New book: FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944, by David M. Jordan ’56 (Indiana University Press)
The author: A retired lawyer and historian, David Jordan has served in local government and as a county political chairman. He is the author of eight previous books, including biographies of Senator Roscoe Conkling and Civil War generals Winfield Scott Hancock and G.K. Warren, and five books on baseball. In the book’s preface, he writes that he had a few personal recollections of the 1944 campaign as a nine-year-old interested in politics: His parents “loathed” Roosevelt and he followed the campaign reading newspapers and magazines and listening to radio reports. “I’ve been happy to get back to it for this work.”
The book: Today most people assume that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s reelection to an unprecedented fourth term in 1944 was assured and that everyone at the time knew he was dying. But Jordan’s account of that election reveals that neither the choice of candidates nor the outcome of the election were a given. Just a week before the election, pollster George Gallup thought a small shift in votes in a few key states would award the election to Thomas E. Dewey. And it appears most voters, he writes, didn’t know FDR was dying. Jordan examines party politics and campaigning for votes in the shadow of war.
Opening lines: “The night was clear and cool, a lovely early autumn Saturday evening, as the leaders of the Teamsters Union gathered at the Statler Hotel in Washington for their annual dinner. They looked forward to this gathering each year, but they especially anticipated this one. The President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was coming. He was going to make the main speech, to them and to the nationwide radio audience. Saturday, September 23, 1944, looked like an exciting night.”