Election 1944: PA farmers more strongly GOP than ever (10-13-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 13, 1944)


State farmers more strongly GOP than ever

They’re mistrustful of New Deal, labor
By Robert Taylor, Pittsburgh Press staff writer

Robert Taylor, Press Washington correspondent and a veteran observer of Pennsylvania politics, is making a trip to various parts of the state to sound out political sentiment.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania –
Pennsylvania’s farm sections, individualistic by tradition and mistrustful of New Deal farm and labor policies, will turn in a heavier voter than usual for the Republican ticket this year, according to forecasts in agricultural areas.

The Republican plan for carrying Pennsylvania’s 35 electoral votes for Governor Thomas E. Dewey calls for a heavy vote in farm sections, most of them firmly Republican, and some estimates claim 75 to 80 percent of the farm vote.

There is no doubt that Pennsylvania farmers, like those in other states, are impatient about government controls and hampered by wartime restrictions and shortag4es in achieving record food production. Even in 1940, a trend away from the New Deal was noted.

This time, however, there is a factor in the rural vote that wasn’t there before the establishment of war plants and new industries in rural sections and the organization of labor unions in counties that never previously had any organized labor.

PAC in 40 counties

War production generally brought a large increase in the industrial population at the same time the farm population was decreasing, with farm labor being hired away by high wages in industry.

In the farming sections themselves, War Department installations and private plants converted to war production, or enlarged with government funds, required large labor forces and hired local residents wherever they were available.

Some of this labor force came from the farms and some of the farm population is now unionized in industrial jobs and among the 400,000 or so CIO members represented politically by the Political Action Committee, Rural and semi-rural counties account for more than one-fifth of the state’s voters.

PAC now claims organizations in 40 counties. It has no organization in 27 rural counties, but in most of these there are CIO or other labor unions. Only five of the state’s 67 counties now have no organized labor units. In 12 counties, CIO unions have been organized since 1940.

Farmers fear PAC vote

What this will do to offset the farm vote is something only the final results of the Nov. 7 election can decide.

Fear of the new power of organized labor, particularly since the organization of the PAC, is one of the factors influencing farmers to vote Republican, according to farm leaders in position to talk with farmers in various sections of the state.

Others include subsidies, which the farmer doesn’t like because he fears what may happen when the subsidy ends and feels that the subsidy issue portrays him as a war profiteer; and crop restrictions which may be all right in grain states but which Pennsylvania farmers feel are improper on small farms here.

The farmer has his troubles hiring labor and in trucking his own products to city markets, where he contends he had been “hijacked” by unions requiring employment of a union truck driver.

CIO seeks farm votes

The CIO-PAC tries to influence the farmer vote, and part of its program for the nation is devoted to farm policies. In Pennsylvania, it has the help of the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union, affiliate of the National Farmers Union.

PAC pamphlets trace the rise of farm incomes under the New Deal from $4.7 billion in 1932 to $19.3 billion in 1943, and point to the subsidy issue as a development that helped the farmer, while holding down the cost of living.

Some farm counties of Pennsylvania are Democratic, and have been since before the New Deal. This year, it is estimated that of 1,200,000 voters in 42 rural and semi-rural counties, 700,000 are registered Republican and 500,000 Democratic.

Important farm counties

The six principal counties in this important farm section are Chester, Lancaster and Lebanon (all Republican in 1940); and Berks, York and Cumberland (Democratic four years ago).

In 1936, only Chester and Lancaster remained Republican in the face of President Roosevelt’s sweep of the state. That year, the total vote in the six counties was 155,669 for Alfred M. Landon, 199,829 for FDR.

In 1940, Lebanon returned to the Republican fold and Mr. Roosevelt’s majority was reduced in every county. The six-county vote was 164,306 for Wendell L. Willkie; 176,000 for Mr. Roosevelt. While they are recognized farm counties, three of them – Berks, York and Lebanon – have important industrial areas now employing more men and women than ever before.