Election 1944: Post-convention editorials

The Pittsburgh Press (September 14, 1944)

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Editorial: Count their votes

In Ohio, the Attorney General has ruled that military ballots marked by members of the Armed Forces who are subsequently, but prior to Election Day, killed in action cannot legally be counted.

Perhaps there is something in the Ohio law to justify that opinion. The Attorney General should know.

But here County Elections Director David Olbum says there is nothing in the Pennsylvania law calling for such invalidation. And he adds his opinion that voiding the votes of dead soldiers would be ridiculous.

Of course, it would. By necessity, military ballots may be marked by servicemen and women when they are received. They need not be marked on Election Day, to compel them all to vote on the same day would either deprive most of them of a ballot or require a stoppage of the war.

But once the ballot is marked, it is valid and should be counted.

We hope nobody in Pennsylvania thinks up any ruling like that of the Ohio Attorney General.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 15, 1944)

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Editorial: What’s so remarkable?

The expressions by National Chairman Hannegan of the Democrats and Brownell of the Republicans against the exploitation of racial or religious issues during the campaign are well-timed and welcome.

We confess to some puzzlement, however, over the following passage in Mr. Hannegan’s statement:

I believe America’s unwavering purpose of holding a national election in 1944, regardless of war or the fortunes of war, will someday be looked upon as one of the greatest historical measures of the hardihood and integrity of our democratic way of life.

We will concede that hardihood and integrity, etc. but how in Heaven’s name these traits are proved by the fact that the country is simply fulfilling in the normal manner a constitutional mandate – a mandate which permits of no exceptions for whatever cause – is something that escapes us.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 17, 1944)

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Editorial: Experience

A reader suggests that this is an appropriate time to reprint an editorial of four years ago, since it dealt with a theme that is likewise dominant in this political campaign. The editorial was published in The Pittsburgh Press Oct. 3, 1940 – more than a year before our country entered the war and the big spending began – under the title “Experience.” Here it is:

Franklin D. Roosevelt is the only living man who has had nearly eight years of experience as President of the United States, Therefore, we hear it argued, it is essential that he should have what no other President ever had – a third term.

This is, of course, an argument that will be even more forceful if Mr. Roosevelt, having had nearly 12 years of experience, decides to be drafted for a fourth term. But there’s no denying that, even now, Mr. Roosevelt has had vast experience, including:

  • The experience of spending more money than any other President.

  • The experience of incurring the biggest public debt in this country’s history.

  • The experience of keeping spending always ahead of income, although federal revenue has been almost trebled.

  • The experience of building the federal payroll to record size.

  • The experience of expanding bureaucracy to unprecedented proportions.

  • The experience of declaring more emergencies and exercising more power than any other peacetime President.

  • The experience of seeing new enterprise remain stagnant longer than ever before.

  • And the experience of seeing more Americans unemployed for more years than ever before.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 19, 1944)

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Editorial: Dewey tells labor’s side

It has been assumed that the rank and file of labor is Mr. Roosevelt’s great and untappable reservoir of political strength – that however large the defections in other circles, nearly all members of organized labor could be counted on to mark the ballot in the same place a fourth time.

We’re not at all sure that will happen on Nov. 7.

Governor Dewey at Seattle last night gave some stout arguments why it should not happen.

Working men and women, looking to the post-war future, have a right to expect something better than what they’ve had. Something better than paternalistic benefactions passed down to them to buy their political loyalty. Something better than administration-sponsored strife between rival union leaders, and administration-sponsored class warfare between workers and employers. Something better than the chaos, delays and confusion of having their wages, working conditions and collective-bargaining processes tampered with and pulled and hauled about by 25 competing government agencies, bureaus, boards and commissions.

They are entitled to the full fruits of their labor, a full sharing of higher living standards which their productivity will make possible. They are entitled to gain it by free bargaining, under a government by law, administered speedily and evenhandedly, where rights are treated as legal rights and not as political favors.

Governor Dewey’s speech on labor was a good speech because it approached problems from the point of view of those who work for a living, especially union members. It spelled out why unions should not be blamed for all that has happened. It told their side of the story of troubled industrial relations, a side which needed to be told – of how just settlements of disputes have been delayed and prevented by bungling bureaucrats administering conflicting government policies.

Mr. Dewey asked:

Who gains by this planned confusion? The workers don’t gain. The public is always in the middle. The war effort has been constantly hampered. Who does gain? There can be no doubt of the answer. This policy of delay, delay and more delay, serves only the New Deal and its political ends. It puts the leaders of labor on the spot. It makes them come hat in hand to the White House. It makes political loyalty the test of a man getting his rights. Personal government instead of government by law, politics instead of justice prevails in the labor field in this country and I am against that kind of administration and always will be.

And Mr. Dewey told what he will do about it, if elected. Appoint an active and able Secretary of Labor. Build a real Department of Labor, with all the functions that belong in that department. Abolish the multitude of wasteful and competing bureaus now operating outside that department.

We shall see that every working man and woman stands equally in that department created to serve him, not to rule him. And there will be no backdoor entrance to special privilege by one group over any other group of Americans.

Our guess is that Mr. Dewey won some votes by that speech.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 20, 1944)

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Editorial: Who pays for ‘prosperity’?

Democrats appear to be relying heavily on “Roosevelt prosperity” as a pro-fourth-term factor at the November polls.

Prosperity? Sure, many people not in uniform are making more money than they were before the war. (Mr. Roosevelt was President then, too, incidentally.) But where does the money come from?

An analogy might be the case of a man who borrows $1,000 from a friend and then throws a big party for the generous pal. Should the latter feel a warm glow of camaraderie – or should he start worrying about the money?

The recent tax report of the research committee of the Committee for Economic Development estimated that “after the war the average cost of supporting the activities of the federal government, if spread evenly over the entire population, would be more than $500 a year for a family of four.” And a footnote added:

This would not be the full picture… It is estimated that state and local governments, after the war, will have to collect around $12 billion a year in taxes. Accordingly, the total cost of government in the United States after the war, if spread evenly over the whole population, would be in the neighborhood of $850 a year for a family of four.

Or put it another way. The national debt today is some $211 billion. It certainly will go past $250 billion before the war is over. The total population is around 136 million. Suppose, for simplicity’s sake, that the population consisted entirely of four-person families – 34 million of them. A little arithmetic shows that the average share of that $250-billion debt will be $7,353 per family. This is an obligation that a good many of us have neglected to put down in our personal budgets.

In short, “Roosevelt prosperity” turns out to be a patty at our own expense. Guests will be presented with the bill as they leave the festivities. And they will have to settle it – through taxes, or through inflation of one kind or another which will chop down the value of their savings and their income.

Of course, most of the expenditures have been necessary, because of the war. But he who attributes the pleasant state of his bank account to economic wisdom on the part of the White House, and expects more of the same indefinitely from that same erratic economic fountain, is living in a fool’s paradise.

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Editorial: Dewey keeps the offensive

Governor Dewey is showing skill as a political campaigner who can take the offense and keep it.

The New Dealers were still sputtering denials to his charge that they fear the problems of peace and demobilization when he let go his haymaker indicting the “planned confusion” of their labor policies. And before they could think up the answers to that one, he hit again by challenging the indispensability of one man, which the New Dealers themselves have chosen as the campaign’s primary issue.

Mr. Dewey used the words of Mr. Roosevelt’s running mate, Mr. Truman: “The very future of the peace and prosperity of the world depends upon his reelection in November.”

And how, asked Mr. Dewey, is a fourth term indispensable to that?

The first essential to peace and prosperity, he said, is unity in our government and unity and strength among our people. But the record shows 12 years of setting “group against group, race against race, and class against class,” labor against employer and labor against labor. And 12 years of quarrelling and bickering among the high-up New Deal administrators.

“An administration which cannot unite its own house even in war can never unite the nation for the tremendous peace tasks ahead of us.”

A second essential to peace and prosperity is “joint, harmonious action between the President and the Congress. Is a fourth term indispensable to that?” Not on the record of 12 years of trying to bring Congress into popular disrepute, 12 years of “executive arrogance toward the elected representatives of the people.” For, said Mr. Dewey:

As a result, no bill which this administration can propose to Congress is today received with anything less than suspicion.

My opponent has demonstrated that he cannot work with the present Democratic Congress. How in the name of the future of our country can he be expected to get along with the Republican Congress which will be elected this fall?

A third essential is “a strong and vigorous America with jobs for all. Is a fourth term indispensable to that?” Not on the record of an administration which, after spending $58 billion through seven peace years, still had 10 million unemployed – and “we had to have a war to get jobs.”

We’ve a hunch the New Dealers will talk less about the indispensable man from here on to Nov. 7.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 21, 1944)

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Editorial: Stalin electioneers for FDR

One of the current mysteries is how such busy men as Prime Minister Churchill and Marshal Stalin find time to mix in American politics for the reelection of President Roosevelt. Even harder to understand is how such intelligent men can fail to see that these efforts are self-defeating, that they boomerang in favor of Governor Dewey.

Nothing causes deeper resentment in Americans than attempts by foreign governments to influence elections here. That always has been so, and it is even truer today because of greater emotional tension.

Though Mr. Churchill had been warned by earlier hostile American reaction to such blunders by the British press and officials, he could not resist the temptation in his Québec statement last week to put in a few personal plugs for the fourth term candidate – without specifically mentioning the election.

Marshal Stalin is less subtle. He simply takes one of his Moscow party-line magazines, and a stooge writer, and cuts loose against Mr. Dewey and the Republicans. He has the GOP candidate and party smeared with all the lies and insults which pass for clever propaganda in a dictatorship, but which informed readers in a democracy find revolting.

According to War and the Working Class, the Republican Party “always has been a citadel of isolationism.” But the article slips in its list of alleged isolationists by including prominent Democrats and by admitting that Mr. Dewey “has attempted to shake off diehard isolationists like Hamilton Fish and… Gerald Smith.”

Extreme reactionaries, Fascist elements, and even Hitlerite agents are trying to use the Republican Party, it charges, which is supported by the National Association of Manufacturers, DuPont, Ford, General Motors. These firms are said to be trying to preserve their interests in Germany, Italy and Japan.

Of course, this poison pen stuff is not much different from that of Marshal Stalin’s Communist organization in this country, which is working so hard to reelect Mr. Roosevelt.

We do not suggest that Candidate Roosevelt approves of such blundering tactics by his Stalinite supporters in Russia and in this country. As a smart politician, he knows that the loving Red buss bestowed upon him is apt to be politically a kiss of death. And the Republicans know that many voters will judge Mr. Dewey by his enemies.

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Editorial: Dewey and MacArthur

Candidate Dewey probably did no good either to himself or Gen. MacArthur by his remark at a press conference that Gen. MacArthur’s genius should get more recognition through appointment to a post of higher responsibility. Gen. MacArthur pleads his own cause more effectively by brilliant actions like the landing on Morotai Island, 300 miles from the Philippines.

Asked whether Gen. MacArthur should be given supreme command in the Pacific, Mr. Dewey retreated to the position that this should be decided by the chiefs of staff. This is in line with Mr. Dewey’s earlier declarations that he would let the generals and admirals run the war. But the question of higher responsibility for Gen. MacArthur, in general terms, might be reserved for the general staff quite as appropriately as the question of higher responsibility in the specific role as supreme commander in the Pacific.

Mr. Dewey wishes to make it appear that if elected President he will not, in the constitutional role of Commander-in-Chief, seek to supersede the judgment of our real military chiefs. He does not strengthen that position by intimating that he would supersede their judgment in one particular only – namely, the promotion of Gen. MacArthur to higher authority.

It does a general no good to become the subject of political controversy. Leonard Wood, a Republican, and a candidate after World War I for the presidential nomination, undoubtedly suffered from political discrimination during World War I, when he was not permitted to go overseas.

Yet the close connections between him and Theodore Roosevelt, his known political ambitions and the ambitions his friends cherished for him, undoubtedly contributed to this result. The more the Republicans complained about the injustice done to Gen. Wood, the more difficult it became for the administration to use him in a place worthy of his talents.

President Roosevelt spoke in affectionate terms at Seattle of “my old friend, Gen. Douglas MacArthur,” but the eagerness of some of MacArthur’s other old friends to make a presidential candidate of him and the publication of his private letter attacking the administration, have tended to make a military problem child out of the general. Now Mr. Dewey, in the midst of his campaign, drags Gen. MacArthur deeper into politics and makes the problem more difficult.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 22, 1944)

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Editorial: Forward – not back

Henry A. Wallace, in New York last night, warned the American people that if the Republicans win in November: “We may return to the normalcy of a Harding and a 10-year decay into the panic of a Hoover.”

But Governor Dewey’s speech in San Francisco was a convincing answer to Mr. Wallace’s dismal forecast of disaster through Republican victory.

The great question, we believe, is whether Franklin D. Roosevelt or Thomas E. Dewey better understands how this country can provide jobs for all. Because, without understanding, it is idle to expect accomplishment. And Mr. Dewey gave a convincing answer to that question when he said:

There can be jobs for all only if business, industry and agriculture are able to provide those jobs, there are no clever shortcuts to this goal. It cannot be achieved by some ingenious scheme concocted by a social dreamer in a government bureau. The New Deal pulled rabbits out of the hat for seven years and ended up with 10 million still unemployed. We will achieve our objective only if we create an economic climate in which industry, business and agriculture can grow and flourish.

Nor does Mr. Dewey’s understanding stop with that. It compasses the proper role of government as a servant rather than a master of the people. It takes in the fact that government measures to influence broad economic conditions are both desirable and inevitable, but that these measures need not, and must not, deprive the people of political freedom under the pretext of giving them economic security.

The freedom he would preserve is not freedom for farmers “to go broke when there are peacetime surpluses and the prices of crops, fall ruinously” or for labor “to walk the streets in bad years, looking for work at any price.” It is freedom for agriculture and labor and industry to go forward together, helped and not hindered by their government, united and not divided by their President, toward the true security of peace and sound prosperity.

That – not the normalcy of a Harding or the panic of a Hoover – is Mr. Dewey’s goal.