Category Archives: Political advertising

The Campaign against…(gasp) Socialized Medicine!

No, not that one. Not the campaign to defeat Obamacare. This was the campaign to defeat Harry Truman’s 1945 proposal for a national health insurance program.

The fight against Truman is part of the story that Jill Lepore tells in a marvelous article in the current (September 24) New Yorker: “The Lie Factory: How politics became a business.” The modern American business of politics was born in 1934 when Upton Sinclair ran for governor of California. In response, Republicans hired Leone Baxter and Clem Whitaker—working  together as Campaigns, Inc.—and they orchestrated  a red-baiting smear campaign that defeated Sinclair.

After years of political success, Campaigns, Inc. took on the mission of defeating Truman’s proposal. Lepore quotes from their secret play book:

As Whitaker and Baxter put it, in an earlier version of the plan, “Basically, the issue is whether we are to remain a free Nation, in which the individual can work out his own destiny, or whether we are to take one of the final steps toward becoming a Socialist or Communist State. We have to paint the picture, in vivid verbiage that no one can misunderstand, of Germany, Russia—and finally, England.” They settled on a slogan: “KEEP POLITICS OUT OF MEDICINE.” And they settled on a smear, one that they had used against [California governor Earl] Warren’s plan: they called Truman’s plan “socialized medicine.”

Sound familiar? Would the case against the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) ever have made it to the U.S. Supreme Court without a campaign like this?