By Kevin C. Murphy, Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved.
the Election of 1928
III. Hoover v. Smith
It didn't help Smith's cause that Herbert Hoover well knew he had the easier road. "It was obvious, from the beginning of the campaign," he later wrote, "that I should win if we made no mistakes. General Prosperity was on my side." Accepting his nomination in August at his alma mater of Stanford University, his words broadcast over a network of 108 radio stations, the largest ever to that point, the Great Engineer reminded the nation of the unprecedented economic boom he had helped preside over. "We in America today," Hoover declared in words that would echo cruelly through much of his subsequent presidency, "are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land…Given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, and we shall soon, with the help of God, be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from the nation."1
To accomplish that, Hoover argued that "the most urgent economic problem of our nation today…agriculture" must be addressed. His prescription avoided what he thought to be the intrusive price-fixing of McNary-Haugen -- Instead, Hoover, true to form, advocated a 'wholesale reorganization of the farm marketing system upon sounder and more economical lines" and "the creation of a Federal farm board of representative farmers." Otherwise, Hoover pledged to run an honest campaign and a presidency free of corruption. He endorsed federal water power projects, with the important presumption being they or the power they generated would eventually end up in private hands. He called for religious tolerance, noting his Quaker roots. And he called Prohibition "a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose" -- thus coining the term "Noble Experiment" -- that nonetheless had witnessed "grave abuses." While "an organized searching investigation of fact and causes can alone determine the wise method of correcting them," "Crime and disobedience to law cannot be permitted to break down the Constitution and laws of the United States," and any attempt to weaken Prohibition laws would be tantamount to nullification.2
To no one's surprise, the address was applauded in Republican papers and derided in Democratic ones. The Portland Press Herald thought it "an American document…based upon American ideals…in harmony throughout with American conceptions of human relations and of American theories of government." (Shorter version: Hoover was a real American, wink wink.) "We can trust him for the future," argued the Providence Journal, "because he has never failed us in the past. He has proved equal to every task imposed on him." Meanwhile, the Arkansas Gazette thought Hoover just asked for Republicans to get "a chance to redeem its bad enforcement record" on Prohibition, while "Republican farmers looking for a Moses to lead them out of the wilderness of agricultural depression will have to keep on looking." Drawing the most attention from both sides of the aisle was Hoover's paean to the Noble Experiment. "There was no question," reported the New York Times of Hoover's address, "that in the opinion of the throng prohibition was the real point of cleavage in the campaign of 1928." "Here and nowhere else," argued the Springfield Republican, "is an issue of major importance to the country being openly and squarely developed."3
The editors of TNR, so high on the Great Engineer eight years previously, thought Hoover's speech "appears to endorse without any uneasiness of conscience all of the President's most dreary Coolidgisms. It flourishes the same misleading claims. It overflows in the same equivocal and meaningless generalities." The only difference between the two men, the journal declared, was that, while Coolidge seemed to think "America is a finished Utopia, which, like one of Mr. Ziegfeld's show girls, requires only to be exposed in order to be glorified." Hoover's America was "a Utopia still in the making." But there were two flaws in the Great Engineer's mold. First, "the business men upon whom [Hoover] counts for the realization of his Utopia are the creatures of the economic system rather than its master. They cannot become its master without entering into a much more generous partnership with the wage-earner and with the expert than they are now willing to accept." To "awaken American business to a livelier sense of its public responsibilities…it requires less to be patted on the back and flattered than to be challenged and shocked into consciousness of its anti-social dangerous courses." And second, The New Republic -- taking up an argument that the journal's detractors had made in 1920 -- was not convinced that the business culture Hoover lionized actually made for better citizens. "The American economic system is not operated by growing conscious individuals nor does it breed or need individuality. What it does breed and need are human atoms who dance to the tunes of the mob." So much for efficiency as the reigning progressive virtue.4
In any case, having received the nomination, the Secretary of Commerce then adopted another Coolidgism that seemed to work rather well for the Republican ticket in 1924: For all intent and purposes, Hoover virtually retired from the field after Palo Alto, opting for the distant and above-the-fray statesmanship of a virtual incumbent. "I made only seven major addresses during the campaign," Hoover admitted, and that included the acceptance address. "Have you ever seen quite such a campaign as Hoover is running?" an incredulous Harold Ickes asked Hiram Johnson in September. "Apparently he is betting on the simple proposition that the normal republican majority is so tremendous that he can sit still and still be elected in spite of all of the assaults of the enemy." With thirty days to go until Election Day, TNR noted that "Hoover has made exactly one speech of importance since his acceptance of the nomination. He has not answered a single one of the challenges offered him by Governor Smith. He has not outlined a single issue more concretely than in his speech of acceptance -- a document dealing largely in broad generalities…Why should anyone vote for Mr. Hoover?"5
While the Great Engineer was silent, his surrogates and subordinates -- as well as many disaffected Democrats -- had an answer for that one. Hoover's election meant a car in every home and "a chicken in every pot," promised Republican posters and literature. "If you had these three men working for you," one newspaper argued under a picture of Coolidge, Mellon, and Hoover, "would you fire them?"6
Governor Smith, accepting his own nomination eleven days later on a rainy day in Albany, hoped America might. There, he gave an eloquent summation of both his philosophy of government and the problems with the Republicans in power. "Government should be constructive, not destructive, progressive, not reactionary," Smith argued over the airwaves of 112 stations -- breaking Hoover's recent record by four. "I am entirely unwilling to accept the old order of things as the best unless and until I am convinced that it cannot be made better." Coolidge and his ilk, Smith argued, believed "that an elect class should be the special object of the government's concern" -- their focus was "not people, but material things…I have fought this spirit in my own State…I shall know how to fight it in the nation."7
Arguing that it was a "fallacy that there is inconsistency between progressive measures protecting the rights of the people, including the poor and the weak, and a just regard for the rights of legitimate business," Smith promised to "continue my sympathetic interest in the advancement of progressive legislation for the protection and advancement of working men and women," including the "[p]romotion of proper care of maternity, infancy and childhood." The candidate also disparaged Latin American adventurism, endorsed a McNary-Haugen approach to agricultural reform without naming the bill, and -- hoping that a states' rights approach might help bring Southerners back into the fold -- called for a "fearless application of Jeffersonian principles" to the Prohibition question -- in other words, let states choose whether or not they wanted to be Wet or Dry in their own borders. It was "the speech of an honest man with an honest mind and a human heart," declared Senator Walter George of Georgia, fulfilling his obligations to the party. "Practical as he is to the core, the speech of Governor Smith breathes the fine spirit of progress and reform."8
As the Democratic platform plank on unemployment indicates, there was an emerging pushback against the prosperity argument on the left side of the party. "Under the Coolidge administration the rich have declared war on the poor," former New York party chairmen Herbert Claiborne Pell had said in January 1928. "Let them beware of the retaliation of those that they despise today." But Governor Smith -- animated by the inherent conservatism Lippmann had referenced and never one to question the foundations of the prevailing economic order -- never endorsed that strategy any further than the guarded language of his nomination speech. Instead, Smith chose to minimize the economic differences between him and the Republican ticket, and attempt to illustrate to America that he would be as competent an administrator and steward of the economy as the Great Engineer.9
To that end, much to the consternation of his closest advisors, Smith chose as his campaign chairman John J. Raskob, the chief executive of DuPont and General Motors, and a well-known financier who had voted for Coolidge in 1924 -- In 1929, he would pen an ill-timed paean to prosperity entitled "Everybody Ought to be Rich." Raskob certainly was. More to the point, as one journal put it, he was "very rich, very wet, and very Catholic, and besides that he is not a Democrat." Nonetheless, Raskob had been a friend and major contributor of the Governor's, and Smith, despite pleading from Moskowitz, Proskauer, and Roosevelt, chose to respect the loyalty. "It's the only thing Raskob has ever asked of me," Smith said in an echo of Warren Harding's choice of Harry Daugherty years earlier, "and I've got to give it to him." (In later years, Raskob would deny he asked for the job, and took it only because Smith implored him to.)10
Here again, Roosevelt thought, Smith was making a choice from principle where political expediency should have reigned. Choosing Raskob, he believed, was a "grave mistake" that would "permanently drive away a host of people in the south and west and rural east who are not particularly favorable to Smith, but up to today have been seeping back into the Party." FDR seemed to have the right of it. Carter Glass, among others, thought the pick reflected Smith's "not only…distaste, but an actual contempt for the South." Along with further alienating Democrats worried about Smith's Other-ness, the choice of Raskob helped to close down any hard-hitting economic critique of the Coolidge years, dismaying progressives and agrarians and removing one more possible source of differentiation between the two candidates.11
How could Al Smith possibly defeat Herbert Hoover and the Republicans, if the general national prosperity was conceded? Smith and his advisors had devised a three-part strategy. First, by hewing close to the Republicans on economic matters and being more personable than Hoover otherwise, it was hoped Smith could break open the traditionally Republican Northeast, including his own state of New York. (This was why Smith insisted Raskob was a good choice to run the campaign -- It soothed the financial masters of Wall Street and the Northeast corridor.) Second, it was assumed the Solid Democratic South would hold, and that disgruntled Prohibitionists still loathed the party of Lincoln and Reconstruction more than they did booze and the Pope. And third, agrarian discontent in the Midwest and West might work to pry away a few crucial states from the Republican column. On paper, it sounded like a workable strategy. Of course, not all would proceed according to plan.12
To help buttress his fortunes in the Empire State, as well as to cement his four-term legacy of reform there, Smith, in one of the more lasting legacies of his 1928 bid, looked to find a strong candidate for the governor's race in New York. So he turned to a man sympathetic to his worldview and a natural choice -- Owen Young, the president of General Electric. Young, however, had no interest in the job, and so Smith turned to his second option. That would be financier Herbert Lehman, at which point New York Democrats reminded Smith that running on the same ticket as the man who would be the state's first Jewish governor was not an association the candidate needed at this juncture. While considering other potential candidates, the name of Franklin Roosevelt came up -- but Smith thought his health wasn't up to it, and besides, as he told Francis Perkins, "the man hasn't got any brains. He couldn't possibly be Governor of New York." Even if the two had mended fences politically over the years, Smith still saw in Roosevelt the callow, condescending young Harvard man with the famous name who had first shown up in the Assembly all those years ago.13
In fact, the New York Governorship was something Franklin Roosevelt had very much coveted over a decade earlier. After losing the 1914 Senate primary to Tammany's candidate, a younger and more openly ambitious FDR had even mended fences with Charles Francis Murphy in order to secure the 1918 gubernatorial nomination. But when the World War broke out in 1917, Roosevelt could no longer leave his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy without public opprobrium, and so Al Smith ascended to Albany instead. Even in 1928, Roosevelt -- who was named head of the campaign's business outreach -- still chafed at his role in the Smith organization. "I was treated by Raskob and Mrs. Moskowitz all the time I was there," Roosevelt said later in life, "as though I was one of those pieces of window dressing that had to be borne with because of a certain political value in non-New York areas." "Frankly," Roosevelt wrote a friend after the Raskob choice, "the campaign is working out in a way which, I, personally, should not have allowed and Smith has burned his bridges behind him." He soon gave the campaign job over to Louis Howe, who forged Roosevelt's name on anything that required a signature.14
Two months before Election Day, however, Smith conceded that, just as in 1924 after the death of Charles Francis Murphy, he now needed Roosevelt. FDR, who at the time was rehabilitating in Warm Springs, Georgia, was averse to the idea, as were his closest aides. ("If they are looking for goat why don't Wagner sacrifice himself?" Howe telegrammed Roosevelt at one point.) At first, Smith accepted Roosevelt's demurral -- "Okay, you're the doctor," he said. But, increasingly convinced that Roosevelt was the best and only option to put New York in the Democratic column, Smith called back with Herbert Lehman, the latter promising to help carry the load as Lieutenant Governor. ("Governor Trying to Reach You…Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts," Howe had warned.) When Roosevelt still hesitated, Smith simply asked if he would refuse the job if offered. Roosevelt didn't answer, and the next day, the New York State Convention chose him as their gubernatorial nominee. "Mess is No Name For It," telegrammed Howe. "For Once I Have No Advice to Give." Forsaking his fervent hope that Warm Springs could mend his condition, Franklin Roosevelt decided to play the good soldier. "The policies of the state as administered by Governor Smith are excellent now," he said as the gubernatorial candidate, "I may not be able to improve on them." To a friend years down the road, he said "I didn't want it. I wanted, much more to get my right leg to move!...But the moral pressure was too strong." Roosevelt's right leg would never move. But his choice would yield positive dividends regardless.15
In the meantime, Al Smith had much bigger problems below the Mason-Dixon line. Raskob and Smith had based their election strategy on the Solid South, and it is true that, in many ways, the Democratic Party's stranglehold on the region ran through deeper, darker soil than Smith's candidacy could possibly uproot. "Don't let Catholicism, don't let Prohibition, don't let propaganda of any kind blind you," argued one Mississippi Democrat. "There is only one issue in Mississippi -- white supremacy, and crushing a Mississippi white and black Republican party in the making." As another put it, "I am going to vote for Al Smith because I am a life long Democrat and because I am a Southern white man." Party regulars emphasized the overriding importance of "Democratic supremacy" in the region and spread the tales that, Hoover had desegregated the Department of Commerce and, during his Mississippi relief efforts, both danced with a black woman in New Orleans and allowed blacks -- "Hoover chocolates," in the parlance of one South Carolina woman -- to use white toilets. The Governor of North Carolina, Angus McLean, predicted -- wrongly -- that "the prominent Democrats of the South who are withholding their support from Governor Smith can be counted on the fingers of one hand."16
At the same time, the South also saw some of the most vociferous anti-Smith propaganda, and not just from Bishop Cannon's conference of disaffected Democrats in Asheville. Former McAdoo supporter and Chattanooga News editor George Fort Milton organized an anti-Smith "National Constitutional Democratic Committee" that eventually spread to seventeen states. Among the leading Southern Democrats to openly renounce Smith were former Senator Robert Owen of Oklahoma, Senator Furnifold Simmons of North Carolina, and the wife of Clem Shaver of West Virginia, who was National Party Chairman from 1924 to 1928. (Asked about his spouse's apostasy by a reporter, the pro-Smith Shaver simply said, "Are you married?") "If you vote for Al Smith," the pastor of Oklahoma City's largest Baptist congregation told his flock, "you're voting against Christ and you will all be damned." "Will Dry Protestants of the South Put Their Worst Foe in the White House?" blared one anti-Smith pamphlet. Schoolchildren in Daytona Beach, Florida were sent home with notices to give the parents, declaring that "[w]e must prevent the election of Alfred E. Smith to the presidency. If he is chosen President, you will not be allowed to have or read a bible."17
Rumors also abounded throughout the region that Smith was an alcoholic himself, and that eyewitnesses had seen him falling down drunk at the Syracuse State Fair. One cartoon showed the candidate on a beer truck which read "Make America 100% Catholic, Drunk, and Illiterate." This eventually prompted the bottom half of the ticket to respond. "The statement has been made that he is a drunkard," said Joseph Robinson, drifting away from his prepared speech to a Labor Day crowd in Dallas, "There is not one word of truth in it." Needless to say, if you are explaining why your standard-bearer is not an alcoholic, you are fighting a campaign on losing ground.18
Other southerners were not shy about wielding the biggest possible artillery against Smith. It was argued by Bishop Cannon and others that the candidate secretly wanted to end the traditional southern ways and bring about full racial equality. Belle Moskowitz had in fact been urging Smith to make in-roads with African-American voters, and she set up a meeting with the Governor and the NAACP's Walter White in early 1928, at which White encouraged Smith to take a stronger stand against segregation and lynching and for civil rights. Smith was sympathetic, and asked for a statement which would show "that the old Democratic Party, ruled entirely by the South is on its way out, and that we Northern Democrats have a totally different approach to the Negro." White subsequently penned such a statement, but Governor Smith never used it or said anything more on the matter -- a decision Moskowitz said he later regretted. The Chicago Defender still rallied to Smith's standard, arguing that "it would be striking a severe blow at intolerance, prejudice, and bigotry if Negroes should help send this Catholic gentleman to the White House. Whatever sins may be charged against the Catholics, it cannot be said they have aligned themselves with the Negro baiters and lynchers." That being said, in the election of 1928 Smith did not actively align himself against them either. To charges that Smith was "that most dreadful of persons, a 'nigger-lover,'" reported The Nation, "his managers have felt compelled to deny that he ever employed Negro stenographers or that he has appointed Negroes to any higher offices than the menial ones they fulfill in the South."19
Because of all this, an exhausted Smith ultimately had to go on a Southern swing late in the campaign to try to shore up the shaky region, which even the ever-enthusiastic Raskob thought was "a terrible confession of weakness." The trip was also seen as such an admission by the press, and did little to sway anyone regardless. On the way to down to Oklahoma in mid-September, the passage of Smith's train had been lit by the fire of burning crosses. "Joe, how did they know you were on this train?" he allegedly joked to Proskauer, a Jew. Inside, however, Smith seethed at this ultimate rebuff, and, believing that the time had arrived to take on the religion question directly, he rewrote his remarks for Oklahoma City to address the slurs. People like Oklahoma Senator Robert Owen, who had come out for Hoover, talk of Tammany as the reason why they opposed his candidacy, Smith argued, but "I know what's behind it. It's nothing more or less than my religion:"
Nothing could be so out of line with the spirit of America. Nothing could be so foreign to the teachings of Jefferson. Nothing could be so contradictory of our whole history. Nothing could be so false to the teachings of our Divine Lord himself. The world knows no greater mockery than the use of the blazing cross, the cross upon which Christ died, as a symbol to install into the hearts of men a hatred of their brethren, while Christ preached and died for the love and brotherhood of man.20Writing well after the campaign, Hoover said Al Smith "was a natural born gentleman… During the campaign he said no word and engaged in no action that did not comport with the highest levels." That being said, he also argued that "Governor Smith unwittingly fanned the flame" of religion in his Oklahoma City speech. "[U]p to that moment," Hoover -- who was very conscious of being the first Quaker candidate for president -- religion "had been an underground issue. The Governor thought that he would gain by bringing it out into the open." Hoover was wrong on two counts. In fact, Smith was not so much eyeing the political outcome as making another stand on principle. "I felt deep in my heart," he said years later, "that I would be a coward and probably unfit for the presidency if I were to permit [it] to go further unchallenged." Second, religion was hardly an underground issue -- it was arguably the foremost issue of the campaign. Hoover had already reprimanded one Republican committeewoman for trafficking in anti-Catholic arguments. "Whether this letter is authentic or a forgery, it does violence to every instinct I possess," Hoover had said. "I resent it and repudiate it." Resent it he might, but Hoover was also a savvy enough operator to know that Republicans didn't need to fan flames that were already immolating Democratic prospects.21
As the flare-up in Oklahoma indicates, the Old South had no monopoly on prejudice, and the Midwest and West were also perturbed by what they envisioned from an Al Smith presidency. No less an authority than the Sage of Emporia, William Allen White, admitted as much. "As a Kansas farmer said to me," White told a banquet audience in 1927, "'No man will ever tell his beads in the White House.'" When pressed by a local Monsignor on this position, White apologized "[i]f the remark gave offense to my hearers of the Catholic faith…in the future I shall be happy to change the phrasing of it. The remark that the man made, however, represents in its rustic phrasing a political fact…I shall be more than happy to see the day come when an honest and intelligent Catholic will have an equal chance as a candidate…Among intelligent thinking men religion has no place in politics. When I made the remark I was simply calling attention to the fact that unfortunately there are enough bigoted and unintelligent men to prevent an honest Catholic from being elected."22
As someone who ran against the Klan for governor to express his contempt for their brand of intolerance, White's pluralistic bona fides are in good standing. "I am, as you know, a Republican," White wrote Franklin Roosevelt in February 1928, "but I admire Smith greatly. I think his is one of the important brains now functioning in American politics." Nonetheless, when election season came around, White used equally apocalyptic language to deride the Democratic candidate. Specifically, White went on record arguing that "the whole Puritan civilization which has built a sturdy, orderly nation is threatened by Smith." To White, Smith was an "urbanite with an an urbanity unrestrained…city born, city bred, 'city broke', city minded, and city hearted." As an Assemblyman, White argued to one correspondent, "Smith voted not only with Tammany on the liquor question but on questions controlling gambling and prostitution. This does not mean Smith is a low fellow. On the contrary, I have the highest respect for his integrity, his courage, and his intelligence. But he is thoroughly Tammanized in spirit and in a moral point of view. And his courage, wisdom, and honesty will not prevent him for making such a record in the White House as Tammany would desire." As such, White thought, "Smith is a menace to the country, for all his high qualities and in spite of them."23
"William Allen White stubbed his toe badly," argued The Nation of this outburst. "We are sorry to have to criticize so old and valued a friend, but Mr. White's utterances can only have shocked all who read them." Harold Ickes agreed. "I am afraid that our old friend…didn't come out in his controversy with Al Smith with flying colors," he told Hiram Johnson. Walter Lippmann urged White to recant this tirade, at which point White dropped the mention of prostitution and gambling and stood by the rest. When it was pointed out to White that the Harding administration had a more recent record of rampant corruption than Tammany did, the Sage of Emporia brazened his way out of the box. ""When corruption was exposed in the administration," he fumed, "Coolidge immediately set the wheels going to punish the corruptionists. It was no business of Hoover to leave the Cabinet because Coolidge was prosecuting the corruptionists. Everyone must admit that Smith had no more hand personally in the corruption of Tammany than Hoover had in the corruption of the Harding administration. But the corruption of Tammany is a system." Explaining the method to his madness, White told a friend, "I hate the religious fight being made on Smith. I have denounced it time and again. He seems now doomed to defeat. I shall regret that part of his defeat, though not all, nor indeed not much is due to bigotry. But I hoped he would be defeated on the wet issue with Tammany symbolizing it."24
Another notable critic of Smith in the Midwest was less nuanced about her conflation of the wet and religious issues. "To your pulpits!" former Assistant Attorney General Mabel Walker Willebrandt told a conference of Methodist leaders in Ohio. "There are 2000 pastors here. You have in your churches more than 600,000 members of the Methodist Church in Ohio alone. That is enough to swing the election. The 600,000 friends have friends in other States. Write to them. Every day and every ounce of your energy are needed to rouse the friends of prohibition to register and vote." In fact, Willebrandt would later to convert to Catholicism, but given the environment her remarks very easily seemed like a deliberate rousing of Protestant wrath against a Catholic candidate. Other Republican party officials were even less circumspect. In Alabama -- belying Hoover's argument that religion was a strictly underground phenomenon -- Republican committeeman Oliver Street sent out over 200,000 pamphlets across the South condemning Smith's religion.25
Even in the Northeast, where the Governor enjoyed his strongest base of support, Smith faced the same set of interlocking cultural obstacles to his candidacy. One would be hard-pressed to find a more Catholic major city in America in 1928 than Boston, Massachusetts. Nonetheless, there reformer Elizabeth Tilton, who in her time had lobbied for Sheppard-Towner, the child labor amendment, protective legislation for women, and disarmament, thought the election a fight to the death "between two levels of civilization -- the Evangelical, middle-class America and the big city Tammany masses…It is the old American, Puritan--based ideals against the new Latin ideals…It is the old stock agin the loose, fluctuating masses of the Big Cities. It is dry agin wet. It is Protestant against Catholic." The night before the election, Tilton was moved to hysterics in her journal by the possibilities of a Smith victory. "My America against Tammany's!" she cried. "Prairie, Plantation, and Everlasting Hills against the side-walks of New York! Women meeting on the street clasping my hand to cry, 'We can not live if Hoover is not elected!...Women say, 'We feel like night before our wedding!' -- Life held in terrifying suspension!"26
Ms. Tilton was not alone. "Everywhere one goes in the North," The Nation reported at the end of October, "it is prejudice which seems to be electing Herbert Hoover -- prejudice against the Pope; prejudice against Tammany Hall; prejudice against the man who waxes ungrammatical as he waxes eloquent; prejudice against his wife because she has not enjoyed the opportunities for leisure and culture that have been the good fortune of some Presidents' wives; prejudice because Al Smith represents the immigrant part of our population." Surveying the country as a whole, the magazine thought "[o]ne must go far back in our history before one comes across a similar era of Know-Nothingism, of rank, passionate prejudice."27
Give the intensity of the reaction against him, even among citizens who agreed with the vast majority of his policies, Smith's presidential bid was almost inevitably going to founder. But even without these cultural rifts drastically complicating matters, Smith and Raskob's strategy for victory had serious problems. The plan to peel off Midwestern farmers from the Republican party, for example, was not proceeding as envisioned. For one, everyone well knew Smith hailed from the Sidewalks of New York, where not much farming tended to take place. When he was queried by reporters about "the needs of the states west of the Mississippi," Smith joked, "What are the states west of the Mississippi?" For another, Smith's strategy to toe the Coolidge-Hoover line on most economic matters made his feints toward McNary-Haugenism seem like the transparent political opportunism they mostly were. "If Al Smith starts out with the idea that he wants to do something for the farmers," noted TNR, "but will not do anything which conservative business men might disapprove, he will land on the farm issue exactly where Herbert Hoover stands."28
For yet another, Hoover had an additional ace-in-the-hole to blunt any forays made by Smith on the farm issue -- the vocal endorsement of noted progressive straight-shooter William Borah. After Al Smith delivered a well-received speech on McNary-Haugen to farmers in Omaha, Borah, on a swing through the Midwest and West, took the lead on covering his candidate's flank on agricultural matters, and witheringly exposed Smith's previous nonchalance on the topic. "On the 27th day of January, 1927, after the McNary-Haugen bill had been up for discussion for almost three years," Borah told a Minneapolis crowd at one of these stops, "the governor had another idea at that time":
I will read it to you…he says, 'A chain of farms might help the situation.' That is just what some of the farmers have been trying to get rid of, a chain of farms. Now, I do not claim that the idea came from Tammany. I think it was original. Then he goes on to say profoundly, 'At least the business methods embodied in the situation would bring the only relief that I can possibly think of.' The McNary-Haugen bill had not yet passed across his intellectual horizon. Again, he says, 'When the farmer stops sitting on top of the world and begins thinking and keeping the rules of economics and business, he will begin to help himself.'…Again, he says, 'I can't think of any other way to help the farmer. The fact is they are the only ones who can save themselves.' A Daniel come to judgment!29Noting also that Smith had admitted "I don't know a great deal about any of these plans" and, in the end, had called for the traditional political cop-out of a commission to study the problem, Borah declared "there is not a man living who can tell what Governor Smith's position is upon the farm problem." By contrast, Borah argued, "I doubt if there is a farmer within the sound of my voice tonight either here or elsewhere who would doubt the ability of Mr. Hoover to solve this problem…[B]ear in mind that Herbert Hoover has never set himself to the solution of any kind of an economic problem that he has not made good."30
Other than George Peek and Democratic agrarians like Joseph Robinson, who explicitly endorsed McNary-Haugen by name at his campaign stops, there was one other spokesman of note who thought Smith was the better option for farmers -- Republican George Norris. After both conventions were complete, Norris had originally taken a pox-on-both-your-houses approach to the election. "Have the people any avenue by which they can bring about the defeat of the great polltlcal machines that always control our national conventions?" he complained in a letter to The Nation. "The ordinary suggestion is to organize a third party or run an independent candidate for President. This is a beautiful theory, but, for practical purposes, it is a will o' the wisp":
We are confronted with the antiquated and worse-than-useless electoral-college system of electing a President. The two old parties have complete organizations from the township to the White House. The great mass of people outside these organizations have nothing to do but choose between two evils.To Norris, the real question of the campaign was not McNary-Haugenism or prohibition, although both were important, but this: "Shall the great trusts, particularly the water-power trust, control the destiny of our republic? When this trust is in control it will take care of all subsidiary questions, like prohibition and farm relief" so that "none of these subsidiary questions will be solved for the benefit of the common folks." When Smith continued to advocate for more of a federal, state, and municipal role in water power than Hoover, Norris jumped ship -- something he did not even do for his old friend La Follette in 1924. "I had followed with intense interest his position on the development of water power in New York State while he was governor," Norris later wrote. "I had been attracted to him by his liberal and farsighted position on that issue. I knew where Mr. Hoover stood…He had demonstrated to my satisfaction that, whatever other claims he might have to a liberal outlook[,] on the question of conservation of American resources, he was most backward and reactionary."32
This prominent defection clearly rankled Hoover, who even mentioned it in his memoirs years later. In his "effort to secure unity in action," he wrote, "I had only a single failure, that being Senator Norris of Nebraska." (In fact, Norris was not the only Republican to bolt -- While Bob La Follette and, in the House, Fiorello La Guardia remained studiously neutral, Senator John J. Blaine of Wisconsin also endorsed Smith.) "As I disliked to see any break in our rank, I related the situation to his friend Senator Borah, who was actively supporting me. To my surprise, Borah broke loose in a tirade against Norris, admonishing me to pay no more attention to him. Norris was, in fact, a devoted socialist; certain left-wing women furnished funds for his elections and for the maintenance of a publicity bureau in Washington which constantly eulogized him." At the time, Norris's emphasis on water power so irritated the Great Engineer that he ventured down from his Herculean remove a fortnight before Election Day and -- in exactly the type of break the Smith campaign had been hoping for all along -- lost his temper.33
"There has been revived in this campaign," Hoover told a crowd at Madison Square Garden on October 22nd, "a series of proposals which, if adopted, would be a long step toward the abandonment of our American system and a surrender to the destructive operation of governmental conduct of commercial business":
You cannot extend the mastery of the government over the daily working life of a people without at the same time making it the master of the people's souls and thoughts…It is a false liberalism that interprets itself into the government operation of commercial business. Every step of bureaucratizing the business of our country poisons the very roots of liberalism -- that is, political equality, free speech, free assembly, free press, and equality of opportunity. It is the road not to more liberty, but to less liberty.34"I have witnessed not only at home but abroad the many failures of government in business," Hoover told the assembled. "I have seen its tyrannies, its injustices, its destructions of self-government, its undermining of the very instincts which carry our people forward to progress." While reaffirming that regulation was necessary and laissez-faire was not an answer, Hoover declared that Smith's policies with regard to water power, the farmer, and a host of other issues "would destroy political equality. It would increase rather than decrease abuse and corruption. It would stifle initiative and invention. It would undermine the development of leadership. It would cramp and cripple the mental and spiritual energies of our people. It would extinguish equality of opportunity. It would dry up the spirit of liberty and progress."35
"The United States already was being infected from the revolutionary caldrons of Europe," Hoover wrote in his memoirs to justify this address. "[T]he growing left-wing movement, embracing many of the 'intelligentsia,' flocked to Governor Smith's support. I was determined that the Republican Party should draw the issue of the American system, as opposed to all forms of collectivism." In this speech, Hoover actually coined the term "rugged individualism," but although the words were not in Hoover's prepared remarks, the takeaway in many corners was that Hoover had accused Smith of engaging in "State socialism," particularly after Smith used that phrase to characterize the address. "The cry of Socialism," Smith responded in Boston, "has been patented by the powerful interests that desire to put a damper on progressive legislation… To refer to the remedies for all these evils as State Socialism is not constructive statesmanship, it is not leadership, and leadership is what this country is hungry for today."36
In an editorial entitled "Herbert Hoover -- Conservative," TNR called the Madison Square Speech "the first in his campaign which is, in, any degree worthy of the man's reputation." Instead of consisting "chiefly of evasive and non-contentious generalities," Hoover had offered a "reasoned" and "deeply felt defense of the candidate's conservatism in regard to the relation between government and business. If the Republican campaign had been conducted on this level from the beginning, we might have a really significant debate which would have distracted attention from the religious and social prejudices which have marred it."37
Nonetheless, the MSG speech, the journal thought, also exposed Hoover not as some hard-headed engineer willing to tackle problems, but as a woolly-headed idealist who trafficked in vague generalities. (If TNR had ventured to notice, this had been clear since at least the publication of American Individualism in 1922.) "Mr. Hoover is just stupid enough not to see that his idealism is, in practice…[the] best shield and weapon" of "big-business interests," the editors argued. "The balm of the words he uses makes him believe that they are, in some magic way, responsible for all the glories of our civilization. It renders him hesitant to admit the full importance of the failures among our economic institutions. And it leads him to resort, when he is forced to mention these failures, to an easy optimism that everything will be improved if left to private initiative[.]"38
As such, it now seemed Al Smith was the engineer in the race, because his overriding desire was to solve problems. "His mind is not obfuscated with antique formulations of principle which are ill-suited to the necessities of twentieth-century civilization. If we are to have socialism by the Smith route, we shall have it by the logic of necessity, not by the argument of dogma." What the speech exposed most of all, TNR argued, was that Hoover was no true friend to progressives. "[I]f progressive voters do not appreciate the immense superiority of Smith to Hoover on hydroelectric power," they argued, "there is little hope for progressivism in the United States." And "progressives who share any of the New Republic's understanding of the word, ought to be finally convinced by the New York speech that Mr. Hoover is one of their worst, because one of their noblest, enemies."39
To Smith advocates, Hoover's "State Socialism" address seemed like it could be the opening the campaign desperately needed: At long last, the 1928 campaign seemed to be moving towards policy differences that didn't involve drinking. "I think you will see a tremendous change in sentiment," said John Raskob after Smith's response in Boston. "If his program for the reduction of hours for women and children is Socialist," said gubernatorial candidate Franklin Roosevelt, "we are all Socialists." "Anybody in public life who goes ahead and advocates improvements is called a radical," FDR noted, but Democrats had continued to win in New York, and "will keep on winning as long as it goes ahead with a program of progress." A hopeful Amos Pinchot thought this back-and-forth might be "the opening gun of a bitter fight between democracy and plutocracy." "On the one hand," Mencken pointed out, Hoover "denounces every effort to hobble the water-power hogs as socialistic and tyrannical; on the other hand, he swallows calmly the intolerable contempt for private right that is Prohibition. On which side does he actually stand?" George Norris was also shocked by Hoover's mask falling away. "How can any progressive in the United States support him now, after his Madison Square Garden address, in which he slapped every progressive minded man and woman in America in the face?" he asked. "My God, I cannot conceive it." Former Children's Bureau Chief Julia Lathrop, upon hearing of Hoover's address, immediately refused to speak any further on behalf of the Republican ticket. Unfortunately for Smith, all of this was occurring with only two weeks to go before Election Day.40
Borah and Norris weren't the only two erstwhile allies who found themselves on opposing sides in the election of 1928. The progressive community in many ways split against itself that year. In the social work community, one Mary Van Kleeck formed a pro-Smith committee that quickly drew the support of, among others, Lillian Wald. Although a Dry, Wald thought Hoover had surrounded himself at the Republican convention with men who, four years earlier, he had claimed "made him vomit." She and her colleague John L. Elliot signed their names to a pamphlet circulating among social workers that praised Smith as "a vital humanitarian" who would lead the way on labor and public health matters and end "hypocrisy and evasion" with regard to the Noble Experiment. "He is a realist, and a hard worker," Wald and Elliot's circular declared. "He has a genius for comprehending what social work is and he sees straight through unhindered by abstraction and academic proposals."41
Of the 66 lengthy responses Wald and Elliot received, 17 were pro-Smith (including missives from Paul Kellogg and Edward T. Devine) and 45 were pro-Hoover, most notably the brief response from Jane Addams. ("Voting for Hoover but send good wishes for the Smith campaign.") Others were less gentle. "I have the same contempt for social workers dabbling in politics that I do for ministers who do the same," replied one South Carolina respondent. Besides, "wherever the Catholic Church rules, there is darkness, superstition, and deterioration." Others lamented that Wald would "prostitute" herself for such an "arch" and "rather cheap politician," particularly when there was a "constructive statesman" and "efficient, cultured, competent, experienced, tolerant Quaker" on the ballot. "By broadcasting your views in this unsolicited fashion you have alienated many of us who feel it is rather cheap to trade on your otherwise fine regard," another read.42
Since Charles Curtis had introduced the Mott Amendment in the Senate, the National Woman's Party -- then under the chairmanship of Jane Norman Smith -- moved to endorse the Hoover-Curtis ticket, setting off a similar round of infighting and recrimination among its membership. Emma Johnson, who had been active in the NWP since its founding, was among those who resigned, arguing that the Party had "grossly betrayed women." "I could no more cast a vote for the Republican Party," explained Socialist member Lavinia Dock, "than I could swallow a large, smooth, green caterpillar."43
So it went along the line. A poll put together by TNR in October found that, along with traditional Democrats like Louis Brandeis and Walter Lippmann, Frederic Howe, Heywood Broun, and Charles Merz all supported Smith. So too did Clarence Darrow, who emphasized the prohibition issue, and Felix Frankfurter, who thought a Smith presidency would be a victory over religious zealotry and sectarianism. Besides, Frankfurter wrote, Smith's "imagination, his generosity, his patient and pacific temperament, his humor, his charm, his flair for reality, his effectiveness in negotiation, are far better guarantees for a wise and tolerant dealing with other peoples than impatience and temper and a dogmatic belief in pre-war economic theories of national self-interest."44
While politically more aligned with Norman Thomas, John Dewey argued he was voting Democratic because a Smith presidency would have an important "humanizing social effect," and help to introduce "some degree of frankness and of humane sympathy" in national life. As for Hoover, Dewey argued, "if he has any human insight, dictated by the consciousness of social needs, into the policies called for by the day-to-day life of his fellow human beings…I have never seen the signs of it. His whole creed of complacent capitalistic individualism and of the right and duty of economic success commits him to the continuation of that hypocritical religion of 'prosperity' which is, in my judgment, the greatest force that exists at present in maintaining the unrealities of our social tone and temper."45
On the other hand, UMW president John L. Lewis elsewhere argued that Hoover was "the foremost industrial statesman of modern times" and needed to win so that "the unprecedented industrial and business prosperity which he inaugurated may be properly developed and stabilized." The Lone Eagle, Charles Lindbergh, was a Herbert Hoover man, while the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth, batted for Al.46
For his part, Harold Ickes decided that, for the third time in a row, he would have to buck the party of Roosevelt. "I wish I could turn the clock back ten or fifteen years," he told Hiram Johnson in August. "If I could I would tell the Republican Party, politely but firmly, to go to Hell and I would join up with Al Smith." While hoping to remain silent through this year's campaign, Ickes found himself increasingly drawn into the battle as passions flared. "The more I contemplate the bigotry and unfairness of the attacks on Smith the more difficult it is for me to keep from uplifting my voice in violent protest," he wrote in September. Smith, Ickes thought, "made the impression on me of a keen, alert city man perfectly capable of taking care of himself. There was nothing of the conventional politician or statesman about him. He is a hard hitter who marshals his facts and lets them fly where they will do the most good."47
When Ickes saw that his fellow Chicago Jane Addams had come out for Hoover, he wrote her a polite letter pressing her on the endorsement. "I know something must be the matter with me because for the first time in my life I cannot follow the reasoning in a statement by you," Ickes told her. "There seem to me to be so many reasons why Smith should be the preference of progressive and socially minded people and yet the preeminently progressive and socially minded person in all the world has declared for Hoover…Smith seems to me to be a really great man who has risen far superior to his environment while Hoover, with a better start and greater advantages, has receded somewhat. But the decisive thing with me is that so many bigots and all the snobs are against Smith." To this, Addams responded in an equally friendly manner. "I may have been much influenced by my personal acquaintance with Mr. Hoover during my various visit in Europe immediately after the War," she conceded. "It is always easy to rationalize a position one wishes to take…I will confess that I was very much disturbed by Hoover's New York address, although when I saw him the other day in Washington I felt immensely reassured to his basic principles and intentions."48
Ickes' usual correspondent, Hiram Johnson, stayed regular as usual -- although not without much grumbling. "[I]t is a difficult thing for me to campaign for our candidate," he confessed to Ickes. "Many of the things which are of deepest interest to me and which I believe to be of gravest concern he apparently either doesn't care for is in opposition to my views. I am compelled, therefore, when I speak for him, as I do whenever I make a political speech, to use just one thing, the tariff." Gifford Pinchot also felt caught between two unappealing choices, and he also stuck with Hoover. "I am thoroughly on record publicly as to my opinion of Hoover," he told Ickes. and it happens to be my true opinion. I also have an equally definite opinion of Tammany Hall, and of the wetness of Al Smith. It is a hard time for a dry independent, and no mistake."49
Disheartened by his own need to toe the party line, Johnson's reaction to other progressive endorsements of Hoover ran from dismay to outright fury. Reading a pro-Hoover statement by Margaret Dreier Robins, Johnson told Ickes he "felt an infinite sorrow that one I had respected so much could indulge in such stuff." But as usual, nobody drove Hiram Johnson so much to distraction as the Senator from Idaho. "Borah is a 'good dog,'" he vented to Ickes, "and doing exactly what he is told to do -- preaching prohibition where it was thought that may be effective, and refraining from mentioning prohibition where it is thought the mention of the matter might do harm -- and never in any way saying aught in relation to corruption or the infamies of the power trust that can offend the most delicate sensibilities." Alas, he groaned, "I am too old to be a Borah now, even though I might win the plaudits of every lousy newspaper in the country." Ickes, per the norm, commiserated. "I have never liked Borah because I have never trusted him," he told the Senator in early October. "But my feeling of contempt for him grows measurably every day." By the end of the month, Ickes thought that "Borah has completely discredited himself in this campaign with liberal opinion everywhere. Of course, I never have believed in the man myself and it has irked me considerably to have had him held up during the past few years as the supreme liberal by journals and individuals who should have known better."50
It is true that Borah's standing in the progressive community had taken a considerable hit. The Nation, who had pushed him for president in 1924, now called him the "sorriest figure" in the whole campaign. "Whatever influence Senator Borah had heretofore among the liberals of the country" wrote an enraged Oswald Villard "there is none left today." For a man who had roundly attacked Hoover and the Old Guard in the past to "turn around now and go to the other extreme of adulating Mr. Hoover, and declaring that he is the one man above all others to lead the country, is just a trifle too nauseating. A man must have some convictions, some principles, some standards of consistency, or else there is no use whatsoever of anyone's applying measuring sticks of character, of public honesty, yes, of plain intellectual decency."51
Borah was surprised at the progressive reaction to his working for Hoover, since he legitimately thought the Great Engineer was the way forward. "He wants Smith beaten and beaten decisively," Robins said of the Senator. "He really has the spirit for this fight apparently. He wants me to get in and drill." In fact, after working the West on behalf of Hoover's farm policy, Borah took it upon himself to continue the fight into the South, where he deplored Smith's views on Prohibition and contrasted "the great party of Lincoln" with the sordidness of saloon-soaked Tammany Hall. Tammany, Borah reminded voters, had been opposed to immigration restriction, and would have let "the poorly paid races of Southwestern Europe to enter this country. I can't conceive of anything more detrimental." Looking back on his Southern swing, Borah later deemed it "one of the finest campaign experiences in my whole life." "[T]hey are a wonderful people and they have a wonderful country," he effused.52
In the end, none of the major progressive journals came out for Hoover. For all the reasons earlier noted and in order "to seize upon promising progressive seedlings in the Democratic Party and try to fertilize them," TNR endorsed Smith. To those who would bring up the magazine's emphatic calls for a third party four years earlier, the editors simply said: "We can see no sign of such an upheaval in the near future." The Nation still adhered to the notion that both major parties "were corrupt and contemptible" and hoped its readers would stand for "a new and clean peoples' party" when the time came. In 1928, with the editors deadlocked on endorsing Al Smith or Socialist Norman Thomas, the journal praised them both, at the expense of the Great Engineer: "[T]o our readers we can again only appeal not to cast their ballots for Herbert Hoover." Paul Kellogg of The Survey similarly endorsed Thomas.53
And The Crisis held a symposium entitled "How Shall We Vote?" which carried essays supporting all three candidates. Hoover, argued John Hawkins of the Republican Colored Voters Division, had displayed his "willingness to administer any high office without discrimination and with even-handed justice." A President Smith, said New York City Commissioner Ferdinand Morton, "would be a fine victory for the cause of tolerance and fair play in America." As for W.E.B. DuBois, he suggested his readers vote for Thomas. "[W]hen I read the platform of the Socialist Party and compare it with the Republican and Democratic platforms, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind but that this is the only platform before American people that has common sense or justice, reason or hope, written to it. It dares to mention Negro disfranchisement as a prime cause of reaction, fraud, and privilege, and it is right." More than ever before in American history, the African-American vote was now un-tethered from the Republican Party.54
If progressives had chosen the president, Al Smith would have been in a considerably better position on November 6th. According a poll of Nation subscribers, Al Smith outpolled Norman Thomas two-to-one, with Hoover coming in third. ("The vote now stands Smith 6804; Thomas 2780; Hoover, 2761; [William Z.] Foster 428; Will Rogers 26." California and New York were Smith country, while the Midwest showed "little indication of a farmer revolt.") The "object of the poll," the journal argued, "was to bring out the political choice of the progressive-minded intelligent voters whose influence largely transcends their political strength…The only surprise for us has been the strength of the Hoover vote." A Literary Digest poll -- the same outlet that had eventually predicted the Coolidge landslide in 1924 -- showed Hoover doing much better, even cutting into the solid South.55
Particularly after Hoover's "state socialism" speech, much of the Smith camp seemed outwardly optimistic about the direction things were going. John J. Raskob, who had long been predicting an over-300 vote electoral victory for Smith, now revised that upward to a 402-vote landslide. "You're absolutely wrong, Frances," Belle Moskowitz admonished Frances Perkins when the latter confessed her doubts. "You're absolutely wrong! It's all right. We have intimate reports that we're all right. The Governor feels absolutely sure!" Smith himself had said to Perkins that the intensity of his crowds seemed auspicious. "I know politics and I know political crowds," Smith told her. "I know political loyalties. I have never seen anything like this. This must mean something."56
It is hard to say how much of this was wishful thinking and how much was just attempts to maintain esprit de corps. Later Moskowitz, Proskauer, and Herbert Lehman all said that they knew their cause would end in defeat. In 1935, Smith wrote that he had really expected to win in November, but he was no political novice and, despite the intensity of crowds in the Northeast, part of him knew the score. Later in life he suggested that "we partly knew at the time" that Election Day was not going to pan out as Democrats hoped. And in The Happy Warrior, her affectionate remembrance of her father, Emily Smith Warner revealed in 1956 that Smith had told her and her alone before the results came in that the campaign would ultimately founder.57
But even Al Smith never predicted how badly it would turn out.
Return to the Table of Contents.
2. "Hoover Formally Notified, Voices Issues," The New York Times, August 12th, 1928.
3. "How the Press Sees Hoover Acceptance," The New York Times, August 12th, 1928.
4. "Herbert Hoover's Great Illusion," The New Republic, August 22nd, 1928 (Vol. 56, No. 716), 3-4.
5. Hoover, 198. Ickes to Johnson, September 27, 1928. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson. "Keeping Religion in the Campaign," The New Republic, October 10th, 1928 (Vol. 56, No. 723), 191-192.
6. Finan, 204. Neal, "The Campaigner," 48-49.
7. Neal, "The Campaigner," 12-14. Finan, 201-202.
8. Ibid. "Washington Views Divided on Speech," The New York Times, August 23rd, 1928.
9. Finan, 204-205. Schlesinger, Crisis of the Old Order, 125.
10. Finan, 205-206.
11. Schlesinger, Crisis of the Old Order, 125-127. Neal, "The Campaigner," 2. Burner, 204. Raskob, who argued in August that Smith would win by over 300 electoral votes, and just before election day that he would win by over 400, also plunged millions of dollars into resources that many thought a lost cause - most notably the Republican machine-controlled state of Pennsylvania. Neal, "The Campaigner," 19-20.
12. Neal, "The Campaigner," 21. Schlesinger, Crisis of the Old Order, 125. Among the political observers who thought the South would invariably fall into line was Mencken. "They will vote for [Smith]" he wrote, "because they (or their leaders) are hungry for jobs - because they will conclude, after due prayer, that is better to risk being sold down the river to the Pope and the Jesuits than to go on gaping at the swill-trough from afar, and mourning sadly like a calf taken away from its mamma." Mencken, A Carnival of Buncombe, 154.
13. Finan, 236-237.
14. Finan, 237-240. Schlesinger, Crisis of the Old Order, 125-127. "Some of Mr. Hoover's regulatory attempts are undoubtedly for the good of our economic system," one of Roosevelt's entreaties to business leaders read, "but I think the policy of Governor Smith to let businessmen look after business matters is far safer for our country." Schlesinger, 127.
15. Schlesinger, Crisis of the Old Order, 380-383. Finan, 241.
16. Neal, "The Campaigner," 24, 27, 29, 31. Burner, 196, 206. In point of fact, Burner notes, "Hoover had shaken hands with a mulatto lady prominent in Washington's black society and asked her whether she remembered their last dance in Washington." Burner, 206.
17. Neal, "The Campaigner," 23. Murray, The 103rd Ballot, 278-279. Finan, 207. Slayton, ix-x.
19. Neal, "The Campaigner," 30-32. Finan, 220. "Editorial Paragraphs," The Nation, October 31st, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3304), 438.
20. Neal, "The Campaigner," 30-32. Slayton, xii-xiii. Frank Graham, Al Smith, American: An Informal Biography (New York: Van Rees Press, 1945), 198-199. Finan, 216-217.
21. Hoover, 198, 208. Slayton, xii-xiii. Finan, 213. Hoover also argued that had Smith "been a Protestant, he would certainly have lost and might even have had a smaller vote…the religious issue had no weight in the final result" - it lost Smith votes in the South and won him votes in states like Massachusets. While it is clear that Hoover was likely to win the election in any event, the idea that religion was irrelevant to the final outcome is no doubt overstated. After a painstaking statistical analysis of the election returns, historian Allan Lichtman argued that, in fact, Al Smith's Catholicism was the preeminent issue of the campaign, overshadowing even the wet-dry and rural-urban divides. Hoover, 208-209. Allan Lichtman, Prejudice and the Old Politics: The Presidential Election of 1928 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979).
22. White to Monsignor D.E. Hunt, March 25, 1927. White, Selected Letters, 268.
23. White to FDR, February 11, 1928. White, Selected Letters, 283-284. Slayton, x. Ashby, 273. White to Edward J. Woodhouse, July 20, 1928. White, Selected Letters, 285. "White surely is about the best thing that the Middle West and the small town in the Buick-radio age has produced," Lippmann said of the Sage of Emporia to Herbert Croly. But "he made me feel as if defeating Al Smith had in it an enterprise about equivalent to heaving a stray cat out of the parlor. Intellectually, he's able to comprehend, of course, that Smith is a real person, representing real things, but emotionally he's no more able to comprehend the kind of things you and I feel than he would be if we suddenly announced that we'd embraced Buddhism." Steel, 248.
24. "Editorial Paragraphs," The Nation, August 15th, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3293), 148. Ickes to Johnson, August 24, 1928. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson. White to Myron S. Blumenthal, October 18, 1928. White, Selected Letters, 286-287. The Nation also called out White for being partisan to the point of nonsensical with regard to his fellow Kansan, Charles Curtis. "Some years ago [White] called Curtis a "nit-wit"; declared he 'served the great interests' in the Senate; demanded his defeat for reelection by Kansas…This year White appeared at the Kansas City convention demanding Curtis's nomination for President and lauding him to the skies. Charley, the ex-archtraitor, had suddenly become the ideal man to head this country, and Mr. White backed his fellow Kansan's candidacy by editorials praising him highly. Yet…when a reporter asked him if he still believed that Curtis was a 'nitwit,' Mr. White said Yes, that he stood by this description of him! Mr. White being a sincere teetotaler, this mystery is beyond us. We pass it on to the psychoanalysts." Ibid.
25. Finan, 214. Burner, 205-206.
26. Chambers, 142-143. Ashby, 260. Slayton, 214-215.
27. "The Dirtiest Political Campaign," The Nation, October 31st, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3304), 440.
28. Burner, 204. Neal, "The Campaigner," 37.
29. Hoover, 198. "Smith as Political Expert," The New Republic, October 3rd, 1928 (Vol. 56, No. 722), 164-166. Neal, "The Campaigner," 40. "Borah Punctures Claim of Smith," October 1st, 1928, 9-10. WJB Box 782: 1928 Speeches. After winning the election, Hoover telegrammed Borah saying "Now I can more fully appreciate the enormous effect of your support by the reports all through the West, I wish to record this preliminary appreciation" McKenna, 258.
30. "Borah Punctures Claim of Smith,"12, 15. Borah, Smith argued in Chicago in response, "posed for altogether too many years as a great political advance agent of progress, a great progressive from the great wide open spaces of the West, talking for everything that is high and lofty. But the evidence today pretty clearly indicates that he is more interested in the success of his party than he is in the vindication of any principle that he ever espoused. He didn't always think so much of Mr. Hoover." Nonetheless, as with Senator Robinson's indignant response to the Governor's purported alcoholism, Smith engaging Hoover's subordinate Borah, rather than Hoover himself, suggests Smith was losing the overall campaign. McKenna, 256-257.
31. Neal, "The Campaigner, 40-41. George Norris, "Correspondence," The Nation, July 18th, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3289), 63-64.
32. Norris, "Correspondence," The Nation, July 18th, 1928, 63-64. Norris, 286-287. Another Senator who agreed with Norris on the primacy of the power issue was Hiram Johnson. "To me the most dangerous and menacing thing there is today in our American life," he told Ickes in June 1928, "is the electric power trust." Their actions, he argued, "call loudly for opposition, if not denunciation from every man who seeks the suffrages of our people "Johnson to Ickes, July 13, 1928. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson.
33. Hoover, 197-198. Zinn, La Guardia in Congress, 168-169. Neal, "The Campaigner," 43. Smith, as Norris well knew, was not an advocate of complete public ownership. He had long been on record, however, for public development of water power, akin to the Boulder Dam model. Neal, "The Campaigner," 43.
34. Hoover, 203-204.
36. Hoover, 202. Finan, 221-223.
37. "Herbert Hoover - Conservative," The New Republic, October 31st, 1928 (Vol. 56, No. 726), 287-288.
38. "Herbert Hoover - Conservative," 287-288. Neal, "The Campaigner," 43
40. Hoover, 202. Finan, 223. Schlesinger, Crisis of the Old Order, 384. Mencken, A Carnival of Buncombe, 202. Lowitt, 411. Burner, 202. The real Socialist in the race, Norman Thomas, thought both Hoover's original argument and Smith's riposte were ridiculous. "Mr. Hoover ," Thomas said on the campaign trail, "calls his capitalism 'rugged individualism' and professes to find some peculiar virtue in the wasteful and chaotic mismanagement of coal, in our frantic real estate speculation, and in our gigantic corporations owned by irresponsible absentee stockholders. He ignores the waste, the the tyranny, the threat of war which arise out of our attempt to control the essentials of modern life for us all under the law of the jungle. Governor Smith's vindication of himself is more triumphant than he may think. If he is a socialist in the same sense as Hughes, Miller, and the other Republicans whom he cites, he is not even a progressive, let alone socialist." "Editorial Paragraphs," The Nation, November 7th, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3305), 466.
41. Chambers, 140-141. Burner, 199.
43. Cott, 262-264.
44. Ashby, 275. Felix Frankfurter, "Why I Am For Smith," The New Republic, October 31st, 1928 (Vol. 56, No. 726), 294-295.
45. John Dewey, "Why I Am for Smith," The New Republic, October 31st, 1928 (Vol.56, No. 727), 320-321.
46. Schlesinger, Crisis of the Old Order, 114. Mencken, A Carnival of Buncombe, 142.
47. Ickes to Johnson, August 24, 1928. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson. Ickes to Johnson, September 27, 1928. Box 33: Hiram Johnson. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson. Ickes to Johnson, October 24, 1928. HLI. Box 33: Hiram Johnson.
48. Ickes to Addams, October 22, 1928. HLI Box 29: Jane Addams. Addams to Ickes, October 28, 1928. HLI Box 29: Jane Addams.
49. Johnson to Ickes, October 10, 1928, HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson. Gifford Pinchot to Hoover, July 6, 1928. HLI, Box 38: Gifford Pinchot.
50. Johnson to Ickes, October 20, 1928. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson. Johnson to Ickes, September 28, 1928. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson. Ickes to Johnson, October 2, 1928. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson. Ickes to Johnson, October 24, 1928. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson.
51. McKenna, 256-257. "Borah and Hoover," The Nation, November 7th, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3305), 470-471.
52. Ashby, 272, 278-279.
53. Ashby, 275. "Progressives and Socialists," The New Republic, November 7th, 1928 (Vol. 56, No. 727), 315-316. Herbert Hoover Wins," The Nation, June 27th, 1928 (Vol. 126, No. 3286), 708-709. "The Dirtiest Political Campaign," The Nation, October 31st, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3304), 440.
54. "How Shall We Vote?" The Crisis, November 1928, 385-386.
55. "Editorial Paragraphs," The Nation, October 31st, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3304), 437. "The Nation's Presidential Poll," The Nation, November 7th, 1928 (Vol. 127, No. 3305), 470-471.
56. Finan, 226. Neal, "The Campaigner," 19-21.
57. Neal, "The Campaigner," 19-21. Emily Smith Warner, The Happy Warrior (New York: Doubleday, 1956), 209-228.
If you found this dissertation useful or entertaining, please consider contributing to the tip fund.
Alas, history isn't the wildly remunerative discipline it used to be.