Counterfactual Utopias

If we put our trust in the common sense of common men and ‘with malice toward none and charity for all’ go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.
— Henry A. Wallace, born this day in 1888

Among many facets of US history elucidated by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznik, there is the Democratic National Convention of 1944.  Henry Wallace was already FDR’s VP and chosen successor.  He enjoyed broad support across America,  the most popular politician in America, after FDR himself.  He was an international diplomat, FDR’s emissary who had brought together leaders around the world in the alliance against Nazism.  Wallace’s guiding vision for the post-war world was the Century of the Common Man.

But FDR was too sick to attend the convention in person.  Wallace was a democratic socialist and, above all, a pacifist.  Democratic party bosses knew that FDR was dying, that America’s aristocracy and the vast, new network of military contractors would not fare well under a Wallace presidency.  They cheated and connived to keep Wallace’s name out of nomination for the Vice Presidency until they could bribe enough delegates to support a dark horse and political neophyte named Harry Truman.

Just 8 months later, FDR was dead and Truman was in over his head, without the depth or the background to stand up for beliefs of his own.  He relied on James Byrnes, who had engineered his rise to power, and Byrnes was responsible for the decision to use nascent atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to provoke Stalin into the confrontational politics of the Cold War.

Imagine if the US had inherited the Lone Superpower mantle in 1945 with a vision of world cooperation instead of a paranoia of Soviet Russia.  It might have been different…

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