The President & the Party
To the Editor:
To the extent that “The Decline of the Republican Party,” of which Harold Lavine wrote in your August issue, is actually the decline of its Old Guard, few outside its ranks will find need to mourn. The bitterness and irresponsibility bred by twenty years in opposition, and which constituted too large a proportion of the unbroken morale to which Mr. Lavine refers, might have permanently poisoned our political life. It is a significant and welcome sign of the change in atmosphere that Senator Jenner, out of “sheer disgust with the administration,” has seen fit not to run for reelection.
The effect of the Eisenhower administration has been to clear the Republican garden of some of its rankest weeds. Like most of the administration’s achievements, this too has been a negative one. The President, a man of good intentions with little capacity (perhaps even little interest) for carrying them out, has failed to build from the ashes of the Old Guard that responsible conservative party which we have long lacked in American politics. It is not that the materials have been absent. Little has been made of the group of progressive businessmen who were so largely responsible for Eisenhower’s first nomination—notably Paul Hoffman and John J. McCloy. Men like C. D. Jackson have been used only intermittently. Indeed, their role has largely been limited to prodding the administration from outside.
Even sadder has been the lot of the Eisenhower Republicans in Congress. The President has chosen to work almost exclusively through the established leadership. Senators Knowland and Dirksen and Congressman Martin have, on the whole, supported the President—but their hearts have obviously not been in it. Indeed, since he was stricken with Presidential aspirations, Knowland has become increasingly independent. Meanwhile, authentic Eisenhower Republicans like Clifford Case and John Sherman Cooper have found it difficult even to see the President, let alone to influence Republican policy in Congress.
In retrospect, the President’s fatal error would seem to have been his failure to exact a higher price for his consent to seek reelection in 1956. fie owed the Republican party nothing; the party owed him everything. Yet he set no price upon their use of his name, even that of a free choice of his running mate. The President appears finally to have seen the light—albeit very late in the day. On May 3 he told a Republican party rally that he would determine those Republican Congressional candidates he would support this fall by how they voted on three vital parts of his legislative program—defense reorganization, reciprocal trade, and overseas aid. Eight Senators who voted against him on one or more of these measures are up for reelection this fall—Goldwater of Arizona, Langer of North Dakota, Williams of Delaware, Barrett of Wyoming, Hruska of Nebraska, Malone of Nevada, and Hoblit-sell and Revercomb of West Virginia. The President’s future attitude to these Senators will make an interesting footnote to Lavine’s article.
David C. Williams
To the Editor:
Harold Lavine’s otherwise admirable article, “The Decline of the Republican Party,” oversimplifies the kind of leadership the Democrats in Pennsylvania have successfully offered the electorate. Governor George Leader, aged forty-one, is the only well-known Democrat in this state “who had not fought the battles of the 30′s.” U.S. Senator Joseph S. Clark and Philadelphia ‘s Mayor Richardson Dilworth were moderately active in politics then (one ran for state senator and the other for city council then, but really became active in 1947 when Dilworth ran for mayor). They are now fifty-seven and sixty years old respectively. As for patriarchal Mayor David L. Lawrence of Pittsburgh, the current Democratic gubernatorial candidate, he is a veteran of the New Freedom of Woodrow Wilson and of the New and Fair Deals. In other words, the revival of the Democratic organization here has not been led and fronted by youngsters. Men in their middle years and sixty-nine-year-old Dave Lawrence have played prominent roles.
Walter R. Storey