NOVEMBER 6, 1961
NEW YORK—This Election Day I want to urge each and every citizen to try and use his vote. In years when Presidential candidates are not being elected, people seem to think that minor offices are not important. But putting in good people from the bottom up is what builds a good organization and gives us the kind of government we are constantly saying we want but which we so often do not really take the trouble to work for.
Here in New York City every citizen has a serious choice to make. In this state and city the Democratic bosses succeeded in turning the state over to the Republicans, so that we now have two Republican Senators in Washington and a Republican Governor, as well as a Republican legislature. Upstate New York has nearly always been predominantly Republican, while New York City itself has been the stronghold for Democrats. When we have had a good organization we have increased the Democratic vote in the state and always had a sweeping victory in the city.
Boss rule, however, has outgrown its day. People want a good organization, but they do not want bossism anymore. They feel it leads to corruption in government, to having inefficient people put into office for purely political purposes, and to a growing inefficiency in most government departments. The resulting split in the Democratic party must eventually be healed. That can only be done by electing to office people who have broken with the bosses, who have knowledge of the city and state government and who can rebuild a strong and dynamic Democratic party. In this way the aim of a good organization in which participation of all the people is welcome, and in which the office holders really represent the needs and desires of their constituents, will be not just a dream but a reality.
Because Mayor Wagner broke with the bosses, he won the mayoralty nomination and was given the support of the reform movement in the city. I therefore hope that every one of our reform districts will bring out the vote even more successfully than in the primaries. It is in our reform districts that we prove how a really good new organization can do a better job politically and at the same time take a greater interest in representing the wishes and aspirations of the people.
Upstate it is essential that Democratic voters cast their ballots. The more Democratic votes we have there, the more will people be encouraged not to join the Republican party simply because they feel the Democratic party is too weak ever to win in their area. But the main interest of course is centered in New York City. Many people voted in the primary simply with the desire to oust the Democratic bosses, but now the time has come to vote constructively for the best man available. Mayor Wagner knows the government of this city. Mr. Lefkowitz does not. The exchange of accusations on both sides in this campaign has been most confusing, but I hope people will realize that Mayor Wagner's mistakes in the past have not been his entirely. As long as he was tied to the bosses, he was not free. With our support, however, I believe he can give us better government than we have ever had in New York City, not only because of his experience but also because the challenge before him inspires him to want to prove that fundamentally his interests have always been with the people.
President Kennedy evidently thinks that Wagner can build a new strong Democratic party in this state, but the Mayor cannot do it unless we all give him the support as well as the votes he will need on Election Day. The Republicans brought Mr. Eisenhower to speak for Lefkowitz, but the ex-President announced that he hardly knew him and paid no attention to him at the rally which he attended. President Kennedy made a similar visit. Though he did not think it essential to speak at a rally, he did know Mayor Wagner and treated him with courtesy, giving him the recognition which he deserved.
It is a natural thing for both parties to want their national leaders to recognize their candidate. This does not mean panic, as was suggested by the Republicans when President Kennedy's visit was announced. It simply means that our national leaders are interested in seeing the strengthening of their party as a whole and in having better government in the city and state of New York.