It is possible for a man to support armed intervention in Mexico, and be a pronounced and innocuous pacifist in the World War, and yet be consistent in his own eyes and these of his followers. He may denounce the people who were blown up in the Lusitania, and condone those who blow them up; may weaken, by hostile notion, aggressive designs on Germany after the declaration of war; may make wartime service to one's country a political liability; may do infinite harm, by harsh criticism and stubborn blocking, to both Democratic and Republican administrations alike; yet find himself, by almost unanimous choice and in monotonous regularity, reelected to the Senate. That is--if he is Robert La Follette.
When he wrote to Booth, while a young man, offering the actor a suggestion as to an improvement in his histrionic technique, La Follette rather startled people. He has been doing so ever since, when Governor of Wisconsin, when drafting platforms for the Republican party, and seeing them rejected. Now he is startling Congress by his liberal progressive bloc, not the germ of a third party, for La Follette is too old a master to risk his neck on that horse again, but as a reform movement within the Republican party.
With the radical element holsted into Congress by the recent elections, La Follette has power behind him. By his becoming, on March 4 next, through the rule of seniority, chairman of the Inter-State Commerce Committee; by his being next in line, if Smoot resigns to take the chair of the Committee of Appropriations, to chairmanship of the Finance Committee, La Follette not only startles Congress and political leaders, but also scares them to death.
There is much to say about this man who in 1912 was a "stone's throw" from the Presidency. He is a radical, perhaps because he is of French-Irish extraction, representing a German state; in the American Senate. His radicalism is not the chief objection to him, for radicalism is perhaps necessary to offset conservatism in a balanced legislative body. But because of his actions and utterances in the crises before and during the War, La Follette has been termed, untrustworthy, of bad understanding and worse judgment.
Yet there he stands, one of the most powerful figures in the Senate today. The recent elections have given him the greatest chance of his career. The whole country is interested to see what he will do with it.