NOVEMBER 11, 1936
PRESIDENT Roosevelt’s overwhelming victory promises to change the face of American political life. Even those expert observers who predicted a landslide did not envisage the unprecedented majority, both in popular vote and the electoral college, that he rolled up. As early as eleven o’clock on election night, when the first returns indicated a Roosevelt victory in every one of the doubtful states, and a popular majority of perhaps 9,000,000, leading Republican politicians and newspapers began to concede that their cause was hopeless; only the incredible John D. M. Hamilton still clung to the theory of a Republican victory, assuring his followers that “things would look different in the morning.” In the morning, they looked even worse for the G.O.P. It is possible to argue that Governor Landon might have done better if he had made no campaign at all. Certainly, he did himself no good by the patently false accusations of radicalism, the social-security-tax campaign, the charge that in Mr. Roosevelt’s Madison Square Garden speech he had called himself “master.” The people apparently rejected the dirty campaign along with the dirty campaigners.
The smothering victory of the Democrats will again raise the speculation whether the Republican Party may not, like its predecessor the Whig Party, disappear as a force in American politics. It has become obviously an upper-class party composed chiefly of business and financial interests, and without enough followers to win elections except in a few states; most of these followers are past the age of fifty. In assessing the chances for survival of a party which is suffering from arteriosclerosis, no question is more crucial than whether it can command enough patronage to keep its local machines vigorous in the face of a hostile President. The Democrats always could do this in their lean years because of their representation in Congress, their roots in the South and their hold on numerous Northern cities. But, on the basis of early returns, it looks as if the Republicans had lost ground both in the Senate and in the House, in which bodies they were already an inconsiderable minority; they apparently will not add to the six governorships out of forty-eight that they previously held, and this number may be diminished. New Jersey, the largest and most important state in which a Republican Governor held office, seems already lost.
EARLY indications of results in the congressional election are largely matters for congratulation. Reactionary Republicans like Barbour of New Jersey, Metcalfe of Rhode Island and Hastings of Delaware (the du Pont agent in the upper house) were defeated. Since the retirement and death of Senator Couzens of Michigan removed an able and progressive Republican from the Senate, it is better that he should be succeeded, as he probably will be, by a Democrat. Even Senator Dickinson of Iowa may have lost his seat. In Massachusetts we welcome the indicated defeat of the Democratic Curley by the Republican Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., since a conservative is preferable to a blatant demagogue. The victories of the old independents, Norris and Borah, in the face of dangerous opposition, are particularly pleasing, while the promotion to the Senate of Representative Lundeen of Minnesota should greatly strengthen the progressive ranks. Information about elections to the House is at this writing so incomplete as to bar much comment; it is extremely regrettable, however, that Representative Marcantonio of New York was hurried in the Democratic landslide.
THE question that perhaps interests progressives most is what light the election may throw on the chance for a strong new progressive or labor party in 1940. So far the evidence on this matter is not all in. It is clear that labor and progressive support
was a large factor in Mr. Roosevelt’s triumph, but we do not yet know the figures of this vote where it may be separately identified, as in Wisconsin, Minnesota or New York (through the American Labor Party). The Lemke aggregation did much worse than expected, and that was poorly enough; Father Coughlin, Gerald Smith, Dr. Townsend and their motley followers are therefore definitely out of the path of a genuine political coalition on the Left. The votes for Norman Thomas and Earl Browder were expected to drop far under the Socialist and Communist totals of 1932 because of the flocking of labor behind the President, but we shall not know the facts for a week or more. It should have been more wholesome if these parties had retained or increased their strength. Aside from these factors, we believe the greatest opportunity for a new party lies in the very size of the Democratic majority and the weakness of the Republican opposition. This portends a split among the Democrats into right and left wings; the result may easily be that the right wing will coalesce with the Republicans as the conservative force and the left wing emerge as a truly progressive political instrument. Which faction would retain the Democratic name and party machinery it is too early to say.
AMONG the by-products of the campaign is acrushing blow to the prestige of The Literary Digest and a vindication of the “scientific sampling method” of the Institute of Public Opinion. The Digest, which predicted an overwhelming Landon victory, was wrong in every doubtful state. Dr. George Gallup’s Institute of Public Opinion came startlingly near to the final result when, on election eve, it announced that only three states—Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire—with a total of twelve electoral votes, were sure for Landon. Dr. Gallup has every right to feel that his system of testing the sentiment of a few hundred thousand voters, carefully selected to give a cross-section of the country as a whole, has been triumphantly vindicated. The reason for The Literary Digest’s completely wrong guess is, in our judgment, the one suggested in these columns before the election. More than ever before in our history, this was a class contest, the poor voting one way and the well-to-do another. The Literary Digest, with no intention to deceive, distributed a disproportionate part of its ballots among the well-to-do.
FOR the first time in many weeks, the advantage in the Spanish civil war swung to the government in the seven days ending November 3. The change was generally attributed to new supplies of munitions from unknown sources. . . . Mussolini made a speech alternately conciliatory and threatening to Britain and France. He announced the death of the League, the rise of “armed peace” as a substitute, invited England and France to join the Italo-German anti-communist bloc and bluntly threatened Great Britain that he will go to war rather than be throttled in the Mediterranean. . , . As every European power continued its armament program with desperate haste, Italy announced an immediate addition to the man power of her navy to 100,000, double what it was a few months ago. . . . A British royal commission, reporting on the munitions industry, recommended no nationalization but strict control in peacetime and the abolition of private profit during war. . . . Josef Stalin put himself in the bracket with Mark Twain by replying to a press inquiry whether he was dead with the statement that since he saw it in the foreign press it must be true and he would appreciate being in the peace appropriate to his condition. . . The serious food problem in Germany was emphasized by General Goring’s request that people abstain, as he is doing, from eating better.
ASIDE from the election, the chief domestic happening in the week ending November 3 was the maritime strike. On the Pacific Coast about 40,000 men were sympathetic “out-law” strikes on the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf. An interesting point about the strike in New York City was the refusal of the leaders to give news to reporters not members of the Newspaper Guild. . . . The business revival continued, reports to The New York Times indicating output better than 1929 in cotton goods, shoes and paper and almost the 1929 level in men’s clothing. . . . Secretary Perkins reported reemployment in private industry of 1,400,000 and said that excluding agriculture, employment is now only 4,200,000 less than in 1929. . . . A striking sign of the times came when an aviation company announced new winter slightly lower than those of extra-fare railroad trains.
MUSSOLINI, speaking at Milan, addressed his words primarily not to his black-shirt audience, but to foreign nations. He again rejected disarmament. He ridiculed collective security, and the idea that peace is, as the Russians say, indivisible. He wished for the death of the League of Nations. All this is familiar. With France he wanted to be friendly, provided only that she will desert Geneva and recognize his conquest of Ethiopia. He announced that the accord of July 11 between Austria and Germany was known and approved by him on June 5. He spoke warmly of Hungary, noting that “justice” should be rendered her by returning to Hungarian rule 4,000,000 Magyars who he says are now outside her borders.. He reaffirmed the complete understanding between Rome and Berlin, on the basis of anti-Bolshevism. Speaking of communism, he said, “the time has come to put an end to it. He invited Britain to a “direct and rapid reciprocal” understanding about the Mediterranean, in which “our rights and vital interests must be respected.” This was accomplished by a threat of war if such an understanding is not reached. What the speech amounts to, then, is this: Italy and Germany are united to fight the Soviet Union and to dominate Central Europe, carving up Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Jugoslavia for the advantage of Hungary. Mussolini invites France and Britain to join this crusade, after making way for Italy’s imperialism. If they will not do this, he threatens them with war too. Will Blum and Baldwin cringe before this program laid out for them by international fascism?
BAD news about civil liberties for the week ending November 2: A resolution was proposed to New York County committee of the American Legion urging the withdrawal of citizenship from Communists, the deportation of those who are foreign-born, elimination of the Communist Party from the ballot and the curtailment of the right of free speech. The resolution also contained a clause regarding its further adoption by all posts of the Legion. . . . Homer Brooks, Communist for Governor of Texas, was jailed for several hours in Port Arthur, and only released upon his promise to leave town. He had been scheduled to speak there next day. . . . Police in New York City the offices of the Motion Picture Machine Operators’ Union, detained some of the people present for several hours, and seized the records of the union. . . . Good news for the week: James W. Ford, Communist candidate for Vice President, spoke unmolested in Durham, North Carolina, in contrast to the experience of his running-mate. Earl Browder, in Tampa, Florida. . . . The attack on the Browder meeting aroused a storm of protest from newspapers and trade unions throughout Florida. . . . The attack on the Browder meeting aroused a storm of protest from newspapers and trade unions throughout Florida.
THE report on the English munitions industry, issued last week by the royal commission of which Sir John Eldon Banks is chairman, seems a singularly ineffectual document. Its recommendations are relatively mild, and it flatly opposes nationalization. But more than this, it appears at a moment when England is in the midst of a great armament program. A vast administrative machine has been set up under Sir Thomas Inskip, and commitments made extending two and three years in the future. To imagine that this program will now be taken to pieces and rearranged to fit the suggestions of the Banks report is preposterous. The Banks commission was created twenty months ago. Why it did not issue its report last spring when the new armament program was being discussed by Parliament is a mystery that only the members of the commission can answer. At this distance, it would looks as if the commission, probably at the behest of the Tory party leaders, deliberately tried to sabotage its own work.