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Jack Ranger

Election Results Heighten Workers’ Confidence

Labor Is Expected to Press for Taft-Hartley Repeal, Price Controls, Civil Rights


(15 November 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol 12 No. 46, 15 November 1948, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CHICAGO – The upset was as complete, and as unexpected, in Illinois as it was nationally. No local newspaper or politician or poll had led anyone to expect any result but a sweeping Republican victory. As late as Wednesday morning the Chicago Tribune was still proclaiming a Dewey victory, though already conceding that Stevenson and Douglas, Democratic candidates for governor and senator, had won. The Chicago Journal of Commerce, like its sister paper in New York, issued day-after election editions hailing the Dewey victory as an endorsement of the Taft-Hartley law and explaining in detail what the Dewey administration would mean.

No Democratic politician in Illinois really expected a victory. Jake Arvey, Illinois party boss, was one of the many who opposed Truman’s nomination on grounds the President could never be elected, and nothing that happened between the convention and the election indicated he had changed his mind. Governor-elect Stevenson, the lawyer and bank director, talked to a Chicago Daily News reporter after the polls had closed Tuesday night. “He felt he had done a good job of campaigning, but he really thought he had lost,” declared the reporter, Paul R. Leach.

Labor was the force that turned the tide, in Illinois as elsewhere. Secretary of State Barrett declared that “labor was our precinct captain,” and there was a deeper truth in that than he perhaps meant to reveal. All through the nation labor was in the role of precinct captain, getting out the vote for the Democratic lords and nobles at the top. Labor had no voice in nominating the candidates. Labor had no say in drafting the platforms. Labor will have no control over the victorious politicians. Labor was the precinct captain. It collected and spent the money and got out the vote.

Everything but the state Senate fell to the Democrats. Stevenson’s plurality over Governor Green was 400,000. Paul Douglas, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator, beat Brooks by a slightly lesser plurality. Both Green and Brooks were Chicago Tribune souls. The Democrats took all other state offices and won control of the lower state house. The Illinois Democrats retained their six old seats in the House and gained six more.

Wallace got about 10,000 write-in votes in Illinois, despite instructions from the Progressive Party not to write in his name (they feared the ballots might be scratched).

Krueger, the man who said he wanted to run on a labor party ticket but who tried to make a deal with the Democrats, polled 4,500 votes for Congressman in the 2nd District. O’Hara, his Democratic opponent, won over the Republican, Vail, about 91,000 to 85,000. Krueger polled about the same vote as the Progressive Congressional candidates.

None of the local newspapers has yet reported the vote polled in Illinois by Norman Thomas and the Teichert SLP ticket.

Why Did Labor Do It?

The total vote, both in the nation and in Illinois, was smaller than anticipated. It was not a large vote for a presidential year. The Tribune had predicted a national vote of 52,000,000, whereas the total vote was about 4,000,000 less. Approximately half the voters showed up at the polls.

But labor showed up. The various union campaign machines – those of the AFL, the CIO, the railroad brotherhoods, the machinists, etc. – concentrated on dumping those Congressmen who had voted for the Taft-Hartley law. Of the 54 House members who lost their seats November 2, 51 had raised their hands for Taft- Hartley. Truman was the beneficiary of labor’s determination to get the Taft-Hartley Congressmen.

And while labor went to the polls to vote against the T-H proponents, it tossed its vote to Truman in the presidential race.

Why? One Chicago truck driver explained himself this way, in a conversation with me. “I don’t think much of Truman, but I’ll be d–––– if I could vote for that Republican b––––.”

That altitude must have been very prevalent.

Truman indicated in his campaign talks and in post-election statements that he wants price controls, repeal of the Taft-Hartley law, a housing bill, continuation of rent control, civil rights legislation, continued support for farm products, continuation of his pro-war policies, a $20 billion armament bill, and continued persecution of the Communist Party and of left-wing groups.

Labor wants repeal of the Taft-Hartley law, low taxes, low prices, a substantial housing program, tightened rent control, civil rights legislation, peace.

It really doesn’t expect to get these things from a Democratic administration. It recalls that Truman HAD a Democratic Congress back in 1945 and 1946 and didn’t come through with anything but bad news for labor. It also recalls with some cynicism that a majority of Democratic congressmen voted FOR the Taft-Hartley bill. It further realizes that the Democratic Senate will be controlled by old-line conservative committee chairmen like McKellar of Tennessee, Connally of Texas, Tydings of Maryland and Thomas of Oklahoma.

“We do feel we ought to get the Taft-Hartley law rubbed out,” a group of striking printers in Chicago told me.

That’s about what the union movement expects of the Truman administration.

Chicago liberals don’t go that far. They talk about REVISION of the Taft-Hartley law, extension of the tattered rent control law, maybe an FEPC law.

Labor Party Prospects

Just because a group of Republican politicians was replaced by Democrats hardly gives assurance that reaction won’t continue in the United States. Just because a group of Taft- Hartley supporters was run out of Washington does not mean that the boss politicians who are to succeed them will be any less anti-labor. To be sure, many a campaigner said he was a friend of labor. But that was when he was asking for votes. Now he has the votes.

It will take time for American labor to see that it was suckered again in the 1948 election. For the next six months, the labor party idea will probably have to mark time.

The capitalists understand this clearly.

Phil S. Hanna, business reporter for the Chicago Daily News, wrote some interesting things on the election. Riding in on the morning train with other suburbanites on November 3, the group (he said) didn’t feel bad about the results.

A Dewey victory would have meant that “with the Democratic Party practically extinguished, it would have been easy to build an extra labor party. The GOP might also have been extinguished in four years. But Truman saved the Democratic Party and probably extinguished the Wallace outfit. The hundreds of Wall Streeters with great influence and the conservatives in the South are still in position to use their minority (!) powers to temper things within the Democratic Party.

“Gillette of Iowa, for example, doesn’t want to lose his millions; ditto for many others in the party ...

“Furthermore, if the world ferment for leftism is sweeping our shores there is a vastly greater chance for compromise with the Democratic Party still doing business. AT LEAST THE AMBITIONS OF THE REUTHER CROWD HAVE BEEN CHECKED FOR FOUR YEARS.”

By “Reuther crowd,” this business reporter means the movement for an independent labor party. He is too optimistic in thinking such a movement can be staved off for four years.

The time will be measured in months, not years. It won’t take Truman and the 81st Congress too long to demonstrate pretty openly that, though labor “won” the election, it is Big Business that calls the tune, and the needs of Big Business that Congress must heed. When the disenchantment comes, the mass revulsion may be as startling then as it was for the Republicans a few days ago.

What About The Polls?

There wasn’t a poll in America, either the straw or the “scientifically weighted” type, that pointed to the truth.

It is not true that polls like Gallup’s (who the day before election gave Dewey 49.5 per cent and Truman 44.5 per cent) or Roper’s (who had predicted Dewey would win in a landslide, as Roosevelt did in 1936) are simply propaganda devices, at least on elections.

You see, election forecasts are always subsequently verified at the polls. It is not like a poll which shows the majority of the people want war, or a poll of some similar issue on which the people are never permitted by Big Business to vote.

Public opinion polling is itself a big business, upon which some $20,000,000 a year is spent. The business future of the pollsters depends upon their ability to predict elections with accuracy. By their showing in this year’s election, they have done themselves irreparable damage. A false prediction of the 1936 election put the old Literary Digest out of business. Even if Gallup and Roper don’t lose all their clients, the public will never take them seriously again. Why should it?

It is obvious that the so-called scientific pollsters did not weigh their samplings heavily enough with workers.

Theoretically, it is possible to select scientifically a small sampling of a large aggregate, and predict a trend or outcome upon the basis of the small sampling. But who would trust a Gallup or a Roper or a Crossley to select the sampling accurately after their ludicrous results in 1948?

Gallup’s post-election alibis are as funny as his pre-election forecasts. “This is the kind of a close election that happens once in a generation,” he says.

Why didn’t his forecasts indicate that?

“Over 3,000,000 voters remained undecided on their presidential choice right up to the week before election,” he says.

Then why didn’t he hedge correspondingly in his predictions?

REPUBLICANS: Besides losing control of Congress, the Republicans lost eight governorships and now hold only 16. Wrath against Dewey and his inane campaign burst out after the election, from both Eastern and Western Republicans. It is probable that the GOP will get a new leadership. But so long as there is no national labor party, the GOP will not disappear into a coalition with the Democrats. It is too valuable to Big Business to have two parties under its control, with one always in reserve when public dissatisfaction has temporarily exhausted the other.

DEMOCRATS: After a possible initial honeymoon, Truman will have the usual trouble on his hands. Southern Democrats and Northern labor- haters will bloc with Republicans against the so-called “liberal” Democrats, that is, those from the industrial centers. If the post-war depression comes during the next four years, it will be the Democratic Party which will take the rap. The Democrats have the misfortune, thanks to their electoral successes, of having to take full responsibility for running the government, at least until 1950. Probably, the most that Truman hoped to get was a Democratic Senate.

WALLACE: So long as it serves the interests of the Stalinists, the Progressive Party will continue, with or without Wallace. It is possible that the fight between the Stalinists and anti-Stalinists in the Progressive Party may come to a head shortly.

LABOR PARTY: As mentioned earlier, not much headway may be made by the labor party movement for the next period, until labor clearly sees that” it can obtain little from the Democratic administration. Then progress could be very swift. Labor showed it can organize the vote. No editorial writer in the future will dare to sneer at the labor vote. The whole problem is to organize the labor vote for labor’s candidates rather than for the candidates of Big Business and Wall Street, of which Truman is certainly one.

DIXIECRATS: Truman pulled through despite the 38 electoral votes garnered by the rabid Negro-hater? Superficially, it might appear that Truman could now tell the Dixiecrats to take a long flying jump. But Truman has to depend upon Southern Democrats (almost all of whom are Dixiecrats at heart) to organize Congress. The future of Thurmond and his millionaire backers among the Texas oilmen is not clear today.

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