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A few short years ago, eastern conservatives chortled with glee at the stupidity of a diddering old doctor who proposed to solve the depression and the ills of democracy by taxing the rich to support the poor in their declining years. They prophesied a speedy end for the Townsend Plan and selected a quiet grave for the Townsend Plan and selected a quiet grave for the party along side of the Greenbackers and Populists. Yet today the movement claims 25,000,000 supporters and has even begun to organize clubs in that stronghold of conservation shrewdness--New England.
The significant fact in the Townsend movement is that to date it has refused to organize as a third party. Taking over the methods of the Anti-Saioon League, the clubs operate as an organized pressure group. Refusing to nominate candidates of its own, the organization dickers with the representatives of the two major parties and pledges its support to whoever will grantee to vote for the Townsend Plan when and if it comes up in Congress. It is this factor of non-partisanship which constitutes the strength of the movement as a political force. The Representative is definitely on the proverbial spot. If he refuses to play in with the Townsendites, he alienates a substantial, even a crucial sector of the electorate. For there is always the danger that his opponent will acquiesce and thereby gain the deciding margin of votes.
Undoubtedly, the fate of the movement will depend on the course of action which the leaders pursue during the ensuing Presidential and Congressional elections. If they attempt to throw the weight of the united organizations behind one of the major parties, they will alienate large numbers of their supporters. On the other hand, if they continue their present policy of remaining aloof from partisan issues, it is difficult to sec how the move can be checked. By organizing the electorate in the districts, by focussing attention on the attitude of the representative towards the Townsend Plan, they can exert a measure of power whose weight was vividly demonstrated by the Anti-Saloon League.
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