Uphill All the Way: The Fortunes of Progressivism, 1919-1929
By Kevin C. Murphy, Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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Chapter Twelve:
My America Against Tammany's

Progressives and the Election of 1928

II. The Available Man

I. The Republican Succession.
II. The Available Man.
III. Hoover v. Smith.
IV. The Third Landslide.

Even more than the Republicans, the Democratic nominee of 1928 seemed almost foreordained - all the more so given that the general prosperity in many parts of the country meant the role was most likely one of sacrificial lamb. "Alfred E. Smith today," his hometown paper of record had said in 1925, as the Governor embarked on his third term, "is the most powerful leader the Democratic Party has ever had in the greatest State of the Union." After Smith won a similarly unprecedented fourth term in 1926, no other Democrat, to the consternation of many in the party, enjoyed such a national reputation.1

Smith was also, to use historian Donn Neal's apt phrase, "the Available Man." Smith had been the good soldier, it seemed his turn to be the nominee, and not picking him would be an implicit endorsement of intolerance and an unsightly repudiation of the Jacksonian spirit that had always informed the Democracy. And while Al Smith, in one contemporary's words, was considered the candidate "of tenements, of municipal machines, invading foreigners, insolent wets, liberals, clubs, and New York -- the forces deemed wicked and unholy," those selfsame urban forces would leave the party in droves if Al Smith were not the candidate. "[S]o far as Smith is concerned," said one Pittsburgh writer, "it looks very much to me as if the Democratic Party is in position of a man who 'damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.'" For the long-term good of the party, many came to conclude, the Governor had to be given his shot. "Governor Smith," argued one southern Democrat to writer Dixon Merritt, "is the greatest liability the Democratic Party has ever had":
If we nominate him, we shall lose some of the Southern States and we shall have a mean, hard fight in the others. If we don't nominate him, we shall lose the bulk of the Democratic votes in the North. Well, I'm for nominating him. We can afford to lose a lot of votes in the South, and I think they would come back later on. We can't afford to lose any votes in the North, and…they will be gone forever. Let's let him have the nomination and get it out of his system -- and ours. 2
Even if party leaders concluded otherwise, there were few other options on the table. The natural choice for those Democrats opposed to Smith and all he represented had spent much of the past few years as he had the general election of 1924 -- stewing and sulking in his tent. When William McAdoo did venture an opinion on the future of the Democratic party, it was usually in the direction of re-litigating 1924. "In my judgment," he wrote to a friend in April 1927, "we are in one of those situations where the only way out to victory is to fight - not harmony, which means a colorless truce for the time being, with inevitable disaster at the end. Haven't we had enough of that?" But as McAdoo had licked his wounds, his armies had scattered in search of new leadership. Thus, in late 1927, McAdoo was forced to concede, "in the interests of party unity," that he was not a candidate in 1928. Within the week, Democrats in eight Western states, all of which had gone for McAdoo last cycle, endorsed the Governor of New York.3

If not McAdoo, then who? William Jennings Bryan, the other natural choice for another Dry crusade, had perished in 1925. John W. Davis, the party's standard-bearer in 1924, had already declared himself as a Smith delegate. Some of the party's more formidable statesman, such as Cordell Hull of Tennessee, Joseph Robinson of Arkansas, former Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels of North Carolina, and Carter Glass of Virginia, hailed from the solid Democratic South and thus brought nothing to the table in terms of a national election. Newton Baker still held his credentials as Wilson's Secretary of War, but no Democrat felt like running on the League of Nations all over again. Bernard Baruch supported Smith (and was Jewish). Governor Albert Ritchie of Maryland declared his candidacy in late 1927, but, while as wet as Smith, he was too conservative to inspire much interest, and, besides, the Eastern seaboard was already considered Smith country. Senator Burton Wheeler had bolted the party four years earlier, and Montana was hardly a springboard to national election.4

That being said, Wheeler's Montana colleague, Senator Thomas Walsh, did have a national reputation as the prosecutor of Teapot Dome and was anti-Smith besides: He disliked the Governor's Wetness and feared a Smith bid would set back Catholics for "generations." But, even though The Christian Century insisted that there was "a difference between a Montana Catholic and a Tammany Hall Catholic which the ordinary voter feels, even though it may elude theological definition," Walsh was Catholic nonetheless, and thus still carried much of the baggage Smith did to those whom religion mattered.5

Another option was Senator James Reed of Missouri, who, expecting another Smith-McAdoo conflagration, had been actively campaigning for the nomination as a compromise choice since 1926. Except Reed had considerable baggage of his own. He had irritated Wilsonians by being an Irreconcilable, women by deriding Sheppard-Towner in highly sexist fashion, and McAdoo supporters by being the Senator who had encouraged oilman Edwin Doheny to announce his retainer of their man under oath. He was also a Wet, meaning that, like Walsh, he held much of Smith's downside in certain regions of the country without having any of Smith's upside in urban areas. In any case, Governor Smith made the Reed and Walsh candidacies moot by thumping them both in the California primary in May, garnering more votes in McAdoo's home state than the two other candidates combined.6

There was one other potential candidate, although most everyone knew he was a Smith supporter, and his health was a concern regardless. In fact, Franklin Roosevelt had been pushed to run for Senator of New York in 1926, in lieu of Robert Wagner -- but Roosevelt had demurred, since "if I devote another two years to them I shall be on my feet again without my braces." (Besides, he said, "I like administrative or executive work, but do not want to have my hands and feet tided and my wings clipped for six long years.") When Carter Glass and Josephus Daniels reached out to FDR and his aide Louis Howe to see if there was any possibility Smith could be convinced to step aside for a Roosevelt run, Howe, in his words, "threw enough cold water on the idea to extinguish the Woolworth building." Roosevelt himself also urged his old boss to back Smith, although he too recognized the quandary the party faced. "Strictly between ourselves," Roosevelt told Daniels, "I am very doubtful whether any Democrat can win in 1928."7


By the time the Democrats arrived in Houston in June for their 1928 convention -- even the venue was an indicator of Smith's overpowering strength, since he could afford to be magnanimous -- Smith's nomination was a given, and the only thing left for the Governor's campaign to do was to ensure that nothing remotely approaching the disaster that had happened in New York City four years earlier occurred in Texas. "Remember the Garden" echoed as both the unofficial and official mantra of the convention, reverberating through Claude Bowers' well-received keynote speech -- which The Nation predicted had been vetted by at least twenty different Democrats -- and helping to constrain any outward displays of negative sentiment from the anti-Smith contingents. "A national political convention today is primarily a great advertising stunt," commented Nation correspondent Louis Gannett of the proceedings. "Nothing is decided on the floor that has not already been decided in the hotel rooms; and the formal work of the entire week could be done in two hours. But the prolonged big show advertises the party; it advertises the candidates…it forces into display on the front pages of three thousand newspapers speeches which ordinarily would not get two inches next to department store advertising." However prescient a critique of the next 75 years of American political conventions, Gannett's words were no doubt music to the ears to Democrats only four years removed from the carnage of Madison Square Garden.8

The platform also worked to sidestep any of the pitfalls of the past. Beginning with another encomium to Woodrow Wilson, rehabilitated some after eight years of Republican rule, it argued that "government must function not to centralize our wealth but to preserve equal opportunity so that all may share in our priceless resources; and not confine prosperity to a favored few." As such, it deplored "bureaucracy and the multiplication of offices and officeholders" and, more centrally, the political corruption unearthed by the continuing Teapot Dome revelations. Offering a Democratic rallying cry from another time, it argued that "[a]s in the time of Samuel J. Tilden, from whom the presidency was stolen, the watchword of the day should be: 'Turn the rascals out.'" "The Republican Party," railed the document, "offers as its record agriculture prostrate, industry depressed, American shipping destroyed, workmen without employment; everywhere disgust and suspicion, and corruption unpunished and unafraid."9

However bad the Republicans, the Democratic platform mirrored their opponents' platform in important respects. It also called for campaign finance reform and government supervision of radio. It too endorsed the Outlawry of War and, in a turn of phrase that belied the earlier paean to Wilson, "freedom from entangling political alliances with foreign nations." Echoing any number of speeches by Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, it called for "efficiency and economy in the administration of public affairs," "business-like reorganization of all the departments of the government," and "substitution of modern business-like methods for existing obsolete and antiquated conditions." The announced tariff policy -- which promised "maintenance of legitimate business and a high standard of wages for American labor" --suggested both parties had finally reached agreement on this long-time bugaboo. (A disgruntled Newton Baker exclaimed that "McKinley could have run on the tariff plank and Lodge on the one on international relations.") And, perhaps most importantly for this particular election, the plank on "law enforcement" - while attacking Republicans for "the remarkable spectacle of feeling compelled in its national platform to promise obedience to a provision of the federal Constitution, which it has flagrantly disregarded" - also promised "an honest effort to enforce the eighteenth amendment and all other provisions of the federal Constitution[.]" This was compromise language put forward by Carter Glass when, right out of the gate, Wet and Dry forces -- the latter headed by host and young Texas governor Dan Moody, threatened to disturb the enforced harmony of Houston in the platform committee -- which was being broadcast on the radio.10

Where the platform differed from that put forward in Kansas City -- perhaps to appeal to the 17% who had voted La Follette in 1924 -- was usually in the progressive direction. Because "under Republican rule, the anti-trust laws have been thwarted, ignored and violated" and thus "the country is rapidly becoming controlled by trusts and sinister monopolies formed for the purpose of wringing from the necessaries of life an unrighteous profit," Democrats pledged "strict enforcement of the anti-trust laws and the enactment of other laws, if necessary, to control this great menace to trade and commerce." Because "[u]nemployment is present, widespread, and increasing," it called for a plan whereby "during periods of unemployment appropriations shall be made available for the construction of necessary public works."11

With regard to water power, "title and control must be preserved respectively in the state and federal governments, to the end that the people may be protected against exploitation of this great resource and that water powers may be expeditiously developed under such regulations as will insure to the people reasonable rates and equitable distribution." It argued that "interference in the purely internal affairs of Latin-American countries must cease," specifically citing Mexico and Nicaragua. And in a long attack on Coolidge agriculture policy, the platform called for McNary-Haugenism in all but name. Because "[p]roducers of crops whose total volume exceeds the needs of the domestic market must continue at a disadvantage until the government shall intervene as seriously and as effectively in behalf of the farmer as it has intervened in behalf of labor and industry," it read, there "is a need of supplemental legislation for the control and orderly handling of agricultural surpluses, in order that the price of the surplus may not determine the price of the whole crop." This part of the platform had been worked out with George Peek, the former Republican president of the Moline Plow company who had become a spokesman for disgruntled agrarian interests, and who had left the Kansas City convention dissatisfied. He would later serve as the first head of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration under Franklin Roosevelt.12

This platform drew marginally better reviews than the Republican one from the progressive journals. "[D]espite various silences and inconsistencies, and the shameful compromise on the liquor issue," The Nation found the platform "in the main in accord with Democratic tradition." They were mostly alone on that front. "[T]he two platforms contain no difference which would be called an issue," wrote Water Lippmann. The only one he could find was that "the Republican [one] took longer to read." TNR approved of the agriculture plank in particular, but also thought that "[i]f the denunciatory sections of the platform been omitted, and the customary genuflections to Jefferson and states' rights were cut out, anyone who did not know might easily mistake this for a document the Hoover forces had drafted for Republicans." This was especially noticeable with regard to prohibition, where the Democratic desire to avoid another Wet-Dry implosion was particularly pronounced. Even Al Smith thought the wording was "not on the level. It doesn't say anything. It only dodges and ducks." George Brennan, the Democratic boss of Chicago, didn't get all the fuss anyway. "No sensible Democrat ought to worry," he argued. "Only one person in 25,000 thinks and only one in 50,000 reads the party platform. Do you?"13

The floor proceedings in Houston were as carefully orchestrated as the platform, with the biggest question for Smith's team being how to ensure a state outside of Al Smith's Northeast base put the Governor over the top. Since it was one of the only bright spots coming out of 1924, Franklin Roosevelt once again put Smith's name into nomination -- this time appearing in leg braces and a cane rather than the crutches of four years earlier, suggesting to many observers he was on the mend. It was time, Roosevelt beamed, to choose a candidate "who has the will to win -- who not only deserves success but commands it. Victory is his habit -- the happy warrior, Alfred E. Smith." Once the balloting began, Smith had 724 ? votes -- 8 ? short of two-thirds -- to just under 72 for Cordell Hull, 52.5 for Senator Walter George of Georgia, and 48 for James Reed, at which point former Senator Atlee Pomerene of Ohio called for his state to switch into Smith's column. So it was that, 102 ballots before a decision was made four years earlier, Governor Al Smith of New York became the nominee, the first time a non-incumbent had been chosen on one ballot since William Jennings Bryan in 1908. To avoid any trouble, the usual call for unanimity was dispensed with. Smith ended up with 849 ½ votes, well over the two-thirds -- but George still had 52 ½, Reed 52, Hull just under 51, and Dry Texas financier Jesse Jones 43.14

Just as Hoover forces had looked to Charles Curtis, the Republican leader in the Senate, to help assuage continued grumbling over their nominee, Senate Minority Leader Joseph Robinson of Arkansas, a Protestant Prohibitionist, was chosen on his own first ballot as Vice-President to offset Smith's candidacy. As The Nation summed up the choice, Robinson was "a typical southern politician put on the ticket for the purpose of catching some guileless Drys." "The naming of the Senator from Arkansas," agreed TNR, "was clearly a sop thrown to the old South, forced to swallow such a bitter pill as Al Smith. It was not a necessary choice, and taking one of the Western progressive Democrats probably would have been better politics, but it was tactful." All things considered, however, "[i]t was a hot, humid, but happy Houston," reported TIME. "Discord waned. Celebrities furnished the atmosphere of a glorified picnic instead of a political dogfight."15


Only at the end of the convention proceedings did the semblance of goodwill break down in earnest. After business had concluded on the third and final day, Senator Pat Harrison of Mississippi read a telegram from Smith to the convention, thanking them for their nomination and putting forward the basic themes of the coming campaign. In it, Smith declared he would enforce the law as the platform requested, but it was "well known that I believe there should be some fundamental changes…in national prohibition…I feel it to be the duty of the chosen leader of the people to point the way which, in my opinion, leads to a sane, sensible solution of a condition which…is entirely unsatisfactory to the great mass of our people."16

The Drys on the floor were aghast by this breach of the truce -- "This man lost no time in writing, 'I have not changed my views on the liquor question,' rued delegate Alice David of Oklahoma -- and many left newly recommitted to the notion of defeating their own candidate. McAdoo said the telegram "absolves every Democrat from any obligation to support" the candidate, and before the day was out, Bishop James Cannon of the Methodist Church had announced with the Anti-Saloon League that they would soon be convening an anti-Smith convention in Asheville, North Carolina. Neither a "subject of the Pope" nor an emissary from "the foreign-populated city called New York" would win in 1928, Bishop Cannon averred.17

The candidate likely knew the damage this inopportune telegram would cause, but while Roosevelt, among others, had urged him to "soft-pedal the booze question," he thought the stand on principle was important. Smith told his advisors he'd just as soon "not be nominated as to stand for something that I don't believe in. Let them read the telegram before they call the roll, and if the convention nominates me after that, I have put them on notice as to what I am going to say in the campaign. On the other hand, if they don't want to nominate me after reading the telegram, that's all right with me." But, upon receiving Smith's missive, Senator Harrison declared, "My God…this will cause a riot!" and thought it best to wait until convention business was concluded.18

If it speaks to Governor Smith's sense of principle that he refused to run on such an obviously watered-down prohibition plank, it also suggests that the Governor and his closest advisors may have underestimated the vitriol many Democrats still harbored for Smith and what he stood for. In 1927, Smith, on the encouragement of advisors like Moskowitz and Roosevelt, had sent a letter to The Atlantic Monthly laying out his views of how his Catholicism intersected with his public service. This was in response to a polite but questioning article written in the Monthly by a Protestant New York City lawyer, Charles C. Marshall, and to address it, Smith relied on both Joseph Proskauer and Father Francis P. Duffy, an Irish-American pastor of some renown, to write the initial drafts. (Smith also ran the article first by Archbishop Hayes.) "I recognize no power in the institutions of my Church to interfere with the operations of the Constitution of the United States or the enforcement of the law of the land," Smith's response read. "I believe in absolute freedom of conscience for all men and in equality of all churches, all sects, and all beliefs before the laws as a matter of right and not as a matter of favor. I believe in the absolute separation of Church and State and in the strict enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."19

Smith's response to Marshall received praise from across the spectrum as a statesmanlike answer to the quandary. One Democrat deemed it "the most remarkable state paper…since Mr. Wilson dropped his pen," while another, Thomas Walsh, just thought it "good plain Americanism.' Upon overhearing several positive responses to Smith's letter on a train from New York City to the upstate, Senator Robert Wagner suggested that "the question is now beyond the stage of a serious issue…the Governor's letter will forever remove religious rancor from political affairs." More grist for this hopeful argument could be seen in Senate Democrats' repudiation of Senator Thomas Heflin of Alabama. Heflin had been vocally opposed to Smith's candidacy throughout the election cycle, arguing, among other things, that it "represented the crowning effort of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to gain control of the United States." In January 1928, however, Senator Robinson returned Heflin's fire on the floor, drawing the support of the Senate Democratic Caucus. Watching all of this play out, Michael Williams, the editor of the Catholic magazine Commonweal, argued in April 1928 that this "battle is over and done with."20

As such, it is entirely possible Smith didn't realize at the time how hard-set many southern and western Democrats remained to his coronation. Three weeks before the convention, Smith had even urged that Archbishop Hayes preside over the marriage of his daughter Catherine to a Republican lawyer. ("I hope the young couple won't have to kiss the Cardinal's toe as part of the ceremony," Louis Howe deadpanned to Franklin Roosevelt.) All the while, a fever was building in some areas of the country. "I'd rather see a saloon on every corner than a Catholic in the White House," remonstrated Dry Methodist evangelist Bob Jones to his congregation. "I'd rather see a nigger President than a Catholic in the White House," Jones said at another time. Photographs of the currently-under-construction Lincoln Tunnel were passed along anti-Catholic channels, with an explanation that this was the secret tunnel that would ferry the Pope from Rome to his new throne in Washington. The Klan-affiliated journal Railsplitter, meanwhile, averred that "[w]e now face the darkest hour in American history. In a convention ruled by political Romanism anti-Christ has won."21

In the genteel pages of the progressive journals, however, Smith's Wet telegram -- and his refusal to endorse, in Heywood Broun's phrase, "a dry plank and a wink" -- was generally received not as a declaration of war but an act of statesmanship. "The candor of A1 Smith's telegram of acceptance," said Lewis Gannett in The Nation, "was a refreshing contrast to the mumbling of his supporters and of his political opponents at the convention. It was, to be sure, easy to be outspoken after the nomination, but at least Smith did not wait until after the election." Harold Ickes, still deciding who to vote for but leaning Smith, told Hiram Johnson he "liked his frank statement on the liquor question and I think it made a good impression generally." "Governor Smith has received warm praise in some quarters for his courage," said TNR. "When anyone in political life speaks out frankly on any controversial issue, it is something of an event." That being said, everyone knew where Smith stood on the issue, so "[i]f he had kept silence, it could possibly have been interpreted as indicating any change of heart, and must therefore have been read as a mere cowardly equivocation. Governor Smith is not that sort of man."22

And therein lied the potential strength of the Democratic campaign. As the Secretary of Commerce during a prosperous economy, Hoover clearly had the inside track -- but many thought the Great Engineer a cold fish, too haughty to condescend to the practices of politics. And others believed, as The Nation had intimated, that Hoover had forsaken all of his laudable beliefs to win the nomination. Smith, on the other hand, was a known quantity. And -- if one could bear his urban, Wet, Catholic proclivities, of course -- the Governor was almost universally admired and respected as both a warm and competent fellow. Admittedly, Smith "as a good New Yorker, is as provincial as a Kansas farmer," wrote H.L. Mencken, who, while agreeing with the Governor on matters of libation, nonetheless rarely gave out compliments freely. "His world begins at Coney Island and ends at Buffalo." Nonetheless, the Sage of Baltimore argued, Smith "represents as a man almost everything that Maryland represents as a State. There is something singularly and refreshingly free, spacious, amiable, hearty, and decent about him…he will not lie, and he cannot be bought. Not much more could be said of any man." Those who know Smith, concluded Mencken, "trust him at sight, and the better they know him the more they trust him. No man in American politics has ever had firmer friends among his enemies."23

But if Smith was "frank, amiable, tolerant, modest, and expansive," Hoover was a model in contrast. "No one likes him in Washington," wrote Mencken. "He is too cautious, suspicious, secretive, sensitive, evasive, disingenuous. He is another Coolidge, only worse." On another occasion, Mencken called him "one of the most transparent and vulnerable frauds in American history. The man is Republican only by a prudent afterthought…He looks hollow and is hollow." If Smith's candor about Prohibition was a liability, Hoover's caution to Mencken was vile indeed. "His whole life has been spent among men to whom Prohibition is as loathsome as cannibalism," he wrote. "He came from London, the wettest town in the world, to sit in the Harding cabinet, the wettest since the days of Noah. No one ever heard him utter a whisper against the guzzling that surrounded him. He was as silent about it as he was about the stealing." (During the election, Carter Glass offered $1000 to anyone who could find Hoover on the record as in support of Prohibition prior to the 1928 cycle. No one ever took it.) What Hoover excelled at, to Mencken, was publicity. "He knows how to work the newspapers…he is adept at the art of taking the center of the stage and posturing there profoundly…He went to the Mississippi in all the gaudy state of a movie queen, but came back with no plans to stop the floods there."24

This presidential contest, therefore, was the Great Battle that Mencken had pined for in his Notes on Democracy. "The essential struggle in America, during the next fifty years, will be between city men and yokels," he had argued. "The yokels have ruled the Republic since its first days -- often, it must be added, very wisely. But now they decay and are challenged, and in the long run they are bound to be overcome." Here at last, the sides had lined up against each other. "In the long run," Mencken declared in his election overview, "the cities of the United States will have to throw off the hegemony of the morons. They have run the country long enough, and made it sufficiently ridiculous. Once we get rid of campmeeting rule we'll get rid simultaneously of the Klan, the Anti-Saloon League, and the Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals…And we'll get rid, too, of those sorry betrayers of intelligence who, like Hoover and Borah, flatter the hookworm carriers in order to further their own fortunes."25

"The coming Presidential campaign will be full of bitterness," Mencken had predicted, "and...most of it will be caused by religion. I count Prohibition as a part of religion, for it has surely become so in the United States. The Prohibitionists, seeing all their other arguments destroyed by the logic of events, have fallen back upon the mystical doctrine that God is somehow on their side, and that opposing them thus takes on the character of blasphemy." This undoubtedly made Smith's road harder, but it was a fight, Mencken believed, he had to wage for the good of the nation. "Once the cities have liberated themselves from yokel rule, civilization will be free to develop in the United States. Today it is woefully hobbled by the ideas of peasants…No one wants to civilize the peasant against his will, but it is plainly against reason to let him go on riding his betters."26

As was so often the case, Walter Lippmann agreed with Mencken's diagnosis, if not necessarily the colorful prescription. "One cannot say that the new urban civilization which is pushing Al Smith forward into national affairs is better or worse than that older American civilization of town and country which dreads him and will resist him," Lippmann had written in 1925. "But one can say that they do not understand each other, and that neither has yet learned that to live it must let live." In terms of the usual state of politics, there was not much reason for the nation to be afraid of Smith, who was "really a perfectly conservative man about property, American political institutions, and American ideals. He believes in the soundness of the established order and in the honesty of its ideals." "The brilliancy of Governor Smith's administration," Lippmann argued, "has not been due to its radicalism, but a kind of supremely good-humored intelligence and practical imagination about the ordinary run of affairs. He has made his Republican opponents at Albany look silly, not because he was so progressive and they were so reactionary, but because he knew what he was doing and they did not…He is what a conservative ought to be always if he knew his business."27

Governor Smith's "essential conservatism," Lippmann thought, "makes it difficult to conceal the actual objection to him." Smith had never advocated radicalism, or endorsed La Follette, or said much about peace. He had "no designs on the institution of matrimony, he does not read free verse, he probably never heard of Freud, and, if you inquired closely you would find, I think, that he did not accept the revelation according to Darwin. He is against prohibition and for free speech, but so are Elihu Root and Nicholas Murray Butler." The arguments against Smith, Lippmann wrote, were "inspired by the feeling that the clamorous life of the city should not be acknowledged as the American ideal…The Ku Kluxers may talk about the Pope to the lunatic fringe, but the main mass of the opposition is governed by an instinct that to accept Al Smith is to certify and sanctify a way of life that does not belong to the America they love. Here is no trivial conflict."28

Continuing the argument two years later, Lippmann wrote that the "Pope, the devil, jazz, the bootleggers, are a mythology which expresses symbolically the impact of a vast and dreaded social change. The change is real enough. The language in which it is discussed is preposterous only as all mythology is preposterous if you accept it literally." These concerns about Smith and the city life he represented, Lippmann argued, were an "animistic and dramatized projection of the fears of a large section of our people who have yet to accommodate themselves to the strange new social order which has arisen among them." That new social order was now embodied by the Democratic Party candidate.29



Continue to Chapter 12, Pt. 3: Hoover v. Smith.


Return to the Table of Contents.

1. Finan, 190-191. To win his third term, Smith had decisively defeated Roosevelt - Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., that is. "Of course you saw how little Colonel Teddy in a weak and ineffective imitation of his father tilted a lance against Al Smith," Ickes wrote Hiram Johnson in 1927, when the president's son looked to score some early points against the likely Democratic presidential nominee. "Can you picture this valiant young member of the glorious Harding administration criticizing Al Smith or any one else on the basis of affiliation with a corrupt organization? His hand, smeared as it was with oil, must have had a very insecure grasp indeed on his lance. " Ickes to Johnson, October 8, 1927. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson.
2. Donn C. Neal, The World Beyond the Hudson: Alfred E. Smith and National Politics (Donn C. Neal, 1983, 2011: http://www.donnneal.com/smithcontents.html), "The Available Man," 9, 24-25. "The Contender," 6-7. Dixon Merritt, "Al Smith and the Doubtful Seaboard," New Outlook, Vol. 147 (1927), 398.
3. Neal, "The Contender," 2. Murray, The 103rd Ballot, 271.
4. Murray, The 103rd Ballot, 272. Neal, "The Contender," 2-4.
5. Neal, "The Contender," 11-14.
6. Neal, "The Contender," 3-5, 11-14.
7. Schlesinger, Crisis of the Old Order, 378-379.
8. Neal, "The Contender," 22. Murray, The 103rd Ballot, 272. "Editorial Paragraphs," The Nation, July 11th, 1920 (Vol. 127, No. 3288), 27. Lewis Gannett, "The Big Show at Houston," The Nation, July 11th, 1920 (Vol. 127, No. 3288), 34-35. The solemnity was a double-edged sword, since many radio listeners were looking for more of the riveting catastrophe that New York had been. Houston, by contrast -- in the words of one Tammany delegate -- "was the longest wake any Irishman ever attended." Murray, The 103rd Ballot, 272.
9. Democratic Party Platforms: "Democratic Party Platform of 1928," June 26, 1928. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29594.
10. Ibid. Neal, "The Nominee," 27. Herbert Eaton , Presidential Timber: A History of Nominating Conventions, 1868-1960 (Glencoe: Free Press, 1964), 320. T.M. Burgess to Moody, July 3rd, 1928, Texas State Library and Archives Commission (https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/governors/personality/moody-burgess.html) "To Houston," TIME Magazine, January 23rd, 1928.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid. Neal, "The Campaigner," 34-36.
13. "Governor Smith the Nominee," The Nation, July 11th, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3288), 30-31. Murray, The 103rd Ballot, 276. Burner, 200. "The Democratic Platform," The New Republic, July 11th, 1928 (Vol. 55, No. 710), 188-189. Neal, "The Nominee," 27. "The Democracy," TIME Magazine, July 2nd, 1928.
14. Murray, The 103rd Ballot, 272-273. Schlesinger, Crisis of the Old Order, 125, 380. Gannett, "The Big Show at Houston," 35. Neal, "The Nominee," 28. Eaton, 320. Slayton, 257.
15. "Editorial Paragraphs," The Nation, July 11th, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3288), 127. "The Week," The New Republic, July 11th, 1928 (Vol. 55, No. 710), 182-183. "The Democracy," TIME Magazine, July 2nd, 1928. "Of Smith and Robinson, The Nation argued: "Who says this is not an ideal team? Here is Smith, Catholic, Wet, and Tammany, linked in a trial marriage to Robinson, Protestant, Dry, and anti-Negro. The North and the South being thus joined together - hands across the Mississippi - let no man put them asunder, least of all an outlander from the Pacific Coast. All the Drys can happily vote for Robinson, all the Wets for Smith. All the believers in democracy can vote for Smith; all believe that Americans are not created free and equal if the shades of their skins are darker can vote for Robinson. Tweedledum, Tweedledee; Tweedledee, Tweedledum...Both ends against the middle; the middle against both ends. live the American republic!" "Editorial Paragraphs," The Nation, July 11th, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3288), 127.
16. Slayton, 258-259.
17. Ibid. Murray, The 103rd Ballot, 272-273, 289. Neal, "The Nominee," 28-29, "The Campaigner," 23.
18. Ibid. While Claude Bowers thought he saw the hand of Belle Moskowitz in Smith's Wet telegram, Franklin Roosevelt suspected the Governor's friend, Walter Lippmann, spurred the decision. "[I]t was the World which literally drive Al Smith into sending that fool telegram," Roosevelt remarked in 1930. "Al had every wet vote in the country, but he needed a good many million of the middle-of-the-road votes to elect him President…If Walter would stick to the fundamentals, fewer people would feel that the World first blows hot and then blows cold." Indeed, Lippmann had drafted the telegram. He also wrote Moskowitz after the convention had begun, saying "[t]hings are going so well in Houston that we must take full advantage of the excellent spirit which is developing. I have given a lot of thought to the telegram which the Governor proposes to send when he is notified of the nomination. The part dealing with prohibition seems to me fine." Slayton, 259. Steel, 247.
19. Neal, "The Available Man," 18-22. Finan, 194-195. "Joe, to tell you the truth," Smith originally told Proskauer about the Marshall article," I've read it; but I don't know what the words mean. I've been a devout Catholic all my life and I've never heard of these bulls and encyclicals and books that he writes about. They have nothing to do with being a Catholic; I just don't know how to answer such a thing." Ellery Sedgwick, the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, conceded Marshall's article had been "unreadably intelligent." Finan, 194. Neal, "The Available Man," 19.
20. Neal, "The Available Man," 21-22. Finan, 195-196.
21. Finan, 197-198. Murray, The 103rd Ballot, 276-278. Slayton, ix-x.
22. Neal, "The Campaigner," 46. Gannett, "The Big Show at Houston," 34. Ickes to Johnson, July 7, 1928. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson. "The Week," The New Republic, July 11th, 1928, 182-183.
23. Murray, The 103rd Ballot, 275. Neal, "The Contender," 6-9. Mencken, A Carnival of Buncombe, 143, 201, 204, 208.
24. Ibid, 152, 197, 204, 209.
25. Ibid, 159, 213.
26. Ibid, 144, 154, 160-163.
27. Lippmann, Men of Destiny, 2-5.
28. Ibid, 5-6, 8-9, 29.
29. Ibid, 29.

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