Harry S. Truman photo

Address in the Cleveland Municipal Auditorium

October 26, 1948

Thank you, thank you--thank you very, very much. I can't tell you how very much I appreciate that reception. I want to say to you tonight, Mr. Chairman, and ladies and gentlemen--I am going to let you in on a secret. We have got the Republicans on the run.

Of course, the Republicans don't want to admit that. They've got a poll that says they're going to win.

Well, we all know that for 12 years the Republicans have been poll-happy. In 1936 the Republicans had a poll that told them they had a sure thing. And they did. They met a sure defeat in 1936!

In 1940 the Republicans had a poll that told them they had the edge. Well, it was a mighty sharp edge. They got cut to ribbons on election day, if you remember.

In 1944--you know that on that ticket in 1944 the Republicans had a poll that told them things were pretty close. It looked mighty promising for the Republican candidate, so the poll said. Now, that promise was all he got. In fact, the Republicans have been full of promises ever since.

This year the Republicans have some polls right down the same old line. The Republican candidate is putting out polls.

These polls that the Republican candidate is putting out are like sleeping pills designed to lull the voters into sleeping on election day. You might call them sleeping polls.

You know that the same doctor I told you about in Pittsburgh the other night--that Republican candidate--keeps handing out these sleeping polls, and a lot of people have been taking them. The doctor keeps telling the people: "Don't worry. Take a poll and go to sleep."

Most of the people are not going to be lulled to sleep or be fooled. They know that sleeping polls are bad for the system. They affect the mind and the body. An overdose could be fatal-can so affect your mind that your body will be too lazy to go to the polls on election day. "You don't need to vote, the election is won--all I have to do is get Truman out of the White House."

Now, these Republican polls are no accident. They are part of a design to prevent a big vote, to keep you at home on November 2d, by convincing you that it makes no difference whether you vote or not.

They want to do this because they know in their hearts that a big vote spells their defeat. They know that a big vote means a Democratic victory, because the Democratic Party stands for the greatest good for the greatest number of the people. The special interests now running the Republican Party can't stand a big vote--they are afraid of the people.

My friends, we are going to win this election, because the people believe what the Democrats stand for--they also know too well what the Republicans stand for.

And, believe me, the Republicans and the Democrats do not stand for the same thing. You can tell that very plainly by looking at the candidates you have to vote for here in Cleveland.

Just consider the man who will be your next Governor--Frank Lausche. Frank Lausche is a man of the people, who, like Cleveland's great mayors, Tom Johnson and Tom Burke, thinks with his heart as well as with his head.

This is a State of great Democrats--honest, able, fearless men--senior statesmen like my friend Bob Crosser here, and the younger men worthy to fight at their side, like Steve Young, who is going to be your Congressman at Large.

Men like Mike Kirwan, the Chairman of the Congressional Campaign Committee, whose work to assure the election of a Democratic Congress will never be forgotten in the history of the Democratic Party.

Men like your own great Mike Feighan, and like Walter Huber.

The Republicans can't win against candidates like these men when the people get out and vote.

They can't win with a candidate for President who dodges the issues, either.

The American people want to know what kind of government they can expect from the men and women they elect to office. And, thanks to the record that has been made, this is one time the voters can tell just what to expect.

The record of the Democratic Party is blazed across the face of the Nation in a story of a better, healthier, happier life for all Americans. The Democratic record is a record of performance, and not a record of false promises.

The record of the Republican Party was a story of obstruction, objection, and reaction from the days of the Hoover depression to the end of the 80th Congress.

And then there came a faint ray of hope-a suggestion that the Republican Party might mend its ways.

In June of 1948 the Republican Party wrote its platform in Philadelphia. That platform failed to mention many of the issues, but it almost caught up with the Democratic platform of 1932.

Now, for 2 long years I had been urging the Republican Congress to do something about high prices and housing, and to bring social security and the other welfare measures up to date. All this time, the situation had been getting worse. Prices had become unbearable for most people. Now, in this 1948 platform, the Republican Party had indicated that it might be willing to do something.

Encouraged by this platform, I called a special session of the 80th Congress. The Republicans had a chance to promise in Philadelphia. And I gave them a chance to perform in Washington.

I did this because I believe that it is the President's job to get decent laws for the benefit of the American people and because the people were demanding action.

Seldom in history has a party had such an opportunity to show good faith by converting its platform promises into legislative performance.

But did the Republicans take advantage of that opportunity? They did not. They cared nothing about their platform promises or for the legislation which was so urgently needed for the public good.

Let me remind you what the Republicans said when they found out what my recommendations were. The Republican leaders issued an official statement, and this is what it said: "The President's quarrel with the 80th Congress is not the failure to enact legislation, but a fundamental difference in government philosophy between the President and the Congress."

I am going to read you that quote again, because that is of vital importance in this campaign: "The President's quarrel with the Congress--with the 80th Congress, is not its failure to enact legislation, but a fundamental difference in government philosophy between the President and the Congress."

To put it in plain English, it means that I believe in one kind of government: government for the people. The Republicans believe in another kind of government: government for special interests.

Now, the question in this election is-which of these two kinds of government do you want? Do you want government for all the people, or do you want government for the privileged few ?

Let's get one thing clear. When the Republican leaders made their statement they had already picked their candidate for President. That candidate stands for the same fundamental philosophy as that Republican "do-nothing" 80th Congress does. Now, just in case there was ever any doubt about that, the Republican candidate has since indorsed the record of that 80th Congress.

But all the while the Republican 80th Congress was in session, that candidate was very, very quiet about it. And although he has said he is proud of the record of the 80th Congress, he has been trying to make us forget what that Congress actually did and failed to do. He has treated it like a poor relation; he shut it up in the backroom, so that its bad manners and terrible record won't frighten the voters he is entertaining in the front parlor.

And the reason is that in everything it said and did, the Republican 80th Congress showed exactly what the difference is between the Republican kind of government and the Democratic kind of government.

And it is my duty to make that difference perfectly clear, and that is what I am trying to do for you. The best way I know of doing that is to explain what I asked the special session of the 80th Congress to do.

I know this is going to be painful to the Republican candidate. He is having such a high-level tea party with the voters that he is horrified, whenever anybody mentions the facts of life.

Here I am proposing to drag out the old reprobate of a Republican 80th Congress out of the backroom, and disclose him to the guests as the candidate's nearest and dearest relative. I'm going to tell the folks exactly how I gave that old sinner a chance to repent in the special session. I gave him a chance to mend his ways--only 3 weeks after he had taken the pledge at Philadelphia-and how he refused, and backslid again into the gutter of special privilege.

The Republican Party can change platforms and candidates, but it can't change its fundamental philosophy of government.

If you believe in the things I recommended to the special session of the 80th Congress, you must vote the Democratic ticket straight.

My first recommendation to the special session of that Congress was for effective action to hold down high prices. But this was contrary to the fundamental Republican philosophy. It would have interfered with the excessive profits of the big corporations. So the Republicans are against it.

I'm still in favor of action to hold down the cost of living, and I believe that you are. And if that is what you want, you can get it by voting the straight Democratic ticket on election day.

The second recommendation I made to the special session was for the passage of the Taft-Ellender-Wagner housing bill. This bill had already passed the Senate and would have passed the House within an hour if the Republican leaders had permitted it to come to a vote. But the real estate lobby wanted it blocked, so the masters of the Republican Party blocked it.

That is their fundamental philosophy on housing, and I'm glad it's different from mine.

This question is going to be before you on election day just as plainly as if it were on your ballot. And to get housing for the masses, you must vote the Democratic ticket on November 2d.

If you are for slum clearance--if you are for Government aid for housing at reasonable prices--if you are for immediate action in the people's interest--you must vote the Democratic ticket.

Now, let's look at the next question I put up to them. That's Federal aid to education. I don't have to tell you how crowded the schools are and how much we need more classrooms and more teachers at better salaries.

This is a matter of national concern. And I have urged that the Congress help the States in meeting the present crisis.

It is certainly a disgrace on the richest country in the world not to have rooms enough for its children to go to school, and to be so picayune with the teachers that they can't afford to teach in the schools for the pay they get.

Here again, a bill had already passed the Senate and could have passed the House very quickly. And here again the masters of the Republican Party refused to let the representatives of the people even vote on this vital matter. That's the kind of efficiency you get from the Republican Party. And they are always talking about efficiency!

It seems incredible that the Republicans should admit that their fundamental philosophy requires them to oppose adequate schools--but admit it they did. With them, money comes ahead of schools.

Remember, you will be voting for or against better schools, more teachers at better pay, on election day. And if you want better schools, more teachers at better pay, you must vote the Democratic ticket.

Then I gave this special session a chance to raise the minimum wage. It's only 40 cents an hour now. Suppose some of these Republican Congressmen had to try to raise a family on $16 a week. Maybe they would change their minds about that minimum wage.

But, as of last July 28th, a higher minimum wage was contrary to the fundamental philosophy of the Republican Party. Their candidate says he is for a minimum wage, but I have come to the conclusion that the smaller the minimum the better it will suit him. Now, to raise that minimum wage, you have got to vote the Democratic ticket on November the 2d.

I asked the Congress to do something else, too. Oh, I gave them a number of chances. I asked them to increase the social security insurance payments. The average payment to an old couple is less than $40 a month. That's a pitifully inadequate sum to try to live on, isn't it? But it's enough to satisfy the fundamental Republican philosophy.

In fact, if you judge the Republicans by their actions and not their campaign promises, they are opposed to social security altogether. The kind of action the Republican 80th Congress took was to strip social security insurance benefits from nearly a million people who already had them.

If you don't want to take a chance on having your social security benefits whittled away, you had better vote the Democratic ticket on November the 2d.

Now, there was something else I asked this special session to do. That was to correct an injustice this same Republican 80th Congress had perpetrated at its regular session.

The Congress passed a displaced persons bill at the regular session which discriminated against Jews and Catholics. This display of intolerance aroused such a storm of protest from all fair-minded people that I thought the Republicans might be glad of a chance to correct the injustice they had done to the good people of those two faiths. I gave them that chance. Did they use it? They did not.

This was one question on which the Republican candidate felt he couldn't afford to keep silent. So he asked the Republicans in Congress to act. And what did they do? They told him who was really riding the elephant. Now, if that's unity, I don't know unity when I see it. And that is what the Republican candidate is asking for.

I gave them a chance to correct another wrong, too. Oh, I was as generous as I could be with that Republican special session!

Earlier, at the regular session, when they had acted on appropriations for electric power projects, they had really messed up our national power policy. They had made so many cuts in funds, and included so many restrictions, that a severe power shortage is likely to result in many sections of the country. They even refused funds for the Tennessee Valley Authority to build a steamplant to help furnish power needed for our work on atomic energy.

I thought they would be glad of a chance to correct this mistake. But no, sir. They must have consulted their Republican candidate for President and learned his view that the TVA is wonderful, but we ought never to do anything like it again.

Finally, I urged the special session to act on legislation to protect the basic rights of citizenship and human liberty. The Republican Party has been paying lip service to legislation for this purpose for many years. But when the showdown comes, they never quite manage to act upon it.

The performance of this "do-nothing" Both Congress during the past 2 years, and particularly the "do less than nothing" special session, has given the country a foretaste of what will happen if the Republican Party is successful at the polls.

The people of Ohio, particularly the residents of Cleveland, will long remember 1932, when the Republican Party was in power.

Many of you can remember the smokeless smokestacks, the idle plants, the closed banks, the long breadlines, the soup kitchens. You can also remember the assurance you received from the Republicans that prosperity was just around the corner.

Now, it was the Democratic Party that lifted the Nation from the worst depression it has ever known, under the leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

It was the Democratic Party that inspired and inaugurated a program of social legislation that restored democratic government to its proper place as the servant of the people and not the agent of the privileged few.

The Democratic Party stands ready to serve the Nation--ready to serve all citizens and not just the vested interests, ready to carry on its "fundamental philosophy" that has done so much for the people of the United States in the last 16 years.

Now, during the last 2 years, the Democratic Party has had to spend most of its time and energy in saving the Democratic program--the New Deal--from the Republican attacks upon it.

As Democrats, we don't like this. We feel it is a bad thing to spend so much time preventing the Republicans from turning the clock back.

We would much rather have the clock go along and go forward. And I would like to go forward with it.

Now, what this country needs is not a new President. What this country needs is a new Congress--a Democratic Congress.

Now, all I am asking you to do is to go to the polls on November the 2d and vote for yourselves. Vote in your own interests. If you do that, you will have a Democratic administration here in the great State of Ohio, you will have a Democratic President in the White House, and you will have a Democratic Congress that will be willing to serve the people and not the special interests.

Note: The President spoke at 9 p.m. in the Municipal Auditorium in Cleveland. In his opening words he referred to Ray T. Miller, Chairman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Executive Committee. Later he referred to Democratic candidate for Governor Frank J. Lausche, Mayor Thomas A. Burke of Cleveland, former Mayor Thomas Johnson of Cleveland, Democratic candidate for Representative Stephen M. Young, and Representatives Robert Crosset, Michael I. Kirwan, Michael A. Feighan, and Waiter B. Huber, all of Ohio.

Harry S Truman, Address in the Cleveland Municipal Auditorium Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233868

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