With the election already stale news, scores of freshmen Congressmen have only to plan their grand excursion to Washington. But eight men who will stay near home for the next few years are making far more important decisions that will influence U.S. politics for years to come.
Long before the eight newly-elected Democratic governors move into their executive mansions, they will have chosen hundreds of administrative assistants to help them run their domains--and they will be almost exclusively Democratic.
It is unfortunate that the American political system practically compels men like Muskie in Maine, Ribicoff in Connecticut, MacFarland in Arizona, and Johnson in Colorado--who won their elections largely on personal popularity--to engage in "patronage." Yet "patronage" is too harsh a word for honesty; the governors-elect promised harmonious and progressive government, and the only place where a chief executive can look to find the type of men who can help him in this objective is in his party ranks.
However they may value integrity above party leadership, the eight governors-elect are going to bolster their state party organizations tremendously. They will enhance the attractiveness of party work for potential politicians and increase the prestige of the Democratic party before the public. In Maine and Pennsylvania, where no same young Democrat ever bothered to aspire to state office, the Democratic governors may spawn a dual-partisanship that has always been sadly lacking. In other states where Republican rule has been shorter but no less flabby, party "patronage" could be the ideal antidote for early symptoms of corruption.
Everyone Loves a Governor
Regardless of the importance the new governors attach to leading their Democratic organizations, the chief executives are certain to be valuable assets to their state parties. In these days when corruption is ordinarily recognized only in governments long in power, most young state administrations are fairly popular. Governors needn't kiss babies to get publicity; every legislative message, highway dedication, school visit, or pardon for Killer Slazem is framed to make the governor appear benevolent and unselfish. The governor's access to publicity has allowed Dewey to use the Executive Mansion in Albany as a sounding board for the Eisenhower violin. It will soon reverberate a sweet, Democratic refrain.
The governors elect will be involved in national politics as soon as they take their oaths of office next January. Some of their appointees will set their sights on the governorship, and will hope to win it by pushing their chief executive into the Presidential race. They may be successful, for several of the best bets for the 1956 Democratic race are Harriman, Lausche of Ohio, and Williams of Michigan. Lausche and Williams ran particularly strong races this year in their quests for re-election.
But even governors with no chance for Presidential or Vice-Presidential nominations (such as the governors of Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, or Arizona) may have a chance to exercise national influence benefit-ting the Democratic Party. The governor's power to replace Senators who die in office with their own temporary appointments seldom draws much attention because control of the Senate rarely depends on these choices. But of the nine Senators who died during the Eighty-Third Congress, two Democrats--Lester Hunt of Wyoming and Pat McCarran of Nevada--were replaced by members of the opposite party. The new Democratic governors in four states where Senators are especially feeble may prevent Senate reorganization during the next Congress.
With the deep immersion of governors in national politics, it is scarcely surprising that the country's choice of governors in mid-term elections gives some indication of public sympathy for the Administration. Mid-term Congressional elections usually provide a similar indication. But during this century, curiously enough, the results of the gubernatorial races have proved a better index of a party's Presidential potential than the Congressional races. When Democrats have been successful in the mid-term races for the governorships, the Democratic Presidential candidate has never lost his election. Yet no Democrat except Harry Truman has ever been able to win in a nation which has elected mostly Republican governors two years before.
Perhaps the gubernatorial races are merely the thermometer that shows the country's political temperature. Yet there is a good possibility that the governors boost their party's mercury by lending coherence to their state party during the dong days of the Presidential campaign.