11"01IEN G 0 VERN ORS IN AMERICA
By FRANK IL KENT.
IT is not always safe to judge political situations from surface facts. Very often the facts can be wholly misleading. Take, for instance, the recent inauguration or two women Governors in America—Mrs. Miriam Amanda Ferguson, known as " Ma " Ferguson, as Gover- nor of the great State of Texas, and Mrs. Nellie T. Ross as Governor of Wyoming. These are the first women ever elected to the office. It is natural to assume that their Success marks a great stride forward in the feminist movement, that a striking victory has been won by women, that a new political era is opening in the United States, and that woman is within striking distance of the White house itself. These are, perhaps, logical deductions at a distance, but they are completely fallacious, nevertheless.
To present the true picture, it will simplify things to deal first with Governor Ross. Wyoming is a small, unimportant, sparsely populated, far Western State. What happened there was that the Governor suddenly died. Partly because of sentiment, but mostly because of local political expediency, the machine nominated and elected his widow to serve the balance of the term. It happened to be the politically convenient thing. A primary fight was avoided. In the two years she is to serve there will be little for Mrs. Ross to do. Her election was a foregone conclusion and her campaign with- out incident or interest. In policy and patronage she will take the advice of her husband's political friends, and her successor will not be of her own sex.
This brings us to " Ma " Ferguson--a much more interesting and colourful figure—and to a far more dramatic story. In the first place, though it has less than five million people, Texas is by long odds the biggest . State in the Union. It is in area about four times as large as England, Scotland and Wales. Being Governor of a vast territory like that means something. If " Ma " had been elected because she was a woman, or by the woman vote, or on the woman issue, that would, indeed, be indicative of a revolutionary change in American politics. Had such been the case, there might be some justification for a long look ahead to a time when Presi- dents of the United States would wear skirts and bob their hair. But none of these things occurred. Mrs. Ferguson was elected by the men of the State of Texas, not on an issue vindicating the right of a woman to be elected to the highest State office, but in vindication of a man who, eight years ago, was thrown out of that office.
Back of "-Ma " is a man. He was back of her during her primary campaign, in the general election battle, at her inauguration on January 20th, and now. " Ma ". holds the reins, but " Jim " drives. -" Ma " may be Governor, but " Jim " is Prime Minister. " Ma " gets the publicity, but " Jim " holds the power. " Ma " ran because " Jim " couldn't ; but " Jim " paced her,- guided 'her and landed her.
" Jim " is her husband, who, ten years ago, was elected Governor of .Texas, and, after a comparatively quiet term, was re-elected. Then the trouble began. It is too long a . story to tell here in full. 4 row started between the Governor and the trustees of the University of Texas. Charges and counter charges were made. The culmination, after months of battling, was the indictment of- the GoVer-, nor by a Texas jury on the charge of misapplication of State funds and embezzlement, followed by impeach- ment by the State Senate.
" Jim " fought furiously to the last ditch. 'He ran for Governor a third time and was beaten. He ran for the United States Senate and was beaten. He organized, in 1920, an " American party " and ran for President in Texas, and got 150,000 votes. Always his issue was " vindication." If it had not been for his impeachment he would have run again. That put an effectual legal bar to his candidature for any office. So, not being able to run-again himself, " Jim " trotted " Ma " out and made her run. And " Ma " certainly showed, as they say in racing circles, " some speed." She chose as her platform the one on which " Jim " had last stood, and she avowed as her issue " vindication " of her husband, and a " right- ing of the wrong " done him. Proclaiming herself proud to be his wife and the mother of his children, " Ma " went all over the State, accompanied by " Jim," who did most of the speaking.
• It is probable, however, that " Jim's " speeches, " Ma's " pride, and their joint desire for his " vindication " would not have been enough all together to have pulled the Fergusons through had not the Ku Klux Klan injected itself into the fight. Once that issue was raised, every- thing else was obscured. The Klan supported the oppo- sition candidate. " Jim " and " Ma " joyfully accepted the challenge. They were able to change a defensive position to an offensive one. This really made the Ferguson victory in the primaries possible. After the nomination, the Klan continued the battle by lining up behind the Republican candidate in the general election.
But Texas does not elect Republicans, no matter how righteous they may be. The normal Democratic majority was sufficiently great to make " Ma " easy in her mind, once she was nominated. The extent of the campaign against her, however, can be judged when it is stated that " Ma " was elected by a 100,000 majority, in a State that usually gives its Governors between 300,000 and 400,000. Of course, the election of a woman as Governor in as great a State as Texas was a sensational and historic event The American newspapers went at it in characteristic style. " Ma " was the subject of numerous syndicated " feature " articles and Sunday " stories." She was written up from every angle. A great many qualities and ideas that she never had were attributed to her, and significance was read into her most platitudinous remarks.
Her plans and policies were discussed, and every effort was made to squeeze out of her non-sensational inaugural address and subsequent trite message to the Legislature as many ounces of sensation as possible. But it was tough and unprofitable work.
The truth is that " Ma " Ferguson is a typical farmer's wife of a Western State. She is solid, middle-class and elderly, a very good cook, but entirely uninitiated in legislative and political ways. She has two daughters and one granddaughter, and admits that she had so little interest in politics that she did not always use her vote after she was given one. She would not have thought of running had it not been for " Jim." She did not want to be Governor, but it looked like something she had to do for the family. • As for " Jim," there are few keener politicians in the State than he. He knows politics inside and out. This is his " vindication " and he knows it. It will be a man's, not a woman's Administration. " Ma " is a level-headed lady, who will docilely play the game, take advice, do her best and, at the end of two years, relinquish her office with a sincere sigh of relief. It puts " Jim "–back in State politics with a bang. Soon, the Senate is expected to rescind its impeachment of him. _Once that is done, he will again be able to do his own running for office, and not have to call on " Ma." " Ma " will be glad. It will give her more time to preserve peaches and keep up the housework.