As 1932 has slipped further and further into the past, liberalism has quietly hardened. Where once it was an attitude, it became a program, and where once it was a program, it is now a religion. Liberalism is presently too much a matter of setting rigid standards--which politicians can attain only by voting "right" on a handful of issues--of black and white convictions, of catch phrases, and of automatic responses.
Unhappily, its credo includes such items as belief that dishonesty and disregard for ethics are simply a price the nation must pay--indeed, should be pleased to pay--in return for Liberal government. The freedom and the diversity that local responsibility permits counts for nothing, either, when compared to the benefits of a "right" program. Granted, the CRIMSON has favored almost all liberal policies, and for that matter we shall continue favoring them. What we cannot accept is the obsession with programs, an obsession so great that the liberals are willing to support any hack, regardless of his opponent's quality, so long as he votes "right."
The GOP, for its part, goes to the other extreme. Bug-eyed over details--costs, inefficiency, and the like--Republicans do not see the large issues. More and more they have become minor demagogues, bellowing now about socialism, now about graft, leaving nothing undone to discredit the social and foreign gains wrought by twenty years of liberalism. Theirs is a policy of opposition at any cost, and although if in power they would change little, they have adopted the most negative sort of conservatism.
Until this year, politicians have rotated about these two poles like so many wooden horses on a carousel. That is why Adlai Stevenson is so refreshing an addition to national politics.
The New Approach
Stevenson has none of the strident partisanship, the rigid thinking, or the banality toward maladministration shown by the current president, nor is he a chronic addict of the Big Oversimplification. His career as well as his speeches have injected into politics a zeal for intellectual exertion and a faith in the electorate's judgement which, no matter how justified or successful, has made this campaign the most constructive in years.
In contrast with past nominees, Stevenson has a profound analytical approach to national problems, and he is not ashamed to use it. He understands, for instance, that corruption is just as much the voters' fault as of those in office, and he has told them so. He has not denied the Mess In Washington, he has not assailed it with bromides abouts raseals, and he has not promised to clean it out throughly overnight. Instead, with considerable honesty, he said that he would do all that he could, but that he could do no more than the level of public morality allows him.
The same careful intelligence pervades his views on labor questions, especially the Taft-Hartley Law. Rather than ascribe all good or all evil to T.H. Stevenson has admitted its complexity and handled it gingerly. Although he favors substitution of a bill that will not reward strikebreakers with a vote or permit an employer to keep workers on the same pay eighty days more than they wish, he has said openly that some of the Law's provisions are salutary.
For us, though, Stevenson's most welcome position is on the question of federal versus local responsibility, for he has tried to balance the two as no other national politician has. In such cases as FEPC, where immediate action is vital and the states either cannot or will not act, he regards federal legislation necessary. In many other cases, however, he prefers the states and local communities as responsible agencies. Believing that progress can continue without further "migration of power to central authority," we are relieved that at last there should be a Democratic nominee who shares this view.
Of all the problems that demand subtlety, foreign policy is the most difficult. Consequently, it has been kicked about mercilessly by all sides--Truman, Eisenhower, and their backers--save Stevenson. His speech on the Far East was especially good, for instead of the Democrats' near-platitudes and the Republicans' over-simplified formulae, he gave a penetrating study of Far East nationalism, and thoughtful answers to the troubles it holds. Unlike his opposition, who are more concerned with the past, he emphasized Point IV, which he considers America's most effective weapon in the battle for Asia.
Springfield and Washington
Stevenson's opinions are fine, you may say, but what of his administrative record, what of his experience in such fields as foreign affairs? As Governor of Illinois, Stevenson not only achieved a program of road improvements, of more adequate aid to schools, and of remedies for a host of problems his predecessors had left unsolved, but he did it efficiently, without graft, and without raising the state's general taxes since 1948. He has cleansed the state police, closed gambling houses, and he has fired political payrollers wholesale--many of them Democrats--replacing them with some of the best executives in state government. And he has vetoed a number of bills because, in his opinion, they concentrated too much authority in the Governor's Mansion.
As for experience with foreign and military affairs, Stevenson has been secretary to the Navy's Knox, a highly effective and respected member of the UN's American delegation, and the leader of several missions to Europe during and after the war. Republicans, notably Senator Vandenberg, and Democrats alike have praised his service in the State Department.
We do not support Stevenson, then, simply because he has left blunderbuss campaigning to others. We support him because his views are a matter of intelligent, earnest thought, and his record a matter of its honest application. He has shucked liberalism of its blind dogmatism, and left only what is good.