Freedom Cannot Be Inherited
"WE ARE THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY"
By HELEN GAHAGAN DOUGLAS, National Committee-woman from California
Delivered before Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Ill., July 20, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 632-.
WE the people are engaged in an enterprise of freedom. We turn our attention in the midst of a global war to a national election. No nation that had lost any part of freedom could engage in an election No nation, not free, would be having this convention, oh could have held the convention which took place here three weeks ago.
We the people know tonight, proudly and triumphantly, that ours is a free land, and no motivated part of us can tell us otherwise. At this hour our freedom brings high responsibility. The people of America cannot afford to make, a mistake. We cannot afford to endanger our future by: muddy thinking or limited vision.
We are a free people. But freedom is not something that can be inherited—taken from the shoulders of one generation and placed on the shoulders of another. We must earn freedom so that we may prize it—know when it is in jeopardy, for we can lose our freedom not only from without our shores but from within ourselves.
Freedom demands self-discipline, sacrifices and a high choice of leadership. Freedom demands daily intelligence and moral tests of people who would enjoy its glorious blessings. The two-party system is the American device by which those tests are posed most severely for us. We cherish that system. In this year of years we welcome that test.
Tonight we will select the man who as President of these United States for the next four years will have greater responsibilities than any other man has ever had.
As commander in chief of the armed forces the next President will have enormous influence in bringing the war to complete victory. As the head of the nation, charged by the Constitution with the conduct of foreign affairs, be will have more influence on the peace terms than any other person in this world. As Chief Executive he will be re* quired to take the lead in shaping domestic affairs during the period of demobilization and after.
Calls For Experienced Man
We must not commit the lives and the future of the American people to inexperience and negation.
We must have a man—broad visioned—one who is wholly capable and entirely familiar with the intricate and multitudinous problems that must be met and solved in wartime. We must have a man of high ability to deal with the great problems of diplomacy—to sit with the representatives of the nations of the world on familiar and confident terms. We must choose a humanitarian with practical and proven plans, for insuring a post-war period of high production and equitable distribution.
We the people want no bread lines as a result of the peace we all long for.
We want the man whose every act over twelve years shows that he hates and loathes bread lines with every fiber of his being. We want the man who has taken more concentrated abuse from the few than any other man in American history, because he has refused to consign any part of the American people to poverty.
Here, tonight, we are keenly aware of our men and women on battle fronts all over the world. We have in our hearts the deepest gratitude for their sacrifices.
We are of stern determination to give each and every one of them not just lip service but full opportunity for rehabilitation, for education, for jobs, for advancement, in a full and happy life when this war is over.
We each see our own, you and I, the ones we love best, in relation to this war. There is scarcely a home across the length and breadth of this country that has not been touched by it. But you belittle your son, your daughter, your husband and I belittle my husband and we imperil our children unless' we see our dear ones now serving overseas in relation to their country, their world, their future.
It is with this future in mind that this convention makes its choice tonight.
Praises Efficient Army
We know that this country, mindful of the quickening pulse of social change the world over, will choose a President who will lead us to a fuller and richer life.
We know this because we are the party of the people. The Democratic party has no interests apart from the interests of the American people. It has no interests apart from the interests of the American soldiers—the millions of American workers—and of American business.
There is no conflict between what the Democratic party wants and what the majority of the people of America want, for they want the same.
America wanted an efficient army. Ours is the best equipped army ever sent into battle; ours is the best clothed army ever sent into battle; ours is the best cared for army ever sent into battle. The reason is short, simple and clear. This Administration has no interests apart from the fighting sons, daughters, fathers and mothers of America.
This is the first of America's wars in which there has not been a scandalous inflation. This Administration has no interest in run-away prices, because the Democratic party has no interest apart from the people who must pay the prices for food, clothing and shelter.
This Administration is the instrument of the people. It has been forged by them in three successive campaigns, as their tool for obtaining what they want—what they need—what they must have in order to live.
The people of America have made the Democratic party as they have made the railroads and the highways, the bridges and the tall buildings of America. They have made the Democratic party to conserve their heritage.
The Democratic party is the true conservative party. We have conserved hope and ambition in the hearts of our people. We are the conservative party. We have conserved the skills of their hands. We have husbanded our natural resources. We have saved millions of homes and farms from foreclosure and conserved the family stake in democracy.
Cites Party Accomplishments
We have rescued banks and trust companies, insured crops and people's savings. We have built schools. We have checked the flooding rivers and turned them into power.
We have begun a program to free men and women from the constant nagging fear of unemployment, sickness, accident—and the dread of insecure old age.
We have turned a once isolated, flood-ravished, poverty-stricken valley, the home of four and a half million people, into what is now a productive, happy place to live—the Tennessee River Valley.
We have replanted the forest, re-fertilized the soil. Ours is the conservative party.
We have guarded children, protected them by labor laws, planned school-lunch programs, provided clinics. Our is the conservative party.
Ours is the party that has created laws which have given dignity and protection to the working men and women of this country.
Ours is the party that has made the individual aware of the need for his participation in a true democracy. We are the conservative party.
We have conserved the people's faith in a people's government—democracy.
Because we are the conservative party, we reject the hazy Republican dream that this country can get along with its government dismantled, its housing programs destroyed, its wage and price controls thrown out the window. The Republican leaders are the dreamers. They have no contact with the people or with the realities of their wants and needs.
Their program is a dream, a nightmare of muddle and confusion. In their bankruptcy they have turned to this dream because they have nothing to offer in their platform except a series of contradictions, and what the Bible calls wicked imaginations." What interests us are the dreams of the young men and women of America for jobs, for homes, for families—and we are determined to make these dreams a reality.
Assails Republican Program
It is because the Democratic party has no ambitions apart from the ambitions of the American people that we disdain to talk to you in contradictory terms or what is known as double talk.
The Republican candidate has pledged himself to carry Ho Japan a defeat so crushing and complete that every last man among them will know that he has been beaten.
And at the same time the Republican platform does not indicate by a single line or a single word that there is any need for further war sacrifice.
That is double talk.
The Republican party has pledged itself to reduce taxes to the normal expenditures of government as soon as the war ends and also has pledged itself to reduce the national debt. It has not explained how taxes and debt can be so reduced at the same time. That is double talk.
The Republican party has pledged itself to support farm prices, but in the same breath tells the farmers that Federal subsidies are un-American. That is double talk. The Republican leadership demands that barriers to world trade be reduced, and also that foreign goods be kept out of this country. And that is double talk.
The Republican leadership declares that we need vigorous young men in Washington, because of the hard jobs that lie ahead, and it also declares that Washington is going to have nothing to do when this war is over. All government will be returned to the States. And that is double talk.
The Republican party declares that it is the party of the Constitution, but its nominee declares that he will not participate in the active management of the war.
This thoughtless and inept argument ignores the fact that our founding fathers carefully provided for civilian control of the military as the only possible safeguard of democratic life. The Constitution gave the people the right to elect a civilian commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
More Double Talk
Yet the Republican nominee runs for the office of commander-in-chief on the solemn pledge that if elected he will not fulfill his duties. That is double talk.
In the early days of the war when the choice of the top positions of the armed forces had to be made, when the choice of theaters in which to concentrate our effectiveness had to be made, the Republican leaders complained that the war was being managed poorly by our Commander-in-Chief.
Now that we are on the threshold of victory, now that every military fact in the world testifies to the magnificence with which President Roosevelt has performed his duties as Commander-in-Chief, the Republicans have changed their arguments, and their tune is now that the American armies and navies need no commander-in-chief and that the war will run itself. And that is more double talk.
The leadership of the Republican party, lacking sufficient vision and stature, has made a miserable attempt to discredit President Roosevelt's work in flying personally to the far places of the world . . . to sit down with the heads of the British, Chinese and Russian states. These conferences, which have built mutual respect and confidence between our President and other leaders of the United Nations have been the greatest demonstration in history of working unity on the part of the peoples of this world—a unity and understanding that will prove to be the foundation for action to prevent future wars.
The Republican nominee implies that he will participate in no such conferences. He declares that he will delegate the conduct of foreign policy to a secretary whose name we do not even know. It is the President, however, under the American Constitution, who is responsible for foreign policy. He is responsible to the people. Once again the Republican candidate seeks to divest himself of a duty.
The reason, of course, for the Republican attempt to divest the office of the Presidency of these vital Constitutional duties is clear. The Republican leaders realize that the people of America suspect that the Republican candidate is not properly equipped for the tremendous tasks ahead.
No Secret Aspirations
The Republican leaders realize that the people of America know that President Roosevelt has shown himself to be equal to such tasks and all emergencies.
The powers of leadership, vision and statesmanship of President Roosevelt are universally recognized.
Whoever becomes President succeeds in doing so because he has won the confidence of a majority of the voters regardless of party. There aren't enough Democrats to elect a President—nor are there enough Republicans to do so. Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been elected President for three successive terms—and each time the Republicans have helped to put him in office.
The last three elections have shown that the Democratic party has been the best friend the Republican rank and file voter has ever had: He knows it and he has voted accordingly.
And that, again, is because he knows that the Democratic party has no secret aspirations of its own—it has no private goals which are different from the goals of the American people.
Every program of our administration has been one for all of America; every bit of social legislation we have favored has been designed to help Americans on the basis of their need.
Never before in American history have the people of both parties been so long united on one man. They have been united in support of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who believes the wealth of a nation is its people; and the people will elect him again because they know that he has no ambition that is not for all of America.