Harry S. Truman photo

Address at the Armory, Akron, Ohio

October 11, 1948

Mr. Chairman, fellow Democrats:

Before I say anything else, I should like to thank you people of Akron and all the people of Ohio for your tremendous registration in this crucial election. You have given the Nation magnificent proof of your good citizenship.

I want to thank you not only as the Democratic Party's candidate for President, but also as President of the United States. This is your answer to bad government--both at home and abroad.

I have had a magnificent reception in Ohio today. In every State I have been, I think that welcome can't be equaled, but every time it is equaled, and usually bettered.

I thank all of you--Democrats and Republicans, industrial workers and farmers, professional people and small businessmen. I want to thank you for your appreciation of the rights, duties, and opportunities of American citizenship. You know, you are the Government, if you exercise your right to vote. The people are the Government in this great country, and when you don't vote, you shirk your duty as a part of the Government.

So long as this election is decided by votes of the people and not by their failure to vote, I have no fears for the future of this great country--neither have I any fears for the outcome of the election on November 2d.

This campaign is the people's crusade. Let no one tell you that the people are not interested. They are interested. They are waking up to what the Republicans propose to do to them.

I have lived a long time--64 years--and I have travelled a lot, but never before have I seen such turnouts as I have seen all over this great country of ours.

From early morning until late at night, wherever I have travelled, a welcoming crowd has greeted the train. This has been true in large cities and industrial areas and also in what Senator Taft calls "the whistlestops."

Now, as I have said time and again, there is one basic issue in this campaign. This is it: The Democratic Party and the people against special privilege and the privileged few. That is the issue in this campaign.

The Republicans have the propaganda and the money, but we have the people, and the people have the votes.

That's why we're going to win.

The Republicans have the money because the big corporations have found out they can get what they want from the Republican Party.

We have the people because the people have found out that they can get what they want from the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party thinks in terms of doing things for the people--higher minimum wages, broader social security, protection in old age, better medical care, better schools and better homes, and a better life for the men and women who do the world's work.

That is our basic philosophy, the philosophy of the Democratic Party--service for the people--the greatest good for the greatest number. And upon that philosophy, we have erected during the past 16 years a great progressive body of laws. We call those laws--and I say it with pride--we call them the "New Deal."

The Republican politicians don't like the New Deal. They never have liked the New Deal, and they would like to get rid of it-repeal it--put it out of existence.

This is shown by their words and deeds. They have been talking for years about "cleaning up" the New Deal. Then, in 1946, the Republicans gained control of the Congress, and they began to whittle away at the New Deal laws. Now, they have tasted blood, and they are waiting eagerly for the time when they can go ahead with a Republican Congress and a Republican President and do a real hatchet job on the New Deal without any interference.

Let me remind you of some of the things the Republicans have been saying about this New Deal.

Their candidate for President has been the chief prosecutor against the New Deal. He spoke against it, he campaigned against it. He wrote a book called "The Case Against the New Deal." And now he wants to go to Washington and destroy it. Are you going to let him do it ?

One of their chief spokesmen, Senator Taft, has said, and I quote: "The Republican program must be designed primarily to cleaning away the rubble of the . . . New Deal ."

The Republican leader in the House of Representatives talks of how the years of so-called Democratic misrule have conspired to strangle industry and farming.

I want you just to look at the figures with me for a moment.

The New Deal strangled industry so much that corporate profits changed from a loss-loss!--of $400 million in 1933 to a profit of $17 billion in 1947.

The New Deal strangled farming so much that farm income increased from $2 1/2 billion in 1933 to $18 billion in 1947.

That is some job of strangulation, I would say.

Now, let's take a look at the way the Republicans launched their attack on the New Deal as soon as they gained control of the Congress.

You know, two-thirds of you stayed at home in 1946, and let the Republicans get control of the Congress. This is what they did.

First, they started out after labor. One of the cornerstones of the New Deal was the Wagner Labor Relations Act, which gave national protection to the right of collective bargaining. Under its provisions, the labor movement had grown strong and healthy. The working people of the country were beginning to have something to say about what went on in the United States.

Well, our old mossback reactionary friends didn't like that. They had always thought that the people who had the money ought to run everything and they still think so. They continue to think so to this day.

They didn't have the courage or they didn't have the votes to repeal the Wagner Act outright. The fact was they knew they didn't have the votes to pass a straight-out repeal bill over my veto.

At any rate, they decided that under the pretense of revising the Wagner Act, they would load it with provisions that would undermine the strength of the labor unions, and that's what they did. They passed, over my veto, one of the most complicated laws that anybody ever saw. That was the Taft-Hartley law.

The Taft-Hartley law converts the Wagner Act from a charter protecting the basic rights of the workers into an instrument for union busting by antilabor employers.

It outlaws union security provisions which have been the basis for stability and mutually satisfactory relationships for many industries for many years.

It compels strike-breaking by union members-sometimes against fellow members of their own local unions.

It extends the use of injunctions against labor unions, and provides preferential treatment for management in connection with such injunctions.

It burdens unions with interminable red tape.

It took the Conciliation Service away from the Labor Department. This was but another blow in the vicious attack by which the Republicans have virtually wrecked the Labor Department. They said in their platforms of 1940 and 1944 and 1948 that they wanted a strong Labor Department, but they have done everything they possibly can in this 80th Congress to tear up the Labor Department.

Having done all these things and many more--to labor and not for labor--the Taft-Hartley law clearly demonstrates its real purpose by restricting labor's right to engage in political activities. They are afraid of your votes. Having tightened the screws on the workingman, the proponents of this scheme undertook to protect themselves from reprisal at the place where the workers of America can still make their voices count-at the ballot box.

In approaching the problems of labor and management, we should move forward, and not backward. I believe that the collective bargaining process should be used for achieving full employment and full production.

One of the great accomplishments of the Democratic administration is the Full Employment Act of 1946, which was passed by a Democratic Congress. This act provides a plan for continuing prosperity. Those old Republican mossbacks fought this bill; they called it socialistic and impracticable. But we passed it, and we now have 61 million people employed in this country.

The point I want to make is that, if we are to have full employment and full production, labor and management must work together.

That is the kind of unity the Democratic Party believes in. The unity that we have sought is a unity based upon a partnership of equals--farmer, labor and industry. This is a democracy as we understand it. This is the only way in which we believe our democratic institutions can be maintained and preserved. Any plan which seeks to weaken one group in order to establish the superior power of another is not democratic unity and threatens the basis on which our free institutions rest.

But the Taft-Hartley law is not the only attack the Republicans have made against the New Deal. And it is not the only attack in which they have been successful.

They have been hacking away at social security benefits. They passed a law-again over my veto--taking social security insurance benefits away from almost a million people.

Then in the face of that action, they went to Philadelphia and put a plank in their platform which says--and I quote it: "Consistent with the vigorous existence of our competitive economy, we urge extension of the Federal old-age and survivors insurance program and increase of benefits to a more realistic level." Now they went to Philadelphia and wrote that after they had passed a law taking a million people out from under social security.

Extension, indeed! Extension of the very thing they had just finished cutting down!

They talk about increasing benefits, too; so I promptly gave them a chance to do something about that, by calling them back into special session. And we quickly found out that we couldn't take that part of their platform seriously, either. I have never yet seen a Republican platform that you could take seriously. They talk--and the Democrats act!

Now, let me say something about what they are proposing to do to the New Deal when and if they get a Republican President to go along with a Republican Congress. Their attitude has been made clear by the record, and their plans are made clear by their spokesmen.

One of them, a Republican Congressman--Dondero by name--from Michigan, wrote an article telling about how they plan to wreck our policy concerning public power. I told the people about that in El Paso, Tex., a couple of weeks ago. And, Dondero has been squealing since that he did not mean what he said. He says that his article in the power trust magazine was not what it said, but he meant something else. That's what they always say when you catch up with them.

Now, another one of their Congressmen has been doing some writing, and I want to tell you about that. This time it is your old friend Congressman Hartley, of the Taft-Hartley team. Congressman Hartley is one of the main architects of the Republican labor policy.

Now, Mr. Hartley has written a book.

And just to show you that the team is still working together in unity, Senator Taft wrote the foreword for it. There's the book! [Holding it up] In the foreword, Senator Taft said, and I quote: "This book of Mr. Hartley's and the great work which he did during his years in Congress will always be of the greatest assistance and furnish sound guidance." That is the windup sentence of Mr. Taft's foreword in Mr. Hartley's book on "Our National Labor Policy"--a most interesting book. I am going to analyze it for you just a little bit because it shows just exactly where the Republicans stand.

The title of this book is, "Our New National Labor Policy, the Taft-Hartley Act and the Next Steps."

They are really going to do something to you if they get a chance.

Get that: next steps--the next steps. They aren't satisfied to stop with the Taft-Hartley Act. They are going even further.

Let me read to you some of the things this book says. On page 190 appears the following, and I quote:

"The Wagner Act weakened the productive potential of this Nation. I am hopeful the Taft-Hartley Act will begin to restore the productive system on a sounder basis."

Imagine that! The act under which labor produced so magnificently during the war is described as "weakening our productive potential."

Nobody knows more about that productive industry than I do because I spent my time during the war years investigating what labor was doing for the war effort--and they did a magnificent job! And so did the farmer, so did industry, so did every other segment of the population of our great Nation. There never was an effort like it, and there never was an effort more successful. I think maybe I had better read that to you out of the book--it is so good.

Here is another statement on page 194, and I quote--listen to this now:

"To my mind, the Taft-Hartley Act represents the greatest single contribution made by any political party for the past two decades. It corrects in a single piece of legislation the outstanding mistakes of the New Deal. At the same time, it points the way toward a method to be utilized in correcting other errors of government initiated during the 1930's." I don't know what those errors were, but maybe we can find out from Mr. Hartley.

Do you get that? The Republicans pass a law to break the bargaining power of the workingman, and they call it correcting the mistakes of the New Deal.

"I am well aware," says Mr. Hartley on page 193, "of the political difficulties of eliminating the New Deal social legislation. It cannot be repealed at a single stroke."

You know, the reason he said that was because I was standing there with a veto-and he couldn't get it by.

Well, I certainly hope they can't repeal the New Deal legislation. I hope and pray that it can't be repealed at all.

Now, listen to this, and I quote again:

"All legislation of this type requires interim treatment." That is another passage from Mr. Hartley's book.

Interim treatment. Do you know what that is ?

That is the Taft-Hartley law. They call it the Taft-Hartley law interim treatment.

And after that, they take the gloves off, and give you the bare knuckles.

In addition to the Wagner Act, there are other New Deal laws benefiting labor that we Democrats are especially proud of.

One of them is the Fair Labor Standards Act which, for the first time in our history, set a floor under wages in the form of a minimum wage.

It is very interesting to note what Mr. Hartley has to say about that law. I quote from page 192 in this great book of Mr. Hartley's--it is very, very interesting:

"The Fair Labor Standards Act is typical of the New Deal legislation enacted to combat the depression. Such legislation failed to affect the depression one way or another and it has definitely outlived the usefulness it was supposed ever to have had."

Isn't that a revelation?

I asked this Republican "do-nothing" 80th Congress to increase the minimum wage from 40 cents to 75 cents an hour. They refused. There's the reason.

Now we find that they not only refuse to increase it, but they don't even want to keep the present pitiful 40-cent minimum.

But, on page 171 in Mr. Hartley's book appears the frankest confession in the book. I want you to listen to this carefully. This is what he says:

"No sooner had the Taft-Hartley law been enacted over the Truman veto than the Republican leaders of both House and Senate-listen to this now--decided that no more legislation to which organized labor could object would be passed until after the presidential election of 1948."

I am giving this book a terrific plug because I want every man in the United States to read that book and find out just where the Republicans stand on a labor policy for the United States.

Probably make Mr. Hartley rich by making this speech--he was afraid to stand for reelection to the Congress.

What could be clearer than that? The "Republican leaders of both the House and Senate" decided they wouldn't hit labor another blow until after the coming election.

This gives you an idea of what to expect if the Republicans get control of the Presidency also.

The time has come for the working people of this Nation to realize the grave danger that confronts them. You will have to act-and act quickly--if you want to save the benefits of the New Deal.

For myself, and for the Democratic Party, I completely reject the idea that we should "eliminate" the New Deal. Instead, we should build upon it a better way of life. Let me be specific.

I believe that we should repeal the Taft-Hartley Act. That is what the Democratic platform says. When we put things in a Democratic platform, we try to carry them out. We don't just write them down on paper and forget about them.

I believe we should increase the minimum wage from 40 cents an hour to at least 75 cents an hour.

I believe social security insurance should be extended to the large groups of people not now protected.

I believe that the insurance benefits should be increased by approximately 50 percent.

I believe we should expand our facilities for looking after the Nation's health.

I believe that the Federal Government should provide aid to the States in meeting the educational needs of our children.

I believe the Congress should provide aid for slum clearance and low-rent housing.

I believe we should do something, at once, about high prices.

All these things are on the record, my friends. I have made my position clear repeatedly and in detail to the American people. The other fellow hasn't done that.

These are things you can expect from the Democratic Party. They are not only in the Democratic platform, but we have repeatedly acted upon them before the Congress and before the country, and you know exactly where I stand on them. You can only get them from the Democratic Party.

Our program is for the people.

And that's why we're going to win this election on November the ad.

Note: The President spoke at 9 p.m. in the Armory. His opening words "Mr. Chairman" referred to Clarence E. Motz, chairman of the Summit County Democratic Central and Executive Committee. Later he referred to Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, Representative George A. Dondero of Michigan, and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr., of New Jersey.

Harry S Truman, Address at the Armory, Akron, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233434

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