for the people and not for the special interests. Now, if you want unity and harmony and sweetness and light in getting more deliveries of the kind I have been describing, just shut your eyes and vote Republican. But if you want something delivered for labor, if you want something delivered for the farmers, and if you want something delivered for the small businessmen, and for the white-collar worker -- there is just one way you can make your vote count. Vote the Democratic ticket. Today, the Democratic Party is the party of the American people. It was the party of the people under Jefferson and Jackson. It was the party of the people under Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. Today, we of the Democratic Party express the will of the American people to move forward, under liberty, yielding neither to communism nor to reaction. Today, the Democratic Party stands before the country a living force for peace and freedom. Today, we are rallying our forces for the greatest struggle in our history. In that struggle, I ask your support. Just give us the votes on election day, and we will do the job.
Mail James Howington
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