What we should learn from 1948 and 1968

In 1948 few liberals were enthusiastic about Harry Truman. Many intended to vote for Henry Wallace, a hero of the left from the New Deal who had no chance of winning. But on election day, enough of them faced the realistic choice and knew that whatever his defects Truman was better than Dewey. So Truman won. But those who refused to face the realistic choice almost blew the election, their votes for Wallace giving Dewey his margin of victory in New York.

In 1968, liberals were similarly unenthusiastic about Hubert Humphrey. They would have preferred Robert Kennedy or Eugene McCarthy. Not enough of them were willing to face the realistic choice so they just didn’t vote, handing the election to Richard Nixon.

In the next few days, the media could atone for all of its sins against Gore (outlined in these three previous items 1 2 3) simply by making today’s realistic choice clear. If they do, the country will be the victor.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works —and how to make it work better. More than fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.


Charles Peters

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly.