AUGUST 12, 1960
HYDE PARK—After commenting about the difficulty in taking a literacy test for voting in New York City, as I did yesterday, I think you might be interested in some of the statistics on the voting record of labor union members.
Labor is always looked upon as an important sector of the vote, and all candidates turn their attention to efforts to get the labor vote. But it is interesting to find that, nationally, about 37 percent of male union members and about 44 percent of their wives do not vote.
This is, however, the national picture. In New York City, specifically, I found there is an even greater indifference to voting on the part of union members. New York's record shows that less than a third of the male union members are registered for voting and only from 10 to 15 percent of their wives.
So this would make it appear that this "very important" vote is quite unimportant and that, instead of being courted by the candidates, the labor voting group is so small that it need not be considered.
These figures are surprising to me, for I would think that the leaders of organized labor would be anxious to possess the strength that a good registration and voting record would give them with city, state and national governments.
I would also think that national party organizations, both Democratic and Republican, would be well rewarded if they helped members of labor unions take their literacy tests, get them registered and inform them of the issues so they would consider voting important. Here is a group that can be reached easily, yet no effort apparently has been made in New York City to see that they participate actively in their citizenship.
With Congress in session now, it is going to be difficult for the candidates to have much time for campaigning. And so, I suppose, every effort should be made to acquaint the public with the performance of the candidates during this session, for in that way we will learn about the policies we can expect of them, if elected.
It is obvious that in a campaign the candidates' managers must concentrate on getting the votes on election day, for if a candidate is not elected, it makes no difference what his policies are. But the candidates themselves must center their attention on what they want to accomplish if elected. To the voters of the nation, this is all-important.
Therefore, what happens in this particular session of Congress will be watched with extraordinary care, and the candidates' speeches throughout the campaign will be expected to reveal their philosophies of government.
Another important factor, in my mind, will be the knowledge of the people who will be consulted on the various campaign speeches. The electorate will be watching the candidates' advisors, for while candidates make mistakes in their choice of advisors and rifts develop as the years pass and men's philosophies change, the men who help them develop their policy speeches should be scrutinized with care, for they are influential in affecting the future of all of us.