You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

This Week

HERBERT HOOVER has been elected President by an overwhelming popular majority and the greatest electoral college vote in history. He will be supported by a clear majority, not only of titular Republicans but of those representing his wing of the party, in the House and probably in the Senate as well. The future therefore lies in his own hands. Few men in the history of the nation have ever faced greater opportunities or accepted a greater responsibility. The New Republic differs with Mr. Hoover on many issues, an our leaders know; but we also recognize the fine qualities which he brings to his new post. He is much the best President the Republicans have elected since 1904; his administration is certain to be marked by and honest and intelligent attempt to grapple with every pressing problem, domestic and foreign. The choice presented to the voters this year was between two men of extraordinary abilities; and while we preferred his opponent we recognize that Mr. Hoover is qualified for his great place.

THAT THE majority of the nation's voters have testified to the confidence they place in American business and its political instrument—the Republican party. They were not, we believe, much frightened this time by the alleged imminence of material disaster to follow Democratic success; they simply were satisfied again to entrust political leadership to the same forces which exercise economic leadership. In so far as the Democratic party succeeded in winning business approval, it merely succeeded in becoming an inferior copy o"f the Republican. This sense of well-being in a successful capitalist order, this feeling of participation in its benefits—or, at the least, in its security—constitutes the chief significance of the election. The significance is heightened by the fact that in this campaign the party of business put its best foot forward by nominating a technically trained business man with a high order of intelligence in his own field. The vote of confidence was not only for the party, but for the man. It was strikingly similar to the vote of confidence which is sometimes given by a busy board of directors to a corporation executive, when they have not the time or the interest to examine his specific policies, but have looked over the financial reports of the company and are satisfied with the net result. Governor Smith's religion was a factor of great importance in rolling up the monumental vote against him is suggested by the fact that Protestant Democrats, running with him in various parts of (he country, proved stronger than he. In presidential campaigns the opposite is usually true, even when the head of the ticket is defeated. No one can ever say how many voters cast their ballots against Smith, rather than for Hoover, on religious or other grounds, but the number must have been very large. At the same time it is probably true that he would have been defeated even without the handicap of Catholicism, since the votes of the Southern states which he lost would not have changed the result, and in the Northern urban centers he undoubtedly benefited from the ballots of many thousands of his co-religionists who would.

NEITHER otherwise have supported Hoover. While it is altogether unlikely that Governor Smith will ever again be his party's nominee, he continues to be its outstanding personality. As such, he will undoubtedly continue to exercise great influence on its policies, and in the direction of that progressivism which has been the chief characteristic of his career. Hoover nor the Republican party nor anyone would be justified in saying that the election furnished a clear mandate for or against any specific policy. Certainly not on prohibition, since without the many thousands of wets who voted for Hoover, his lead might easily have been wiped out in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other important industrial states. Certainly not on farm relief; Hoover's majorities in the farming districts of the Central West included many thousands of McNary-Haugenites and their leaders. As to water-power, concern for the problem scarcely percolated to more than a small minority of the nation's voters. Franklin Roosevelt, who made it his leading campaign issue in New York, ran far ahead of Smith; Wisconsin and Nebraska, which follow the progressive leadership of La Follette and Norris on this question, voted against Smith for other reasons. Hoover's conduct of his own campaign precluded the possibility that it might be regarded as a popular referendum on any of these issues, since his appeal was consciously genial and vague. Not one of them is settled in the public mind; all will live to make trouble in the future. Indeed, there is a good deal of ground for saying that, while millions of those who voted for Hoover did not oppose Smith's programs, a large part of Smith's enormous popular vote was impelled by determined support of them. For Smith made a supreme effort to convert the electorate on the basis of informed approval of exactly what he proposed to do.

THE breaking of the Solid South is an important event, but one about which a note of caution needs to be sounded. The assumption, hastily made in some quarters, that it means the death of the Democratic party as it now exists, is not supported by any tangible evidence. It seems clear that those Southern Democrats who voted against Smith did so neither because they are now convinced Republicans nor because of admiration of Mr. Hoover's personality. There were certain facts about this year's Democratic nominee which ran counter to deep-seated prejudices; but if in 1932 the party chooses a candidate who does not call out this emotional opposition, there is good reason to suppose that the Solid South will be reconstituted. Eventually, the Southern conservatives will no doubt align themselves with the Northern conservatives with whom their economic interests are increasingly identical, but this development is still too far in the future to have political significance.

THE status of the progressives as a result of the campaign is confused, but by no means hopeless. Their formations assumed for this battle have been shattered, their forces have been dispersed, but their numbers are still large and they have not lost much of their terrain. It is too early to say how the lines may be reformed. The chance of seeing a reinvigoration of the Democratic party under the dynamic force of Smith's leadership in national office is, of course, lost. There remains the advance made in the understanding of some of the progressive issues by his active campaign. The New RC" public appears to be confirmed in its judgment) registered months ago, that in the effort will arouse support of progressive policies which require popular understanding. Smith began far too late. This particularly true in view of the fact that the Democratic party had, before his nomination, done almost nothing to prepare the ground. A victory for informed intelligence cannot be won overnight Smith was undoubtedly misled by his previous success in converting the voters of New York State by educational campaigns begun late in the day; he did not sufficiently realize the enormous obstacles of inertia which he had to overcome in the national arena, or the immense difficulty of covering this great and diffuse nation as compared with a single state which had grown to know him. It is undoubtedly true that even many who labeled themselves progressive were ill equipped with the information necessary to appreciate the full significance of what he had to say. Means of continuous popular education between campaigns is the progressive need of the moment.

PRESIDENT HOOVER will apparently have a Republican Congress behind him. His party's majority of thirty-nine in the House appeared on the basis of incomplete returns to have been increased to fourty-four; and in the Senate the margin by which the progressives held the balance of power between conservative Republicans and conservative Democrats has been reduced if not destroyed. This is not the result of losses by the progressives themselves, since of these up for reelection five out or six seem to have been successful; it is due to Republican gains at the expense of Democrats. In the New Republic's opinion it is a good thing for the country that a President of Mr. Hoover's turn of mind should have a Congress of the same temper. His policies will thus get a fair trial and can be judged on their merits four years hence.

CHIEF JUSTICE Benjamin Cardozo, of the New York State Court of Appeals, is one of the most thoughtful and able of American jurists. Great weight therefore attaches to such an indictment of present-day criminal procedure as he drew up in his recent address at the eighty-second anniversary meeting of the New York Academy of Medicine. He predicted, according to the New York Times, that "in the not-distant future a transformation of the system of punishment for crime may be brought about by the teachings of the biochemists, behaviorists, psychiatrists and penologists." The next generation, he suggested, may look upon the death penalty as "an anachronism too discordant to be suffered, mocking with grim reproach all our clamorous professions of the sanctity of life." Lesser punishments, nowadays, are likely to be stern when they should be mild, and vice versa. "The casual offender expiates his offense in the company of defectives and recidivists and after devastating years is given back an outcast to the society that made him. The defective or recidivist goes back to renew his life of crime, unable to escape it without escaping from himself." If anyone has ever, in an equal number of words or ten times as many, given a better portrait of the incompetence and cruelty of much of our criminal procedure, we should like to read it. Nor was Justice Cardozo content merely to criticize. He suggested that the Bar Association and the Academy of Medicine should appoint committees which would work together so that the resources of the two professions could be pooled. Immediate purposes might well be a redefinition of insanity as an excuse for crime, and the drawing of a better distinction between the two degrees of murder; and in the background, of course, would be the whole question of the treatment of criminals in the light of the present-day knowledge of psychology, normal and abnormal. This is an admirable proposal, and the New Republic hopes to see it carried out.

NATURAL economic causes, the Stevenson rubber export restriction of the British government has died. This is not a sign that the measure was wicked, or basically unsound. It was a price-stabilizing device which, it was. hoped, would by maintaining a fair price prevent large areas of rubber production from being irretrievably lost. Its defects were two: first, that it included only regions in the British Empire, and thus the important Dutch and other plantations were free to expand their production without limit, and second, that it did not make provision for the interests of the consumers. During its operation, plans for rubber growing were so greatly enlarged that the price is likely to fall to very low levels some time in the future. We should not be at all surprised to sec some of those same American interests who, under Mr. Hoover's leadership, attacked this wicked British monopoly, clamoring for the same kind of protection for their own plantations before many years are past. Will it then be necessary to annex Liberia or other countries where American-owned plantations exist, in order to throw about them our own tariff wall? It might have been wiser in the beginning to call forth international cooperation in fixing supply and price, giving the consumers due representation.

SHOULD Filipino laborers be excluded by law from the continental United States? The California State Federation of Labor believes that they should, and is making every effort to have such exclusion written into the law. Its officials point out that laborers leave the Philippines to come to the United States at the rate of nearly 7,000 a year, and to enter Hawaii at the rate of 11,000. It is said that considerable numbers of those who go to Hawaii, under three-year labor contracts, stay only long enough to save a little money, and then break their contracts and come to the United States. While the number here is now only 30,000, those who advocate exclusion point out that this is larger than the number of Japanese at the time the agitation against the latter v/as begun. Wages in Hawaii are said to be three or four times as high as those in the Philippines, and the disproportion is, of course, greater still in the United States. The Filipinos are not citizens of the United States, and there is no legal reason why they should not be completely prohibited from entity, as is proposed in a bill (H.R. 13,900) introduced at the last session of Congress by Mr. Welch of San Francisco. The Federation of Labor men who are working for the enactment of this measure will doubtless have a strong public opinion in California behind them; those persons who have insisted that the Japanese should be barred will probably support the same point of view toward the Filipinos. The most regrettable aspect of it is that, if legislation is passed, it is almost sure to be without any genuinely scientific investigation of the facts of the case, and in the absence of serious consideration of possible alternatives.

THE Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor has made good on its threat to inform its affiliated bodies that they should not further contribute to Brookwood Labor College at Katonah, N. Y. In spite of the many protests from members of the labor movement and from others sympathetic with labor and acquainted with the work of Brookwood, and in spite of the request of the directors and staff of the institution, it was granted no hearing, it was not informed of the specific charges against it, and it was given no opportunity to disprove them or to state its case. The Council adopted the position that Brookwood was not on trial, and that, as the representative of the trade-union movement, the Council can do what it sees fit in the matter without accounting to anyone. No more flat defiance of public opinion, and of all who are not intimately associated with the Federation machine, has been issued in years. Apparently the Federation officials do not care a rap what anyone thinks of them or their judgment. They are willing to take arbitrary action in a matter intimately concerning academic liberty, education policy, and the relationship of the Federation with the public, with as little sense of public responsibility. As one might exercise in declining a cigarette. Certainly the Federation officials have no further right to turn to those outside the movement for understanding or support. They have, by this act, denied that the labor movement has any public standing. The matter is regarded as one such as might arise between factions of a rich men's club. What labor circles may think of it remains to be seen. 

This article appeared in the November 14, 1928 issue of the magazine.