Thursday, December 02, 2010

Today -100: December 2, 1910: Of senators

Massachusetts Governor-Elect Eugene Foss has embarked on a campaign to derail Senator Henry Cabot Lodge being re-elected. It’s worth spending a little time on it as a window into the rhetoric and reality of representative democracy in 1910. In those pre-17th Amendment days of indirect election of US senators, Foss’s campaign was also necessarily indirect, attempting to raise enough public ire to pressure the Legislature, but having to do so right after a new Legislature was elected, when that pressure would be least effective.

Foss gave an anti-Lodge speech to a meeting following a torchlight procession in Provincetown. He insisted that the November election which elected him and overthrew the incumbent Republican governor was also a “vote of censure” on Lodge, who should have responded by standing down. Instead, “Working in silence and secrecy he resorts to his self-constituted political machine, the machine which has dominated Massachusetts politically for years. He is seeking the counsels of those whom he serves, the privileged interests, and ignores the verdict of the people. He has never mingled with the people or worked shoulder to shoulder with them. He has never been a vital part of the industrial life of the Commonwealth.”

Foss attacks Lodge for sponsoring, early in his career, the failed Force Bill, “a measure that causes every honest man to blush.” The Force Bill was an attempt to federalize the running of elections in the South, to prevent African-American disfranchisement (and also ensure Republican dominance there). Lodge has also opposed federal income tax and favored high tariffs. “I fail to find in Sen. Lodge’s record any vote in favor of the rights of the people, or any championship of the people. So far as the people are concerned his legislative record is a blank.”

But there is no insurgent movement in the Republican Party in Massachusetts as there is in other states because “Sen. Lodge and his machine have strangled every Progressive who showed his head.” “This campaign marks the beginning of the end of Senator Lodge. I say it is the end because he cannot maintain by methods of secrecy, sinister influence, and wire-pulling the leadership of his party. The day of these things has gone by. He declines to come out into the open, and for this reason, if for no other, he is doomed. He is fighting secretly through his machine”.

A NYT editorial on NY’s selection of a senator urges Democrats to defy the attempt of Tammany’s Boss Murphy to railroad his choice through the Legislature, to make their views known by speaking or writing to their state legislators, writing letters to the editor, speaking to their neighbors, holding mass meetings, etc. What the Times doesn’t want, though, is direct primaries, calling them “a first-rate device for strengthening the hands of the bosses”, who “know how to get out their vote”. (The selection of the next New York senator ground the business of the Legislature to a halt during 2½ months of caucus fights, backroom deals that fell through, and 60 ballots of the Democratic caucus.)

The mayor of Fort Worth calls Andrew Carnegie “misguided” for building libraries, because only the rich go to libraries, forcing the poor have to pay taxes to support them. Texas, ladies and gentlemen, Texas!

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