• U.S.

U.S. At War: Double Trouble

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A politician . . . one that would circumvent God.—Shakespeare, Hamlet.

Politicians are like the bones of a horse’s foreshoulder—not a straight one in it.—Wendell Phillips, 1864.

It is as hard and severe a thing to be a true politician as to be truly moral.—Francis Bacon, 1605.

The good of man must be the end of the science of politics.—Aristotle, circa 340 B.C.

Politics is not an exact science.—Otto Von Bismarck, 1863.

I never said all Democrats were saloonkeepers. What I said was all saloonkeepers are Democrats.—Horace Greeley, circa 1860.

Ed Flynn is a tall, smooth, peaceable fellow who lives at 2728 Hudson Parkway, The Bronx, N.Y. To some of his chums it would come as a matter of no surprise to hear he had jumped off a roof.

Ed Flynn has the titular responsibility of electing all possible Democrats—good, medium and terrible Democrats—to all possible offices in the land, in one of the toughest years in American history, at a time of considerable national dissatisfaction with the Administration’s war effort. But the grind on Ed Flynn comes here: if the Democrats lose he will get all the lumps; if the Democrats win he will get no more reward than a character who brings back kittens to a man who left them to drown.

He is chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a job which he took over practically his own dead body. After the 1940 Democratic convention, President Roosevelt offered him the post many times—he turned it down every time. One Sunday in August, the President telephoned from Hyde Park, asked him to come up. When he left, Mrs. Flynn warned: “Now remember, you’re not going to take the job.” Ed Flynn said flatly that this was one thing that even his great & good friend FDR couldn’t talk him into. When he entered the house on his return, his wife said: “You don’t have to tell me what happened. I know by that silly grin on your face.”

Deep Purple. The migraine that Ed Flynn has is almost enough to fracture his skull. None of it is of his own making. But the problems that face the Democratic Party in the 1942 elections are many and grave.

> Popular dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war up till now. This is as broad as it is deep—not so much the lack of alert at Pearl Harbor or the bitterness of Bataan, or even the fire-gutted Normandie, as the flood of officially inspired uncertainty on production, on the draft, on rubber, on gas rationing, on the performance of U.S. planes; as the spectacle of bickering between Army & Navy; as production tie-ups due to inadequate Government planning; as manpower wastage due to lack of Government policy; as delay in inflation control. (Wrote James Loeb Jr., secretary of the Union for Democratic Action, in the New Republic: “The elections are ahead of us. A few military victories late in October would help, although Colonel McCormick would certainly say that the President had planned it that way just to spite him.”)

> The consistent offense to millions of Americans of Washington speeches charging them with complacency and apathy, although the people have shown by every index that they were far ahead of the Administration in willingness to meet the price of war.

> The policy of politics-as-usual: the President’s appointment of a Boss Hague stooge to the judiciary in New Jersey, to insure Hague support for a Senator William H. Smathers, whose only recorded distinction is that he has voted 100% for the Administration; the President’s appointment to a fat St. Louis Federal job of a politician who was a main figure in the city machine when the machine tried to steal the governorship election last year.

> Depression for small businesses and small towns caused by the necessarily inequitable distribution of war business. For instance, the injured citizen blames Washington, and thus the Democrats, even if his injury came from a WPB Republican.

> Out-&-out political disaffection among the farmers and businessmen of the land, because of the Administration’s pro-labor policies; among Negroes, because their patriotism is not being adequately put to work in the war effort; among labor, because the Administration has seemingly given over WPB to big businessmen; among New Dealers, because the New Deal is apparently on the shelf.

Stygian Black. But none of these are insurmountable matters—they are problems of emotion, belief, sentiment, which can be overcome by ancient political means of appeals to other emotions, and the setting up of other beliefs. What really crunches the spirit of the Democratic Party are matters of cold fact, which can be added up mathematically:

1) The Gallup poll reported last May 9 the Democrats would gain 38 seats in Congress; on June 20, the Democrats would gain ten seats; on Aug. 15, eight seats; on Sept. 8, that Republicans would gain 21 seats.

2) A military-secret number of young men are in the Army, and are more or less effectively disfranchised. Most studies of young voters have agreed that approximately six are Democrats to every four Republicans. In short, by the draft the Democrats have lost about one-fifth more votes than the Republicans, out of at least 4,000,000 votes.

3) Hundreds of thousands of other people have undoubtedly been disfranchised by moving to Washington and to defense centers following war work. (Some of this may be offset by increased labor-union political consciousness, herding workers to the registration and the polls, but registration this year does not show it yet.) There is little doubt but that the loss of workers’ votes will most affect the Democratic Party.

4) Registration this year, probably about 30,000,000, is the lowest in the decade of the New Deal. Traditionally, low registration aids Republicans, who stubbornly go to the polls every election, while most Democrats usually go only when aroused, as by the President. In the primaries generally the Republican vote was sharply up, the Democratic vote generally sagged.

A Time for Greatness. This week the President himself took a hand in the struggle to get out the vote. As he played the delicate political billiard shot in the New York campaign (see p. 19), he urged voters throughout the U.S. to register as a democratic duty.

Throughout the year Congress, the only body through which a democracy can fulfill its principle of “Government by the people,” had taken a frightful beating at the hands of public opinion. Experts, analysts, prognosticators had said repeatedly that the people’s wrath would show itself at the polls this fall—that woe would betide the Representative, the Senator, the Governor, the politician who had fallen short of his duty in the past twelve months. This theory now seemed to be so much nonsense.

If the voters were angry, they were also occupied—at war jobs, in civilian defense, in nightclubs, at sports events. There was still a little time. They might yet realize that now is the time for all good voters to come to the aid of their country. If they do not, the election-of-wrath will be postponed.

Said Editor Herbert Agar, in his new book (A Time for Greatness; Little, Brown; $2.50): ”Our Government as we are now conducting it is not good enough. This is no day to permit expensive travesties of democracy. The people demand simplicity and openness and highmindedness. They are given ‘politics as usual.’ They ask for the bread of a true democracy, and they are given a stone which is not only inedible but moldy.”

This was high talk. An answer might be made: if a citizen does not care enough even to register, he deserves a travesty of democracy. But such an answer is obviously insufficient at any time, let alone 1942: men need to vote for leaders. In many States citizens have no real reason to vote, because there are no real leaders, great or small, to vote for—the choice is between Ike & Mike.

Ed Flynn’s main weakness as National Chairman is that he cannot offer the electorate candidates worth electing. In this Ed Flynn typifies the main weakness of both parties in 1942: they have not come forth, in the Time for Greatness, with enough first-rate candidates. Should the Republicans make gains by reason of apathy, they too can claim no moral victory.

The Democrats’ Danger is not yet acute—but the possibilities of danger are. The latest political analyses from all over the U.S. show that the Republicans are just about sure of a gain of 21 seats in the House, are running neck-&-neck for another 20-odd seats. If the Gallup poll trend should continue, the Republicans might conceivably win the House—the Speakership and the right to take over the chairmanships of all committees*. But for control they must win 52 seats. The possibility is there, but it is not a probability for the Republicans in Congress have no more brilliant record than the Democrats.

Republican Perils. The Senate is safely Democratic: of the 32 seats up this year, twelve are held by Southern Democrats, who are in effect elected right now. And even if the Republicans swept the remaining 20 seats—which is not even faintly possible, the Democrats would still control the Senate 54-41. Even the Republican seat of Massachusetts’ Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. may be pinched off by young, Irish Catholic Democrat Joseph Patrick Casey, a 1,000% New Dealer. Further, in Michigan many Republicans are expected to cross party lines to re-elect the Democrats’ able hero of the farm-bloc fight, Prentiss M. Brown, although the Republicans have a candidate of unusual stature in Judge Homer Ferguson.

In the Illinois Senate race, Representative Raymond S. McKeough, candidate of the Kelly-Nash machine, has little present hope of catching the Chicago Tribune’s candidate, Republican incumbent Senator C. Wayland (“Curly”) Brooks. In Colorado, incumbent Democratic Senator Edwin C. Johnson might lose to Governor Ralph L. Carr.

But practically a cinch to win in California over bumbling, fumbling Governor Culbert L. Olson is the G.O.P. candidate, State Attorney General Earl Warren. A colder cinch is Major General Edward Martin, in Pennsylvania, an old-line Republican, veteran of two wars, who thus far is outdistancing the generally unknown Democrat F. Clair Ross, the State Auditor General. The Michigan race is much closer, but a Republican has the edge—big, popular Harry Kelly, now Secretary of State, who polled in 1940 more votes than anyone has ever polled on any Michigan ballot.

The Roosevelt Problem. Today Flynn actually can do little for this party except have his resignation handy. Beyond the management of multifarious little details, such as shipping speakers into hard-fought districts, Flynn must depend mainly on the real chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Franklin Roosevelt.

The President is already so pressed for time that he has fumbled the political efforts he has made; e.g., the New York campaign. While Flynn is able enough as the Boss of The Bronx, that wilderness of apartment houses which is the greatest single Democratic stronghold north of the Mason & Dixon line, he is no James Aloysius Farley on a national scale, and has never pretended to be. If the President is going to wrest a Democratic victory this fall, he must do it mainly alone.

His greatest ammunition is The Flag—and if he is to wave the Stars & Stripes before the voters this year he must do it in such a way that the citizenry will not resent the maneuver as capitalizing on their patriotism. As a man of conscience he cannot use the war to win an election; as a statesman, he might still have to in order to retain effective working control of the House.

The Flynn Problem. One thing Edward Joseph Flynn, of The Bronx, can do: hold The Bronx fast as the great Democratic fortress. The Bronx is his own, his native land, where the pewter-haired, craggy-faced, hazel-eyed Irishman is master of nearly all he surveys from his ninth-floor terrace apartment.

The firm of Goldwater & Flynn, which prudently takes no Federal or State business, has prospered throughout thick years & thin, and unquestionably will continue to prosper. For all of the 1,349,711 citizens of The Bronx (a population larger than that of any of 15 States; greater than that of the South’s three largest cities put together—Houston, New Orleans. Louisville) know Ed Flynn is a solid character, who always delivers when he gives his word. They know he has never had real ambitions outside The Bronx—that he loves it from the zoo (which is one of the world’s five or six greatest) to the Yankee Stadium, to the Edgar Allan Poe cottage, to the National Hall of Fame (in which are no native Bronxites).

His farm at Carmel, N.Y. is a place to relax; so is his ranch in Nevada. (Flynn sold his Lake Mahopac place last summer.)* But the Bronx apartment, where the big freckled Boss likes to sit playing Russian bank and gin rummy with his attractive, unpolitical wife, is Flynn’s pride & joy. The home is a home: Flynn has tried to keep his home life a thing apart. He chews gum, smokes a lot, wears Charvet ties of extraordinary loudness, and sincerely believes he has never taken a political job, but has always been shoved into each one.

Very soon now, win or lose, he may get shoved out of one—much to his relief.

*A main Republican worry: explaining away the fact that Republican Ham Fish could by seniority thus become chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Probability: Fish would be forced to choose instead to head the powerful Rules Committee.

*Some Belgian paving blocks, owned by the City of New York, turned up installed as flagstones at his Lake Mahopac summer house, allegedly laid by city workmen at city expense. Flynn was hastily cleared by a Bronx jury, and the paving blocks returned to the city. This is the only “scandal” that has ever attached to Flynn’s name through all the years of scandals all around him. Reason: when some Flynn henchman gets into trouble, Flynn lets him take the rap, on the simple ground that honesty is the best policy.

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