McCarthyism in Earnest
Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. Rare was the person who thought Harry S. Truman could fill his shoes, and that included Truman himself. He was chosen to be Roosevelt's running mate the year before precisely because he lacked distinction, because he was acceptable to all Democratic Party factions--i.e., not unacceptable to any--unlike Henry A. Wallace, the vice president he replaced, who was dumped for his excessive liberalism. Roosevelt preferred Wallace but conceded the issue to avoid a nasty fight in the midst of the war.
Truman's acceptability meant that it was hard to pinpoint him ideologically. Having been raised in rural Missouri and having owed his political career to the notorious Prendergast machine of Kansas City, he was hardly expected to be a militant New Deal liberal, nor was he. But a faithful Roosevelt follower he was in his unobtrusive way. He came to the public's attention by the first-rate job he did as chairman of a U.S. Senate committee that investigated war profiteering; he came to the attention, that is, to the party bosses who were determined to remove Wallace from the ticket.
In his first year as President, Truman seemed to show his colors, convincing liberals that he emphatically was not one of them. Strikes began even before the war ended; soon they engulfed most of the mass production industries. Truman responded with threats of conscription among other punishments; that he lacked Roosevelt's finesse went without saying. Organized labor, Communists and non-Communist alike, certainly re-