The Country Needs a Strong Opposition Party


By JOSEPH W. MARTIN, JR., Republican Leader of the House and Chairman of the Republican National Committee

Delivered over the Columbia Broadcasting System, April 3, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 436-437

FELLOW AMERICANS: I want to have a heart-to-heart talk with you tonight concerning some matters which, in my considered judgment, are vitally necessary to the welfare of our country, if we are to continue as a nation of liberty, a nation of opportunity in which every man and every woman can receive equal justice. While this discussion will be in the interests of a strong Republican Party, it is not given in a partisan spirit, but because of a deep and profound belief that a strong Republican Party is absolutely vital to our American way of life.

We all want national unity where ever and when ever national unity aids in the preservation of America and the security of our people. No one wants, or should want, national unity in any policy or action injurious to the best interests of the nation; in any policy which would destroy the Two-party System of Government in America.

Time and experience have demonstrated the Two-party System of Government to be the only system which will preserve the American way of life. It has built a strong America. It will preserve a free America.

There is a vital need today for a vigorous, virile Republican Party. We are in the midst of a great national crisis. Vast and unprecedented powers have been given to the Chief Executive. Bewildering sums are being spent for defense—and in the name of defense. Enormous taxes are soon to be imposed upon our people. We stagger along in the direction of war. We face the possibility of national bankruptcy.

This picture is not a pleasant one, but it is the realistic one. This is no hour for "echo men." It is a time demanding courage and honest thinking. Our first thought must be the welfare of our country.

A vigorous, courageous Republican Party is essential to police and audit the New Deal Administration as it revels in the spending of thirty or forty billions of dollars, and in the possession of vast and unparalleled powers granted it only because of the urgent needs of national defense. We must police and audit the New Deal Administration to protect our country from financial, political and social bankruptcy.

We must police these great powers granted the President to assure, as far as possible, their wise administration. We must be ready to fight to restore those powers to the people's representatives when the emergency has ended.

We must police the bureaus and the men to whom the fate of the nation has been entrusted. Their work must be done efficiently, honestly, economically, and on a non-partisan basis. We must audit those who have been entrusted with the handling of sums so vast they are beyond comprehension. Our national debt is already enormous. Today the debt is 47 billions of dollars in contrast to one and one quarter billions when we entered the last war. We cannot tolerate extravagance or dishonesty. Racketeering must have no place in our national defense.

We Republicans in Congress must perform the thankless but patriotic and essential task of policing and auditing those in charge of our national defense.

We all recall the extravagance and inefficiency in the first world war. Billions wasted in faulty and misdirected shipbuilding; inefficient and extravagant airplane construction; graft and corruption. We can remember the vast amount of goods purchased which never could have been honestly used. I say to you, my fellow citizens, the scandals of 1918 must not be repeated.

A grave responsibility rests upon us all, whether we be Republicans, or Democrats, employer or employee, public official or private citizen. We must unselfishly contribute all we can to our national security. Those who may seek to take advantage of this perilous hour to exploit the nation's needs to their own profit, or to advance their own selfish interests will, sooner or later, find themselves condemned as traitors and outcasts by the power of public opinion.

This is no time to reward political henchmen with juicy contracts or luscious loans. Such acts would be just as dangerous to American security and freedom as a gun aimed at the breast of an American soldier. Profiteering, contract racketeering, or partisan spending will not be tolerated by a people who see their very future menaced.

This is no time for strikes or lockouts which prevent us from achieving the earliest possible adequate national defense. No honest American workman wants to defeat the security of his country. No American worker wants to imperil the welfare of his people. Honest workers are just as unselfish and patriotic as any other class of citizens. Under honest, patriotic leadership, American workers will respond to the call of their country as readily as those men who serve under arms. Waste of time, waste of money, waste of men—theseare the fatal mistakes which could end the glorious reality of Free America.

The nation demands production and more production. It demands efficiency and patriotism above selfishness. The call is imperative. As Americans who love their country; who prize its priceless liberties, privileges and advantages; as Americans determined to remain free, let us press forward with our defense program. Let our fervent prayers be that we can avoid having to send millions of our boys to the trenches. Let us never for a moment lose sight of the suffering and the perils which would come with our participation in another world war.

We Republicans have a vastly important function in this national emergency. The safety and perpetuity of our nation are at stake. We must guard them against mistakes and against excesses of power or excesses of spending.

We must, of course, have national unity in our defense plans. Republicans, Democrats and Independents must stand together to make our nation invincible against any assault whether it should come from the outside or the inside of the country. Events abroad must not be permitted to distract us from the vigilance required at home. Our greatest danger is still from insidious inside forces. That fact will be apparent to every American as we proceed with the defense program.

The nation, my fellow countrymen, is confronted by two great dangers. The first is some groups may seek to make use of our present emergency and the great burden of debt we are piling up to destroy our economic and political system. The second is the Republican Party, suddenly returned to power through reaction against the New Deal, might lack a carefully-prepared program of action.

As to the first danger, a New Dealer recently said, in private, the public debt probably could be increased to as much as 140 billions of dollars, at which point the public credit probably would break and the Government would then step in and nationalize everything.

As to the second danger, any party called upon in 1944 to meet the grave problems which the New Deal Administration has for more than eight years left unsolved will have an extremely difficult task. We Republicans are busy studying those problems now. We will be well prepared for the task that lies ahead.

We must preserve the American way of consideration and respect for the rights and the views of the minorities.

When we Republicans speak of the rights of the minorities, and when we demand respect for the views of the minorities, we are not referring only to small groups. We mean also a minority amounting practically to half of the citizens of the United States. The Republican minority in the last Presidential election polled more than 22 million votes. No impartial judge would deny this was a good majority of the free votes in the nation.

The great objective of the last campaign must continue to be the objective of the Republican Party. Truth and justice will eventually triumph. As patriots banded together in a great cause, let us go forward to the battle to retain the American way of life and to build a finer and better America.

We Republicans realize that millions of Americans of every political belief are looking expectantly to us. We will justify their faith.