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How to Elect a Progressive Congress | The Nation

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How to Elect a Progressive Congress

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It is an appalling historical fact that the votes of a few Representatives and Senators meant the difference between adequate and inadequate preparation for the war against Germany and Japan -- between victory and defeat. The draft law, for instance, was extended shortly before Pearl Harbor by only one vote in the United States House of Representatives. It is aIso true that the kind of Senators and Congressmen we elect this November will largeIy determine whether we meet the challenge af the peace at home and abroad.

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Too many people, I have found, seem to believe that too many other people become weary of well-doing. They point to the fact that Woodrow Wilson found it impossible to awaken the people of this country to the necessity for a League of Nations after World War I. They remind us that President Wilson, who gave his life to winning the peace after he had worn himself out in leading us through a successful war, was succeeded by President Harding, who beguiled the people with the sop of "normalcy." But I am convinced that the people of the United States are not asleep in 1046. The lesson of 1920 taught us that we cannot afford to lose interest even for a moment in political action -- and from personal association with numbers of veterans, I firmly believe that the eleven million young men and women who served in the armed forces are exceedingly aware of both the dangers and opportunities before' us as a nation and as a people.

I have more than faith to back up my belief that we can elect a progressive Congress in November of 1946. In California, for example, such progressive Democratic Congressmen as George Outland, Chet Holifield, Jerry Voorhis, and Helen Douglas ran better in the primaries this year than they did two years ago. In the Democratic Senatorial primaries, George Donart of Idaho, Lief Erickson of Montana, and John Sparkman of Alabama -- all progressive -- were victorious and will be elected to the United States Senate.

Then let us see how progressive Republican Senators and Congressmen fared in the primaries. Bob LaFollette in Wisconsin, Charles LaFollette in Indiana, and Joseph Clark Baldwin and Augustus Bennet in New York -- all good progressive public servants -- were defeated by the forces of Republican reaction. The warning is unmistakeable: if we are to have a progressive Congress this fall, it can not be a Republican Congress.

The rejuvenated Democrats in Wisconsin would have welcomed "Young Bob" after he had liquidated the Progressive Party -- but he chose instead to return to the Republican Party, which stood for everything against which the LaFollettes had always fought. But the Republicans of Wisconsin spurned this able public servant whose sin, to them, was that he treated laboring men like other human beings. On the same day that the Republicans turned thumbs down on LaFollette, the Democrats of Wisconsin nominated Howard McMurray for the United States Senate. An able progressive, McMurray was one of Franklin Roosevelt's staunchest supporters while he was in Congress, and I am certain that, if elected, he will be an outstanding Senator.

Men of the type of Charles LaFollette are badly needed in Congress -- but the Republicans of Indiana sternly rebuked him when he challenged the conservative leadership of his party and sought the senatorial nomination in the party convention. The trend of reaction in Republican primaries was especially emphasized in New York City by the defeatof Joe Baldwin, who time and again deserted the retrogressive Republican leadership to vote for administration-sponsored progressive legislation.

The issues, therefore, between Republican and Democratic candidates are now much clearer -- because most Republican nominees are all out against the people's progress, while the great majority of the Democrats who we nominated in contested primary elections continue to stand by the Roosevelt New Deal. Both parties, as a result, have tightened their lines; and we are nearing the happy time when we can have some assurance that if we elect a candidate of one party we will have a vote in Congress for conservatism, and if we elect a candidate of the other we will just as surely have a vote in Congress for progressivism. There is still much work to be done in the South, as elsewhere -- but we are well on our way.

I have always contended, and the votes in Congress prove, that on most issues involving the general welfare the majority of Democrats vote right and the majority of Republicans vote wrong. It is equally true that in most primary elections progressive Democrats win and progressive Republicans lose. It is my sincere belief that there is no place in the Republican Party organization nationally far a progressive Republican. Senator Wayne Morse, of Oregon, will learn the hard way -- as did George Norris, Wendell, Willkie, Bob LaFollette, and I and my father before me -- that the Republican Party will only break the hearts of those who conscientiously seek to use it as a medium of progress.

The Congress which will be elected this November will have the task of making the Employment Act of 1946 mean something in terms of continued jobs and economic stability. Therefore it is highly important to elect Congressmen and Senators who sincerely believe that continuous full employment and full production should be our national objective.

We cannot have continuous full employment -- even with a full employment act -- if a majority of our representatives in Congress are committed to the reactionary doctrine that a soft labor market is desirable. In housing, health, education, and social security for all just as in protecting the gains of labor, we need Representatives and Senators who think in terms of the national interest and-not in the interestof selfish groups.-In the shaping of o w foreign policy, we must have Representatives and Senators who will recognize and avoid every step which leads to the much-mongered World War III. W e must make "On the Alert" a watchword for peace as well as war.

Our most immediate danger is a light vote in November. But if the voters of the United States will go to the polls forty-five million strong on Election Day, I feel certain that we shall have a progressive Congress prepared and able to win the peace.

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