The Nation’s editor and publisher Oswald Garrison Villard, whatever his radicalism on other issues, was a lifelong teetotaler, influenced by a childhood warning by his mother to stay away from strong drink. In an editorial titled “Who Undermines Prohibition?” (June 27, 1923), The Nation argued that the issue should be decided by a national popular vote.

Our readers will not misunderstand, we are sure, The Nation’s position. We are for the prohibition amendment as long as it is law and are for its rigid enforcement. But there is no stronger argument for a nation-wide referendum than this case presents; we should therefore like to see the question submitted today to a vote of all the people. Believing as we do that the result would be overwhelming approval, there would then be a clear-cut popular opinion behind efforts to enforce the law. But if we err in this and the majority should favor the abolition of prohibition we should accept the decision with all the cheerfulness we could muster; if the vote were a close one either way we should deeply regret it, but that is the risk a democracy has to run which is founded on the rule of the majority. The point plainly is that then the people would have spoken, and not merely legislatures full of cowardly politicians voting not according to their inmost beliefs or according to their consciences, but at the dictation of paid lobbies.

January 16, 1919

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