Thomas E. Dewey


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(b. Oswosso, Michigan, 24 Mar. 1902; d. Bal Harbour, Florida, 16 Mar. 1971)

US; Governor of New York 1943–55, Republican presidential candidate 1944, 1948 Born in Michigan and educated at the University of Michigan, he moved to New York to take his LLB at Columbia University. He spent the rest of his career in New York state. He practised law in New York city and in 1935 was appointed special prosecutor to investigate organized crime. He gained a reputation as a ‘rackets buster’, which won him prominence and enabled him to advance rapidly in his political career in the Republican Party in New York state. In 1942 he was elected governor of New York and was twice re-elected, in 1946 and in 1950. In 1944 he won the Republican nomination for president but lost to Franklin Roosevelt. In 1948 he was again the Republican nominee for president but lost to Harry Truman.

During his three terms as governor of New York, 1943–55, he was regarded as a moderate Republican. He developed the State University of New York, expanded the New York state highway system, opposed racial discrimination in employment and housing and expanded New York state's unemployment and welfare system. In The Case against the New Deal (1940) he expounded his philosophy of moderate Republicanism, opposing the New Deal but favouring limited government intervention in social and economic affairs. In foreign policy he was a moderate internationalist. He supported Roosevelt's wartime policies and also the initiatives to involve the United States in international affairs after the Second World War, especially the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, and NATO. His standpoint as a moderate Republican who won acclaim as an effective governor of New York gave him an excellent prospect of winning the presidency. In 1944 Roosevelt's advantage of incumbency during wartime gave Dewey little chance of success. In 1948, however, he seemed virtually certain to defeat Truman in the presidential election. He chose Earl Warren, the governor of California, as his vice-presidential candidate, forming a Republican ticket of the governors of the two largest states, both moderate Republicans. Truman's popularity had sunk to a low ebb, while the Democratic Party had split, with Henry Wallace gaining liberal Democratic support running for President as a Progressive and Strom Thurmond winning Southern Democratic support running as a Dixiecrat. Opinion polls unanimously predicted a Dewey victory by a comfortable margin, but in one of the greatest upsets in American political history, Truman won re-election. Dewey was an overconfident and bland campaigner, and compared unfavourably to the charismatic Roosevelt or the feisty Truman. More significantly, as the Democratic victory in the congressional elections in 1948 illustrated, the majority of the American people supported the party of the New Deal, which offered them greater security. rather than the Republican Party, which was still associated with the Depression. In retrospect, Dewey's prospects for victory in 1948 were poorer than they appeared at the time.

In 1952 Dewey supported Dwight D. Eisenhower for the Republican nomination for president over Robert Taft. Dewey thus had the satisfaction of the victory of a candidate of his political persuasion, namely, Eisenhower, who was a moderate Republican in domestic and foreign affairs, even if he himself never attained the presidency.


Subjects: Politics.

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