• U.S.

POLITICAL NOTES: Democratic Drift

8 minute read

At his first press conference after returning to Washington as President-elect, President Roosevelt last week read to newshawks the several electoral vote predictions he had written down and put away in his safe:

“Jan. 30: Democrats 325, Republicans 206

“June 5: Democrats 315, Republicans 216

“Aug. 2: F. D. R. 340, A. M. L. 191

“Nov. 1: F. D. R. 360, A. M. L. 171”

“Why did you guess so low?” asked a newshawk.

“Just my well-known conservative tendencies,” beamed the President and President-elect.*

Two things made Franklin Roosevelt’s guesses look much more conservative than they were. One was that the ratio of the electoral vote to the popular vote was more lopsided than usual. Governor Landon polled only 1½% of the electoral vote but he polled about 37½% of the popular vote, scarcely 5% less than the number with which Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1912, nearly 9% more than John W. Davis polled in 1924, over 3% more than James M. Cox & Franklin D. Roosevelt polled when they got 127 electoral votes in 1920.

Second reason for Franklin Roosevelt’s bad guessing, and the bad guessing of almost every straw poll, was that a big block of citizens who do not ordinarily vote turned out at this election. Instead of 31% or 32% of the population voting, as in the last two elections, some 36% voted last week. Most of these, millions of normally silent votes apparently went to the New Deal, with the result that Franklin Roosevelt piled up 60.4% of the popular vote. The extent of this upset was not evident even after the greater part of the ballots were counted. Several Republican victories and a majority of the close contests turned out, three or four days later, when every last ballot was counted, to be Democratic successes. Result was that the statisticians, having reported that Democrats had elected 26 out of 33 Governors, had two days later to boost their figure to 27 Democrats; having reported that there would be at least 315 Democrats in the House of Representatives, had to up this figure to 334 Democrats (against 89 Republicans, 7 Progressives, 5 Farmer-Laborites); having reported 73 Democrats in the Senate, had to revise up to 75 Democrats (against 17 Republicans, 2 Farmer-Laborites, 1 Progressive and Nebraska’s unlabeled Norris).

Incidents of the Democratic Drift:

¶ In South Dakota, which Franklin Roosevelt carried by a modest margin, other Democratic candidates had a bad time. Governor Tom Berry fell behind Republican Leslie Jensen in his bid for a third term. The State’s two Representatives, both Democrats, had neck & neck races, scored one victory, one defeat. Democratic Senator William J. Bulow trailed his opponent. Chandler Gurney, until, two days after election, he found himself safe by a nose.

¶ In Idaho, Democrats swept everything before them. Franklin Roosevelt beat Alf Landon by nearly 2-to-1; Democrat Barzilla W. Clark swept into the Governorship; to both seats in the House of Representatives Democrats were returned. Only exception was Governor C. Ben Ross, best campaigner on the State Democratic ticket, who ran against William E. Borah for the Senate. Republican Borah —who did not mention Alfred M. Landon in the entire campaign—polled upwards of 125,000 votes, practically the same number as Franklin Roosevelt. Said he afterward: “I anticipate the next six years will be tremendous years.”Then he went to bed with a cold on his 71-year-old chest.

¶ In Kansas last week there were several disappointed office seekers: No. 1, Alfred M. Landon; No. 2. Will G. West. Governor Landon’s onetime private secretary, whom all political observers in State expected to win. No. 3, according report circulating last week in Kansas, was Walter A. Huxman, Democrat, who to every one’s surprise beat out Will G. West for Governor. The tale told in Kansas: no prominent Democrat wanted the thankless job of running against Will West. Finally Secretary of War Harry Woodring and Commissioner of Internal Revenue Guy Helvering, Kansans both, appealed to Huxman, a second-string politician, to make the race. They promised the campaign would cost him nothing, that afterward he would be given a job in Washington with a better salary than the $5,000 a year earned by the Governor of Kansas. On election night Mr. Huxman went to bed happily confident of defeat. He was awakened at 3 a. m. to be congratulated on the responsibility of dealing with a Republican Legislature, Republican Supreme Court, and a practically complete set of Republican State officials. Governor-elect Walter A. Huxman was thoroughly vexed.

¶ In North Dakota after 48 hours of ballot-counting, citizens last week found out whom they had elected Governor. It was not Democrat John Moses, nor Republican Governor Walter Welford. It was their old radical fireband, ex-Governor William A. Langer who two years ago was ousted from office by the State Supreme Court after being convicted of permitting the use of relief funds for political purposes, who last year on his third trial of that charge got himself acquitted, who last summer lost in the Republican primaries to Governor Welford who led the more conservative element of the Non-Partisan League. Fighting an uphill fight, with Senator Gerald P. Nye campaigning against him, the final count gave him only 97,000 of 271,000 votes cast, but a 2,000-vote plurality which assured North Dakota of two more years of sensational Governorship. In the same election North Dakota, a Dry State ever since she entered the union in 1889, went Wet by vote of 7 to 6.

¶ In Louisiana, voters approved 34 constitutional amendments including permission for State legislators to raise their own salaries, and designation of the late Huey Long’s birthday as a legal holiday.

¶ In Ohio, Arthur W. Aleshire of Springfield, although paralyzed from hips down, operates a filling station from a wheelchair and, like Franklin Roosevelt, drives an automobile by means of manual controls. Running as a Democrat with Union Party support, Mr. Aleshire defeated Representative Leroy Marshall, Republican who had survived the Democratic landslides of 1932 and 1934.

¶ In Illinois, the wellentrenched Kelly-Nash machine in Chicago got all its candidates elected to office, but Governor Henry Horner, whom it tried to crowd off the Democratic ticket in the primaries, had a 400,000 majority, three-quarters of it piled up in Chicago. State’s Attorney Thomas J. Courtney, whom the Kelly-Nash crowd also tried to ditch, not only polled more votes than Franklin Roosevelt but more than any other candidate ever polled in Cook County: 1,276,984. With these warnings ringing in its ears, the machine put its City Council to work. Two days after the election, in which Chicagoans voted 2-to-1 in an advisory referendum against “Kelly Time” (Eastern Standard), the Council humbly honored the mandate, put Chicago back on Central Standard time as of Nov. 15.

¶ In Massachusetts, voters who gave Franklin Roosevelt a 174,000 plurality for President, Republican Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. a 143,000 plurality for Senator, and Democrat Charles F. Hurley a 39,000 plurality for Governor, proceeded also to elect a Republican Secretary of State, a Democratic State Auditor, a Republican Legislature, a Democratic Lieutenant Governor, and two Republican Representatives in place of Democrats. Beaver-bearded George Holden Tinkham, who has spent the last 21 of his 66 years as Republican Representative from the Democratic city of Boston, returned home day before election in time to vote. As usual in campaign years, he had nonchalantly spent abroad, in Berlin, Rome, Bucharest, the weeks during which his Democratic opponent was berating him. This year, when the votes were counted, he was found to have beaten his opponent nearly 2-to-1.

¶ In Rhode Island, Democrats two years ago won control of the State Senate for the first time since the Civil War. Last week Democrats finally made a clean sweep by electing not only State officers, but a completely Democratic delegation to Congress. At the same time, Republicans regained control of the State Senate.

¶ In Delaware, Richard C. McMullen became the first Democrat to be elected Governor of the State in 36 years.

¶ In Pennsylvania, Democrats won control of both houses of the State Legislature for the first time since the Civil War.

¶ In New York, Democrats gave President Roosevelt a majority of 1,100,000, Governor Herbert Lehman a majority of 500,000, failed to cut down the Republican majority in the State Senate by even one seat, succeeded in the State Assembly in winning only 74 out of 150 seats.

¶ In Wisconsin, Governor Philip La Follette, fighting to win outright majority in the State Legislature for his Progressive Party, succeeded in electing 16 out of 33 State Senators, 47 out of 100 State Assemblymen.

¶ In the State of Washington, which is benefiting from the New Deal’s biggest power developments next to TVA, Democrats succeeded in electing a complete set of their kind to Federal and State offices, but voters nearly 2 to 1 rejected a constitutional amendment to put the State into the power business and authorize $30,000,000 of bonds to finance power operations.

¶ In Oklahoma, voters balloted 3 to 2 against Repeal.

¶ Terre Haute, Ind., for the sake of whose vote Communist Candidate Earl Browder endured a night in jail and a pelting with eggs, cast 62 votes for the Communist ticket.

¶ Democrat Nancy Wood Honeyman, 55, rich, jovial wife of a Portland hardware merchant, was elected U. S. Representative from Oregon’s Third District, that State’s first Congresswoman. Democrat Honeyman attended Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt’s wedding, was not a brides maid.

* In 1932 Franklin Roosevelt guessed he would get 310 electoral votes, got 472, a consecutive error of 162 votes. This year, guessing 360, getting 523, he increased his conservative error by one vote.

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