The Charlotte News

Wednesday, August 31, 1938


Site Ed. Note: The editorial by Herbert Agar, the last of his regular contributions to The News, continued the theme on which he had written a couple of days earlier, the President's power to effect change under the Constitution's limits to the executive branch, this time stressing the correctness of Roosevelt's attempt to purge from the party in the primaries Congressmen who were not sufficiently onboard with administration policies. Agar thinks it wholly appropriate, indeed to the extent that there should be a "New Deal party" either to "take over the vague old Democratic Party, or else it must establish itself firmly, as a new major party, in the short space of two years." Such was at the time the internal tension among the Democratic Party's uneasy bedfellows, tension which would persist for the ensuing three decades until most of the old guard Democrats, primarily out of the South, had either died, retired, or become "conservative" Republicans, or, if not yet that in time, torn off to form ad hoc reactionary third party movements.

The central, most divisive issue creating the tension was of course race, with general Jeffersonian notions about decentralized government being a distant second, that in itself as often as not consumed by the overriding borderland emotions over pigments, hiding behind the mask of "states' rights".

Since the early seventies, the "New Deal party" has become much more a reality as encompassing the Democrats. That is not to say, however, that it is the party of big government and big spending and high taxes, as it is often presented by competing Republicans. The Clinton years saw the reduction of the Federal government bureaucracy to its lowest numbers of personnel since the early 1960's; and of course, there was a budget surplus by the end of the eight years. Indeed, as to big spending, the Republicans better fit the presentment in the past 25 years, running deficits into greater debt in their presidential terms of office during that span than all the previous accumulated Federal debt combined since George Washington, the bulk of it going either directly to increased defense spending or defense related matters, both before and since the end of the Cold War.

In any event, as to 1938, Cotton Ed Smith, the race-baiter, would serve most of his last term before losing re-nomination to Johnston in 1944; within a short time thereafter he died, prior to the end of his term. So overarching were his racial feelings, even superceding old-time party loyalty born of anti-abolitionism and, post-Civil War, the Southern backlash to Radical Reconstruction, that he walked out of the 1936 Democratic convention simply because a black minister provided the opening prayer, an act adumbrating the walk-out by his fellow states' rightist from South Carolina, Strom Thurmond, who would, with his Dixiecrats, stage a walk-out in 1948 over the introduction into the platform of a civil rights plank, one introduced by Hubert Humphrey.

Just what it was which bred the historical tradition of these fire-eaters in the Palmetto State, what it was which caused them to secede and then open fire on Sumter, we don't exactly know. They were of course not without their counterparts at times within the confines of their immediate northern neighbor. But it is quite true historically, as "A Pyrrhic Victory" suggests, that this particular Southern state had a quicker hair trigger, especially along the racial divide, than any other in terms of the immediacy and drastic effect to which its political ends were carried. Perhaps the answer is to be found in the soil; perhaps the more cantankerous among the colonists simply congregated here by finding the environment one especially suitable in which to percolate for some reason. Whatever the cause, we have nothing against South Carolina generally; we ourselves would not be here but for some of its milder residents. Yet, we have to wonder about some of these Gamecocks through time--especially the ones who never missed, even if by ricochet.

In any event, since Tuesday's on the phone tweeting about the need to requisition bootlaces and stockings in Brobdingnag, we'd better answer it before the toll goes up here in Lilliput.

Paying Off a Grudge

At first glance, it seems incredible that John F. Curry, once the head man of Tammany Hall, would testify against his lodge brother Jimmy Hines. He did testify, however; testified damagingly that Hines had sought the transfer of police. District Attorney Dewey had been endeavoring to show that cops who wouldn't let the numbers racket be run in peace were mysteriously broken in rank, reduced in pay and transferred to an outlying precinct to cool their heels.

But it may not be entirely inexplicable, after all, that Curry would tell on his pal. Curry went down because of a series of political errors, one of which was betting on Al Smith against the New Deal. He blamed Jim Farley for his downfall. "Now, I don't want to make any accusation against President Roosevelt," he said, "but he tried to break Tammany Hall twenty years ago and he is trying to do it now."

Hines, on the other hand, played ball with the winners. Good friend of Jim Farley, he became the dispenser of patronage in his New York district. And what can be more natural than for Curry to pay off old political scores against Farley by telling on Farley's friend Hines?

Not Very Helpful

Deeply resentful of the President's obtrusion in South Carolina's Democratic primary, Judge Robert W. Winston, beloved and distinguished North Carolinian, contributed a pre-election editorial to The Charleston News & Courier. Rhetorically, it was a moving piece, but factually it left something to be desired.

Judge Winston made four positive statements that are, to put it mildly, questionable. These were:

1. That Madam Perkins tells the world that Southern women wear no shoes.

2. That President Roosevelt calls us paupers.

3. That Mrs. Roosevelt advocates Negro teachers for white children.

4. That the anti-lynching bill, with the President's assent, has been put on the "must" list.

It seems a shame for what is a very real and perplexing issue--whether the country shall have a dominant Federal Government to regulate its economy--to be misrepresented in the South, which has always fared worst under the old system of a central government of limited, but to the South highly important, powers. In any case, it poorly becomes the venerable Judge Winston to prejudice the argument by reviving old hatreds, by impugning the motives of the President and his personal and official family, and by glorifying the South's pride in its deficiencies.

Strenuous Remedy*

To test the constitutionality of North Carolina's sales tax, J. Paul Leonard, secretary of the Fair Tax Association and the most ardent anti-sales taxer of them all, opened up a store in Winston-Salem. First remittance ($30) to the State came due, and he refused to pay it. This brought him the desired consequence of a hearing before Revenue Commissioner Maxwell. Leonard's attorney contended that the sales tax was unconstitutional because it had been enacted by a Legislature which had persistently refused to carry out the constitutional mandate of reapportioning representation after each decennial census. Commissioner Maxwell ruled nevertheless that the tax had to be paid, and the protestants announced that the question of constitutionality would be taken to the State Supreme Court.

That the Legislature has been openly defiant of the compulsion upon it to increase representation in the Piedmont at the expense of the East, even the Legislators themselves would have to admit. They should be compelled, should have been compelled before, to do what the constitution says they must.

But at the expense of vitiating all laws passed and appointments approved and appropriations made and taxes imposed in the sessions from 1931 to 1937? We hardly think so. The Legislature has an obligation to the Commonwealth, to be sure, and so do the sales-taxpayers. The primary obligation upon both is not to throw the State's orderly affairs into a condition of chaos.

A Pyrrhic Victory*

The President, in all probability, is feeling thoroughly rebuked today by the sovereign voters of South Carolina and resigned to a dose of the same medicine again week after next in Georgia. And South Carolina has served him right, as far as we are concerned for a thing so idealistic as the New Deal never had any business being hooked up to so petty and unrestrained a politician as Governor Johnston. But Lord help us, men; the re-election of Cotton Ed Smith isn't going to save the Republic.

The President made a foolish mistake when he went out of his way to take part in South Carolina's Democratic fight. Of all the states in the Union, this one resents interference most bitterly. The result would have been the same in any case, it is likely, but the President's colors needn't have gone down with his synthetic champion. And yet, the re-election of Cotton Ed Smith isn't going to save the Republic.

A United States Senate composed of Cotton Eds would be about the last instrumentality in the world from which to expect able, intelligent, earnest, progressive legislation abreast of the times. If there ever was an advocate of the political philosophy, let 'er slide, Cotton Ed is it. And you don't get good government by accident, any more than you get a workable program of government by elevating a man who hasn't any program in order to humiliate one who has.

The primary in South Carolina was a stinging defeat for the President. But it wasn't much of a victory for democracy or the Democratic Party. It couldn't have been no matter which of the two candidates had won.

Perceptive Voting

For a change, yesterday, South Carolina had men of ability and quality to choose between for Governor. Listed in the order of their merit, the outstanding candidates, by almost any method of appraisal, appeared to be--

1. Burnet Maybank
2. Wyndham Manning

As the incomplete count goes, the two high men in the free-for-all for Governor, the two who will run it off in a second primary two weeks from yesterday, are--

1. Burnet Maybank
2. Wyndham Manning

This might, but probably doesn't, warrant the statement that, given superior candidates, the voters will vote for them.

They Need Missing Practice*

To improve their marksmanship, our City police officers have regular pistol practice. This is a necessary feature of police training, and yet we sometimes wonder if the local guardians of the law ought to practice missing targets. The following file would seem to argue as much:

September 15, 1937:

Patrolman Ritch drew his gun and ordered the Negro to halt, whereupon the Negro started to advance upon him, but as the officer shot, the man wheeled and the bullet struck him in the back.

November 13, 1937:

Officer Bowlin took his pistol out and started to shoot in the air, and as he did he stepped in a ditch, and the bullet hit the Negro in the head instead.

December 30, 1937:

Finally Officer Herrin shot at one of the tires to halt the speeding car and the bullet ricocheted, striking the driver in the arm.

August 30, 1938:

But Reaves continued to run, whereupon Officer Severe fired the bullet ricocheting and hitting him in the leg.

Site Ed. Note: To end the summer of 1938, as autumn moved the world into Munich and beyond, we add an article from Newsweek, in association with "The End of the Way", July 6, 1938.

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