These words seem oddly, perhaps astonishingly appropriate to political discussion today. They come from the past, from more than a half-century ago, but they refer to issues that have not yet been solved, and to issues that were resolved, but have come undone, or just come around again.
Here’s a political speech given in Minnesota. Without hitting Google, can you tell who said this, and when?
Democracy does not work that way. Democracy is a matter of faith–a faith in the soul of man–a faith in human rights. That is the kind of faith that moves mountains–that’s the kind of faith that hurled the Iron Range at the Axis and shook the world at Hiroshima.
Faith is much more than efficiency. Faith gives value to all things. Without faith, the people perish.
Today the forces of liberalism face a crisis. The people of the United States must make a choice between two ways of living–a decision, which will affect us the rest of our lives and our children and our grandchildren after us.
On the other side, there is the Wall Street way of life and politics. Trust the leader! Let big business take care of prices and profits! Measure all things by money! That is the philosophy of the masters of the Republican Party.
Well, I have been studying the Republican Party for over 12 years at close hand in the Capital of the United States. And by this time, I have discovered where the Republicans stand on most of the major issues.
Since they won’t tell you themselves, I am going to tell you.
They approve of the American farmer-but they are willing to help him go broke.
They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing.
They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights.
They favor a minimum wage–the smaller the minimum the better.
They indorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools.
They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them.
They approve of social security benefits-so much so that they took them away from almost a million people.
They believe in international trade–so much so that they crippled our reciprocal trade program, and killed our International Wheat Agreement.
They favor the admission of displaced persons–but only within shameful racial and religious limitations.
They consider electric power a great blessing-but only when the private power companies get their rake-off.
They say TVA is wonderful–but we ought never to try it again.
They condemn “cruelly high prices”–but fight to the death every effort to bring them down.
They think the American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people.
And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.
Now, my friends, that is the Wall Street Republican way of life. But there is another way–there is another way–the Democratic way, the way of the Democratic Party.
Of course, the Democratic Party is not perfect. Nobody ever said it was. But the Democratic Party believes in the people. It believes in freedom and progress, and it is fighting for its beliefs right now.
In the Democratic Party, you won’t find the kind of unity where everybody thinks what the boss tells him to think, and nothing else.
But you will find an overriding purpose to work for the good of mankind. And you will find a program–a concrete, realistic, and practical program that is worth believing in and fighting for.
Now, I call on all liberals and progressives to stand up and be counted for democracy in this great battle. I call on the old Farmer-Labor Party, the old Wisconsin Progressives, the Non-Partisan Leaguers, and the New Dealers to stand up and be counted in this fight.
What clues does that passage contain that it wasn’t said in the past year? Or was it?
I’ll post the answer in a day or so — take a guess in comments.
James said it was Harry Truman, and indeed it was.
Truman spoke to a crowd in Minnesota, in the St. Paul Municipal Auditorium, on October 13, 1948, about three weeks before the 1948 election in which he “upset” New York Gov. Thomas Dewey. This was part of Truman’s famous Whistle Stop speaking tour of the U.S.
If the words look like they could have been said today, perhaps we should pay attention to them today, no?
Surely someone has a photograph of Truman speaking in St. Paul — but I haven’t found it yet.
- Oral history of the 1948 campaign by William J. Bray, then a special assistant at the White House, from the Truman Library
- Full text of the speech, from the University of California-Santa Barbara American Presidency Project of John Woolley and Gerhard Peters