Well, I don’t know how many voters turned out to re-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt on this day, 7 November, in 1944 because they had been listening to the radio the night before. Those tuning in to affiliate stations of the four major networks were informed that regular programming was being suspended for a “special political broadcast.” Stepping up to the microphone were Hollywood leading ladies Claudette Colbert, Joan Bennett, Virginia Bruce, Linda Darnell, and Lana Turner, composer Irving Berlin, radio personalities Milton Berle and “Molly Goldberg,” as well as the gangster elite of Tinseltown—Paul Muni, Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, and James Cagney (pictured). Along with fellow Americans “from a great many walks of life,” Humphrey Bogart explained, they all had a “deep and common interest” in the outcome of the election.
Heading the parade of A-listers was Judy Garland, who burst into song with this “suggestion for tomorrow:”
Here’s the way to win the war, win the war, win the war
Here’s the way to win the war, you gotta get out and vote.
To get the things we’re fighting for, fighting for, fighting for,
To get the things we’re fighting for, you gotta get out and vote.
To clinch that happy ending,
On the Tokyo, the Berlin, and the Rome front,
The fellow with the bullet is depending
On the fella with the ballot on the home front.
Oh, we wanna have a better world, better world, better world,
Wanna have a better world? You gotta get out and vote.
There was no doubt just what kind of “suggestion” Garland and company had in mind. What radio listeners were treated to was an hour-long campaign ad for the Democratic party. Sing it, Judy:
Now we’re on the right track, right track, right track,
Now we’re on the right track, we’re gonna win the war.
Right behind the President, President, President,
Right behind the President for 1944.
The track ahead is clear now,
Let’s keep the engines humming.
Don’t change the engineer now,
‘Cause the ‘New World Special’ is a-coming.
Throughout the program, those fighting overseas or laboring at home for victory voiced their fears of a “Third World War,” presumably less likely under the current administration, expressed themselves grateful for Democrat bureaucracy (which, they held, kept the groceries affordable to everyone), or openly attacked a dangerous “amateur” of a Republican candidate by whom they claimed to have been “torpedoed.” Dewey was argued to have rigged the voting laws of New York State, making it “impossible” for “thousands” to go to the polls and cast their ballots for FDR. Even registered Republicans came out in support of the President, expressing themselves dismayed at or ashamed of the candidate representing their party.
It’s a rousing hour of radio electioneering, concluding with an address by the President—and his prayer. With all the microphones on the Democrats that night, the opposition (even if aided by Dewey’s decimating system) simply had none.