Washington, March 20, 1934.
SPEAKER RAINEY'S "Wrong List." Being the names of those Democrats in Congress who have not supported President Roosevelt 100 per cent, may become the means whereby the Republicans will materially increase their strength in the November elections.
The list constitutes a basis for punishment of the Democrats who tried to assert their independence and vote as their consciences dictated, something that is supposed to be the essence of representative Government under the American system.
If, therefore, a Democrat who tries to represent the wishes of his constituency is to be punished by being denied the opportunity to recommend men for public offices such as collectors of internal revenue, post masterships and so on, thus weakening his prestige in his own district, then what possible advantage, it will be asked in the next campaign, is it for the same district to be represented by a Democrat in preference to a Republican?
The Republican campaign argument will boil down to this: "My democratic opponent goes to Washington committed to vote for anything and everything that the Democratic Administration wishes him to vote for, whether he thinks it is in your interest or not.
"I go to Washington ready to support you when he is wrong."
With this type of campaign appeal a Republican will have a better chance than by opposing the President 100 per cent. So will a Democrat who enters the primaries to oppose another democrat who may happen to be committed to unqualified and unconditional support of the administration.
Bonus Democrats Could Be Added
There are a number of matters like the tariff, for instance, which will require a difference with the administration. Thus to Speaker Rainey's list of 21 who voted "wrong" there now might be added by the same logic about 90 Democrats who voted for the bonus, though it is not certain yet how many of these will vote to override a veto.
The idea that a member of Congress must support the Administration, even when he thinks it is the wish of his constituents on a particular issue to vote otherwise, is not altogether new in American politics. It has been espoused before but with little success by either party. President Taft in 1910 tried to punish the Western Insurgents by threatening to withhold "patronage," but the attempt was a boomerang. The Republican regulars tried it again shortly after 1912, but in 1916 welcomed their opponents into the fold.
President Wilson had a controversy with members of his own party and wrote a letter actually trying to defeat Democratic Senators in their primaries in the South because some had opposed him on legislative votes. But in virtually every instance, Mr. Wilson's wishes were disregarded by the people in the elections.
The Parliamentary System of Government in Europe requires a close unity between the Executive Ministry and the Legislative body. The fall of the one means the fall of the other. But the American Constitution is based on the idea of a check by Congress on the Executive, both being coordinate in rank. The desirability of teamwork and harmony on legislative programs has come to be understood by the people as meaning cooperation in a broad sense so as to avoid tiresome delays and quibbling opposition. It remains to be seen, however, whether the people are ready to adopt the European idea and place all the power in the hands of the executive so that members of Congress hereafter become rubber stamps.
The Republican leadership will not be slow to accept the challenge and make Speaker Rainey's "wrong list" the basis of their appeal for an independent-minded Congress which will pledge support in a general sense to President Roosevelt. This would mean a promise to uphold his hands on all major policies in which the administration is headed in the right direction and yet a freedom to argue for amendments or changes and even to defeat those policies which a Representative or Senator thinks are not in the public interest.