BACKSTAGE

A Convention — Or an Election?

BLAIR FRASER August 15 1952
BACKSTAGE

A Convention — Or an Election?

BLAIR FRASER August 15 1952

A Convention — Or an Election?

BACKSTAGE

in the U. S. Elections

BLAIR FRASER

LAST April Henry Zweifel, Republican national committeeman for Texas, made a Statement which has been much quoted. “I’d rather lose the election with Taft,” Zweifel said, “than win with Eisenhower.”

To Canadians that may seem an emotional overstatement, one that he didn’t really mean, or else an outburst from the lunatic fringe. It was neither. For Zweifel and for many another solid Republican it was a precise statement of fact which accounts, in large measure, for the astonishing bitterness of the 1952 campaign in its earlier stages.

Two very diiierent groups of Republicans shared Zweifel’s view. The most prominent, represented by Zweifel himself, is a group loosely called “professional noliticians.”

The phrase is misleading. Plenty of professional politicians backed General Eisenhower. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, educated for the United States Senate since hoyh >od, is certainly no amateur. Neither is Governor Thomas Dewey, of New York, or Senator James Duff, of Pennsylvania. Not only are these men professionals, they are a great deal more successful and eminent in their profession than Henry Zweifel. But Zweifel is different. He is « professional whose job does not depend on elections, and that is the vital distinction.

South of the Mason and DLxon Line it is almost true to say there is no Republican Party. There are Republicans (four hundred thousand of them voted for Dewey in 1948, in Texas alone) but they are not organized and they do not bother to run candidates in local or mu-

nicipal elections. Most of them are registered as Democrats in order to be able to vote in the Democratic primaries, which are the only elections held at all for local and municipal office.

In these southern states the open, | identifiable Republican organization is made up of a handful of men to most of whom politics is a livelihood. \ Nominally they are lawyers, real! estate agents, salesmen or what not, who in many cases have not been particularly successful in those occupations; actually they derive most of their incomes from politics, either directly or indirectly.

Zweifel, for example, makes a fullj time job of being national committeeman. He maintains a commodious office, two secretaries and an executive assistant in Fort Worth. Other so-called professionals may be lawyers who get cases referred to them j by big eastern firms because of their Republican connection, or people of other occupations who feed upon | other crumbs from the rich Republican table.

Still others, like millionaire Walter Hallanan, of Virginia, need no financial support from politics but depend upon their status in the Republican Party for personal and social prestige. To such men as this, loss of their controlling influence in the party would be as bitter a blow as loss of a job to a poorer colleague.

These men know Bob Taft by his first name, and he knows them by theirs. They know they would be safe with Taft. Eisenhower is as , much a stranger to them as they to him; how could they depend on his favor and support?

They have

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already had bitter experience with “outsiders” who come into the Republican Party as glamour boys. The unwritten rule of U. S. politics is that however bitter the fight for the nomination the losing faction joins the winner afterward and the winner holds no real grudge but accepts them into the party’s hierarchy.

Wendell Willkie, the glamour boy of 1940, did not observe this rule. He had most of the old-line professionals against him, the same men who fought Eisenhower in Chicago, but when Willkie carried the convention they came around to headquarters to get their orders and their campaign money. They got neither. “We already have a Willkie Club operating in your area,” they were told. After Willkie was beaten they had no trouble ousting the amateurs who had butted in, but they have not forgotten the lesson: Never trust an amateur.

The words “amateur” and “professional” are unfair to Senator Taft and over-favorable to General Eisenhower, in so far as they imply that all Taft’s strength came from self-seeking ward heelers and Eisenhower’s from dewyeyed idealists.

There were few dewy eyes among Eisenhower’s backers at Chicago. Their main selling slogan was simple and blunt: Eisenhower can win. This was no back-room secret, either; they blazoned it from the housetops. One of their favorite battle songs went to the tune of I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover (a Taft tune in 1948);

Taft is a loser,

A four-time loser,

And we want a victoree,

So take Eisenhower,

The man of the hour.

And victory for GOP.

Indeed, it could be argued that there were more cynical opportunists on Eisenhower’s side than on Taft’s. It was admitted that a vast majority of regular Republican workers, the kind who are delegates to conventions, would much rather have had their old friend Bob than the man they spoke of, but not to, as “Ike.” They chose Eisenhower because they thought he could win, and for no other reason.

The real idealists in the Republican Party were the other of those two categories who would go along with Zweifel’s preference for defeat with Taft over victory with Eisenhower.

They are the people who used to be isolationists and who would be now if they could. They now admit that the United States cannot resign her world leadership, but they’d be inclined to do as little of it as possible. If no longer isolationists they are at least American nationalistsemdash;not internationalists.

They are the people who are against I the New Deal and Fair Deal and the whole Democratic record, root and branch. They are called reactionaries, and the word is probably just, for they would like nothing better than to restore the ways of 1927 (or perhaps of 19081. The fact that they know this cannot be done, that much of the social legislation of the past twenty years is here to stay, only deepens their nostalgia for the good old days.

Whatever you may think of these ! attitudes on foreign and domestic policy you must accord a certain sympathy to their demand: "Give us a

choice. Give us a chance to vote against these things we’ve been opposing for the last twenty years or more."

In a way, it might be said that the issues of the United States election itself were fought out at Chicago. ★