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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/1/09

Justice Jackson's (pre-justiceship) Speech of December 1936.

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The local party organization remained loyal from top to bottom.  Organized labor gave the most effective demonstration of its strength and solidarity in local history.  Our Swedish citizenry were not afraid of the cry of communism and ruin, for they knew that the efforts of the Roosevelt administration were already achievements in their native land.  The Italian people have developed a fine group of young professional men who saw in the Democratic policy a fulfillment of the hopes of a people who came here seeking opportunity and security.  So many groups broke with their old tradition and they are entitled to the credit for the result.

I am not so confident that the Republican Party is dead.  Some sixteen million voters who remained loyal even this year is a very respectable political beginning, if properly led, and if it can make up its mind what its principles are to be.  It is terribly handicapped in leadership.  Its old leaders are discredited and its future leaders are unknown.  They have few governorships, senatorships, or even large mayoralties in which to learn leadership and to develop public standing.  Moreover the leadership problem is complicated by the tendency of the seaboard states to want one kind of leadership and the interior another.  So the Republican Party is in a bad way.  But it is not dead.  Democratic blundering might give it life again.

The fact is that the election leaves us with a tremendous responsibility.  It is no time for delusions of grandeur nor for animosities, pettiness or partisanship.

Our danger is not from opposition so much as from the lack of it.  Our victory may be too devastating to be wholesome.  It is a temptation to be reckless, an invitation of factions.  We have been given a lot of rope and it will take some self restraint to keep from hanging ourselves, by the excesses and arrogances which too often follow oversized majorities.

There is another danger.  We must not forget our responsibilities to those who elected us, just because those who were lately so bitter are now outdoing themselves in proffers for good fellowship.  This campaign was no tea party—it had a definite meaning. The cat cannot be put in care of the canary just because it is now purring.  Visible opposition is gone but do not believe that invisible underground work has ceased by those whose motto is “Time Marches—Backwards.”

In the president [FDR] and the governor [Herbert H. Lehman] and in our local appeals we offered a fighting faith in real democracy, in economic freedom as well as legal freedom for the working masses.  We denied that the injustice and disadvantage under which many people work must be accepted and worshipped as the American way.  We believe the soul killing processes of industry and the cruelties of economic life are capable of improvement.  We challenged the doctrine that God stopped His great clock in 1789 when our Constitution was framed and that He placed on the Supreme Court a duty of seeing that nothing ever moves again.

In this local campaign, we carried our cause directly to the people who cast the votes.  We dealt with no broker.  We wasted no time trying to reach workers through their employers.  We had no middlemen.  Let that be our method always.  When we go to the people we educate them to understand us, but far more important they educate us to understand them.

Let us never forget that political campaigns in the large sense are not materialistic.  They are of the spirit. Those who came with us cared nothing for our organization, our patronage or our narrower partisanship, and they overlooked our many mistakes.  Their response was to ideas and ideals.

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Lawrence R. Velvel is a cofounder and the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, and is the founder of the American College of History and Legal Studies.
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