Henry Wallace's 1948 Presidential Campaign and the Future of Postwar Liberalism

By Thomas W. Devine | Go to book overview

3
ONE ROBIN DOESN’T BRING
NO SPRING
Early Victories and Mounting Attacks

Before February 17, 1948, few people outside of New York City had even heard of Leo Isacson, the American Labor Party (ALP) nominee for Congress who was running in a special election to be held that day in the Bronx. The next morning, however, news of Isacson’s astonishing two-toone victory grabbed front-page headlines across the country. In trouncing “boss” Edward J. Flynn’s Democratic organization, Isacson, the candidate backed by Henry Wallace and his third party movement, sent shock waves through the political establishment. Pundits claimed that his victory would have national, even international repercussions, while jubilant Wallace supporters proclaimed that the results amounted to a wholesale repudiation of the Truman administration. As panicked Democrats and independent liberals scrambled to distance themselves from the allegedly “unelectable” Missourian, expectations within Gideon’s Army swelled to an all-time high as various state and local organizations sprung up across the country. Speaking at a campaign rally in Florida, Wallace predicted that this early triumph would be the first of many—proof that “the so-called third party can become the first party in 1948.” Though few honestly expected a November victory for the former vice president, the Isacson landslide did precipitate a hasty reevaluation of Wallace’s political strength. “It is abundantly clear,” wrote one New York editor, “that Mr. Wallace, no doubt astonished by what a bit of muscle flexing in the

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