I remember the period leading up to the election in the summer of 1949 when John V. Kenny first came to power. My father was an Assemblyman. I was 12 years old, less than a year before when, according to Jewish Law , I would perform my Bar Mitzva and become a man.
My parents were hosting a party for Frank Hague at our red brick home at 31 Reservoir Ave on October 7, 1948. President Truman was coming to Jersey City that evening to deliver what was expected to be a major speech.
Our home was filled with local Ward leaders and Committeemen and Women. So many people pressed together that it was difficult to move. Police cars and Fire Engines were parked outside our home, lights flashing, sirens blazing. It was cold outside, yet all of our neighbors were outside in the streets and sidewalks.
Suddenly, there was silence. It seemed as if everyone, at the same instant, stopped breathing. Time stopped. Boss Frank Hague entered our home with Mayor Eggers, escorted by the Chief of Police, and my father. They passed by me in the kitchen where I had been instructed to wait .
As they passed, my proud father introduced me to Hague “Mayor this is my son, David”
Hague was dressed impeccably, and looked stiff. He smelled like lilacs. He looked at me, put his hand on my head , ruffled my hair and imparted these words of wisdom: “Listen to your Father” he said ” be a Good Boy and….. Vote Democratic!”. Usually people smiled at me when they said nice things like that, but I clearly remember ……Hague’s face was flat and cold. Someone else patted me on my head, and they moved on.
We left in a motorcade to Lincoln High School where President Truman was to speak, escorted by police cars, motorcycles, the fire engine and firemen waving Vote Row “A” Banners. We were followed by a Kenny campaign car with a Loudspeaker insulting “There goes Boss Hague to put out his fires.”
I remember little of Harry Truman’s speech. It was difficult to hear. So I researched it and found it on Google. The Truman Library had a record of it.
There is no past.
JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY (At Lincoln High School, 10:37 p.m.) October 7, 1948
Thank you very much. I can’t tell you, I can’t even begin to express my appreciation for this Jersey City reception, and I want to pay my tribute to you, Mayor, and my good friend, Frank Hague, who got this thing up in so good a fashion. This is something to write home about. I have been in Rio de Janeiro, I have been in Mexico City, I have been in New York City, and in Los Angeles and San Francisco and Seattle and Denver. Call the roll of all the great cities in the country, and this tops them all. And, in each instance, I thought the next one could never be outdone, but here it is.
Your enthusiasm shows that you take your politics seriously. That’s the way it ought to be, because politics is your business. Politics is government, and you are the Government if you exercise the privilege delegated to you in this great Republic of ours. If you don’t take an interest in your Government and elect the right people, you have nobody to blame but yourselves.
Now, in 1946 only one-third of the people of the United States who had the right, exercised that privilege to vote. And look what you got. And you didn’t deserve a bit of sympathy for getting it because you did it to yourselves. You can’t do that this year. I am warning you, the people of the United States, that the voters are not going to make the same mistake this year that they made in 1946. This time you are going to come out and vote.
The registration is up in almost every State in the country. Labor has been doing great work towards getting out the vote. The workers know that they are in a fight to protect their basic rights.
This is everybody’s fight. It’s not labor’s fight alone. It’s also the fight of the white-collar worker, the professional man, the farmer, and all the people in the United States–the fight to preserve the gains made since 1933, when President Roosevelt took office. It’s a fight to buildup a greater future for all the people of the United States.
We are going to win that fight. We must win that fight. Too much is at stake in this election, my friends, to be indifferent about it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it makes no difference to you whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in control of the National Government–and don’t let any of your friends make that mistake. Remember what the last Republican administration did to you in 12 years: depression, unemployment, foreclosures and evictions, bank failures, veterans selling apples. They were told that they were going to be put into business. Well, they went into business-at the street corner selling apples. We have tried to profit from that experience in this Democratic administration.
And what did the Republicans do to help it? Did the Republican leaders care what happened to you in the depression ? Did the Republican administration provide the jobs you needed? Did they save your homes or protect your bank deposits? They either didn’t care what happened to you or they didn’t know what to do about it. They just sat and waited for prosperity to come from around the corner.
The Democrats took action. Prosperity couldn’t get around the corner until it had some help. It took a government that cared about the people, that had faith in the people. It took a government that was willing to try new ideas. It took a government that put human rights above property rights. You got that kind of government when you elected Franklin Roosevelt.
There is a basic difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties. The difference between the Republican way of meeting a depression and the Democratic way of meeting a depression is typical of the fundamental differences between the two parties. The Democratic Party has always been the party of progress and liberalism, the party that puts human rights first. The Republican Party has always been dominated by the forces of reaction. They want to go back to their own peculiar concept of government, even though it is completely out of line with modern conditions.
The people of this country can hope to get forward-looking government only through the Democratic Party.
The best way to decide how to vote is on the record: first, I want to emphasize again that what the Government does makes a great difference to you in your everyday life. It touches every individual in this Nation; two, you can do more for yourselves by going to the polls to vote on election day than you can possibly do any other way.
This is your fight. I am only waking you up to the fact that it is your fight. You better get out and help me win this fight or you’re going to be the loser, not I. If you vote the Democratic ticket, you vote for yourselves and you vote for your best interest, and you want to be sure to vote the way that will do you the most good for yourselves and for the country. The only intelligent way to vote is on the basis of the record. I want to see it done that way because I know that our party has the best record.
The record shows a clear pattern. You hear a lot of speeches that try to confuse the record, but the main outline of the record is clear. The Republican Party has consistently worked for big business. The Democratic Party has consistently worked for all the people.
Now, let us take the question of high prices. I don’t need to tell you how big a problem high prices are and how much they hurt you. During the war, when it was a harder job than it is now, the Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress stabilized prices. The Democrats protected you against excessive prices until the Republicans in Congress led a successful fight to destroy price control. That Republican 80th Congress has repeatedly refused to restore the power to hold down prices. They have protected the excessive profits for big business but they haven’t protected the buying power of your wages and salaries.
The record is clearest of all a little further along. Republican favoritism for big business is shown most clearly by repeated attacks on the workers. This affects all workers, whether or not they are members of unions. Big business wants to keep wages low.
For years the Republican Party has been the ally of big business. The workingmen and women have turned to the Democratic Party, which has always been the workingman’s friend.
Labor suffered under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. The false prosperity of the 1920′s crumbled because workers, along with farmers, were getting the little end of the stick. The Republicans would like to give the farmers and the workers the little end of the stick again. If you are fool enough to accept that little end again, you ought to have it.
That era of the 1920′s was the era of the open shop and the yellow-dog contract; and the reckless use of labor injunctions. The strength of labor unions was reduced to less than 3 million members. Sweat shops abounded and child labor was the order of the day. When the crash came, labor suffered the brunt of it.
In 1932, more than 12 million men and women were unemployed. Wages-for those lucky enough to have jobs–were about 45 cents an hour.
In 1933, this Government got a President and a Congress with a heart. They cared something about labor. They cared something about the farmers. They cared something about the people–more than they did about money.
The Democratic Party set out to do something for the people and did it. We did something for labor, not at the expense of anybody else but to round out a program for the good of all the people. We gave real protection to the right of workers to join together in their own unions. We gave national recognition to the right of collective bargaining. We established a minimum wage and outlawed the sweat shops. We saved homes from foreclosures and helped to provide new homes on terms that workers could afford.
If you remember, back in 1932, 123,000 farmers were kicked off their farms. Last year, there were less than 800 who couldn’t pay the interest on their mortgage. People were pushed out of their homes so fast that when the Democrats came in, they had to form the great Home Owners Loan Corporation which saved millions of homes for millions of people. The Republicans didn’t do anything about it.
We provided protection against the loss of earnings due to old age and death.
The Democratic Party gave the country a New Deal. And that New Deal paid off too. It was good for the country. It was good for labor. It was good for the farmer. It was good for every citizen in the United States.
There is this difference: We have 61 million, nearly 62 million people at work in this country today. There is nobody walking the streets, hunting for a job. If a man wants a job, he has the opportunity. The farmers are in the most prosperous condition they have ever been in in the history of the world–and they are not in that condition at the expense of the country. Farmers and labor go along side by side, and when they are both prosperous the whole country is prosperous and everybody profits by it. The big corporations that they talk so much about have made more money in the last three than they ever made before in history–and that’s money made after taxes. And yet they cry about it and say that we are trying to hold them down. Why, they are in better condition now than they have ever been in history.
Now, when a man does work these days, his hourly pay is about three times as much as it was in 1932. Now, labor unions have 16 million members, and that’s a good thing for the whole country. Some people have complained that the Democratic Party paid too much attention to the things that labor wanted. I’m going to confess something to you; I’ve gotten a lot of advice from labor leaders, and most of it has been good advice. When it wasn’t good, I didn’t take it. They have the welfare of the country at heart just as much as anybody–and I will say, a great deal more than a lot of people. And I intend to keep getting advice like that for the next 4 years.
One of the worst things that ever happened was the election of that Both Congress. That interrupted our progress.
I have talked a lot about this Republican, “do-nothing” 80th Congress, and there is a very good reason for my talking about them. That Congress has shown clearly what we can expect from the Republican Party. That’s the reason I’ve been going after them hammer and tongs.
So far as labor is concerned, the Republicans made this very clear. They passed the Taft-Hartley to weaken the strength of labor unions. They refused to increase the minimum wage above 40 cents an hour, although 40 cents will only buy about as much as 23 cents would buy when the minimum wage law was first passed. They wrecked the Labor Department. This tells you what to expect from them in the future.
They have done the same thing to the farmer. They started in to wreck the farmer, just as they have tried to wreck the laborer.
And the record of the 80th Congress is the handwriting on the wall–”MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” They better beware.
Do you want an even stronger labor legislation than the Taft-Hartley law? Do you? Then you better not vote the Republican ticket. Do you want to return to sweat shop wages in the United States? All right-vote Democratic. Do you want your social security benefits endangered? Well then, you better not vote Republican. Do you want to play second fiddle to big business? All right–vote the Democratic ticket on the second of November.
The Democratic Party offers you another choice. You can apply the same test to the Democratic Party that you apply to the Republican Party. What does the Democratic Party promise you, and does its past performance back up those promises? The record of the Democratic Party is a record of performance. All we ask is that you look at the record. The record shows that you can count on the Democratic Party because it is your party, the people’s party.
What do you want your Government to do ? Do you think the minimum wage ought to be more than 40 cents an hour? All right–vote the Democratic ticket. Do you think the Taft-Hartley Act ought to be replaced by a law that gives labor a fair deal ? All right, remember–vote the Democratic ticket on the second of November. Do you feel that social security benefits ought to be increased? Vote Democratic. Do you believe in a government that puts people ahead of property, that thinks the little fellow has just as many rights as the big fellow? All right–then you better vote the Democratic ticket.
Now, this, my friends, is a great Nation. This is the greatest Nation in the history of the world, the greatest Republic the sun has ever shown upon, and we got that way because we have a government of and by and for the people.
This Government believes in ideals that are an inspiration to people all over the world. Our great economic strength is the bulwark of democracy through the whole world. Our opportunities and our obligations extend far beyond our own shores. We can contribute as no other nation ever could to building a peaceful world. And, my friends, peace in the world comes before everything else.
I wish to repeat: I work for peace and I pray for peace because it’s much more important to have peace in this world than for me to be President of the United States. But, we can make our full contribution to peace only if we maintain a strong and vigorous democracy at home. To do that, we must fight for the great causes in which we so deeply believe–for equal treatment and equal opportunity for all the people. A return to reactionary government in the United States would be a tragedy not only for this country but for the whole world and every person in the world.
My friends, we just can’t let that happen. It will not happen if the people of America turn out in full force on election day. That, my friends, is your sacred duty. You owe that to the country.
Remember, the second of November is the day of destiny. Be sure you vote on that day and send this country down the right road.
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