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party had finished its course? Who would then dare in any and all circumstances to predict a Republican walkover?
THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS-I
[December 6, 1909]
NOT since Cleveland's second administration have party lines at Washington been so broken as they are today when the Sixty-first Congress meets for its first regular session.
Democrats and Republicans alike are divided. In the House, Speaker Cannon faces an insurgent revolt; but Champ Clark, the Opposition leader, cannot command the unanimous support of the Democratic Representatives. Senator Culberson has resigned the thankless task of leading the Democratic minority in the Senate, and Senator Aldrich finds his own leadership sharply challenged by radical Senators from the West. Republican Senators and Representatives can be found who are no less radical than Mr. Bryan and Mr. Clark, and there are Democratic Senators and Representatives who are no less conservative than Mr. Aldrich and Mr. Cannon.
Party demoralization in Congress is no accident. It is the inevitable result of a political discontent that is struggling to find a voice. Mr. Bryan expressed it in a way; Mr. Roosevelt expressed it in a way; but neither of them ever got to the heart of things. Neither of them ever succeeded in framing a clear-cut definition of the issue or in demonstrating his capacity for true leadership. Each has been a political opportunist who capitalized popular unrest for his own political profit without looking very far beyond his own immediate advantage.
As The World sees it, to find the genesis of this present-day discontent we must go back nearly twenty years,
when public opinion, inflamed by the aggressions of great combinations of capital, compelled the enactment of the Sherman Anti-Trust law. But no law is self-enforcing, least of all one that strikes at privilege and plutocracy. Before sufficient pressure could be brought to bear upon the Executive to compel a vigorous enforcement of the Anti-Trust act the silver question had become acute. This issue was eagerly seized upon by all the forces of political unrest. Attention was diverted from the trusts, and the Sherman law was temporarily forgotten in the struggle to save the nation from the consequences of free silver.
Not until the country had begun to recover from the effects of the financial debauch which followed the election of 1896 and the war with Spain was public interest again aroused as to the importance of the Anti-Trust law. In the meantime the great corporations had intrenched themselves. They had had practically a free hand for more than twelve years and their grip was immeasurably more powerful than it was when the Sherman act was passed.
Since the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the Northern Securities case the Government has been scrupulously careful not to "run amuck." There has been a spasmodic enforcement of the law, coupled with Presidential messages to prove that the law could not be enforced, and that if it were enforced the business of the country could not be carried on. There has been no consistent, vigorous, continuing policy of upholding the law.
The public fails to perceive that any decisive victory has been won against the trusts and corporations. In spite of court decisions, trusts continue to do a very profitable business. In spite of laws to regulate freight rates, freight rates have increased rather than diminished. The tariff is revised ostensibly for the benefit of the consumer, but the cost of living steadily increases. Wall Street continues to exploit the people. The country is prosperous
again after the Roosevelt panic, but prosperity has served only to intensify political dissatisfaction.
Sometimes this unrest shows itself in an uprising against the political boss. Sometimes by appeals for semisocialistic legislation to curb Wall Street and control great corporations. Sometimes in a great movement for the conservation of national resources in order to keep them out of the hands of the exploiter. Sometimes in the demand for further revision of the tariff, or in the insurgent movement against reactionary political leaders like Mr. Cannon and Mr. Aldrich. All this storm and stress is mirrored in the clash of opposing forces in the Sixty-first Congress.
What the country most needs politically is a new alignment of parties, in order that they may again represent the principles and ideals of their members; but this is too much to hope for at present. There are thousands of Republicans who are really Democrats, and thousands of Democrats who are really Republicans; but they are held to their ancient party allegiance by habit, sentiment, tra'dition and prejudice. Instead of seeking a party that better expresses their views, they are seeking to mould their own party over to their changing principles, and the growing spirit of independence makes the issues only the more confusing.
This is the situation that confronts party leadership everywhere, in Congress and out of Congress. The leaders that try to shut their eyes to it must take the consequences of their own folly and stupidity. This is no struggle of opposing organizations. Democrat against Republican, but a radical movement common to both parties.
The old battle-cries fall on deaf ears. The old standards arouse little enthusiasm. The old prophecies excite no reverence. A new order is seeking to establish itself politically. This is the twilight of the gods.
THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS-2
[December 17, 1909]
DISCUSSING The World's editorial "The Twilight of the Gods," which he describes as "a picture of contemporary American politics remarkable for insight and historical perspective," Mark Sullivan writes in Collier's Weekly:
The World stops with depicting the chaos and the twilight. We believe that through the fog a few definite facts are recognizable.
1. One hopeful constructive tendency that is visible is the gradual congealing of the spirit called insurgent into a definite movement.
2. Intangible though it be, and unformulated yet, a general principle underlies the breach between insurgent and stand-patter. The stand-patter frankly and sincerely stands for the protection and development of the big business interests, believing that if it be assured that big business shall prosper, somehow in the running the people will be taken. care of. The insurgents believe in legislating for the welfare of the people, believing that business can perfectly well adjust itself to that programme.
All the legislation that may be discussed in Congress this winter will be minor in interest and importance compared to the gradual clearing away of the chaos and twilight which The World depicts, and the slow formation of definite political alignments.
There is seldom more than one vital issue in American politics-government for Privilege versus government for the People. That is the beginning and end of the trust question, of the tariff question, of the financial question, of the conservation question, of the boss ques
From time to time there is a national awakening to this fundamental fact and a great political revolt follows.
Such a revolt made Jefferson President and destroyed the Federalist party. Another such revolt made Jackson President and destroyed the United States bank. Another made Lincoln President and destroyed the institution of human slavery. The Insurgent movement is only one manifestation of a popular revolt against newer forms of Privilege, which has been striving for many years to find adequate expression. It is part of the protest of a public that is tired of being exploited for private profit.
The radical movement has been gaining strength rapidly of late because the American people are now beginning to feel the pinch of Privilege in the increased cost of living. What was once an abstract question is becoming concrete. They can translate it into dollars and cents. They have discovered that the full dinner-pail has a false bottom and does not hold what it pretends to hold. The old platitudes about prosperity which were so convincing a few years ago are now scoffed at. Wall Street financiers and corporation politicians may prattle about prosperity as much as they please, but the public is beginning to ask embarrassing questions about the division of prosperity. Who is grabbing the lion's share of it, the people or the privileged interests?
The fact is significant that radicalism is no longer sectional and is no longer identified with economic vagaries like greenbackism, populism and free silver. It is getting down to first principles and seeking an intelligent foundation. Eminently respectable persons can be found even in New York who have occasional misgivings as to whether Wall Street is the sole custodian of the national honor and the sole fountain of national prosperity. Party lines are breaking down because popular sentiment is approaching nearer and nearer to unanimity on this question of restraining Privilege and curbing Plutocracy. In that sense most of us are Insurgents. The one distinct issue left is which party can better be trusted to do the work.