General Articles


In strange tribal ritual Republicans will pick the man they’re sure will be next U.S. President. On their choice may hang the world’s future

ROBERT T. ELSON May 15 1948
General Articles


In strange tribal ritual Republicans will pick the man they’re sure will be next U.S. President. On their choice may hang the world’s future

ROBERT T. ELSON May 15 1948


In strange tribal ritual Republicans will pick the man they’re sure will be next U.S. President. On their choice may hang the world’s future


THE PRESIDENTIAL campaign in the United States is responsible for a brand-new crop of malicious stories. One of the cruelest of these is attributed to a member of the President’s own party, the Democrats. One Democrat meets another Democrat in front of the White House, sighs and says, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Harry S. Truman were President!”

No American can miss the point—that Mr. Truman’s political stock has fallen so low his fellow Democrats no longer think he can be re-elected. A great many Democrats do not even want him to run. Instead of closing ranks around him, some Democrats are talking of leaving him in the lurch for some new leader. This has become so apparent that the Republican joy was lampooned at the spring show of the Gridiron club, a group of newspapermen who meet to gibe at politicians. The Gridironers set their show in a Chinese laundry because, so they said, “The Republicans believe that even a Chinaman can beat Harry Truman.” Mr. Truman, who was present, took it with a grin. His smile did not hide the fact that no President since Woodrow Wilson has found himself in such a political plight.

The plight in which Harry Truman finds himself foreshadows a significant world event on which hangs the future of Canada and every other country: a shift in political power in the United Stetes. The trend of politics suggests that the next President of the United States will be nominated

when the Republican party meets at its annual convention in Philadelphia on June 21 a date of increasing importance on the world’s alreadycrowded calendar.

A political convention in the United States is an exciting typically American tribal custom. It is a taut, dramatic, exuberant gathering of the political clans. They choose their leader amid hullabaloo, parades, demonstrations, brass bands and much flag-waving oratory. By comparison with even the most sober American conventions, the Canadian conventions which chose Bennett and Bracken were as solemn as Quaker meetings. But, as in Canadian conventions, the proceedings on the floor do not always determine the outcome. In the past the choice of a candidate has often been made in the back rooms after shrewd deliberation and much horse trading. Even more important is the preconvention struggle for delegate votes which has been waged by the Republican leaders across the face of the nation this year with all the excitement and intensity of an election campaign itself.

No Republican candidate can be nominated unless he has a clear majority of the 1,059 convention votes. At present there are five Republican leaders who have a chance to win the nomination; three avowed candidates for the nomination and

two who have not announced their candidacy but would take it if the convention drafted them.

The top three candidates are: Thomas E. Dewey, Governor of New York; Robert A. Taft, de facto Majority Leader in the Senate, and Harold E. Stassen, ex-Governor of Minnesota.

The two who have not yet announced but are definitely in the running are Arthur H. Vandenberg, President pro tem of the U. S.^Senate; and Joseph Martin, Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives.

There are also a host of “favorite sons,” men who are named out of courtesy or in forlorn hope by their home states. Not quite in this category, but not yet an active candidate is the very able Earl Warren, Governor of California.

Of the top Republicans, Dewey, Vandenberg and Taft have already figured in the Gallup polls vs. Truman. In the last trial beat, that of April 11, Dewey, Vandenberg and Stassen ran ahead of Mr. Truman. Only Senator Taft lagged behind him in popular support. This and subsequent polls may have a decisive effect on the convention itself, because the Republicans believe now that they can, if they will, pick a winner.

Three months ago the Republicans could not be so confident. At Continued on page 62

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that time the Gallup polls showed that the President could win against any Republican nominee except General Dwight S. Eisenhower. But in three months the political winds had shifted so sharply that not only does Mr. Truman run behind all but one possible Republican nominee, but it is the Democrats who are talking of drafting General Eisenhower in place of Truman. His candidacy, on the Democratic ticket, has been seriously proposed by two sons of the late President Roosevelt; enjoys the backing of the CIO and has been called for by at least three influential southern politicians. In the face of this unparalleled, unpredictable shift in opinion even Mr. Truman is entitled to ask: “How come?”

Alliance Breaks Down

A short answer is that history and his own mistakes caught up with Harry Truman. So long as Roosevelt lived and ruled, the Democratic party was an uncertain alliance between left-wing liberals, the trade unionists, the city machines in the North and the so-called Solid South. The South is the Quebec of the United States, comprising at least 10 states which have voted Democratic, right or wrong, for almost a century. Just as Liberal Prime Ministers have huift their power on the rock of Quebec, so Mr. Roosevelt was forced to construct his administration on the foundation of votes in the Solid South.

The alliance began to break up when Mr. Truman fired Henry Wallace from his cabinet. Mr. Wallace did not like the “patience - and - firmness” policy which Mr. Truman was then pursuing toward the Soviet Union. He wanted a settlement with Russia; others had a harsher term for it surrender. 'Then he announced his candidacy on a fellowtraveling third party ticket.

The Wallace party wrapped itself in the mantle of Roosevelt and soon had the Democratic managers worried lest the Wallace-ites detach some of the liberal vote. They pressed Mr. Truman to reaffirm the New Deal. When the President did so the conservative South, always restless under F.D.R., became uneasy. Finally, when the President proposed that Congress enact a program designed to safeguard the i civil rights of minorities, the South took to its political arms. Dissidence became rebellion. They, like the disgruntled left in the North, began talking about General Ike and of a draft at the Democratic convention. The talk goes on. but so far General Eisenhower has reaffirmed bis determination to stay out of politics.

The result of this party split means that Mr. Truman faces the campaign with a divided party and no real issue on which to unite his followers. In 1940 and 1944 Mr. Roosevelt was in a happier position, in 1940 F.D.R. made much of Republican isolationism (although his opponent Wendell Willkie was certainly no isolationist). In 1944 he had the powerful appeal that the nation should not change commandersin-chief in the midst of a world war. In 1948 Mr. Truman can make no such appeal. The issue of domestic reform is dead in a time of prosperity. The President cannot charge his Republican foes with being isolationists. There are no isolationists any more; if anything the Republican majority in these last two years has been more aggressive in pushing the objectives of U. S. policy.

The issue in the coming election then is likely to be simply the record of Mr. Truman measured against the ability of the man nominated by the Republicans. Who are these men who now seek the Republican nomination? What kind of Presidents would they make? How would their policies affect American foreign policy? The answers have an immediate and pertinent interest to virtually every person on the globe.

The man out front in the race for the Republican nomination is Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York. As the last Republican candidate (1944) he is nominally the party leader; but only nominally because the American system does not provide for a single recognized leader of the opposition. It is a tribute to Dewey’s vitality and ability that four years after he had been beaten by Mr. Roosevelt he is still in the running. As a rule a defeated candidate, in U. S. politics, is a dead duck.

Dewey is Michigan-born, the product of a typical U. S. middle-class background and education. He sang in a New York church choir to pay his way through Columbia Law School; sprang to political prominence through his career as a racket buster. His record of prosecutions against the gangsters was so spectacular that he was seriously talked of as a possible candidate in 1940, when he was only 38. He was nominated in 1944 and if that had not been a war year he might have been elected. He made the best showing of any Republican contender in the four campaigns against Roosevelt. He went on to become Governor of New York and has given that state an efficient, liberal administration.

Respected, Not Loved

His chief handicap is that people do not warm to him. His bristle-brush mustache, his precise manners and even his average size (5 ft. 8 in.) have been made personal targets. One wit said of him: “He looks like the little man on the top of the wedding cake.” He somfetimes gives the impression that he learns by rote rather than conviction. A friend explained this; “Dewey is the kind of a man who, on having been told that the Ten Commandments were good, weighed the proposition and decided that it was so.” He is a model husband, a model father and a model part-time farmer who makes his farm pay so that it carries the mortgage.

Governor Dewey is the answer to a reformer’s prayer; a professional politician who has made an honest profession out of public service. He would bring to the White House the best-trained administrative mind in the U. S. He also has an extraordinary ability to get along with other people. As Governor of New York he has managed to retain in the state’s civil service at $10,000-ayear jobs a number of young men who could make twice to four times that money in private industry. Why? Because Dewey delegates authority and allows his subordinates to take the initiative. If they do not feel affection for their boss these men respect him because he listens to their advice, even when they criticize him harshly. One morning when I was sitting in the Governor’s office in Albany his chief counsel walked in with the draft of a speech Dewey had written the night before.

“Governor,” he said, “this is a Grade B speech.”

“Okay,” said Dewey, “let’s get busy and rewrite it.”

The record of Governor Dewey on îoreign policy is that of an enlightened internationalist. He originated the bipartisan foreign policy which took

such issues as the United Nations completely out of politics. He spoke up for an Anglo-American alliance before Churchill made his famous proposal at Fulton, Mo. He has backed every constructive move to support the British Commonwealth and the western powers —the British loan, aid to Greece and Turkey, the reciprocal trade treaties, the European Recovery Program and now a guarantee to Western Union.

His record suggests that he would give the United States an efficient, businesslike administration.

Taft: High I.Q., Low Warmth

Governor Dewey’s chief rival has been Senator Robert A. Taft. To most Canadians Taft is just a name, but Canada is something more to Taft—it is his summer home. For years he has spent his summers at Murray Bay, Que., where long ago his father, the former President and late Chief Justice, William Howard Taft, vacationed.

In these last two years in Washington Taft has spent little time at Murray Bay because he has been (a) too busy campaigning for the Republican nomination and (b) acting as leader of the Republican majority in the Senate. In that job he has proved that he has one of the highest I.Q.’s of any man in politics anywhere, plus the driving °orce of a great trial lawyer and almost iï:_.:haustible energy. His liabilities are a quick temper, a matchless lack of tact and an impatience with lesser minds. Taft calls himself a conservative liberal and probably has as much right to the name as Prime Minister King does to the title of liberal conservative. In his approach to public problems he sometimes reminds Canadians in Washington of Arthur Meighen.

Taft himself is a tall, angular man with an almost bald and domelike pate, who at 59 shoots 18 holes regularly in the low 80’s. (Two weeks ago his Sunday score was 82. ) On the platform he speaks with force but not fire, lecturing rather than persuading, and his flat, nasal, declarative sentences come over the radio with an irritating buzz. He says what he means even when it hurts. Last fall he was asked what the country should do to save food. Taft snapped, “Eat less.” When politically minded friends said that it sounded bad, Taft thought a moment and answered, “Well, it’s true, isn’t it?”— which it was. Campaigning in Nebraska some weeks ago he told farmers there they couldn’t expect to see farm prices supported forever at their present high levels. His despairing friends asked him why he had to raise that issue. Taft enquired, “Well, what would you talk to farmers about?”

Of Taft, more than any other Republican, the question is still asked: Is he an isolationist?

The Taft answer is “not now”; the record is clearly isolationist. A candid man, Taft does not deny the obvious. He counters with his recent speeches in which he has come out for strengthening the United Nations by abolishing the veto, even if it means the resignation of the Soviet Union; his support of partition in Palestine; his vote (reluctant yet affirmative) for the European Recovery Program, otherwise known as the Marshall Plan. His record shows that he opposed every step to prepare the U. S. for war prior to Pearl Harbor —lend-lease, conscription, the arming of U. S. ships. He supported the United Nations Charter, but warned it would not work with the veto. He voted against the British loan, but favored giving an outright gift instead. He tried to reduce the amount of money Congress only recently authorized for the European Recovery Program. He has been one of the few Americans

to defend the Ottawa imperial-preference treaties because he believes in the right of the U. S. to levy a “scientific” tariff. He looks on the present struggle between the U. S. and the j Soviet Union as more of an ideological test than a military crisis and has said it does not necessarily have to lead to a shooting war.

Senator Taft has said privately that he believes that his father, William Howard Taft, was right in trying to work out a reciprocity treaty with Laurier. He would probably support closer economic relations between the United States and Canada, providing such relations did not commit the United States to make tariff concessions to other countries.

With his great knowledge of the U. S. Government, his immense mastery of domestic issues, Senator Taft would give the country efficient government. But efficient government is not necessarily good government. And as .the Gallup polls quoted above show, a human touch may be more important at the polls than a high l.Q. . . .

Stassen: Looming Threat

The man who has both Governor Dewey and Senator Taft worried is Harold Stassen of Minnesota. In his book “Inside U. S. A.,” John Gunther introduces him as a “slow-moving, hard-thinking moose of a man.” Indeed he is. Physically he is one of the biggest men in U. S. public life (6 ft. 3 in.—220 lb. with little fat); he impresses people because of his integrit y and his willingness to worry out the issues of the day in public without ducking tough questions. Only 40, he has been in public life ever since he graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School. When he was Governor of Minnesota and Minnesota was isolationist, Stassen was an ardent interventionist. He was for World Government when the United Nations was only an idea.

He had supported all aid short of war and all U. S. defensive measures before Pearl Harbor. When the war came he resigned the governership and took up his naval reserve commission. This was good politics, of course, and some Navy men, thinking that Stassen’s gesture was primarily political, at first resented his assignment to the fleet. He won them over, rose to a place on Admiral Halsey’s staff' and came out of the war with the rank of captain—good going in any Navy as any wavy-navy man will tell you. Roosevelt appointed him a member of the U. S. United Nations delegation and at San Francisco he wrote the first paper on trusteeship. He also advocated and helped push through Article 51, which guarantees the right of nations to unite in collective selfdefense. In view of Soviet Russia’s aggression and the abuse of the veto, Article 51 may be the last best hope for some form of collective security.

When he left the Navy, Stassen announced that he intended to run for President on the Republican ticket.

At first this seemed naive. In Washington the expert politicians said: “He means he is going to run for Secretary of the Interior.” They meant that Stassen’s campaigning would ensure him a place in the Republican cabinet but not the presidency. Stassen, who is somewhat humorless, particularly about his earnest personal ambitions, was undisturbed. He went right ahead, got financial backing for his activities, set up an organization and arranged to support himself by writing and lecturing. Then he started to stump the country. In the last two years of travel by plane or train he has visited every state. To further his education

in foreign affairs he made a trip to Europe, interviewed Stalin himself.

All this had its effect. Stassen began gaining. The real test came in Wisconsin in April where the Republican party holds an open primary—a small election to determine how the state’s delegates shall vote in the election. The Wisconsin primary often makes or breaks a candidate. The late Wendell Willkie was beaten there in 1944 and withdrew from the race for the nomination. This year Stassen, who had made a strong bid for the state’s vote, was confronted by a new challenge. The name of General Douglas A. MacArthur, conqueror of Japan, was entered against him with the General’s consent. The plot was to win Wisconsin for MacArthur and go on to sweep the convention in the name of a truly Olympian figure. MacArthur’s supporters relied on the magic of his name alone. Stassen chartered a bus, visited every town and hamlet. When the votes were counted Stassen had won 19 votes, MacArthur had 7 and Governor Dewey, who was also entered, had been blanked out. The politicians then looked on Stassen with a new interest. Here was a young moose going somewhere. A week later the moose did it again in the Nebraska primary, leading the popular vote of registered Republicans and assuring Stassen of all 15 Nebraska votes on the first ballot at the June convention.

Stassen’s friends say that he would give the country an aggressive, farsighted administration; that he would unite the nation in that millions of middle-of-the-road non - Republicans could vote for him as they once did for Roosevelt. Certainly Stassen would support the present enlightened foreign policy, give it new and more vigorous direction. In short, Stassen, who became his Navy uniform well, would be a careful calculating skipper on the bridge of State.

The Dark Horses

But what of the men who have not yet declared for the nomination? How do Martin and Vandenberg stack up?

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honorable Joseph William Martin, is already “only a heartbeat away from the White House.” If Mr. Truman were to die tomorrow, Speaker Martin would become President and if that happened before the Republican convention he would almost certainly receive the Republican nomination. The line of succession making the Speaker next in line for the presidency after the VicePresident was passed by Congress after Mr. Roosevelt’s death.

As a potential candidate, Speaker Martin has emerged into the limelight only recently. His name is being advanced because of the very great possibility that on the convention floor the forces of Dewey and Taft may be deadlocked, in which case the delegates would have to seek a compromise candidate. Joe Martin’s friends will be there to recommend him to the party’s choice.

If nominated, the chances are that Joe Martin would win his way to the White House; as for the country, it would rock along with his Republican Administration.

A man from Toronto visiting Washington the other day and listening to some political talk asked a simple question: “How big is Senator Vandenberg?” He has been called one “of the greatest living Americans.” As the Republican spokesman on foreign policy in the U. S. Senate, Vandenberg has been one of the major influences in shaping U. S. foreign policy and the course of world events. On the world

stage he has been fully as important a figure as Molotov, Bevin, or Marshall.

Senator Vandenberg was 64 in March; he thus is a few months older than President Truman. He is a broadframed six-footer with a leonine head, broad forehead and the kind of a face that shines when he smiles. He was a newspaper editor in Grand Rapids, Mich., before he became a Senator.

He has a baroque and ornamented oratorical style, but when he rises to speak the Senate galleries fill up and the floor itself is crowded with onlookers. If his rhetoric is not stylistically the equal of Churchill his words seem to carry the same weight. He is among the few men in recent years whose speeches have changed votes on the Senate floor.

The Dream Ticket?

For 16 of his 20 years in the Senate, Vandenberg was an uncompromising isolationist. On Jan. 10, 1945, in a dramatic speech which will be marked in all future U. S. histories, Vandenberg announced that he had changed his mind. The diplomatic correspondent of the New York Times, James Reston, says that the V-l and V-2 attacks on London were the deciding influence, shook the Senator’s faith in the old conception of oceanic protection. Someone with a gift for blasphemy, but with a grain of truth, has called his conversion “the greatest since St. Paul.” Certainly, like that earlier event, it has left its mark on world history.

Henceforward, Vandenberg was the leading figure in working out the arrangement that took much of the debate on foreign policy out of politics. He went to San Francisco to help write the United Nations Charter; he went with Mr. Byrnes to Moscow; he took part in the Paris Peace Conference and in these last two years no major forward step in foreign policy has been taken without his help. He has been a consistent, constructive critic. The recent passage of the European Recovery Program is one of his major achievements. He has fought appeasement of the Soviet Union but insisted that all U. S. actions be framed within the UN Charter. When the Administration, too hastily and somewhat hysterically, proposed military aid to Greece and Turkey, Vandenberg saved the day. He devised the formula by which such action was brought within purview of the Charter.

In all that he has done in the last two years Vandenberg has put principle before politics. The result is, of course, that his political stature has increased day by day. Months ago he said that he did not want the presidential nomination and would not connive to get it. As the campaign draws near, however, the party leaders keep turning back to him because he is so obviously one of the big men in the country. The swing toward Vandenberg is just now gaining momentum and if the convention were to offer him the nomination it would be hard for him to refuse.

It could happen. It could happen if Dewey and Taft had just enough votes to balance each other, but not win a clear majority on the earlier ballots. Somebody would have to give; obviously Stassen hopes that the convention would turn to him. Many other Republicans think they see the delegates turning to Senator Vandenberg. And if Vandenberg were nominated for President, what would be more logical than to nominate, as his potential successor and colleague, young Mr. Stassen?

This is the ticket that many Republicans see in their dreams; and in politics dreams sometimes do come true. ★