Election 1940: Clapper's Column (10-23-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 24, 1940)

Nation Must Accept the Majority’s Will

Landon Set Example by Pledging Loyalty To Whomever Is President

By Raymond Clapper

Ames, Iowa –
The finest thing that has been said in this campaign so far as I know was said the other night by Alf M. Landon.

It was this:

First, I want to say to the dictators who are offering us alternate threats and bribes, that they are making a very grave error if they mistake the rivalry of a political campaign for disunity in the United States.

We Americans do not conduct our political affairs with that attitude. As soon as the election is over, Democrats as well as Republicans will rally in the nation’s interests to the support of the President of the United States. This vital and dominant attitude in American political life will not be changed by the bitterness of this campaign.

Whoever is elected will be my President for the next four years.

Landon Lives Words

I take these words seriously because Mr. Landon by his own example after his defeat in 1936 already had lived them. Time and again he upheld the administration in questions involving foreign affairs. He threw his not inconsiderate weight toward killing the Ludlow Amendment for a referendum on war when Republicans were trying to make it a demagogic issue. He went to the Lima Conference as a member of the American delegation and by his presence helped to impress upon Latin America the reality of our underlying unity.

It may be hoped that others will make the same pledge that Mr. Landon has made. That does not require blind support of every proposal or every action. Indeed Mr. Landon has been a severe critic of this administration. But when unity was important he contributed his share.

It will be important this time, more so than in any period we have seen. This campaign is ending in a bitter struggle which is being fought through until the last voting place closes on election night. The air is full of suspicion, of anxiety and of wondering doubts. The third-term question has added to this state of mind and it is rapidly becoming the dominant question. One hears it mentioned increasingly, though a few weeks ago it seemed scarcely to figure in the campaign.

Must Accept Verdict

This time, more so than ordinarily, it will be important that we end this internal civil war. Unless we do, the nation will be partially paralyzed and will find itself unable because of internal differences to do the things that will need to be done to achieve prompt defense, just as France was paralyzed by internal division.

This is more important than any other immediate considerations. It does not matter so much who is selected as it does that the nation accept the verdict of the majority, abode by the decision of the umpire, which is the electorate, and play the game so that it can go on.

Mr. Willkie began this campaign with a contribution to national unity by defying some of his own Republican leaders and endorsing the administration’s underlying attitude toward foreign affairs. He threw away a chance to demagogue on the subject of foreign affairs and thereby saved the country from a devastating experience.

Mr. Willkie’s contribution was not entirely reciprocated, because from the start the Roosevelt administration tried to label him as various ways to suggest that his election would be a victory for Hitler.

Roosevelt’s Turn Now

In this series of broadcasts Mr. Roosevelt has an opportunity to contribute toward greater solidarity. He, as well as his opposition, should be looking toward the day after election and to what will be needed then. We have much real work to do. Defense had only begun. We face many a tense day and many a tense week. The war is far from over.

We cannot meet these tests if the defeated side is going to nurse the mood of the old toast: “Our President, may he always be wrong. But right or wrong, we hate him.” Nor can we meet it if the victor squanders his victory in an orgy of vengeance.

The open season on egg-throwing should end abruptly on November 5. It is too late for such luxuries.