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Douglas: Issue of Principle

THE LIBERALS who choose not to support Henry Wallace and the New Party are still far from clear about whom they are for or what they should be doing about it. Some have buried themselves in their gardens and their books until a better day. Some, with government jobs or patronage to protect, are feebly trying to justify going along with another term for Truman. Most of them talk wistfully over their dinner tables about how nice it would be . . . "if we had a candidate." They mean on the Democratic ticket. The most active among them are either talking for Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas or working for General Ike Eisenhower.

Douglas is probably the only man being mentioned for the Democratic nomination who would be acceptable to almost all groups left of center. The fact that organized support for Douglas in the Democratic convention is almost non-existent is indication enough of just what evil days liberals have fallen on politically. Bill Douglas' friends have been booming him for some office or other as long as the mind of New Deal man can remember. Unfortunately for his chances, his leading boosters, though ardent, have never been organization men.

There are 192 Douglas Clubs, and there is a national "Democrats for Douglas" organization, launched little more than a month ago by a Professor Dodge and some of his colleagues at the University of Michigan. Former brain-truster Tom Corcoran, former Interior Undersecretary Abe Fortas, former Price Administrator Paul Porter and former Interior Secretary Harold Iokes continue to meet in Washington, as they have been doing off and On since 1940, to plan how to make Bill Douglas President. Gael Sullivan has lately been contributing his excellent brains to the Douglas drive.

But the only solid political capital Douglas can point to today is two delegates to the Democratic National Convention from Oregon and a total of 6,500 "write-in" votes for the vice-presidential spot from the same state. The prospects for more delegates are very slight.

However, Douglas' loyal supporters say that they are not discouraged by this small total. If the Eisenhower boom continues to grow in the Democratic Party, they argue, Truman will be put out of the running whether or not Ike finally agrees to run. If Eisenhower at last definitely declines, Douglas will be the logical legatee as they see it, and that is what they are shooting for. With Speaker Sam Rayburn as Vice President on a Douglas ticket, they feel that a large part of the Southern "revolt" states could be swung to the Justice.

The most visionary of the visionaries around Douglas believe that they can come up with another powerful ace in the hole. They do not see how Henry Wallace could possibly continue in the race for the presidency if Justice Douglas were the Democratic nominee. They believe that, at the proper moment, they may be able to persuade Wallace to say so.

ALL OF THIS is the thinking and planning of men more experienced in palace politics than in dealings with local party bosses and the powers-that be in national conventions. The leading Democratic politicians who have been approached by the Douglas enthusiasts have refused to become involved, on the ground that there is no apparent basis for the belief that Wallace would withdraw in favor of Douglas, and absolutely no guarantee that, if nominated, Douglas could win.

Although many labor leaders think highly of Douglas' record, not even the CIO thinks enough of his chances

to try to improve them. The anti-New Party leaders in the CIO, together with most of the independent liberals who have not followed Wallace, have wavered between apathy and vigorous action in support of Eisenhower. In recent months, officials of the CIOPAC and the Americans for Democratic Action have been working as closely as they were allowed with the Democratic politicians who started the Eisenhower-on-the-Democratic ticket idea. These politicians, however, are exceedingly wary of admitting to their inner councils a bunch of liberals who might suddenly decide that Eisenhower was not progressive enough.

But the CIO-PAC and the ADA are determined to be for Eisenhower before Philadelphia whether or not the politicians like it. The ADA has worked hard to get the close to 100 delegates it will have in the Democratic convention. The CIO-PAC expects to have 70-odd delegates of its own. The leaders of both groups frankly admit that they know almost nothing about Eisenhower's basic views—and have no idea at all what kind of President he would make. They are perhaps even more concerned about the kind of Congress we will have next January than about the kind of President who is elected.

UNLESS TRUMAN shows a sudden rise in popularity in the next month, the same kind of anomalous political combination that was the New Deal may unite to replace Truman with Eisenhower at Philadelphia. The common motive would be to win. The combination would be: the big-city Democratic bosses, the South, and that part of organized labor, farmers, the independent progressives and the minority groups which believes in working for political progress through the two old party organizations. None of those who are seriously engaged in building this new coalition has definite assurance from Eisenhower that he will accept their draft—if they are able to pull it off. But neither do they have any reason to believe that he will put any insuperable obstacle in their way between now and July 12, when the convention meets. Harry Truman's major support today lies in the Republican and New Parties.

The fondest hope of the leaders of both is that he will be nominated. Without him, both will suffer,Only a small group of old-line regulars in his own partly really want Truman to head the Democratic ticket again. If there were any great degree of political unity on the Left,the making of a new coalition would be a rather simple matter. 

This article appeared in the June 14, 1948 issue of the magazine.