Washington Memo

Willkie or Roosevelt?—Bricker or Marshall? Washington's merrygo-round spins dizzily as political observers try to call the winner in presidential sweepstakes

ERNEST K. LINDLEY February 1 1944

Washington Memo

Willkie or Roosevelt?—Bricker or Marshall? Washington's merrygo-round spins dizzily as political observers try to call the winner in presidential sweepstakes

ERNEST K. LINDLEY February 1 1944

Washington Memo


Willkie or Roosevelt?—Bricker or Marshall? Washington's merrygo-round spins dizzily as political observers try to call the winner in presidential sweepstakes

WITH the turn of the year the machinery for the nomination of presidential candidates began to revolve. The first delegates to the national conventions will be selected formally in March and from then on the process will continue, state by state, until late June. The Republicans plan to meet, as usual, in early summer. If the President has his way, the Democratic convention will not gather until early fall.

There is, of course, no doubt that Mr. Roosevelt can have the nomination for a fourth term if he wants it, or even if he will take it. As usual, strong conservative elements in his Party are opposed to him. Some of them are threatening to hold out against him to the end at the national convention. Such a gesture, in itself, would not accomplish much. Nearly all the bitter anti-Rooseveltian elements who will have seats at the convention come from the southern states, where the Democratic Party is supreme and revolt against the national leadership is often talked about, but seldom practiced on election day.

Now whether Mr. Roosevelt wants, or will take, a fourth nomination is a question which, so far as this correspondent can discover, he has discussed with no one. Until a few weeks ago it was generally supposed that he would run again.

With one possible exception, which I’ll discuss later, no other Democrat would have a chance of re-election unless the recent political tides were suddenly reversed. Even Roosevelt might be defeated. That possibility has prompted some predictions that he will not take the risk; that-he will step aside, especially if the Republicans commit themselves irrevocably to his foreign policy and nominate Wendell Willkie. But Mr. Roosevelt certainly acts like a man who intends to run again, no matter what. Just before the new year he announced the death of the phrase “New Deal, the adoption of the slogan, “Win the War.”

The term “new deal,” without capital letters, was first used by Mr. Roosevelt in accepting the Democratic presidential nomination for the first time in 1932. It was a familiar phrase which happily combined the slogans associated with two of his progressive predecessors in the White House: The “Square Deal” of Theodore Roosevelt and the “New Freedom” of Woodrow Wilson. The phrase caught the public imagination and during Mr. Roosevelt’s first term became the title for his liberal domestic program.

The fight to liberalize the Supreme Court, which came to a successful conclusion in 1937, was Roosevelt’s last great direct fight for domestic reforms. But, unfortunately, spurred by his New Deal advisers, he carried the fight into the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional primaries of 1938. With one exception, he failed to oust the conservatives in his own Party whom he had chosen to purge.

By a curious coincidence, this so-called “purge” campaign came to an end in September, 1938, almost simultaneously with the Munich conference. During

this crisis the President intervened to avert, or postpone, war. But he read the future correctly. Before the election that November, the men around him were talking “national unity” in preparation for national defense and eventual war. This shift in propaganda, solidly as it was based on trends in world affairs, failed to impress the nation, which could not yet see the war clouds in Europe or Asia, much less a direct threat to the United States. It impressed least of all the newly elected Republican Senators and Representatives, of whom there were many, almost to the man strongly anti-New Deal.

The fact is, nevertheless, that from September, 1938, on, almost every big issue presented by the President to Congress has been concerned with national defense, foreign policy, and the war. On these issues the southern Democrats, preponderantly antiNew Deal, rallied to the President’s support, and so did a minority of conservative Republicans. On the other hand, he lost some of the Democrats and Independents who had been liberal on domestic issues.

Conservative Swing *. . ):

I ’TRACE this history merely to underline the fact that Mr. Roosevelt’s announcement that he was dropping “New Deal” as a slogan came more than five years after the event. Meanwhile, with the conserva-

tive swing of the country, the phrase had become even more of a handicap than it was in 1938, largely because it had come to be identified with a special mixture of favoritism to organized labor and bitter opposition to industry. In these five years the farmers and the middle classes, generally, have become increasingly impatient with the behavior of organized labor, while industrial management’s marvellous record in war production has overcome most of the criticism which industry and finance evoked during the thirties by the revelations of their fatuousness during the preceding decade and by their opposition to even the most obviously necessary reforms. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, and the conduct of the labor unions has become in the eyes of most farmers and the middle classes the most acute internal situation requiring reform and control. -,

Mr. Roosevelt’s formal abandonment of the “New Deal” slogan will not dissolve the residue of criticism of his pre-war policies. Nor will it stop his opponents from proclaiming that when the war has been won he will return to the New Deal. But it paves the way for

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Washington Memo

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him to concentrate, during the coming campaign, on winning the war and the peace. He will stand out as the man best fitted to do both. To what extent the organization of the peace will create definite issues depends on the Republican Party. As I have reported previously, the trend among Republicans has been toward neutralization of the war and the peace as issues, in the belief that the weakness of the Democratic Party is its domestic program, especially the Administration’s prolabor bias. But the trend now is also against the nomination of Wendell Willkie. Whether the Republicans can turn down Willkie, leading Republican exponent of a strong international policy, without alienating the members of their Party who regard foreign policy as the paramount issue, is a serious question.

At present the leading candidates among the practical politicians who will make the nomination are: Governor Thomas E. Dewey, New York, General Douglas MacArthur, and Governor John Bricker, Ohio. Dewey might hold the Republican internationalist vote. MacArthur, because he has stood for putting the war against Japan first and has been strongly supported by the McCormick - Patterson-Hearst press, might find himself in trouble, especially if the war against Germany had not ended by the time the nominating convention met. Bricker is the first choice of right wing anti-Willkie industrialists in the Republican Party.

The outcome of the election will depend on a mixture of emotional and practical factors. To the extent that winning the war and the peace are uppermost in the public mind, Roosevelt will have the advantage. To the extent that domestic issues are uppermost, the Republican candidate, whoever he is, should have the advantage. It is impossible at this juncture to say which set of issues will come first. Much depends on when the war with Germany ends, or the progress of the war against Japan during the next nine months, and on the management of the home front in the interim.

On the side of practical politics, most depends on the extent to which warworkers and men and women in the armed services vote. During the last two years the vote of industrial workers has been extremely light, owing chiefly to migrations and their failure to take the steps necessary to qualify themselves as voters at their new residences. Likewise the vote in the armed forces has been negligible—only 128,000 in 1942. By next November approximately 11,000,000 men and women will be in the armed services, of whom approximately tliree fourths will be of voting age. Scattered test polls—too small to be conclusive—indicate that more than two thirds of the service vote, as of today, would go to Roosevelt. This is perhaps partly because he is commander-in-chief, but partly also because his stronger appeal has always been to the younger voters.

Soldiers For Roosevelt

If organized labor and if the younger people in the armed services vote in the numbers in which they voted before the war, Roosevelt almost certainly would be re-elected over any opponent by a comfortable margin. This statement will stand in spite of the fact that

Roosevelt has alienated some of the labor vote, notably among the mine workers, and may alienate more. However, to get this vote the Democrats must do a great deal of detailed work at the precinct level to be sure that warworkers who have moved during the last two years are properly registered; and, although some of the CIO unions are undertaking this task, there is no assurance that it will be done thoroughly. Just before Christmas a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats scuttled in the Senate a bill which would have facilitated voting in the national election by members of the armed services. Owing to the fact that the election machinery, which is in the hands of the states, is extremely complicated, the service vote cannot be cast in large numbers without the aid of some sort of special Federal machinery for distributing and collecting the ballots. As this will be the first presidential election held while the U. S. is actually at war since 1864, during the Civil War, there is not much precedent for polling soldiers and sailors. All kinds of Constitutional objections have been raised, but it is doubtful if they will stand, because they are only too obviously a screen for the efforts of the anti-Rooseveltians to disenfranchise men and women who are likely to vote for him and who are, at the same time, the citizens who are making the greatest sacrifices for the preservation of the institutions of which the free ballot is the symbol and the essence.

Earlier I alluded to one other Democrat, besides Roosevelt, who might make a winning candidate. He is GenerabGeórge C. Marshall, Chief of Staff. He has never been active in politics and he would be the first to reject every suggestion that he run for office. But he is being talked about for the presidency, nevertheless, by such diverse elements as liberal supporters of the President and, Westbrook Pegler, columnist-scourge of the labor unions.

In previous letters I have described Marshall. I add only that he is native of the State of Virginia, a Democrat by birth, a devoted friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt and a man with a real grasp of world affairs, diplomatic as well as military.

The decision to make Eisenhower, instead of Marshall, Supreme Allied Commander on the western front was the result of two factors: (1) the

President’s decision that Marshall was too valuable to be spared from his present role as a world strategist and (2) the discovery that Eisenhower had acquired enough prestige to be acceptable to the British in this command. A secondary reason was that Marshall’s influence in Congress is unique. The decision is especially pleasing to the Navy, which feared that another Chief of Staff might be less aware than Marshall of the difficulties of the war against Japan.

As this is written a threatened railroad strike has just been called off, after the President temporarily had taken over all the railroads in the name of the Government. But it is by no means clear that it has been settled on terms which will quiet other demands for wage increases backed by strike threats. The evidence is to the cont»«ry. The nation is still living on two different levels: intense patriotism

when it thinks of its sons, fathers, husbands, and brothers on the fighting fronts, intense competition for financial gain when it thinks in terms of “the other fellow” on the civilian front.