5 JUNE 1936, Page 14


Commonwealth and Foreign [To the Editor of TILE SPECTATOR.] whole procedure of choosing and instructing delegates for the Republican Convention at Cleveland on . June 9th has been conducted in an unwonted atmosphere of sweet reasonableness. This is not so much of a blessing for the Republicans as might be supposed. There is reason to believe that the complacency of the usually turbulent insurgents is due not so much to their benevolence toward the leadership and the tendencies of the Republican party as to their favourable regard for the New Deal. Senator Norris of Nebraska, the political heir of the late Robert M. La Follette and the real leader of the La Follette group in Congress, has been in- the Roosevelt following all along. Mr. Roosevelt's opposition to the electric power • companies won him. Young Senator , La Follette and others of the group are in much the same position, and Mr. Roosevelt, who has sought to win over this element of the Republican party from the beginning, is believed to have hopes of securing the adhesion of that unfailing individualist, Mr. Borah himself. Whether Senator Borah comes over or not, the fact that the main body of the insurgents has acted as it has this year suggests that the Republican . party may be by way of losing permanently a large body of its adherents in the North-west, and that Mr. Roosevelt's supposed desire to bring all Left-Centre groups together under the banner of the Democratic party is a step nearer success.

Although aspirants for the Republican presidential nomina- tion have been sweetly reasonable with each other, they have exhibited an almost unprecedented rage against the New Deal and its author. For two years after the inauguration of Mr. Roosevelt, the Republicans were so frightened at the thought of their own failures during the early part of the depression, and so staggered by the President's popularity, that hardly any of their spokesmen dared make an open - and vigorous fight against the legislative innovations the New Deal comprised. Indeed, many of the small band of Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate voted for such controversial measures as the devaluation of the dollar and the now invalidated National Industrial Recovery Act. After the Supreme Court killed the Recovery Act, however, they began to recover their courage and with the reconvening of Congress in January of this year they began a real fight to check what they consider Mr. Roosevelt's unwarranted departures from what they call "American ideals," meaning of course American ideals as interpreted by the Republican party. Their fury against the President and his experiments has known no bounds, but the attacks may have overshot the mark.

l'ntil about three months ago, the Roosevelt Administration seemed definitely on the defensive in the court of popular opinion. Various polls showed the President was losing his popularity and there was a conviction in not a few quarters that the Republicans, even with the loss of the insurgents but with the help of disaffected Democrats might accomplish his defeat. But the very vindictiveness of the attacks on the President seems to have provoked a reaction. So many people called Mr. Roosevelt a Communist, a wrecker, a traitor to the. American spirit that the average man who, sceptical though he might be of the President's innovations, nevertheless credited Mr. Roosevelt with good intentions, began to grow sceptical of the critics themselves. As a result most of those who are not extreme partisans think the President's chances are brightening.

It does not much matter whether the Republicans nominate Governor Alfred M. Landon, of Kansas, who is now away out In front of all other contenders, or Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the most likely "dark horse." In either case, the campaign will be conducted along the same lines and those lines will be determined largely by the attitude the. President adopts and the issues he chooses to bring to the front. He is in fact the issue. It will be a fight between the Roosevelt supporters and the anti-Roosevelt crowd.

But if the President is the issue, the issues are not so simple. They are in fact horribly confused. Mr. Roosevelt has shown greater agility in changing his position on particular questions than any man who has occupied the White House since the Civil War. Elected on a platform calling for public) economy, a balanced budget, sound money and the enforce- ment of the laws against monopolies, he promptly forgot his campaign commitments once he was in office. He accepted Mr. Keynes' doctrine about public spending and gaily incurred deficits which had caused Mr. Hoover the gravest anxieties. He abandoned gold, devalued the dollar and -finally undertook through the N.R.A. to allow business associations to exercise through their code authorities the very monopolistic powers his party had condemned.

But he is now working back toward his original position. He is showing concern again over the gigantic expenditure of borrowed money that has been in progress ever since he took office and is looking with new favour on a balanced budget. The dollar has been stabilised de facto for more than two years, and there are indications that the President might, after the election at least, welcome a definitive stabilisation. And while the President seems to regret the Supreme Court decisions invalidating his attempts to invest business with monopolistic powers, he shows no disposition to initiate the constitutional amendments that would be necessary to give those attempts fresh validity. The whole constitutional question which the Supreme Court raised by invalidating the N.R.A., the A.A.A. and the Guffey Coal Act is in fact in something of a fog. The right of the national government to legislate for the national welfare is involved in this matter, and ultimately there will have to be a reasoned popular decision on the merits of the constitutional philosophy upon which the Roosevelt policies seem to have been based.

Fundamentally, the President's hold on the country springs not so much from acceptance of his position on particular issues as from the conviction that for all his mistakes, he is still trying to check the excesses of what is known in America as "big business." Most people believe "big business had its own way to a dangerous degree under successive Republican Administrations, and to say that Mr. Roosevelt seeks to check its excesses is equivalent in the popular mind to saying that he wants to help the under-dog. In so far as concerns his relief programme, his unemployment insurance plan, his old age pensions and his insistence on the regulation of the stock markets, the popular idea that Mr. Roosevelt is on the side of the under-dog has at least a partial foundation in reality. In so far as measures like the N.R.A. and the Guffey Coal Act (known as the little N.R.A.") may be concerned it is another story. If the Supreme Court had not erased those measures from the statute-book, groups of private citizens in every important field of business would have enjoyed the right to strangle competition, which in a capitalist society is often the chief safeguard of the worker and the small man. Whether Mr. Roosevelt will turn around and be for the little fellow and for labour in these matters remains to be seen, but the idea that he is on that side remains as the basis of much of his popularity.

It will be for the Republicans to disabuse the public mind on this score or to prove that they are equally devoted to the cause of the under-dog if they hope to win in November. They are not in a particularly happy position to succeed in such a task. The ascendancy of big business" during the twelve years they were in office after the War is still fresh in the public mind. Moreover, while they are highly vocal again-t the New Deal, they have evolved no real programme of their own to offer as an alternative. And, finally, neither Governor Landon nor Senator Vandenberg is likely to become a candidate of -outstanding ability or appeal. Unless the unexpected happens at Cleveland, the Republicans will emerge from their national convention with an honest but =distin- guished candidate and, a platform offering sops to all minoritics and special interests.—I am, .Ur,. &e.,