Nation correspondent Oswald Garrison Villard takes an acerbic look at Democrats more interested in ending prohibition than tackling the human suffering of the Great Depression.
Chicago, July 1
Let no man say that the Democratic Party’s Presidential convention, which has now adjourned, has been held in Chicago. I have just come from its last session; I have listened to all of the proceedings, the incredible speeches, including Mr. Roosevelt’s address after his excellent publicity flight from Albany–a stunt worthy of his famous cousin, Theodore. Still I insist that this convention has not been held in Chicago. It has been held in some No Man’s Land, in some utterly detached place, floating perhaps between heaven–or some other place – and earth. All presidential conventions are always wonderlands in their amazing exhibition of childishness and political immaturity, their intriguing, their humbuggery. But this one almost baffles description in its total detachment from the realities of life. Hour after hour we sat there in the sweltering heat–in one case thirteen hours of all-night misery–watching the speakers go through their motions, deafened and racked by the loudest organ on earth, the blaring bands, and the yelling–all the horrors and there was practically nothing whatever to give the listeners the faintest idea that this convention had any connection whatever with the United States of 1932. It could not have been much nearer than the moon to what is actually going on under the Stars and Stripes, and was certainly utterly remote from all the vital happenings of this workaday world.
Yes, I know that in its preamble the platform speaks of “this time of unprecedented economic and social distress” and declares that those in charge of our government “have ruined our foreign trade, destroyed the values of our commodities and products, crippled our banking system, robbed millions of our people of their life savings and thrown millions more out of work, produced widespread poverty, and brought the government to a state of financial distress unprecedented in time of peace,” but even this carries no conviction that the convention was really concerned with or realized what is going on in the United States today. In this city in which it was supposedly held there is endless suffering and human misery, with hundreds of thousands of persons being supported by one dole or another. On the second day of the convention, the county treasurer announced that he would go before a county judge on July 11 to apply for judgment and sale for taxes of some 500,000 parcels of real estate involving over $100,000,000 of delinquent 1930 taxes–100,000 more items than were delinquent in 1929. On the same day Senator Lewis of Illinois appealed to the United States government for an immediate loan of $30,000,000 to keep the city of Chicago from collapsing financially, and to enable it to prevent the actual starvation of hundreds of thousands of its citizens and to pay a few back salaries of teachers and other civic employees. One would think that in this setting a sane and intelligent convention, imbued with even average common sense, would have cut out the brass bands, the parading, and the senseless speeches, and would really have got down to business and seriously worked out an economic program, or at least discussed some far-reaching policies to lead the country out of its economic distress.