The Liberal Platform
DEMOCRATIC PARTY CANNOT BE CONSERVATIVE
By HENRY A. WALLACE, Vice-President of the United States
Delivered at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Ill., July 20, 1944
Delivered at the Democratic State Platform Convention, Des Moines, Iowa, July 29, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 650-652.
Chicago, Ill., July 20, 1944
AS chairman of the Iowa delegation I am deeply honored to second the nomination of the greatest living American—Franklin D. Roosevelt. The strength of the Democratic party has always been the people—plain people like so many of those here in this convention—ordinary folks, farmers, workers and businessmen along main street. Jefferson, Jackson and Woodrow Wilson knew the power of the plain people. All three laid down the thesis that the Democratic party can win only if and when it is the liberal party.
Now we have come to the most extraordinary election in the history of our country. Three times the Democraticparty has been led to victory by the greatest liberal in the history of the United States. The name Roosevelt is revered in the remotest corners of this earth. The name Roosevelt is cursed only by Germans, Japs and certain American troglodytes.
The first issue which transcends all others is that complete victory be won quickly. Roosevelt, in a world sense, is the most experienced military strategist who has ever been President of the United States. Roosevelt is the only person in the United States who can meet on even terms the other great leaders in discussions of war and peace. The voice of our new world liberalism must carry on.
It is appropriate that Roosevelt should run on the basis of his record as a war leader. He is successfully conducting a war bigger than all the rest of our wars put together. He must finish this job before the nation can breathe in safety. The boys at the front know this better than anyone else.
Liberal Ideas Championed
The future belongs to those who go down the line unswervingly for the liberal principles of both political democracy and economic democracy regardless of race, color or religion. In a political, educational and economic sense there must be no inferior races. The poll tax must go. Equal educational opportunities must come. The future must bring equal wages for equal work regardless of sex or race.
Roosevelt stands for all this. That is why certain people hate him so. That also is one of the outstanding reasons why Roosevelt will be elected for a fourth time.
President Roosevelt has long known that the Democratic party in order to survive must serve men first and dollars second. That does not mean that the Democratic party is against business—quite the contrary. But if we want more small businessmen, as the Democratic party undoubtedly does, we must modify our taxation system to encourage risk capital to invest in all rapidly growing small business.
We want both a taxation system and a railroad rate structure which will encourage new business and the development of the newer industrial regions of the South and West. Rate discrimination must go.
"Old Elephant Never Changes"
The Democratic party in convention assembled is about to demonstrate that it is not only a free party but a liberal party. The Democratic party cannot long survive as a conservative party. The Republican party has a monopoly on the conservative brains and the conservative dollars. Democrats who try to play the Republican game inside the Democratic party always find that it just can't work on a national scale.
In like manner Republicans who try to play the Democratic game inside the Republican party find that while it may work on a State basis it can never work nationally. I know because my own father tried it. Perhaps Wendell Willkie may have learned in 1944 a little of that which my own father learned in 1924. The old elephant never changes and never forgives.
By nominating Franklin Roosevelt the Democratic party is again declaring its faith in liberalism. Roosevelt is a greater liberal today than he has ever been. His soul is pure. The high quality of Roosevelt liberalism will become more apparent as the war emergency passes. The only question ever in Roosevelt's mind is how best to serve the cause of liberalism in the long run. He thinks big. He sees far.
World Cooperation Set as Goal
There is no question about the renomination of President Roosevelt by this convention. The only question is whether the convention and the party workers believe wholeheartedly in the liberal policies for which Roosevelt has always stood.
Our problem is not to sell Roosevelt to the Democratic convention but to sell the Democratic party and the Democratic convention to the people of the United States.
The world is peculiarly fortunate that in times like these the United States should be blessed with a leader of the caliber of Roosevelt. With the spirit of Woodrow Wilson, but avoiding the pitfalls which beset that great statesman, Roosevelt can and will lead the United States in cooperation with the rest of the world toward that type of peace which will prevent World War III. It is this peace for which the mothers and fathers of America hope and work.
Issues that will be with us for a generation—perhaps even for a hundred years—will take form at this convention and at the November election. The Democratic party and the independent voters will give Roosevelt their wholehearted support because of his record in peace and war.
As head of the Iowa delegation, in the cause of liberalism, and with a prayer for prompt victory in this war, permanent peace and full employment, I give you Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Des Moines, Iowa, July 29, 1944
Your choice of me as permanent chairman is deeply appreciated as a token of respect and affection. It is good to be with old friends to plan for victory on Nov. 7, here in Iowa. The prospects for a Roosevelt victory in the Midwest, and especially here in Iowa, are brighter than they were four years ago. At that time we were not in the war. Now we are, and the most reactionary Republican has reason to be concerned as to what might happen to the war effort if we should lose the skilled leadership of the President.
Roosevelt will win next fall in Iowa provided you do your part in getting out the full Democratic vote and provided, furthermore, you conduct the campaign on a high plane which does not alienate Republican voters who otherwise would be with you. This plan of campaign will give several Midwestern States to Roosevelt, but it is not enough to win many Congressional seats or many State or county tickets.
To do a real job on this front it will be necessary to make the Democratic party a vital, continuously functioning organization through which farmers, workers and small-town business and professional men can come to agreement and make their wants known. The Republican party and its organs of publicity have already tried to separate the farmer and the worker. The Democratic party can succeed only if it brings the farmer and the worker together on a liberal, constructive platform. Those Democrats who fight such a program are Republicans wearing false faces.
Praises Southern Friends
It is important to say a word about my Southern friends. The farmers of the Middle West owe a lot to the farmers of the South. We would never have gotten satisfactory agricultural legislation if it had not been for men like Marvin Jones, Senator John Bankhead and Senator Alben Barkley. True there are certain reactionary leaders, but these men are usually financed directly or indirectly from the North. More and more an intelligent, constructive liberal leadership will arise in the South which will not owe anything directly or indirectly to Wall Street or to outworn prejudices. (Senator) Claude Pepper of Florida and Gov. Ellis Arnall of Georgia, illustrate what I mean. Watch these men. They are young and have a sense of future trends.
One function of a liberal, constructive Democratic party is to keep the West and South united. Another function is to keep the farmer and labor united. In carrying out the
second function the Democratic party in Iowa should preach to the farmers every day in every county-seat town in Iowa— "Your income from hogs, butter, eggs and cattle goes up and down precisely with the total payrolls of labor. The moment labor gets into trouble you get into trouble also. You must have a sympathetic understanding of labor's problems if you are to understand your own."
Speeches Are Not Enough
After saying this, ask if it is not true that the Republicans are more interested in balancing the budget than in preventing unemployment. The Republicans were in charge after the Civil War and after World War I and on both occasions proceeded on the assumption that the depressions and unemployment were necessary correctives. The world-wide economic whirlwind unleashed sooner or later after the end of this war will be of such a magnitude as to require vigorous action of a type which the Republicans have never been willing to make.
That segment of the press and radio which is controlled by evil monetary interests continually fans every flame of prejudice which will maintain hatred between the farmer and worker. It is easy to state the fundamental Democratic thesis of unity between the farmer and the worker and contrast it with the Republican thesis of hatred between the farmer and worker.
The problem is to do something effective about it. It is not enough to make fire-eating speeches for three months once every four years. The money behind the Republican -1 press and radio subtly spreads its poison every day. To counteract this we must be on the job forming constructive public opinion.
We do not have much money and our avenues of press and radio publicity are. therefore seriously limited. But we do have manpower, womanpower and the enthusiasm of youth on our side. All that is necessary is to formulate a liberal program for constructive Democratic action which is so compelling in its appeal to farmers and workers in both the North and South that they will be anxious to give personally of their time and money to building a precinct-by-precinct and county-by-county organization with channels of publicity to service the members of the organization.
Liberal Cause Not Defeated
In doing such work we must enlist the services of the forward-looking men among the lawyers, the school teachers, the doctors, the bankers and all other professions. You will find help in the most unexpected places provided your program is based on the full use of all manpower, all resources and all technologies for the purpose of equal opportunity and a higher standard of living for all.
The liberal cause has not been defeated and will not be. It merely is in the process of being reborn. I ask you to look up—not down; ahead—not backward. When we battle for full production and equal opportunity we battle for the common man. That cause cannot die no matter what may happen temporarily to certain individuals.
And so for the sake of your boys I ask the members of this convention to work with all the fervor that is in them for a Roosevelt victory in the conviction that only by such a victory can the war be terminated promptly and rightly. A Dewey victory no matter how estimable Mr. Dewey himself may be personally, will inevitably give hope to the wrong elements in Germany and Japan. A Dewey victory, just as was the case with the Harding victory in 1920, would make difficult the building of world order characterized by abiding peace. The Republicans betrayed the common man of the United States after the Civil War and after World War I. We shall not let them do it again. We will win with Roosevelt.