DECEMBER 20, 1946
NEW YORK, Thursday—Harold Stassen's statement on liberalism, when he announced his candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination, might have been written by one of the numerous young Democratic liberals. And taken by itself, it would lead one to believe that, as far as liberals in either party are concerned, their philosophy is much the same.
I am sure that, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, if you are a liberal you will agree with these words which I saw quoted from Mr. Stassen: "I would say that a true liberalism is a philosophy of life which seeks the maximum political, social, economic and religious freedom for the individual man and woman consistent with the enjoyment of the same degree of freedom by his or her fellow men."
Subscribing to that won't label you as belonging specifically to either of the major parties. It is like saying you want to do what is right. Certainly we all do. But just what is right and how do we do it?
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I like Mr. Stassen's willingness to come out in the open and say that he is a Presidential candidate, and that he intends to stay in Washington to work with Senate and House Republicans on the legislative program. The question is, how many will work with him?
He is appealing to the people, but you may be fairly popular with the people and still not be able to induce party leaders to nominate you. Or if these leaders are swept off their feet, as they were by Wendell Willkie, they can still give you only half-hearted support—and it requires organization to get out the vote. People are lazy when it comes to voting.
Someone told me not long ago that in Russia the people are obliged to vote. It is not left to anyone's convenience. There are other countries too where, if you do not use your voting franchise, you pay a fine. We have never done that sort of thing here. On the contrary, in some states we still pay for the privilege of voting.
Probably because the competing political parties think it may be to their advantage to keep some of the voters at home now and then—by one method or another—they have never made voting obligatory. Since our reactions are often negative rather than positive, staying at home is a rather frequent practice, and good people with civic consciences bewail the fact that we so often have such a low percentage of voters. It would seem that we do not value our franchise as highly as we should, and that is why efficient political machines are valuable!
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One admires Mr. Stassen's courage and yet wonders how much it will accomplish. He stated some of his own personal views in clear and forthright fashion, and I am sure that, before long, we are going to hear some liberal young Democrats say certain things that will not be so very different. They may not condemn Robert Nathan's recent economic report in quite such unqualified style as did Mr. Stassen, but they might go along on many of the other opinions expressed by Mr. Stassen.
Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg's conservative statement that the Republican task "is exclusively one of now justifying the November victory" is the statement of the more mature, elder statesman. He can proceed to do anything and say anything that he decides is wise at any given time on any given program. He is committed to nothing except justification of the Republican victory—and that, heaven knows, can be done in many ways!