I Dare Say – A good man (4-13-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (April 13, 1944)



A good man

By Florence Fisher Parry

The reaction of our Pittsburgh Progressive Republicans to the withdrawal of Wendell Willkie from the presidential race has been interesting and depressing.

“Sinister politics,” they say. “The Republican Party has cooked its goose.” Some even vow that they won’t go to the polls in November.

“We deserve defeat,” others say darkly. Still others come out with the old chestnut that they’d vote for anyone if it meant the defeat of the party now in power.

All in all, the reaction is unhealthy and shows a definite distrust of our political leaders in both parties. One man put it this way:

Politics is, and always has been, a dirty business, a glorified racket, an open exploitation of the buyable man. It’s a game that can’t be played clean. If you’re clean, you lose. And besides, you just clog the machinery of the party that is out to elect you. If people knew how great a part politics, pure party politics, is playing in this war, we’d have an internal revolution. For whether it’s the backslapping local candidate touring his county to get constituents or whether it’s the statesman in high places, it’s a duty, calculating compromise. It’s a shell game. It’s rotten.

Now you and I know many men and women, too, in politics. They’ve been elected to high places and discharge their duties honorably and well. But who is to deny that in order to be elected they have all had to knuckle down to the game, learn its ropes, play them or let their henchmen play them.

Politics! Politics! Say the word, and even as you utter it, it has a sinister sound. It is synonymous with dark and dirty ways. It is a word that invites no trust whatever. It functions everywhere.

They can be found

Yet here and there we come upon honest, selfless, crystal-hearted men and women who set out to be public servants in the most exalted sense, who enter politics in an almost fanatical belief that by their entry into this dirty field they can contribute something that will help to clean it up. They seek office, not for what it can do for themselves, but for what it can do for others. They ask no recompense, no reward, no recognition even for their services. Field worker or candidate, it is one to them. They want only to help keep politics clean.

Why can we not see it, then, that it is among these few and precious citizens that we draw at least our delegates when great issues and great choices are before the country?

We are facing now a great Republican convention. We are choosing our delegates. In their hands will rest the selection of a candidate for the President of the United States. We will have to rely upon their own personal integrity and judgment.

Let us choose them carefully. Let us be sure they are unbuyable men. We have such men. I have in mind one now. An honest man. A selfless citizen. Ralph E. Flinn. A man without an ax to grind, who asks, and will accept, no personal reward for serving his country’s interests.

And there are many such – men who somehow remain untarnished and uncorrupted. Good men. Clean men. I was about to say, innocent men, and would, except that the word is loosely used. And it seems to me that in these times it is well to look for virtue rather than virtuosity in those whom we would choose to represent us.

Slickness, sleight of hand and cynicism in our representatives have been our undoing and have brought our country to its present plight. We have placed too much value upon smartness and sophistication and far too little upon simplicity and homely virtues.

Born at wrong time

I fear that had Abraham Lincoln been born in this present instead of his own generation, he would have been overlooked. We would have mistrusted his simplicity.

And by the same token, it may be that had this faulty but genuine Wendell Willkie been born a little earlier in our history, he would not have been wasted.

Yes, it is true. Some are born great; some achieve greatness and some miss it by the hair’s breadth of a generation or two in timing.

We will not be saved by subtlety or sagacity or shrewdness. We will not be saved by sophistication or cynicism. Outsmarting is not enough. Caution and compromise are not enough. Strategy and statesmanship are not enough.

The emphasis has been away from goodness and has been placed on political finesse instead. The accent is on tact instead of truth.

What we need now is A GOOD MAN; and when I say good, I mean just plain “good;” a man of virtue, a rock of granite upon which the waves could beat with savagery or seduction yet would remain the same strong breakwater against the tides of human greed.