(TIME; April 5, 1948) -- The Democratic Party was in desperate straits. Until a few months ago, it had been living on smiles and hope. Now its very life was threatened. Unlike the Republican Party, it had at least known who its 1948 presidential candidate would be. Even though nobody was quite sure whether Harry Truman would win or lose, it was unthinkable that the Democrats should not nominate him.
But last week a kind of panic swept through the Democratic ranks. Suddenly Democrats everywhere began to realize that Harry Truman looked like a sure loser in November. The Southern revolt was beginning to look like a rebellion. Even the most liberal of Southern Democrats could no longer buck the bitterness engendered in the South by the President's civil-rights program. Cried Senator Lister Hill of Alabama: "There cannot be Democratic Party unity with President Truman as [our] nominee." Senator Claude Pepper of Florida, no man to quail before Southern bigots, declared that the South should send unpledged delegates to the party's July convention.
The panic spread into the North and West. Labor leaders, anti-Wallace liberals and machine bosses broke out with anti-Truman fever. The fever, partly induced by the Administration's blundering on Palestine, was especially virulent in such pivotal states as New York, Illinois and California. In these states even the best of local Democratic candidates had small hope of winning on a ticket topped by Harry Truman's name.
A Man Who. But what other name could good Democrats plump for? They did not forget the ancient political axiom: you can't beat somebody with nobody. Before they ditched Truman, they had to get a new band wagon rolling. And that was a risky business. Chicago's canny little Jake Arvey was the first front-ranker willing to take the risk. "Come convention time, " announced Boss Arvey, "I will vote for...a man who can be elected. I hope General Eisenhower becomes available."
From all directions, a Democratic clamor went up for Ike. Nobody knew exactly what Eisenhower's views were on civil-rights, on labor problems, on Palestine. Nobody much cared. Those who now backed him thought that Ike, if he wanted to, could win the presidency in a breeze - for either party. To the disintegrated Democrats, it looked as if he might provide the leadership and the magic touch which Franklin Roosevelt had once given the party.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., with a hand from his brother Elliott, gave the Eisenhower band wagon a family push. Said young Franklin: "The most serious concern of the people of the U.S. is to elect as President.... a man who will not only have a united party behind him, but also will be capable of securing the unity of our country...The American people have a right to call the general back into active public service."
In to Stay. Americans for Democratic Action, of which Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. is national vice chairman, promptly announced that its executive board would meet in Pittsburgh on April 10 to endorse a man who can "enlist the united allegiance of non-Communist American progressives." A.F.L. and C.I.O. bigwigs put forth the word that they would soon come out swinging for Ike.
Meantime, Harry Truman calmly announced that he was in the race to stay. What's more, he said, he expected to win in November.
The biggest question Eisenhower's Democratic supporters faced was: Would Ike accept? Last January, it seemed, he had given an unequivocal No - to either party. Ike himself was incommunicado last week. In Washington, an aide declared that the January refusal still stood. But Democrats reread his statement and pounced on one sentence" "It is my conviction that the necessary and the wise subordination of the military to civil power will be best sustained...when lifelong professional soldiers, in the absence of some obvious and overriding reason, abstain from seeking high political office." They hoped to prove the existence of some obvious and overriding reasons for Ike's accepting a Democratic draft.
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