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Rear Platform and Other Informal Remarks in Nevada and California

September 22, 1948

[1.] SPARKS, NEVADA (In the public park, 9:15 a.m.)

Senator McCarran, Vail Pittman. Mr. Mayor:

It certainly is a pleasure to be here with you today. I don't know when I've seen a happier, more smiling crowd--and I'll tell you I have seen a lot of them on this trip and on others.

I think that Nevada, from the looks of this turnout, must be vitally interested in the issues of the day. I'm sure they are, because those vital issues affect you as much as any other one of the Western States.

I'm interested in reclamation, conservation, and power, the fundamental principles which will make the western country come into its own.

Last night in Salt Lake City, I spent a half hour explaining just exactly where I stand on those subjects as President of the United States, and as the head of the Democratic Party.

Now, it's an interesting thing that the line drawn between the principles of the Democratic Party and that one drawn--that line that separates the principles of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party--and it's just as plain for you to see as is possible, as if it were drawn right down here on this bench.

The Democrats stand for the people. The Democratic Party has always been the party that's interested in the welfare of the people as a whole. It's been the policy of the Republican Party to take care of the special interests. They are the special interest party. They believe that there ought to be a ruling class that gets the benefit of nearly everything in the country, and that a little of it will trickle down to the farmer and the small merchants and the workingman. That's not the principle of the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party believes in the fundamental principles of the Constitution of the United States, which says that the people are the Government. And you are the Government when you exercise your franchise on election day--that is, the right to vote--when you go to the polls and pick the candidates who are going to represent you in your local offices and who are going to represent you in the Congress of the United States and the man who is going to be President for the next 4 years. You at that time are exercising a privilege that is the greatest privilege of your life. And, when you don't exercise that privilege, you usually get into trouble.

Look what happened to you in 1946 when most of you stayed at home. One-third of the voters in this United States in 1946 elected this Republican 80th Congress. Look what you got. Look what they did to you.

A little later on in the day I'm going to elaborate on that and tell you just exactly how they did it and why they did it. And then, and then when you know the facts, if you go to the polls and don't send Mr. Baring to the Congress, don't elect Democratic officials all along the line, then you'll get just exactly what you deserve, as you did in 1946.

I don't think you're going to do that. I think you are going to go to the polls on election day and I think you are going to exercise your franchise privilege and that you are going to have a Government. When you've done that, it'll be your Government, a Government that represents the people and works for the people. And that's all I stand for.

I stand for Democratic principles, and everybody knows where I stand. You don't get any double talk from me. I'm either for something or against it, and you know it. You know what I stand for. I hope you can find out what the other people stand for when the time comes. I very much feel that it will be a long time before you know exactly what they believe.

I want to thank you very much for this early morning appearance. I appreciate highly the cordiality and the hospitality of the great State of Nevada. Thank you very much.

[2.] RENO, NEVADA (10:50 a.m.)

Senator McCarran, Governor Pittman, Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a very great pleasure indeed to face this wonderful audience here in this great Nevada city of Reno. I have been here before, and I have had some good times here, but I never got to stay long enough, the train did not stop long enough. I hope, some time or other, that I can come back and spend some time in this lovely town of yours--a grand place to be, so they tell me. The Governor and Pat McCarran have been selling me the State ever since I came into it this morning. I didn't need much selling.

You are interested, of course, in the welfare of the West. Your interests are wrapped up with the proper development of this great western country. And if you are going to carry through on these developments, you have got to make up your mind who is your friend and who is not your friend. You have got to decide whether you want to continue with a bunch of people in control of the Government who want to turn the clock back, or whether you want to go forward with people who have your interest at heart.

You have that choice on November the 2d. If you want to send another 80th Republican "do-nothing" Congress back to Washington, that will be your affair. It will cost you. I am asking you not to do that.

I have been talking about that Republican 80th Congress and the Republican Party all over this country, and I want to explain to you just how the Republican Party, through that 80th Congress, failed to act in the public interest.

The Congress elected in 1946--and elected by only a third of the voters--had 245 Republicans and 188 Democrats in the House, and 51 Republicans and 45 Democrats in the Senate. Now bear these figures in mind. That meant a lot of changes in the operation of the Congress. It put the Republicans in as presiding officers of the House of Representatives and of the Senate. It put Republicans in as chairmen of every committee in the Congress--both House and Senate. That is of vital importance. That is control of the Congress. Committees in Congress do the basic work of the Congress. Practically nothing can be voted on by the House or the Senate unless it is first approved by a committee.

About the only thing you can vote on in the Senate--and I was there for 10 years-without a committee's approval is a motion to adjourn. The chairmen control all the committees and have the whip hand as to what subjects the committees can take up.

In the 80th Congress the chairmen were the Republicans who have been in Congress for the longest period of time. They are a bunch of old mossbacks. They are living back in 1890, and they tried to make that Congress act like 1890--and I think they succeeded pretty well.

These chairmen, together with the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, decide what Congress shall do.

Now, I can't tell Congress what to do. I can only point out to the Congress what needs to be done.

For example, I asked the Congress to do something about inflation. I set out specific plans to control high prices. Democratic Congressmen introduced specific bills to accomplish what I had in mind, but in the House of Representatives, the chairman of the committee that handles such things would not even let the committee vote on the bill which I urged.

The same sort of thing happened on housing. The committee chairmen and the Speaker of the House of Representatives acted together to prevent the whole House of Representatives from voting on the housing bill which I wanted, and which they admitted most of the Representatives would have voted for.

There is a funny thing in connection with that housing bill. That bill was introduced way back about 4 1/2 years ago in the Senate, and it was called the Wagner-Ellender-Taft bill. That bill passed the Senate, but it died in the House. Then the bill was reintroduced in 1947 in the Senate, and it was introduced as the Taft-Ellender-Wagner bill--a little change in the way the names were set up, you see.

Mr. Taft was the leading man on that bill. That bill passed the Senate, and I sent a special message to the House of Representatives, to the Speaker of the House himself, requesting that the House be allowed to vote on that Taft-Ellender-Wagner bill.

The chairman of that committee roosted on that bill and would not let it come out of committee--would not even let the committee vote on it. The committee did finally vote on it--two forward-looking Republicans voted with the Democrats and the bill was reported out; but it couldn't pass the House for the simple reason that the Rules Committee of the House kept that bill from coming out. When it finally came to the conclusion, Mr. Taft ran out on his own Taft-Ellender-Wagner bill. He joined with the reactionaries and kept that bill from being acted upon. I think he is going to rue the day he did that, too.

Now, this is what I mean when I talk about the Republican Party and Congress. I mean men who control the Republican Party and Congress. I am here to tell you that there are a lot of good individual Republicans who are willing to look forward and vote with the Democrats on fundamental issues. But the leaders of the Republican Party are living back in 1890. I want you to bear that in mind when you go to the polls.

If the people in this country elect a Republican President and Vice President as well as a Republican Congress, they will have the same committee chairmen back in the same jobs in Congress and doing the same things that they are doing now. There won't be any change in the complexion of that Congress, if you send Republicans back as a majority in Congress.

A vote for the Republican ticket this year will not give you any change in that respect. You will still have that sort of a "do-nothing," backward-looking Congress. It will give you the same kind of Congress as the 80th Congress was. It will give you more of the Wolcotts and Tabers, Aliens and Martins--those men who roost on progressive legislation that should have been passed by the Congress.

If any body in this campaign wants a change, I am the one who wants that change. I want a change from a Republican to a Democratic Congress. I want a Congress to vote along with me--to vote for the people. I want you to send to Congress Congressmen that I can work with. I want you to vote for Congressman Baring from this district. He knows his way around Washington. He was in Washington--he was with one of your great Senators, a brother of your Governor, Senator Key Pittman; and he knows what to do when he gets there.

Don't send a bunch of reactionaries back there!

Your industrial and economic progress will be furthered if you have a progressive, forward-looking Democratic administration in the White House and in the Congress.

I think that is what you are going to do. I think the people out here with the farmers and the workingmen are beginning to wake up and find out just exactly where their interests are. Their interests are not with the reactionaries and the special interests. The interests of the people are with the Democratic Party, and I am urging you to exercise your God-given franchise on the 2d day of November, and give me a Congress that I can work with. I know that is exactly what you are going to do.

[3.] TRUCKEE CALIFORNIA (Rear platform, 12:14 p.m.)

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:

I am certainly happy to be back in California again, and I am going to spend all day today and most of tomorrow--and all of tomorrow--in the State and discuss with you very frankly the issues with which you are now faced.

When I get to work, you will know all about what the controversy between the Republicans and the Democrats really means.

I am glad that so many people at this place deemed it advisable to come out and take a look at the next President of the United States.

[4.] ROSEVILLE CALIFORNIA (Rear platform, 3:35 p.m.)

Mr. Mayor, and citizens of this great city in California:

It is a pleasure to see you, and I am glad to be able to say a word or two to you this afternoon. I had not expected to do that. They told me that the train would not stop here, in the beginning, but it seems that you had enough influence with the Southern Pacific Railroad to get it stopped.

I want to say to you that I think very highly of your Mayor, and I think you ought to elect him to the State Senate, if that is what he wants to do--although I don't know what you are going to do for a Mayor.

I am very much interested in this valley. Last night from Salt Lake City I outlined some principles on public power and public power transmission lines, and those policies are the policies of the Democratic Party, and have been ever since the Democratic Party took control of the Government back in 1932.

It has been our policy to develop these great valleys in the country, and to develop these valleys in the interest of the people. These investments--they are not loans, they are not gifts--these investments in the control of the water resources of this part of the world are for the benefit of the people in this part of the territory; and when these water resources are used for power purposes, the people ought to be able to obtain that power at the same cost that it comes from the dams.

I don't think anybody ought to share in your investment, for that is what it amounts to. This Republican "do-nothing" 80th Congress tried to choke you to death in this valley by cutting off appropriations that would have provided for public power lines so that power could be brought to these municipalities who want to buy direct from the Government. They did that with malice aforethought.

You see, the 80th Congress is a special interest Congress, and it represents the Republican Party; and the Republican Party always has been a special interest party.

If you have your own best interests at heart, on election day, November the 2d, you will make it a point to turn out and vote. In 1946 a third of you did not vote and you got this special interest controlled Congress, and you got just what you deserved because you did not go and exercise your franchise. And you will get it again if you don't do it this time--and I won't feel a bit sorry for you.

I sincerely hope that all of you will bear that in mind. The most important thing in this country is the free ballot. You are the Government. The people of the United States are the Government, but when you don't exercise the privilege you have as a citizen, and if you get bad government, then you haven't anybody else to blame for it.

So don't forget that on November the 2d, if you believe that the paramount issue in this campaign is the special interests against the people, you will go and vote the straight Democratic ticket, and save the country.

That is what I hope you will do. I hope you will join me in this crusade to keep the country from going to the dogs.

[5.] SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA (Rear platform, 4:17 p.m.)

Mr. Chairman, I am astonished. This crowd's bigger than the crowd was when I was here on my nonpolitical trip. You're very cordial and I appreciate immensely the hospitality which has been shown to me in California today, and this, this makes me feel--well, it's right here. I can't express it to you as it should be done.

I'm happy to be here because there are a few things I would like to tell you. You remember I talked here in June and I didn't want to talk politics at that time because I was out to let you know something about your Government and how it ran, and let you see the President and what he looked like. I'm making a political trip now.

I'm going to talk to you about some practical politics. Practical politics is government. Government starts from the grass roots. Government starts when you vote, and whenever a man is a politician and he honestly carries that designation, it means that he is interested in government. Usually, after he dies, they call him a statesman.

As I traveled across the country I have become more and more convinced that it is the simple democratic principles of our forefathers which constitute the secret of growth and prosperity in this great country. But it's a strange thing that some of these simple, old principles which are the secret of our growth and prosperity are under attack today.

Let me explain what I mean by discussing issues which are of vital importance to you people here in the Central Valley of California.

Take the basic principle of small business and the public distribution of publicly produced power. These principles are being attacked by monopolies, monopolistic public utilities, and by special interests, just as they always have been the special interests.

You know, there are a class of people who believe that there ought to be a strata of people at the top who milk all the cream, and whatever drops through to the bottom of the separator ought to go to the little man.

The Democratic Party doesn't believe that. The Democratic Party believes that there ought to be a fair distribution of all the wealth so that the farmer, the laboringman, and the small businessman--so that the everyday citizen such as you and me can have a fair share in the proper way. That's what I'm fighting for right now.

I'm calling this trip a crusade. It's a crusade of the people against the special interests, and if you back me up we're going to win that crusade.

Sacramento was the scene of one of the greatest struggles by the people against monopoly which the country has ever seen. It was the struggle of the people of California to remove the stranglehold grasp of a railroad monopoly. That was the fight which Frank Norris dramatized in his famous book, "The Octopus." You all remember that. I suppose there are a lot of citizens here who indulged in that fight, and it was a good one.

We are in the same kind of a fight today. The effort of your Federal Government to keep the resources and the development of America free from the grasp of monopoly are being attacked now as radical and un-American. It is the same false charge which was leveled against your fathers when they fought the railroad monopoly.

These attacks have increased and have become far more dangerous since the Republicans gained control of the Congress by default in 1946, and it did get in by default because two-thirds of you didn't vote. The special interests and the monopolies know that they have a friend in the leadership of the Republican Party. The Republican Party always was for special interests, and it hasn't changed a bit. They know that the leaders of the Republican Party in Washington will listen to them and do their chores.

The big business interests will stop at nothing--no personal slander, no distortion of the truth--to accomplish their aims.

I believe this is the real issue in this campaign: whether the country is going to continue to have a Government in the interest of the people, under Democratic leadership or whether it is going to succumb to Government for the few, under the Republican special privilege leadership.

An outstanding example of the fight between special interests and those who are defending the welfare of the people concerns the distribution of public power produced by public funds. This issue is a real one right now right here in the Central Valley of California. Here the Federal Government is investing--investing, not spending or lending--it's making an investment, which will be returned to the taxpayers, of about $20 million a year in reclamation and power projects. We're making this investment for the benefit of the people of the Central Valley, and not for the benefit of the speculators and monopolists.

The Republican 80th Congress slashed at this Federal investment. It tried to cut the 1948 appropriations for reclamation projects more than half. The Republican leadership in the Congress didn't believe in rapid progress and growth by the Central Valley of California.

However, as soon as some of the construction work was stopped by this cut in appropriations, the Republican Congress got frightened by your protests and finally appropriated what I had asked for.

The Congress did not, however, provide the money to build the transmission lines so that the electric power generated at these reclamation projects could be distributed at the lowest possible cost to the people.

Time and again I asked the Republican 80th "do-nothing" Congress for money to build public transmission lines. But the power monopoly wanted to get its hands on the distribution of this Government power. They are always out to do that if they get a chance.

The power monopoly wants to own the transmission lines which carry the power from Government dams to the users--rural cooperatives, industries, and towns. The monopoly wants the transmission lines so that it can charge what it likes for the power. The power companies want to take their cut out of the investment made by the Government for the benefit of the people.

The Republican Congress obeyed the orders of the power monopoly and refused to provide the money for public transmission lines. That not only affects the Central Valley of California; it affects the great Northwest, the Bonneville Dam, and the Grand Coulee Dam. It affects the Southwest and affects the dam in Dennison and the dam in northeast Oklahoma. It affects the Tennessee Valley Authority. It's a nationwide pressure. They did it with malice aforethought.

I know that the farmers and the businessmen and all the residents of the Central Valley feel the power shortage. You can blame the so-called leaders of the Republican Party who are obedient servants of big business.

The policy of my administration is to see that power developed on great reclamation projects is delivered to the people at the lowest possible cost, regardless of what the power monopolies want. All I ask of you is to look at what the real leaders of the Republican Party have done in an attempt to frustrate your growth. Then sit down and think what these same interests will do if they get complete control of the Government.

Suppose you hadn't had anybody in the White House fighting for your interests. What do you reckon these birds would have done with the public power and the public interests of this Government?

I know what they would have done. They would have taken it all and it would have sent us back to 1890 or further. They want to turn the clock back. I want it to go forward. I believe this is the fundamental principle of American Government, and a fundamental reason for prosperity in America.

I intend to fight on this line no matter what the monopolists and their congressional henchmen may do about it.

You know where I stand. I would like you to try to find out where the opposition stands. You'll get a lot of double talk if they ever tell you anything. I don't think the people of California will be fooled when big business goes around saying the effort to look out for the welfare of the plain people is radical and un-American.

Well, the decision is up to you as to what you want. You can make that decision on the 2d of November. If you stay at home like you did before, I won't feel a bit sorry for you if you get another 80th Congress which will do you double dirt.

The thing for you to do now is to be sure you are registered and on the books, and on the 2d of November, walk into that polling place and vote the Democratic ticket straight, and you won't have any trouble along the lines I am talking to you about.

Thank you very much.

[6.] SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (City Hall, 7:50 p.m.)

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Mayor, distinguished guests:

I appreciate most highly the hearty welcome which you have extended to me tonight. I have been here on several occasions and you always have been cordial and good to me; and I appreciate it. I was here when the United Nations Charter was finally signed and delivered. I talked to the citizens of San Francisco at that time on that subject. I am proud of the opportunity which was afforded me as President of the United States on that occasion to take part in the birth of the organization which, I am confident, will one day bring a just and lasting peace to the world.

I have heard from time to time comments by well-meaning but misinformed Americans that the United Nations is not working. I think I can understand their concern. All of us have been disappointed in the slowness with which the world is settling down after World War II. However, I am firmly convinced that our progress toward peace is much faster than it would have been without the United Nations.

Let me recall for you briefly just what it was we had in mind when we set up the United Nations. The United Nations was established for three basic purposes. The first was to prevent future wars by creating a kind of economic condition throughout the world which is necessary for peace. The second purpose was to provide the kind of organization which would help countries settle their differences peacefully without shooting each other. The third purpose was to provide an organization by which the peace-loving countries could act collectively against threats to peace by an aggressive country.

Now that you have in mind the reasons why the United Nations was set up, let us look at the record of what it has accomplished. I am sure you will agree that the United Nations has proved its worth. It has been meeting all three purposes. I think we can hope for peace in the future.

When the United Nations was less than a year old, the Security Council was faced with the problem of Soviet troops invading the small and weak country of Iran located south of the Soviet Union in the Middle East. Action by the Security Council helped to persuade the Soviet Government to pull its troops out of Iran. Iran remained an independent country.

The Security Council of the United Nations protected the independence of two other small countries in the Middle East when it persuaded the British and French Governments to withdraw their troops from Syria and Lebanon.

Greece is still another small nation whose independence has been maintained with the aid of the United Nations. The United Nations has taken action against Greece's northern neighbors. Among other things it has sent a commission to Greece whose job it is to patrol and to make sure that Greece's neighbors do not invade that country again.

The Security Council of the United Nations secured a truce in the conflict between the Dutch and the Indonesians. A United Nations committee brought about an agreement between the Dutch and the Indonesians on a set of principles which are being used as a guide for the creation of a United States of Indonesia. This act alone involved the peace and security of almost 60 million people. The two new countries of India and Pakistan brought their dispute over Kashmir to the United Nations. The United Nations has not yet ended the dispute, but it has succeeded in keeping violence from breaking out into open war.

I have described only a few of the actions which the United Nations has taken since it was founded, but I am sure that those I have mentioned are evidence of the way in which the Security Council and the General Assembly are helping maintain peace in the world.

There are many other activities of the United Nations besides the General Assembly and the Security Council. There is the International Refugee Organization which is taking care of refugees in displaced persons camps in Europe. There is the International Trade Organization, which is working to increase the flow of trade among all countries. And there are still other organizations, like these two, connected with the United Nations which are successfully working to improve the welfare of all the peoples of the world.

Of course, looking back over the first 3 years of the United Nations, to ignore the problems which the Soviet tactics have caused would be foolish. I have never, for one moment, since I became President underestimated the multitude of the problems which the Soviet Union could cause if that country were unwilling to join with other nations in working for peace.

At the same time I am so firmly convinced that all the plain people in the world want peace, that I have never regarded the Soviet Union's present policies as insuperable obstacles to peace.

Twice in one generation the United States has had the opportunity to lead the countries of the world to peace. After World War I we shirked our responsibilities. World War II taught us a lesson.

All of our efforts for peace--the European recovery program, aid to China, and Greece, and Turkey, support for the western European Union, the Inter-American Defense Pacts--all these are in accord with the principles of the United Nations, and are in support of its aims.

We shall do everything in our power to strengthen the United Nations, for I believe that the overwhelming majority of the people of this country have confidence in the United Nations that eventually it will be a grand success and will continue to work.

The Security Council now, and the General Assembly are meeting in Paris. They have some grave questions before them. General Marshall and his staff and our delegate to the United Nations are in Paris now representing this great country in its sincere effort to bring peace to the world.

It has been the policy of the United States under this administration to keep foreign policy out of politics; that is, politics within the United States. It is necessary for us as a nation to go to the water's edge with a solid front. We must go there as the United States of America. It has been the policy of the Government ever since I have been President to see to it that that policy is pursued, and I shall continue to do just that.

It is necessary for us, under the Constitution of the United States, to get out and have a scramble for the Presidency. We are having that right now. I am going around all over the country, facing such wonderful people as you, to tell you exactly what the domestic issues are in this campaign, and try to convince you that the Democratic Party is the party of the common people, and that the Republican Party is the party of special interests as it always has been. It can be conclusively proven, if you study the various instances which I have cited since this campaign started.

It was my privilege to start out in Detroit, Mich., on Labor Day and I discussed there the tactics of this Republican 80th "do-nothing" Congress towards labor. I told the laboringmen exactly where they stood, and where they would stand if by any mischance the Republicans got complete control of the Government.

And I went to Des Moines and I discussed the farm problems with the citizens of Des Moines, and I told the farmers just exactly what this 80th Congress had done to them, and what they intended to do to them if they had the opportunity to control the whole Government.

Just yesterday, at Salt Lake City, Utah, I set out to this part of the world just exactly what that Republican Congress had tried to do to the people of the West. You ought to study that situation. It is your interest that is at stake. It is the interests of the whole country that are at stake. It means that if you get Republican control of this Government, you might just as well turn it over to the special interests, and we will start on a boom and bust cycle, just like we did in 1920. We will end up with a crash which in the long run will do nobody any good but the Communists.

The situation is a grave one, and I am asking you to face it and face it realistically. Think of your own interests when you go to the polls on the 2d of November. You will not only vote for me but you should vote for yourselves. Vote for your own interests. Vote for the interests of the laboringman-vote for the interests of the farmer--vote for the interests of the white-collar worker--vote for the interests of the little businessman-vote for the interests of California--vote for the interests of the Nation as a whole, and you can't help but elect a Democratic Congress with a Democratic President.

I could stand here all evening and go over all the fundamental issues of this campaign and point out to you just where your interests lie, but I will tell you what you will do. If you will listen to me and read each time you get a chance--if you will read my speeches in torn, not some times as they are reported-but in torn as they are said, I don't think you can do anything else but on November the 2d vote the Democratic ticket straight.

Note: In the course of his remarks on September 22 the President referred to Pat McCarran, Senator from Nevada, Vail Pittman, Governor of Nevada, Vern Hursh, Mayor of Sparks, Walter S. Baring, Democratic candidate for Representative at Large from Nevada, Francis R. Smith, Mayor of Reno, Harold T. Johnson, Mayor of Roseville, and Dewey Mead, Acting Mayor of San Francisco.

Harry S Truman, Rear Platform and Other Informal Remarks in Nevada and California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232925

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