Progressivism at Washington even by observers not satisfied with the old parties, has been viewed as little more than a movement of protest. It has developed no single constructive issue which could be used as a nucleus for a third party; it calls for the highly unnatural union of the Wisconsin-Minnesota group, itself by no means homogeneous, and Borah and Johnson.
At no time has the movement shown itself so inconsistent as during the first month of the present Congress. In the House it protested violently against the dominance of committee rule, and was quieted only by promises and compromises. At present it has brought the Senate to a deadlock, which threatens to last the holidays, over the question of chairmanship of a committee--an office which this week it considers of sufficient importance to fight for.
To many Old Guard Republicans who feel responsibility for the organization of the Senate, this contention over the position of chairman for the Committee on Interstate Commerce is largely uncalled for. Should the Progressives here stand against the dominance of committee rule they would be justified: the work of this committee is not partisan; the Esch-Cummins law, the heart of the controversy, was essentially not partisan, and the chairman wields but one vote--But Progressivism, in this instance, exalts committee rule.
Such inconsistency is to be expected when the aims of the movement are altered from one session to the next. Its protest at one time takes the form of a bonus bloc, then of a farm bloc, and now a railroad bloc. The present phase, the railroad bloc, like those preceeding it, lacks unity as to personnel and policies. The Wisconsin-Minnesota group seems to predominate, huddled together behind La Follette who has produced no clear-cut plan for administering the railroads.
A third party does not seem imminent, there are no planks for a platform and no one to build it. The Progressives would do better, many believe, to mount the old platforms, deliver their new ideas if they wish to the people already there assembled, and facilitate not prevent the smooth working of Congress.