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1927 Article discusses the Politics of Prohibition

"ANY ONE IS A FOOL," declares Senator Carter Glass of Virginia, "who thinks the Eighteenth Amendment will be repealed in the next hundred years," adding that any party which attempts to put a wet plank into its platform "will be annihilated."

His statement, uttered before the University of Virginia's Institute of Public Affairs in Charlottesville, is generally regarded as an announcement that he will, as one correspondent puts it, "make every effort to rule out the Prohibition question from any consideration at the next Democratic national convention." Senator Glass unexpectedly found himself thus in debate with William G. McAdoo and Gov. Albert C. Ritchie of Maryland, both possible Democratic candidates for the Presidency. He continued:

"What has Prohibition got to do with the Presidential election, anyway? Let those Democrats who want to agitate for a modification of the Volstead Law do it by voting for wet Congressmen. Congress, not the President, must vote on any such modification."

In a similar key, but in a different spirit, we are told, the directors of the Anti-Saloon League, assembled at Winona Lake, Indiana, have announced that the league will retrain from asking the Republican and Democratic parties next year to put Prohibition-enforcement planks into their platforms. Their formal declaration ends with these paragraphs:

"It would be inconsistent in any party which either implicitly or explicitly places itself before the public as standing for law and order to put in nomination for the chief law-enforcement officer of the nation, namely, the President of the United States, a man who can not be relied upon to keep his oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States and to enforce its laws.

"In view of the organized effort which is being made to nullify the Prohibition Law, we assume that no party will put in nomination for the office of President or Vice-President one whose attitude on this question is known to be doubtful or antagonistic.

"It goes without saying that the Anti-Saloon League of America will do all in its power to defeat at the polls any candidate of any party who is opposed to the broad American principles announced herein."

Both statements drew instant responses from the press, thus confirming the St. Louis Star's assertion that Prohibition is the most lively issue now before the country, and that it is "invariably discust at every gathering, except a political gathering, and not there because the politicians have not been able to make up their minds 'which way the cat will jump,' and so steer away from so dangerous a subject." Many editors approve the idea of keeping this issue entirely out of the party platforms, but others see danger in suppressing it. Thus the St. Paul Dispatch says:

"We should like to believe that the Anti-Saloon League hopes to give political reality to the issue by requiring politicians to have the backbone to tell the people where they stand on Prohibition. We should like to see the league make a vigorous demand on both parties that they declare themselves unequivocally on the subject. But there is small sign that the league has changed its policy for the purpose of getting greater sincerity from the political parties. In fact, there is reason to believe that the league wants more pussyfooting, rather than less. It wants complete silence. It wants to keep Prohibition smothered as an issue under an official pretense that it is not an issue. Then the people can have no opportunity to vote on Prohibition and Prohibition will suffer no defeats. Prohibition is an issue in this country, and tho it can be put off temporarily, nothing will be able to keep it in political submergence. The longer it is kept tied, the more terrific will be the force when it breaks loose."

When it comes to saying anything definite about Prohibition, the Springfield Union agrees, "the Republican and Democratic leaders and the leaders of Prohibitionists all join in an emphatic 'Hush! Don't mention it!'" And the Hartford Courant thinks we need not be surprized if both party platforms "either proceed on the assumption that there is no such thing as a Prohibition question or make the usual bluff of favoring the enforcement of all laws," and it adds:

"The trick may be good for still another Presidential year, but it is questionable whether it can be worked again thereafter. The year 1928 may still find the parties pompously declaring for the enforcement of all laws, which certainly must be enforced as thoroughly as possible so long as they are laws, and which certainly should never have been enacted if they were not meant to be enforced. But it may not be possible to escape this pressing issue so easily in 1932. Both parties may be anxious not to make Prohibition an issue, but if sentiment continues to develop against the Prohibition laws in the next few years as it has developed in the last few, further subterfuge may be out of the question."

If the earnest members of the Institute of Public Affairs take their cue from the Virginia Senator, the New York Herald Tribune remarks, "they will be regarding public affairs as through a Glass darkly." And the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, in a more serious mood, takes issue with the policy of Senator Glass and the Anti- Saloon League in these words:

"It would be ridiculous to propose that neither of the parties say anything about taxation, or about farm-relief, or about any of the other matters which from time to time arouse public interest. Such a maneuver would be patently insincere and— it might almost be said—patently stupid. Yet wo find earnest party workers and earnest Prohibitionists suggesting that the parties turn their eyes away from the one issue upon which public attention seems most sharply focused. Senator Glass would repudiate the charge that he and those who share his opinions in this matter have come to the conclusion that the two major parties have ceased to be the principal agencies for dealing with the great public problems of the day. But that. is the conclusion to which his opinions really point."

An equal or larger number of papers approve the policy of omitting Prohibition altogether from the party platforms, tho many criticize the league in saying so. Thus the Hartford Times remarks:

"Far be it from us to suggest that the Anti-Saloon League does not know its business, but we regret that the league is not going to try its luck with the two national conventions. That would be a political episode that would teach both the league and the country a lot of things about how Prohibition is really regarded. Yet wo admit that the league knows its hops, as it were. The atmosphere of national conventions is not that in which the league's propaganda functions best.

"It must be evident even to the Anti-Saloon League that there is no real party division on the Prohibition issue, and that any plank of its proposing that passed either convention would be either an affront to large and important sections of the party concerned, or simply an insincere nourish of the catch-vote variety. As between wet and dry there is no party line-up in America today, and that fact stands like an immovable boulder in the way of the Anti-Saloon League's political pathfinders."

Now that the Anti-Saloon League has decided not to insist upon a Prohibition plank, says the Camden Evening Courier with a sigh of relief, "the two parties can quite properly forget the subject entirely and base their campaign, next year, upon the more important domestic and foreign issues." It goes on to say:

"Prohibition was not a party issue in its inception, and if ever it is written off the statute books, it will not be written off by either party. Public sentiment against the Volstead Law is admittedly growing rapidly. It may be a long time before the law will be modified; the law may never be modified, for that matter. But any change that is made will be the result of an insistent demand by the people, regardless of their partizan political affiliations.

"The league's decision to 'lay off' the two major political parties next year seems to be an indication that it recognizes the trend of present-day Prohibition—that it is a local or sectional issue in which the people, regardless of platform planks and even laws, are getting pretty much the kind of enforcement they want."

"Very wise action," is the comment of the Philadelphia Inquirer upon the league's announcement. Prohibition, it adds, can not now become an issue in the approaching Presidential campaign "save as it may prevail locally in certain Congressional districts." The Topeka Daily Capital thinks the chances now are that "both platforms will be frankly dry, adding: "That is good politics, and the platforms will be written by good politicians." "Manifestly it would be some test of ingenuity to frame a platform declaration that would satisfy both factions," thinks the Manchester Union; "the chances are, indeed, particularly good that the Democrats who yearn for a vigorous on- slaught upon national Prohibition will return from the convention wiser men and also sadder." To which the Philadelphia Inquirer retorts: "Republican and Democratic leaders alike fear to stir up a hornets' nest. Either a dry plank or a wet plank could split wide open the party that advocated it."


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