FDR and the Purge of Progressive Candidates from the Democratic Party

A few months ago I wrote an article titled Confirmed: DNC Had The Right To Rig 2016 Primary in which I published court transcripts where attorneys for the Democratic Party testified in a Federal court that they had a right to essentially rig the election and determine the outcome as they pleased, and that the appearance of a democratic process was, you know, essentially “discretionary”.

… and we could have voluntarily decided that, Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way. That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right,

Bruce V. Spiva, Esq. – Arguing on behalf of the DNC.

What if I told you that purging progressives from the Democratic Party was standard practice of the DNC? Well, it is and that’s exactly what happened in the 1940s.

Introducing Henry Wallace, Vice-President to FDR from 1941 – 1945.

Let’s first contextualize and try to understand the shift overall in American politics in the 1930s. The most important force, of course, was the Labor movement. You’ve got the AFL moving to the left and you’ve got the rise of the CIO, which was now organizing industrial America and would eventually merge into the largest federation of unions in the United States: AFL-CIO. Labor becomes the backbone of the Democratic party in the 1930s.

We see that influence of the Labor movement, especially in the 1936 election in which the Democrats sweep the election across the country. It was a clear victory for liberal, left, progressive forces. Roosevelt rode that wave and Henry Wallace was his secretary of agriculture in the first two terms of the New Deal.

When Roosevelt was looking to run again in 1940 he knew the United States was inching toward war with Nazi Germany and perhaps Japan. He wanted a leading progressive on the ticket. The most outspoken anti-fascist in the New Deal coalition in the ’30s was Henry Wallace. Wallace was a real internationalist. He caused a rebound in the agricultural economy by introducing the use of statistics and econometrics in agriculture. Wallace was, after all, a successful farmer from Iowa.  Farmers were quite progressive during the 1930s and made up a large fraction of the labor movement. Roosevelt wanted a leading outspoken, anti-fascist on the ticket given what he knew they were up against in the 1940s.

Wallace had a strong constituency and was the second most popular man in America behind Roosevelt, but the Party bosses who had enormous influence in the Party during this period opposed Wallace. Why? In part, because Wallace was simply too progressive for the Party.

Wallace was a leading progressive force in the U.S. and in the Party. Roosevelt had to fight to get him on the ticket in 1940 and even wrote a letter to the Democratic convention when it looked like they weren’t going to put Wallace on the ticket. In the letter, Roosevelt wrote that we already have one conservative Wall Street-dominated party in the United States, the Republicans, and if the Democrats aren’t going to be a liberal, progressive, social justice party they have no reason to exist and threatened to turn down the nomination.

In the century in which we live, the Democratic Party has received the support of the electorate only when the party, with absolute clarity, has been the champion of progressive and liberal policies and principles of government.

The party has failed consistently when through political trading and chicanery it has fallen into the control of those interests, personal and financial, which think in terms of dollars instead of in terms of human values.

The Democratic Convention, as appears clear from the events of today, is divided on this fundamental issue. Until the Democratic Party through this convention makes overwhelmingly clear its stand in favor of social progress and liberalism, and shakes off all the shackles of control fastened upon it by the forces of conservatism, reaction, and appeasement, it will not continue its march of victory.

I wish to give the Democratic Party the opportunity to make its historic decision clearly and without equivocation. The party must go wholly one way or wholly the other. It cannot face in both directions at the same time.

By declining the honor of the nomination for the presidency, I can restore that opportunity to the convention. I so do.

The Party bosses grudgingly yielded and Wallace was given the nod. Wallace received the support of 626.3 votes (around 59% of the 1100 delegates) when nominated at the convention, compared to 329.6 votes for Speaker of the House William B. Bankhead of Alabama.

In November 1940, Roosevelt was handily re-elected for a third term – the Electoral College vote was 449 to 82.

While in office as Vice-President of the United States, Wallace delivered what became his most famous speech, to the Free World Association in New York City. The speech, delivered on May 8, 1942, was formally titled “The Price of Free World Victory” but came to be identified by its phrase “the century of the common man”.

The concept of freedom,” Wallace explained, was rooted in the Bible, with its “extraordinary emphasis on the dignity of the individual,” but only recently had it become a reality for large numbers of people. “Democracy is the only true political expression of Christianity,” he declared, adding that with freedom must come abundance. “Men and women can never be really free until they have plenty to eat, and time and ability to read and think and talk things over.”

When Henry Luce says that the 20th century must be “The American Century” and that the United States should dominate the world, Henry Wallace counters with that wonderful speech saying the 20th century must be the century of the common man and calls for a worldwide people’s revolution.

Wallace was an enemy of Wall Street. Wallace said that America’s fascists are those people who think that Wall Street comes first and the American people come second.  Wallace opposed British and French colonialism and the British and the French hated Wallace for being the leading spokesperson in opposition to colonialism. He was the leading spokesperson for Black civil rights, for women’s rights. Across the board, Wallace represented everything that we see as good in American progressivism.

You can see why the Party bosses wanted Wallace out as soon as possible.

As the Democratic party convention launches July 20, 1944, Gallup asked potential voters who they wanted on the ticket as vice president. 65% of potential voters said they wanted Wallace back as vice president, 2% said they wanted Harry Truman.

Wallace was a safe choice in 1940 and despite what the Party bosses though, he would have been a safe choice in 1944. Wallace had the popular support, he had the union support, he had every Black delegate at the Democratic convention in 1944. He was the choice of the people. But it was not to be.

Just as with Bernie Sanders in 2016, the Party bosses worked behind the scenes to try to prevent him from getting the nomination

In ’44 the support was for Wallace but Edwin Pauley, the party treasurer, ran what Pauley called Pauley’s Coup, he proudly referred to it as, in conjunction with Bob Hannegan, the Democratic party chair. Roosevelt by ’44 is very, very weak. It’s clear to everybody that he’s not going to last another term.

The Party knew that they we’re not just nominating a Vice-President, but the next President United States. The problem was that Wallace was very popular. The night the convention starts, July 20th in Chicago, Wallace had a favorable lead on the other candidates for the vice presidential nomination, but lacked the majority needed to win the nomination. In a turn of events much scrutinized, just as Wallace began to receive the votes needed for the nomination, the convention was deemed a fire hazard and pushed back to the next day. When the convention resumed Truman made a jump from 2% in the polls all the way to winning the nomination.

And just like that, Wallace is removed from the ticket and Truman is replaced as Vice-President. Roosevelt goes on to win the election of 1944 and dies shortly after. Truman becomes President and purges all the New Deal progressives out of the Democratic Party.

The Party had their man. Popular democracy be damned.

We saw the Democratic leadership prevent Bernie Sanders from getting anywhere near the nomination for President and we are currently seeing the new Party leadership of Perez trying to purge the Sanders supporters from the Democratic National Committee.

2016 was nothing new. This is a long standing protocol of the Democratic Party.

Roosevelt’s letter to the DNC 78 years ago is eerily timely:

It is without question that certain political influences pledged to reaction in domestic affairs and to appeasement in foreign affairs have been busily engaged behind the scenes in the promotion of discord since this Convention convened.

Under these circumstances, I cannot, in all honor, and will not, merely for political expediency, go along with the cheap bargaining and political maneuvering which have brought about party dissension in this convention.

The party must go wholly one way or wholly the other. It cannot face in both directions at the same time.

Thanks for reading,

Notes,

Undoing New Deal: The 1944 Coup Against VP Henry Wallace: https://therealnews.com/stories/pkuznick1128dems1

Senior Democrat Caught on Tape Pressuring Progressive Congressional Candidate to Drop Out of Race: https://www.democracynow.org/2018/4/26/senior_democrat_caught_on_tape_pressuring

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