In 1945, the sad, single term Presidency of Bill Douglas which began on this day was born in a smear that ended in a debacle.
The sad, single term presidency of Bill DouglasFDR had sent two names to the Chicago convention in 1944 - he would take either Truman or Douglas in place of the discredited Wallace. Douglas's liberal backers solved the problem by leaking supposed police reports showing that rather than being associated with the Pendergast machine but clean, Truman had in fact been a bag man for the mobbed up KC Democrats. It was a lie. Truman had been put up to keep an exurban office in friendly hands but was himself clean [the same could not be said of his friends and associates]. However with liberal prodding the Chicago papers ran with the story long enough to sink him at the convention. Needless to say he never forgave Douglas or the liberals, remaining a persistent critic from his Senate seat.
A new article by Scott PalterThe US public may not have realized that in reelecting FDR in 1944 they were electing a walking corpse but the key players in the Democratic party were quite aware. Labor and the liberals knew they could work with Douglas. The urban bosses and Dixie had preferred Truman. When Douglas's presidency turned sour this split would manifest itself. Douglas offered milder terms to Japan at Potsdam breaking with FDR's Unconditional Surrender. He was still not mild enough to get the Japanese militarists to face reality. It took two atom bombs for them to see the light. Dougals's liberal supporters never fully forgave him for using those weapons. Wallace from his perch in the Commerce Department led the critics.
The postwar demobilization and conversion to civilian production was a debacle. The unions ran wild with the country repeatedly paralyzed by strikes. Truman called for decisive presidential action, especially against the railroad strike. Douglas would not break with the unions. Inflation skyrocketed and the piecemeal removal of controls made matters worse. Douglas's attempts to keep Lend Lease going took a good part of the blame for the mess. The UK was bankrupt and Europe and Japan were starving. So the need was there but the American public begrudged the expense. The war was over and they wanted to forget the world existed.
Douglas's policy towards Communism exacerbated matters. Trying to avoid a break with the Democratic Party's left, Douglas abandoned Chiang, accepted partitions of Iran and Norway, allowed the Soviets to force Turkey to part with territory and bases and watched Greece torn apart by civil war. He kept trying to find a way to work with his old left allies internally and refused to accept that many Americans regarded domestic Communists as traitors.
This crystallized in the 1946 elections. Douglas campaigned for his party on conciliation with the Soviets, an end to segregation and extension on the New Deal. The Republicans captured both houses of Congress and a host of state legislatures. Most of the south walked out of the party to form independent state Democratic parties dedicated to segregation and white supremacy. The victorious Republican slogan was ?had enough'.
Faced with a heavily Republican Congress Douglas was forced to make some compromises. He was forced to break with the Soviets. The Marshal Plan to rebuild Europe was launched. Chiang was supported on Taiwan. Greece was partitioned and the rump of Turkey was given large scale US aid although the Soviet bases at Gallipoli remained. A German Federal Republic was formed out of the allied occupation zones in Germany and Austria but at the price of giving up the allied sectors of Berlin and Vienna. Macarthur was replaced in Japan by Collins and the semi-New Deal experiments were ended. Instead Japan was rebuilt as a bulwark against Soviet power. Several million Korean refugees fled there when Kim destroyed South Korea [Douglas had evacuated the US occupation force rather than sully his hands dealing with the authoritarian and unpleasant Rhee regime]. Douglas also danced on Palestine. The UN proved unable to approve either partition or an extension of the British mandate so the British withdrew and the place descended into chaos out of which an Israeli state was born with little international recognition beyond the Soviet Block.
Domestically the high points of the new Congress were an anti-lynching bill [which in turn required a large force of US marshals to enforce] and Douglas's desegregation of the armed forces. The cost of these advances were major race riots in several dozen cities as the white public rebelled against being pushed and the newly empowered blacks pushed back. The Taft-Hartley Act was met by another round of massive strikes, these overtly political. Douglas sealed his political fate by always siding with the unions.
The 1948 election was an anti-climax. Despite all the coddling, Wallace ran for President anyway. Strom Thurmond ran a regional states rights campaign in Dixie. Douglas and Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota ran as avid New Dealers but the public had had enough. Thurmond carried 14 southern and border states. Dewey carried the rest with 50 percent of the vote. The icing on the cake came two weeks before the election when Stalin's armies marched into Belgrade to bring Yugoslavia back into the Soviet orbit. Exposed as impotent at home and abroad, Douglas went off into retirement leaving the Democratic Party to wish they had chosen Truman.