Governor Smith has finally scaled the doom of the Mullan-Gage Act and set the seal in no uncertain terms as to his opinion of its fountain-head, the Volstead Act. Yet however much Wets may shout with joy or Drys thunder against the "deep damnation of this taking off". Federal enforcement, increased and strengthened, will continue in New York State and the status quo will be little deranged. Certainly Governor Smith is a close enough student of Constitutional law not to endorse an act which would have a flavor of secession, as some zealous prohibitionists have claimed of this repeal. In fact the bold note which be struck in his special message is evidence that legal considerations, once cleared up, had no further influence upon his decision. What did influence his decision in the light of the decision, becomes almost a metaphysical problem.
It is possible, of course, for a man occupying a high public position to hold opinions unbiased by political main chances. But in the present case, after a continuously rumbling presidential boom, after the frequent closeted conferences at which "nothing of a political nature was discussed", after the solemn prognostications of political seers as to the effect of the governor's approval or veto, the evidence is strong that his opinion was political as well as personal. And yet his approval would seem highly impolitic unless Governor Smith has a keener eye than most men. To secure the Democratic nomination, a two-thirds vote is necessary, and to collect this two-thirds out of the dry South and the dry Middle West, which represent the main strength of the Democratic party, seems impossible.
The very obviousness of this fact must cause one to stop and wonder if a politician as astute as Governor Smith could have so conspired to slaughter his own chances. Can it be that he has divined a change in the attitude of the general public toward the rigidity of the Volstead Act? Mr. Gompers, pleading the case of repeal before him, claimed to represent a more or less mythical four million voters, and it is becoming more and more apparent that in the East, especially in the cities among the laboring classes and the upper classes, there is a strong current running toward a less strict interpretation of the Eighteenth Amendment. The governor's attitude is this current crystallized but as to the South and the Middle West time has yet to show.