When the Great Depression hit, everyone saw their political philosophies and ideologies upended. Franklin Roosevelt himself said much of the New Deal was just trying a little bit of everything to find what would work. In that environment, many people toyed with socialism and communism in the 1930s. A lot of these experimenters would live to regret those choices in the McCarthy era, but it was a common event in the 1930s. This is the context where the story of today’s Loser, Henry Wallace, enters the picture.
Henry Wallace was a Secretary of the Agriculture Department, academic, publisher, and incredibly influential in FDR’s cabinet. He served as Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President and had the president’s ear in the Great Depression’s crux years. Some people say he is the most famous man who ever ran for president that did not win (aside from Al Gore).
Most of us have never heard of Henry Wallace. Still, if Wallace had won in 1946 or even remained Vice President in 1942, American history of the post-World War II era would have been extremely different. Critics warned he was too friendly with the Soviets and possibly a Communist. His allies knew him as an internationalist.
The story of Henry Wallace is an incredible story of one of the men who nearly changed everything America became after World War II. It is part 2 in our series, The Losers, where we tell the stories and consider the “what-ifs” of a history that might have been.