1936: The Other Alf Sinks

From Andy Page

Reported from Bangkok, November 4, 2006

Wednesday, November 4, 1936

Roosevelt Sweeps The Nation;
His Electoral Vote Exceeds 500;
Lehman Wins; Charter Adopted

Poll Sets Record
Roosevelt Electoral Vote of 519 Seen as a Minimum
'Jeffersonian Democrats' Fail to Cause Rift as Expected
Landon Concedes Defeat and Sends His Congratulations to Victorious Rival
Election A Sweep For The President


Accepting the President as the issue, nearly eight million more voters than ever before had gone to the polls in the United States--about 45,000,000 persons--yesterday gave to Franklin Delano Roosevelt the most overwhelming testimonial of approval ever received by a national candidate in the history of the nation.

Except for the small corner of New England occupied by Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire--which was oscillating between Republican and Democratic in the early morning hours of Wednesday--the President was the choice of a vast preponderance of the voters in all parts of the country, and with him were re-elected as Vice President John N. Garner of Texas and an almost untouched Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. The Democratic national ticket will have a minimum of 519 electoral votes and a possible popular majority of ten millions.

The Republican candidates for President and Vice President, Governor Alfred M. Landon of Kansas and Colonel Frank Knox of Illinois, are the worst-beaten aspirants for these offices in the political annals of the United States, with the exception of William H. Taft in 1912, when Colonel Theodore Roosevelt led a formidable revolt in the Republican party and Mr. Taft carried only Vermont and Utah. Yesterday Utah was also in the President's campaign bag. He had carried forty-five States as contrasted with the forty- two he won from Herbert Hoover in 1932. And to assure his reputation as the greatest vote-getter in the annals of the United States he--a Democrat--had overwhelmingly swept Pennsylvania, unfailingly Republican for generations in national elections.

The following table contains a list of the States carried by the President, with a total of 519 electoral votes, to which the four of New Hampshire may yet be added:

Alabama 11
Arizona 3
Arkansas 9
California 22
Colorado 6
Connecticut 8
Delaware 3
Florida 7
Georgia 12
Idaho 4
Illinois 29
Indiana 14
Iowa 9
Kansas 9
Kentucky 11
Louisiana 10
Maryland 8
Massachusetts 17
Michigan 19
Minnesota 11
Mississippi 9
Missouri 15
Montana 4
Nebraska 7
Nevada 3
New Jersey 16
New Mexico 3
New York 47
North Carolina 13
North Dakota 4
Ohio 26
Oklahoma 11
Oregon 5
Pennsylvania 36
Rhode Island 4
South Carolina 8
South Dakota 4
Tennessee 11
Texas 23
Utah 4
Virginia 11
Washington 8
West Virginia 8
Wisconsin 12
Wyoming 3

Landon Sends Congratulations

After hours of hopeful waiting on rural districts in the Northeast States, Mr. Landon and the Republican national chairman, John D. M. Hamilton, announced their intentions of letting the night pass before agreeing to the fact of the stupendous party defeat. But about 1 A.M. in Topeka, Mr. Landon sent the customary message of congratulation to the President at Hyde Park, and at 1:45 A.M., at headquarters in Chicago, Mr. Hamilton followed suit. All the important newspapers supporting the Republican ticket (about 90 per cent of the metropolitan and country press) had given up many hours before.

Among the casualties in the voting, along with Governor Landon, Colonel Knox, Chairman Hamilton and a number of Republican Senators and Representatives, were Father Charles E. Coughlin and his Union for Social Justice ticket, headed by Representative William Lemke, who polled a negligible vote, even in his own State of North Dakota, and other minor Socialists. William E. Borah of Idaho and George W. Norris of Nebraska, venerable Senate leaders, were victorious; the youthful Henry Cabot Lodge 3d, Republican, was running far ahead of Governor Curley for the Senatorship in Massachusetts, and two Republican Senators who voted against the Social Security Act, on which the party managers made a last-minute attack--Hastings of Delaware and Metcalf of Rhode Island--were also rejected by the voters in their States. Another Republican casualty was Senator W. Warren Barbour of New Jersey.

South Piles Up a Huge Vote

The "Jeffersonian Democrats," led by such well-known and supposedly influential Democrats as Alfred E. Smith, John W. Davis and James A. Reed, and on whose rejection of the New Deal the Republicans had greatly depended to cut into Southern votes and swing the Northeast away from the President, proved as ineffectual foes as did the Republican campaign candidates and management. The South rolled up tremendous Roosevelt pluralities, and the President carried Philadelphia, Chicago, New York City and Boston by large margins.

Labor, the unemployed and the colored voters, on whose support the Democrats had counted, were visible in the stunning returns from Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Michigan.

Several thousand neighbors, bearing torches and accompanied by a band playing "Happy Days Are Here Again," visited the President at Hyde Park after it appeared that his victory was established. He stood facing them in a light drizzle and said that, "while I can't say anything official, it appears that the sweep is covering every section." The President, on the arm of his son Franklin, urged press photographers to get through with him because, "I've got to get back and get the returns from California."

Soon after 11 P.M. Mr. Farley issued a formal statement in which he congratulated the nation on the results of the election and praised the President for his administrative efforts. He said the final results would show that the President had received "probably the greatest vote of confidence" ever accorded in the United States. The victory was in large measure a personal triumph for Mr. Farley himself, who takes rank as the most successful political manager in the history of the Democratic party. Since he was a steady personal target throughout the Republican campaign, his share in the outcome is particularly gratifying to his associates.

Contest Is Close in Kansas

From a standpoint of sentiment there was great interest in the close contest between the President and Governor Landon in the Republican nominee's home State of Kansas. The margin was as thin as a razor's edge between them, and shifted several times as the night wore on.

Dissension in the Republican party over Chairman Hamilton's conduct of the campaign was fore-shadowed early last night when Representative Hamilton Fish of New York criticized the attack on the Social Security Act, for which a large Republican majority in Congress, including the Senate and House leaders, had voted.

The first of the President's non-political leaders to issue a formal statement was John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers of America, to whom is given great credit for the Democratic victory in Pennsylvania--the first in modern political history.

"The people could not be deceived," he said in part. "Labor's Non-Partisan League has justified the expectations and claims of its founders. * * * Labor's strength is being demonstrated in each of the industrial States. Without this unanimity of support the result would have been otherwise."

The outstanding events in the early returns were the colossal majority given to the President in Chicago and his foreshadowed capture of Pennsylvania. Soon after these astonishing facts were being digested, Ohio showed a pro-Roosevelt trend which could give him a majority of 200,000 in a State estimated to be "close," and where 50,000 was the private figure on both sides.

So well was the President running in New England that The Providence Journal, a Landon supporter, early conceded that State to Mr. Roosevelt, by 30,000 votes.

Every sign, as the returns piled up, was that Republican campaign strategy had come to a disastrous finish. A year ago the prevailing idea among Republican leaders was to make a frontal assault on the New Deal with an outstanding Eastern candidate, such as Senator Vandenberg of Michigan. Subtler counsels, however, were adopted, and it was decided to swallow half of the New Deal in the platform and nominate a nationally unknown candidate who would provide a powerful personal contrast to the forceful personality of the President. This was done in the selection of Governor Landon.

Outlay Possibly Fifty Millions

Although a year ago the Republicans had little or no hope of electing a President in 1936, the spirit of the Cleveland convention fired them to hope, and this was highly stimulated by the public desertions of their party by such prominent Democrats as Alfred E. Smith, John W. Davis, Lewis W. Douglas and T. Jefferson Coolidge, and by the refusal of Democratic newspapers like The Baltimore Sun, The St. Louis-Post-Dispatch and The Omaha World-Herald (once edited by William Jennings Bryan) to support the President.

The result of this new-found enthusiasm was persuasion of Republican leaders that they could defeat the President, and from this viewpoint came a much more active and expensive campaign than any one would have predicted a year ago. Activity on the Republican side produced a corresponding acceleration of pace, with consequent expense, in Chairman Farley's staff.

The two national committees have and will have confessed to the expenditure of nearly $10,000,000. But, considering the sums spent personally by Republican enthusiasts of great wealth in their own communities and in the nation at large, it is perhaps no wild estimate to conclude that $50,000,000 were expended in the name of politics in the United States between the Cleveland convention in June and yesterday.

Pay Envelope Campaign Starts

The campaign was not particularly interesting in so far as speeches and situations were concerned. But because of the strategy employed and the emotional mood in which partisans on both sides soon found themselves, it will probably stand out in American political history. The issues offered at first by the Republicans--the Presidential candidate, the Vice Presidential candidate and the national committee--were "dictatorship" and general accusations of administration designs against individual liberty; waste, extravagance, political manipulation of relief and spoilsmanship generally; and contempt for the Constitution.

But by mid-October reports from midland States which Mr. Landon had to carry to win were so unsatisfactory that the national committee discharged a petard in reserve. That was an attack in the industrial centers on the Social Security Act in an effort to win back unorganized labor. The payroll contribution of employees was stressed without mention of the employers' levy, and it was contended that, since collections were placed in a Treasury general fund, contributors were always in danger of having any Congress take their money for an extraneous purpose. This propaganda was circulated in payroll envelopes.

When word came to Chairman Farley that the attack on the Social Security Act was affecting labor--one of the President's greatest group reliances--a counter-attack was launched, led by the President himself. This dispute marked the last week of the campaign, and managing politicians were accordingly on tiptoe all last night for returns from such labor centers as Chicago, Detroit, Gary, Ind., and Pittsburgh.

"Master" Speech Seized Upon

The President himself furnished the Republicans with another eleventh-hour hope in certain passages of his speech at Madison Square Garden in New York City last Saturday night. He said that he "welcomed" the "hatred" of "organized money," and added the hope that, having found his first administration its "match," "organized money" would find his second administration its "master." These remarks, taken from their context, were reported to have alienated many Northeastern voters who were preparing to vote for the President. The campaign ended with a great deal of money being spent by the Republicans to hammer these words home with as much sinister implication as both fact and fancy could furnish.

Throughout the four months between the Cleveland convention and the election, Republican strategy was a matter of revision and change, suggesting that the President's description of the New Deal in his famous "quarterback" simile could be applied to the attack of his political foes. Governor Landon made more speeches than he had planned at first, and the "front porch" Kansas campaign plan went glimmering. In his speech of acceptance he pleaded for quiet and tolerance, but by October he was charging the President with a wish to be dictator, and in the middle of that month he made a sudden trip to California to garner votes of those expectant of the benefits of Dr. Townsend's plan to pay old people $200 a month each.

Roosevelt Extended Schedule

The President's managers, alarmed by the rise in Republican hopes and activities and by news that such States as Massachusetts, New York and Illinois were too close for comfort, prevailed on Mr. Roosevelt greatly to extend his speaking schedule, with the result that he almost duplicated his effort of 1932.

Several factors in addition to control of the executive branch of the government and Congress were in the balance as the voters went to the polls yesterday. The next President will in all likelihood have several appointments to make for justices of the Supreme Court. The party leadership will almost inevitably shift back to this side of the Mississippi River and Chairman John D. M. Hamilton will have to make way for another. Also, Mr. Landon will not be renominated, and the star of Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan will rise for 1940.

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