After scenes of violence and a turbulence that would have passed into riot but for the repressive hand of the police, the National Convention of the Republican party came to a close late Saturday night under circumstances that prompt thoughtful men to ask whether that party is now to go to pieces. The resulting confusion and uncertainty are as great as the apprehension. Those who fought for months to beat Roosevelt finally accomplished their purpose, by means of extraordinary skill in political management, but now stand wondering whether the strain has not broken the party down. Victory was swiftly followed by open revolt. The defection of the Silver Republicans in 1896 was a trifle compared with the formidable bolt which Roosevelt has already set on foot. Internecine warfare is threatened in every State. Regular Republicans will be slaughtered. The bolters will be proscribed and massacred. Political passions have mounted to unexampled heights. The most ferocious spirit is still displayed by the two Republican factions, and the most insulting epithets continue to fly back and forth between them. There are, in fact, on every hand, such signs of party break-up and political demoralization as have not been seen in this country since the Civil War.
Two nearly equal forces struggled for supremacy at Chicago. The narrow majority was held together by masterful tactics which extorted the admiration even of those who were crushed by them, but the minority would not submit in the usual way. To the end it maintained its uncompromising spirit, sitting sullen during the closing hours of the Convention, and immediately going off to start a third-party movement This last, it is true, still remains a bit amorphic. There was a spontaneous nomination of Roosevelt, and an apparently whole-hearted, but really guarded, acceptance by him; but all confess that much remains to be done before the grand new people’s party meets in August in “mass Convention”–that is what the Colonel favors, where there will be no trouble about rules and regularity–to give this fair land a new birth of freedom under Roosevelt. It will be shrewdly suspected that the new party will wait to see what happens at Baltimore and elsewhere, before deciding to be born. Yet this very uncertainty only adds to the confusion of the political situation. Men look at one another in wild surmise, querying whether this is the country they have known before, and all in a daze as to what candidate or what party they may think it their duty to support when election day rolls round.
The Republican bolt, if there is really to be one, will procced upon the assumption that the Chicago Convention was tainted with fraud. This has been violently asserted for a week past, with every form of offensive language known to experts in scurrility, but what has been the proof? The public knows very little about it. But it will have to receive precise and detailed information if it is to be asked to vote for men simply because they have been cheated. There has been an immense amount of crying “stop, thief,” but the evidence of thievery has been meagre. We know that Roosevelt was just as vociferous about frauds in New York, after the primaries in this State, as he is now about frauds in Texas or Washington, but he had no proof whatever in the former case, and soon left off talking about it. Is there any reason for thinking he has better warrant in the other cases? What is known is that his managers brought a great number of ridiculous contests. They were so absurd that even Roosevelt committeemen voted to throw them out of court summarily. But the preliminary cry of fraud was just as shrill in these instances as in the others. Was it any less valid? We think the country is ready to be convinced. But it must have the facts, and have them impartially sifted. Mere assertion, however loudly shouted, is no proof of fraud. The Roosevelt managers at first insisted that some 200 of their contestants were lawfully entitled to be seated. Then they whittled the number down to 100; now it is put at seventy. But even seventy added delegates would not have been enough to nominate Roosevelt, though, taken from Taft, they would have left him short of a majority. But what honest men will demand is conclusive evidence that even this irreducible minimum of seventy delegates, or any part of them, was “stolen.” The testimony is available. It was all passed upon by the Credentials Committee. Are we bound to believe that the defeated litigant who “cusses” angrily enough, necessarily has the truth on his side? Certainly, if he is going to found a new party on the strength of his grievance, he has got to show that it is substantial and not wholly imaginary.
All this divided and distraught condition of the Republican party naturally fills the Democrats at Baltimore with good cheer. But they must not allow themselves to be flattered into a fool’s paradise. The spirit of revolt is abroad, and the Democratic party could easily provoke it against itself. Never did party ties sit so lightly. Never was a kind of iconoclastic political independence so rife. The Democrats should perfectly understand that they must walk warily and correctly estimate their opportunity. They must not forget that a vigilant and resourceful man, Theodore Roosevelt, is watching for them to blunder. If they nominate a candidate who can be called a reactionary or a tool or an ignoramus, Roosevelt will instantly raid their left wing and wage a battle, North and South, in the name of progressive policies. So obviously is it Democratic wisdom to choose a man for the Presidency who can hold the progressives of his party that it is not surprising to find men in all parts of the country, and of all shades of opinion, declaring that the events at Chicago point to Woodrow Wilson as the man of the hour at Baltimore.