Editorial: 'Above the Tumult' (11-4-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (November 4, 1940)



Above the Tumult

By Florence Fisher Parry

It’s silly to try to write about anything else today. Beside, who’s reading anything these last furious days but the polls and the speeches of the candidates. But above the tumult and the shouting, one note rings clear.

The people have taken over. This is their election.

The politicians are on their way out. The politicians of both parties – they’re through. They are done for and they know it. Not again in our time, in this generation, will they ever be able to put things over on the American people. Not as they have. Not now. And I say this is true, never mind which candidate goes in.

If it is Wendell Willkie, you know and I know that he will get there, not because of but in spite of the politicians. And the people will be watching him to catch him up, if by any chance by default or design he places himself in any way at their disposal.

It is Roosevelt who move in, he knows in his heart that he will be watched as he has never been watched before by the Vigilantes who have spring up overnight, self-elected policemen of our American liberty!

The people, the people have taken over. This is their day and they know it. That is why they are so exultant. That is why they suddenly feel so strong. That is why they are taking all this so all-mighty hard. They know that they, the Volunteers, the Amateurs, the rank and file, the Little People, have come into their own, have become America, and themselves are deciding the fate of this Republic.

’This Above All—'

I don’t believe that this election, whichever way it goes, can be blamed on coercion. I would have believed it a month ago, I would have believed that the threat of politicians and their henchmen could have corralled and herded our people through the stiles of the polls.

I don’t believe it today. There is no one remaining in America, except perhaps in the most impoverished outposts of our land who have not had the opportunity to see, to read, to hear, to feel, the issues now at stake. For the first time in our entire history, the American people are going to the polls informed. For the first time in our history, the realization of his own special individual importance has been made known to each voter. For the first time in our American history, every American of age realizes that this thing of free choice at the polls is his to exert; that no matter how he is registered his ballot is his own secret and inviolate right and possession.

If he betrays that secret right, if he compromises with his conscience for reasons of fancied self-gain, if he puts the immediate prospect above what he knows to be the ultimate good of his country, he will know in his secret heart that he has betrayed not only his country, but himself as well.

This above all, to thine own self be true.

Never has there been a time so suitable to out this warning – this reminder – this Credo before the American voter. And never mind how committed each one of you is to his own candidate for President; you know as you read this that it is true.

You have heard the candidates of both parties. If you are fair, you have given each one of them the credit of honestly believing himself the one singled out and dedicated to the holy task of saving this republic. A candidate for such a solemn office could not humanly stand before the populace of the great country on earth and attest to such an all-mighty belief if he didn’t truly believe himself ordained.

As Conscience Orders

If he were capable of some deception in this gigantic hour, he is made of the stuff of evil and I don’t believe that such Satanic makeup could be the composition of either man.

Behold, then, our two candidates, the acceptance of the one, the rejection of the other rests in the hands of an aroused and dedicated people, who know now that they have been chosen to participate in a moment of history as momentous as that which faced their forbears in 1775, in 1861.

They know, each one, that it is possible for his single vote actually to determine the course of history. And anyone who cannot detect beneath all the tumult and shouting, the still small voice of solemn conscience, is deaf and insensate to the significance of this eleventh hour.

The very fact that this election looks to be the closest in our national history is proof in itself of the desperate seriousness of the armies in both camps. We have heard and read, in the last few weeks, the expressed conviction of the greatest leaders in our land, in every region of thought, in every territory of accomplishment, in every realm of character. We cannot question the purity and sincerity of their convictions. They believe what they say, and when they vote we know their votes will be a dedicated vote. If this is so of great men, it is even more so of the rank and file.

Tomorrow we will be witness to a Phenomenon unique in America. Just what shape it will take in its final form, we do not yet know. But for the first time within our memory, our polling places will be temporary temples, and those who enter them will sense something of the same solemnity that fills their hearts when they uncover their heads in a church.