The time I write—mid-July—would seem appropriate for leisurely taking stock of our political parties and their relation to the great issue. Lest some suspicious person see a sea serpent in this article, let me say at once that most public men fight for reëlection to office only because they are not quitters. If the voters are good enough to relieve them, there comes in time a great sense of gratitude for freedom and determination to hold on to that blessed state. And this state develops objectivity. But objectivity in these hours does not imply neutrality.
My concern with political parties to-day is that they perform their prime responsibility. That is, they should align themselves with intellectual honesty and present to the people the opportunity to express their will as to the real issue of our times—possibly the greatest issue of one hundred and sixty years. The essence of the real political contest of to-day is personal liberty, which includes the rights of minorities. To-day that issue is confused in both parties. It is obscured by indecision, by phrases, denials, contradictions, and evasion.
There is a certain obviousness in the statement that political parties are necessary to the functioning of a democracy. Also it is obvious that they must be systematically organized and constructively led. Otherwise the ballot box cannot perform its function of replacing violence or exploding feelings or advancing the welfare of the people. It is equally plain that there cannot be more than two major parties, or the result is government by minority or by negation, which is frustration of democracy. It is likewise obvious that the party out of power has a public responsibility to oppose extreme and irrational action and to oppose it vigorously.
These are times of a new advance in humane concepts and of great social and economic restlessness. Political parties must be more than the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ seeking the public jobs. They also must be more than ‘against.’ They must have affirmative purposes.
Parties can, of course, for a time avoid the real issues, or can elaborate petty issues, or carry intellectually dishonest proposals or the dodges of group appeals. But in times when the waters of the deep in human emotions are stirring, the people will sooner or later discard any such party. That is history.
The first political party in the United States is in its Declaration adopted as part of its platform the demand for ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ The Fathers were intellectually honest. They did not promise happiness. The only asserted that for pursuers of happiness freedom would be safeguarded.
With all our modern problems of industrial life, the miseries from war and its depression aftermath, with some who get too much and some who get too little, this method of securing happiness is being questioned in the world. That question is whether happiness is to be attained through liberty of men or whether government can take over the pursuit and deliver the happiness by coercing people into what some bureaucrat thinks should make them happy. The issue may be stated in another way. Shall coercion be listed to criminals and men of ill-will who would encroach upon the freedom of others? Or shall centralized personal government undertake to plan the lives of upright men and coerce and compel them to comply.
Despite the belief of the Fathers that they had expelled this latter concept of government, it is back again. It is not back in America with the open avowal of any political party, and of course it has new verbal clothes. It is no coincidence that the same sugar-coated phrase is used in Moscow, Berlin, Rome, and Washington—‘planned economy.’ The American mind is confused. And there are two other problems which add to the confusion. Both bear upon the responsibilities of liberty.
The first arises mainly from our enormously increased capacity to produce. That gives rise to hopes of security to everybody. And our expanding humanitarian sense demands further action through government that those who are the most economically successful shall carry a larger burden in the promotion of the common welfare.
The second problem arises from an accumulation of hidden abuses of the capitalistic system which exploded with the depression.
The provision of greater security and comfort in life for all and the cure of abuse are objectives upon which there is no disagreement among thinking people. What we are here concerned with is the philosophy and method—for it is in these that loss of personal liberty emerges.
The question for Americans is whether or not we conceive that our system of free men is valid. If so, the current problems of social security, capitalistic abuse, or what not, are marginal problems around the preponderant honest or preponderant security of the great free majority, and are to be cured within the framework of this American system.
The alternative has three aspects.
The first is whether individuals and a nation can make spiritual and intellectual progress unless upright men may be free to think, to speak, to worship, to assemble, and to pursue their own callings in their own way, provided they respect the rights of others.
The second is whether they can produce more goods and material happiness, and distribute them with as much justice, if they be free or if they be directed by the state.
The third is whether, if men be directed and coerced in economic life, we can at the same time maintain the spiritual and intellectual freedom of a people.
We have before our eyes in Europe the ultimates of ‘planned economy’ and its promises of delivered happiness. The two schools of Socialism and Fascism differ from each other mostly in execution. Russian Socialism murdered the economic middle class as a preliminary, while Fascism constituted the leaders of the middle class deputies of the state to assist in the subjugation of all the laborers, farmers, and small business people. These leaders are obviously more comfortable under Fascism. In any event there is one common result of ‘planned economy’ and its promises of delivered happiness. That is , it cannot continue without personal government, without suppression of spiritual and intellectual freedom and the other guarantees of life and liberty. Those are the nettles of economic coercion. These European experiments have certainly failed to produce either economic security or spiritual progress.
The New Dealers have conceived that they can adapt a part of the European systems of coercive planned economy and at the same time preserve our spiritual and intellectual liberties and allow us the moral stature of free men. They assert that this is the only humanitarian road and the only road to cure of abuse and greater security for the less fortunate groups.
The trouble is that coercive, planned economy, with its necessary accompaniment of personal government, does not and cannot remain half and half. It spawns daily new compulsions in order to make it work. Like all drugs, it requires increased doses.
Congress was coerced by ‘must’ legislation and the abuse of patronage and the use of expenditures. Every session sees more and more coercive measures with further pyramiding of personal government.
The Supreme Court is now to be coerced by packing its membership.
Communities have been intimidated and beguiled by threats and promises of pork from lump-sum appropriations.
The three major guards of the Bill of Rights—the independence of the Congress, the independence of the Judiciary, and the balance of local government—are now fast being thrown into the discard in this deal.
The whole gamut of New Deal philosophy—price fixing, wage fixing, managed production in farm and shop, managed currency, managed credit, managed interest—depends on increasing coercion of the individual and new limitations of personal liberty. Upright individuals and business are increasingly coerced not only by planned economy but by putting regulatory laws for much-needed cure of abuse in forms whereby bureaucracy is given wide discretion in the control of men and affairs. This is the New Deal substitution for specific law which all men may read and the courts decide.
The results are not academic. Men and women in every community can bear witness to personal coercion and intimidation such as this country has never before seen.
And coercion is infectious. We have an outbreak of coercion when employers use spies and thugs to prevent their employees from joining unions. The very basis of liberty requires that to be stopped. But there is equal coercion in sit-down strikes and the use of ‘beef-squads’ against thousands of workmen. And this now has tacit approval as a part of the strategy of planned economy—even the courts are flouted and disorder allowed to run riot. Then comes the equally terrible coercion of vigilante committees hot on the trail.
The deliberate fanning of class antagonism in a country which is more nearly classless than humanity has ever before seen is building for a Babel of coercion.
I am not here analyzing the New Deal except in one major particular. Nor is it my purpose to enter a discussion upon the inevitable economic effect of ‘planned economy.’ When the destruction of the spirit of enterprise, when the results of inflation, of restricted production, of debts, and of taxes, catch up to recovery and show in dropping standards of living and less security—then these morals will point themselves. In optimistic or even artificially happy times every economic warning is from a Jeremiah. And Jeremiah may have been the one especially referred to as being without honor in his own country. Whether the economic consequences be for good or evil, they are of far less importance to the life of a great people than this major issue.
I am aware that the question of personal liberty may be called academic abstractions; that it will be said they are beyond the grasp of the people. In about 1776 the people fought and many died for exactly this abstraction. And they understood what they were dying for.
There is no greater abstraction in the setup of government than the independence of the judiciary. In the past one hundred days the people have risen to that.
The last national campaign was greatly confused. The public mind, and consequently the minds of both parties, were confused.
The reality of the issue was glossed over by the inevitable upward trend of the business cycle and the stimulants which had been introduced into an economic system still partly free. The people clung to growing recovery. The majority of them believed that the material benefits of the New Deal were comforting and lasting.
Both parties campaigned largely with bait to particular groups and sections. In this confused situation the Republican Party attempted to outdo some of the New Deal baits. As one cynic overstated it, ‘it promised every measure of the New Deal but said it would do it cheaper.’
Both parties used the same phrases of Constitution, freedom, liberalism, and so forth, but to mean different things. The New Deal obscured coercion. The Republicans did not clear the issue.
Public understanding has also been confused upon this issue by slogans and the use of old political labels imported from Europe.
We chatter to-day of reactionaries, conservatives, liberals, and radicals. It is true that mental attitudes can be classified on this gamut, but in their application as political labels in the United States they have been wholly distorted.
For instance, the term ‘liberal’ flows from the word ‘liberty’; it does not come from the word ‘coercion.’ Yet the New Deal has camouflaged itself with this honored term.
Of course the dictionary also gives a definition of ‘liberal’ which connotes giving generously and spending freely. This attracts many people, but the dictionary means liberality with one’s own money.
A ‘reactionary’ in ordinary times is a gentleman who wants to reëstablish the status quo ante. The New Deal wants to do precisely that—as a matter of fact it is status quo George III or Diocletian. This process has now attained the label of ‘liberal.’
These and other phrases are used for eulogy, for defamation, and as refuges for intellectual dishonesty. They are set up as pigeonholes for men and groups to imply that they are righteous, stingy, malevolent, or generally sinful. They are dumdum words used to assassinate men and then to plant bitter onions on their graves.
Users of such phrases should be called upon to define precisely what they mean and what they advocate, or these words mean nothing. It would be serviceable to clarity in public thinking and intellectual honesty if the Bureau of Standards could get out a definition of each of these terms. Bureau tests of the New Deal across the genuine spectrum from reaction to radicalism would probably find its acts to be one-sixth radical, one-sixth liberal, one-third reactionary, and one-third fantastic.
Incidentally there are many blots that need to be scrubbed out if real liberty is to survive. Much of this laundry needs to be done by the cities to clean up vicious political machines. Much needs to be done nationally to stop the use of public funds to influence voters. Some of it needs to be done by the parties on methods by which private money is obtained to carry on campaigns. I have no doubt these humiliate the majority members of each party.
For instance, the Democratic Party is selling books autographed by the President at $250 each to corporations, and advising them that in merely buying books they are not violating the law against corporate funds in politics. Also in taking more than half a million dollars from one labor union the New Deal took as formidable a liability to serve special interest as if such funds had come from a group of corporation heads.
This has a counterpart in the Republican Party, which abandoned its rule of 1924 to 1932 of limited personal subscriptions and in 1936 secured nearly half a million dollars from the individual members of one large industrial firm.
Here is also illustrated the fluidity of principle in some political money. Prominent members of that industrial group were the largest subscribers to the Democratic campaign in 1928; to the Democratic smear propaganda between 1928 and 1932; to the New Deal campaign in 1932, to the Liberty League, and finally to the Republican campaign in 1936.
Another trouble in political parties is that perennial, ‘Predatory Interests’—that being a label which also needs definition by the Bureau of Standards.
The legitimate action of any government affects private interests of firms, groups, and communities whether they be corporations, or workers, or farmers, or local governments. It is the duty of free men to defend their rights. The spirit of the Bill of Rights does not include special privilege. Every administration is under pressure for some privilege from somewhere. The New Deal is not free from such share-croppers, as it has indeed opened new and green fields.
The list of such suspicious groups is about the same in both parties. As a matter of fact, these forces are more a spirit than specific individuals. They shift with the times and the issues. They have little if any party fealty. They certainly serve both parties for political ammunition. The spirits of special privilege and abuse will always be with us and need constantly to be exorcised. They exist even in Socialist or Fascist governments. But democracies exorcise these spirits with much more free speech, and microphones.
Be it said at once that only a small number of our business men possess such a spirit. Universal denunciation of business men is one of the most cruel and destructive tendencies in our politics. There is no more expert group of industrialists and merchants in the world than those who are piloting the production of America to-day. We could no more do without them for twenty-four hours than we could do without workmen or farmers.
And there are Old Guards of both parties. They also serve as magnificent oratorical targets to prove the political purity f the orator. They again are more of a spirit than a constant group and they are not often of the predatory species. Most of them are patriotic, but slow in the uptake. They are hard political fighters and they carry their grudges, as those of use who have fought them have reason to know.
And there are the lunatic fringes in both parties who flutter with every wind of emotion. They naturally fluttered to the New Deal at the start.
As a matter of fact, when the new social problems began to arise a half century or more ago the individual members of both parties divided in thought on these questions somewhat along the scale from true conservatism to true liberalism. We secured fairly progressive government over many years, because each party compromised fairly near the middle and the middles were not far apart. However, at that time both parties held to the fundamentals of the American system.
If we look over the present scene of political parties we find the New Deal throned on the prestige of an enormous victory. Its political strength rests upon the upward swing of the business cycle, upon the belief of many that the philosophy of liberty is exhausted, and upon the promise of the simple and quick delivery of happiness. Many of its proponents are imbued with a zeal and a faith that they are saving America, and with a high conviction that all who differ with their methods are wicked and selfish.
The strength of the party also rests upon the patronage which through Federal, state, and municipal offices reaches into nearly 2,000,000 families, and through Federal disbursements to unemployed and farmers reaches another 6,000,000 families—nearly one third of the whole people. Furthermore, it controls nearly all the big city political machines.
Its political weakness lies in the fact that many members of the Democratic Party, including some of its greatest leaders, still believe in freedom, and are daily growing in opposition to the whole philosophy of personal government, planned economy, and coercion.
It is true that the incipient revolt from its ranks by the Liberty League failed, but that revolt was based on the concept that liberty sprang from liberty for big business and not from spiritual and intellectual liberty.
The other great weakness of the Democratic Party is that sooner or later there will be the inevitable swing of dissatisfied voters away from the party in power.
If we explore the present situation in the Republican Party we find a good deal of latent strength. The sweeping defeat left it a much smaller proportion of conspicuous offices—governors and members of Congress—than any minority party since 1870. In consequence its natural broadcasting timber is limited.
Despite the fact that in 1936 it held few great public offices and no consequential patronage, its Presidential vote was about 17,000,000. Its real strength is greater than this, for the aggregate vote for the leading Republican state candidates was over 19,000,000. This constitutes numerically the strongest minority party the country has ever seen. Even on the Presidential vote the Republican minority exceeds the Democratic minority of 1924 by 9,000,000, of 1928 by 2,000,000. Carrying the brunt of the world depression, the party commanded 42 per cent of the vote outside the Solid South in 1932, and, if we take the state vote mentioned above, it commanded about the same percentage in 1936.
It has other vitalities. It has an organization in more than 150,000 precincts, 3000 counties, and the 48 states, with innumerable clubs, the vast majority of which, nationally as well as locally, are led by sincere, loyal, and determined men and women. It holds elective office in many more counties than its state defeats would indicate. It thus has moving mechanism.
The real strength of the Republican Party lies in the faith of the majority of its membership. They believe in it with a devotion second only to their religion.
It has made mistakes. It was too conservative in certain reforms during the post-war years of prosperity. Yet it was the people themselves who reflected into their government an attitude of complacency despite repeated warnings. The people were like the householder who would not allow the repair of the roof in good weather and could not repair it in a hurricane.
Republicans rightly take pride in the vast national service of their party. It was born in the defense of human liberty. The party was consecrated to that purpose in a Great War. From its first day in office in 1861 to its last day in 1933 it upheld our system of personal liberty. It never deviated from the Constitution in letter or in spirit. It has at all times been a party of Americanism.
When mass production and big corporations entered national life it was the Republican Party which inaugurated the policy of regulating business to prevent monopoly and exploitation. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Interstate Commerce Commission, the present Federal Power Commission, the Radio Commission, the regulation of many other interstate business activities, and the state regulatory commissions were Republican concepts. It has destroyed a multitude of would-be monopolies and upheld the principle of honest competition.
It was the Republican Party which initiated the constitutional amendment authorizing income, corporation, and inheritance taxes, that the burdens of government should be distributed more justly.
Through the whole period from 1861 to 1933 it has been a party of prudent fiscal finance. Every Republican administration, except in the emergency of war and the World War depression, has balanced the budget and reduced the national debt. Its last administration, even though dealing with the worst years of falling revenues and against opposition kept the debt rise down to less than 7 per cent after deducting recoverable loans.
During its whole life after the Civil War it fought for and sustained a stable, convertible gold currency right down to 1933. At every step of the party life it upheld the fidelity of the government to its obligations, and denied repudiation. All Republican administrations have contributed to and supported Federal regulation of banking. When the Federal Reserve System failed to meet expectations in the crisis of 1929, the Republican administration proposed and supported vigorous banking reform. And as sustaining agencies pending these reforms it set up the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the Home Loan Banks, the Agricultural Credit Banks, and brought the strength of the government to protect the people from the weak banking system.
It maintained tariff protection from foreign labor and foreign farmers. It was the party that protected American workmen by first restricting and finally in 1931 abolishing immigration. It largely established and in every administration strengthened civil service, an essential to economical and honest government.
In devotion to public improvement it initiated Federal highways, the modernization of the waterways and harbors, the reclamation service, the construction of the Panama Canal, the Colorado Dam, and the flood control of the Mississippi River.
Fortunately our foreign affairs have not been party matters. Every Republican administration has builded peace.
When the growth of humanitarianism began to press upon government it was Republican state administrations that originated the limitation of hours for women that started the abolition of child labor, that initiated workmen's compensation acts, state old-age pensions, mothers’ pensions, and a score of other social reforms. It was Republican national administration which in 1930 first announced the national obligation that no American should go hungry or cold, and first organized nation-wide relief for the unemployed. And it organized relief in a fashion which excluded politics, waste, and demoralization of community responsibility. It was a Republican administration which initiated Federal aid in support of a distressed agriculture and protection to homes.
With an honorable record and its spirit of Americanism, there is little wonder that the party has attached deep and lasting loyalties to its banner and its name. The proof is that 17,000,000 people adhere to it even in adversity.
One weakness of the party is that it has not stood up for its substantial record of service and repelled the flood of calumny.
Another weakness in Republican organization is that it has not incorporated enough youth. Easy victories over years of automatically made for much deadwood. If every one of its thousands of committees had increased its numbers to include a third of the men and women under thirty-five, it would have given that stir of energy and openness of view which youth alone can instill and which the youth of the party deserved.
The special weakness in the Republican Party is its failure to crystallize an affirmative and consistent body of principle in the face of this new situation.
It is in part from these weaknesses that there is some discussion over the country of new party alignment.
There is also some discussion among Democrats. There is certainly discontent in the Democratic Party with the New Deal. But that movement did not reach a great burning of bridges in the last election. Some prophets believe that the party must split into wings representing the older Democratic tradition and the New Dealers, and that the latter will become a class party representing labor. Those who base higher hopes on recent cleavage from the Supreme Court controversy may underestimate the adhesiveness of party solidarity when it comes to the practical question of winning the public offices.
Who knows what may happen by 1940? Among other things it is certain that American labor will not be unanimous on the idea that a class party will serve either their own interests or the interests of America.
Nevertheless, with this incipient Democratic schism there is bound to be more discussion of a new alignment that will bring a better junction of Republicans and so-called Jeffersonian Democrats. Indeed, in the light of the fundamental issue to-day the differences between the two groups are not very great. Common action devoted to the cause of free men is certainly devoutly to be wished.
Such discussion is also fanned by the desire for something more effective than the futile attempts at common action in the last campaign. It is supported by a desire to shed the vicious elements of both parties.
Discussion on realignment falls into three categories. One is to create a new party. One is to change the name of the Republican Party. One is to bring about a working coalition between the two groups into a national ticket. Such political evolution in any democracy is bound to be slow, and it presents unusual difficulties in the United States.
We may explore the proposal of a new party. It may be said at once that amendment to the laws of a score of states would be required to introduce the new party to the primaries or to get its candidates upon the ballot. This would not be likely to be accomplished by 1940.
Moreover, a new party cannot be built upon a national ticket alone. To succeed and be a permanent party, it must be built upon state, municipal, county, and precinct leaders and committees, with nomination of candidates for state, county, and local offices as well as national offices.
A new party would need to reset the entire present organization of 48 state, 3000 county, and over 150,000 precinct committees so as to incorporate both old Republican and Jeffersonian Democratic personnel. It would require not only that nationally known leaders from both parties coöperate, but that state, county, and precinct leaders consolidate and many of them retire. I could dwell upon the human nature in committee reorganization at great length. Moreover, Republicans hold the offices in many counties. Jeffersonian Democrats may hold some others. Either would see little reason to ‘share the work.’ And even could all this be overcome, it would cost five or ten millions for organizers, offices, staffs, and educational expenses, and the recruiting of such money in itself would be objectionable.
But of more importance still, no such movement could wholly envelop the Republican Party. The faith in that party is too deeply implanted in the hears of millions of people. A large part would see no reason to abandon their loyalties or banners. Such a movement for a new party, if it got under way, would no doubt develop a schism in the Republican Party and divide the front against the New Deal.
The party has withstood a number of major attempts to convert it into another party. Horace Greeley and Senator La Follette tried it. Even Theodore Roosevelt at the height of his influence, supplied with an ample sum of money, could not accomplish it. Republican leaders to-day, to be victorious in changing the Republican Party into a new party, would have to be far more powerful than Theodore Roosevelt’s group and able to command more men and money.
Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Party expected to break up the Solid South with a new national party. Aside from Democratic solidarity, there is a special impediment to a new organization in the South which proved fatal then and still exists. Their state and local Democratic Party organizations have the proprietorship of an unexpressed but overwhelming issue—white domination. Any new party would not be credited without assurances on this question; nor is any new party likely to make such an assurance.
Ad finally, did the whole Republican Party machinery acquiesce, it must be borne in mind that many million Republicans, once their own banners were changed, would be broken from their sentimental and intellectual moorings and just as open to conviction from the enemy as by the new party.
It may be conceivable that all these difficulties could in time be overcome and a new party might be built if there were two or three national elections within which to build it. But our great issue must be determined in 1940.
The second suggestion is that the Republican Party completely change its name. The idea is that would attract more Democrats, especially in the Solid South, where the very considerable hangover of feeling form the Civil War and the reconstruction period still remains. But the deeper emotion exists that defeated this purpose in the Progressive Party. The opposition would obviously denounce a changed name as another suit of sheep’s clothing for the same bad wolf.
A change of name would encounter many of the same obstacles as the attempts at a new party—the same amendments to state laws, the assent of the national, state, and county organizations.
And again there are the Republicans who vote from faith and inheritance and loyalty, who would resist and divide the party. And there are those whose moorings would be loosened by a change of name and who would become salvage for the opposition.
Such strategies, of a new party or change of name, might bring disaster to America by dividing the major party and thereby preventing any unity of opposition. It was disunity in the opposition which aided in opening the doors to Fascism in Italy and Germany.
The third proposal is coalition. The coalition ideas take various forms, one of them being limited to coincident nomination of the same candidates for President and Vice President by the Republican Party and some yet undefined wing of the Democratic Party under the name ‘Republican’ linked to some additional informal word or label. This idea has the purpose of avoiding the difficulties of a new party or a change of name and at the same time preserving the identity and organization of the two groups. Coalition, however, presupposes responsible groups and leaders to agree upon something. And this presupposes that a wing of the Democratic Party develops into a definite entity with leaders of national standing influencing large constituencies who can make agreements. What is wanted is constituencies. there is no real coalition by incorporating a few leaders. That was tried in the last campaign and failed to bring a handful of Democrats when it came to the vote. AS a matter of fact, the Republican vote in the Solid South was 29 per cent in 1936.
The present influential leaders of the opposition Democrats in the Congress obviously hope to recapture their party from the New Deal or to modify its courses. It is certain that they would repudiate—and understandably so—any suggestion of leaving their party unless forced. Therefore there is no effective group with which to make agreement. No one can say that the evolution of the situation might not lead in this direction but in any event no such proposal to Democratic leaders would get anywhere at the present time.
But all these discussions of new parties, changes of name, or coalition are at best merely political strategies. They place too much emphasis on politics. There is something far bigger in this situation.
The real question is, what do the parties represent? What do they stand for? The clarification of that is far more important to America.
The nation needs a party which will clearly and courageously and constructively set out the affirmative alternative to the coercive direction of the New Deal. If the world ‘liberalism’ is derived from the word ‘liberty,’ that alternative should be the party of Historic Liberalism. If the connotation of ‘liberalism’ is to continue to be coercion, then that alternative party may be dubbed ‘conservative’ without disturbing my sleep.
It is important that there be given to the American people the clear opportunity to vote on this issue.
Personal liberty will live one so long as a people wants it to live. The phrases, the forms, and even the documents of liberty may continue and liberty die—if it is dead in the spirit of a people. If the people want a government of personal liberty they will declare for the party which declares for it.
Our forefathers fought from Lexington to Yorktown not alone for severance from the British Empire. That was an afterthought, born of desperation. They fought for certain freedoms which they subsequently enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Those were freedoms of mind and soul. And economic freedom was to them the incident of the other and far more precious freedoms. They had a new idea—unique in the history of government. They held that these freedoms were beyond the power of any government. Here is the distinction between Americanism and other conceptions of life and government.
Within the American concept there can be no real class division and therefore no substantial class conflict.
These ideals lie deep in our American heritage. The Italian collapse from a system of personal liberty was partially due to the fact that Italy’s tradition of liberalism (meaning personal liberty) was not really more than half a century old, and had never overcome the Roman tradition. Liberalism in Germany in the true sense had its roots in scarcely a score of troubled years, and the tradition of German regimentation was still strong. But there has never been any other political tradition on our soil. Americanism has its roots in one hundred and sixty years—the whole of our national life—and its vitality still throbs.
The changing national scene does not change the principles of liberty. It changes the setting in which liberty is to be served. The responsibilities of liberty increase with rising standards of human relations.
No doubt others could frame a present-day creed more eloquently than I. I may, however, restate the essentials of this creed as it guides me.
I believe in the Bill of Rights—freedom of worship, of speech, of press, of assembly, that men shall not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. These rights rest in the individual and are denied to the power of any government. These freedoms are not possible under government without the independence of the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Executive, and without the division of Federal and state powers with their assurance of popular government and liberty.
I believe in the preservation of order under law as the first function of government. I believe that justice is inseparable from liberty. And justice requires government by specific law and not according to the whims of men.
I believe in peace as the first security of freedom, and peace cannot be had without preparation for defense in the current world.
I believe that economic freedom cannot be suppressed without suppressing also spiritual and intellectual freedom. Therefore, my creed holds for private enterprise. But freedom of men to-day requires that private enterprise must be regulated to prevent tyranny or exploitation. Otherwise freedom is destroyed. Government must not enter business in competition with its citizens, for that equally creates coercion and bureaucratic tyranny.
I believe in economy in government, balanced budgets, convertible gold currency, and honor in government obligations as a basic protection of the individual from government oppression.
I believe our national striving must be to open opportunity, to maintain equal opportunity. It must be to increase economic and social security to every individual. That security comes from increased standards of living for the whole people. That in turn can arise only from the maximum production within the limits of health and proper leisure, together with the stimulation to new methods, new inventions, and new enterprise which result alone from the intellectual freedom of men. These increases in production and these economies in costs, passed on to workers, consumers, and savers of capital, alone lead to higher wages, lower prices, increased consumption, full employment, and margins for old age.
I believe we should drive to put more and more of the age group on to an annual earning basis and thus add greatly to their security and freedom from fear of to-morrow. I believe freedom requires that swollen fortunes must be diffused and the descent of great economic power presented by taxes on inheritance.
I believe that if we pursue these courses we shall produce well-being for a rapidly increasing majority. Then our social problems will resolve themselves into those of marginal groups of diminishing numbers who are the victims of misfortune and of the ebb and flow of economic life.
I believe in a creed of economic fair play wherein the economically more successful must through taxes or otherwise help bear the burdens of these marginal groups in providing for old age, unemployment, better homes, and health, whether they be in the city or on the farm.
I believe our problems of abuse are also marginal problems. Child labor, the exploitation of labor, the abuses of competition, industrial conflict, and crime can be isolated and cured by law without regimenting a nation.
I believe coöperation among green men can solve many problems more effectively than government.
And finally I do not believe in any form of government or law or private action which coerces, intimidates, or regiments upright men.
This is but a part of a creed. It could be expanded. Its bare bones could be clothed with the flesh of emotion. But, however it be shaped, only the American freedoms of mind and spirit and the obligations of liberty must give it life.
This is an individual creed, not a political platform, but I shall end this discussion in support of a political proposal.
The Republican Party makes a platform each four years, under the pressures of conventions called primarily for selection of candidates. In a time of confused public mind the last platform, as also the Democratic platform, was a mixture of conflicting ideas and grab-bag offerings.
It is the view of Republican leaders in more than a score of states that the Republican Party should meet officially in convention during the next year. That this meeting should be representative, that it should comprise youth as well as maturity, women as well as men. That it should not confuse its vision with candidates or attempts to solve group or sectional problems the character of which can be known only three years hence. That it meet not to form a creed, or the usual platform, but a declaration. That it should, with adequate prior preparation by able and open minds, fully debate and then declare conviction on constructive national principles. That it should declare this with intellectual and moral integrity, with human sympathy, with idealism and emotion.
Should its declaration rise to the national need, it would infuse a renewed fighting courage in the party’s own ranks; it would inspire an organization with which free men could join in coalition; it would lift the hearts of free men and women.
America needs a new and flaming declaration of the rights and responsibilities of free men.