Birth of a Party

Brass Tacks

On August 18, an embittered group of Republicans sat down to dinner at the Harvard Club of New York City. All of then had gone down with the ship of Senator Robert Taft at the recent Republican convention. There was Gen. Albert Wedemeyer, who had led the Citizens for Taft group in Chicago; there was W. Kingsland Macy, Long Island Republican leader who had fallen victim to a slow, painful purge at the hands of Gov. Thomas E. Dewcy; and there was also Merwin K. Hart, head of Washington's most munificent lobby, the Committee for Constitutional Government. After cigars, the group took a straw poll and found that of the twenty-eight present, only three would vote for Gen. Eisenhower in November. The others agreed that their party had moved so far to the left that they could no longer serve it in good faith.

That night at the Harvard Club, a new political party movement was born. Five days later, Colonel Robert McCormick, patriarch of the Chicago Tribune, issued the call on his radio program. Asking "followers of Jefferson and Lincoln to repudiate Truman and Dewey," he accused the backers of General Eisenhower of "supporting socialism in Europe as a prelude to bringing it here." The Colonel urged Americans not to cast a vote for President this year, but to look hopefully toward 1956 and a new party.

Actually, the idea of a new party had been vegetating since early July. Many Republicans had worked themselves into such a frenzy against Eisenhower that to vote for him seemed like embracing the devil. For days the "I Won't Vote" letters were stacked row on row in the letters to the editor column of the Tribune--as many as forty each issue. Others, who would not neglect their franchise, agreed with the lady who wrote the Tribune:

"I invite all who would have an American President to join me in writing on the ballot the name of the man who has had his rightful position as Republican candidate stolen from him."

A couple of new parties sputtered and died even before the Harvard Club dinner. One called itself America First, and tried to place on the Illinois ballot electors for Gen. MacArthur and Sen. Harry Byrd. It failed. A Nebraska woman conceived another and tagged it the American Party.


But one grew out of the cocoon stage. Meeting in Philadelphia in the shadow of the Liberty Bell, the Constitution party chose a Mrs. Stevenson of Connecticut as its leader and girded up its loins to do electoral battle with "the international conspirators for more than a decade." At the top of their endorsement list was Sen. Joseph C. McCarthy with the statement "Anyone who opposes McCarthy is giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the Republic."

Tomorrow's article will trace the success of the new party movement in the campaign so far.