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When Congress begins its eighty-second session next January, the Republicans will nearly control the Senate, and will be a much stronger minority in the House. This is the most important fact about last week's elections, for it partly foretells the story of this country's next two years politically. But there are other results of the voting that will mean almost as much, perhaps more in the long run.
Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that "McCarthyism" was an important issue in some of the Republican victories. California, where Richard M. Nixon played up the issue of "communism in the government," is a case in point. There Helen Gahagan Douglas lost by 500,000 votes. At the same time Senator Millard E. Tydings of Maryland, who was chairman of the Senate committee to investigate Senator McCarthy's charges--a committee which returned a verdict unfavorable to McCarthy--lost to a man practically unknown.
Many of those who predicted Tuesday's results misjudged the importance of "McCarthyism" to the voters. The Democrats will not make this mistake again, and the Republicans can be expected to take full advantage of their position. While this may mean a wider split between the liberal section of the party--which opposed McCarthy's methods--and the conservative element, which backed him, the Administration cannot hope for a halt in attacks on the loyalty of its officials. And Democratic Congressmen will probably now he weaker in their rebuttals.
More surprising, though less ominous than the Tydings defeat, was Everett M. Dirksen's victory over Scott Lucas in Illinois. Lucas, Senate majority leader, voted in favor of the McCurran anti-communist bill and toned down many of the Administration's policies when he returned home to campaign. He still lost by 250,000 votes in a state that went entirely Democratic, even for state offices, in 1948.
As Isolationist As They Came
Dirksen is more of an isolationist than Ohio's Bricker, and is backed by the same group of Republicans that sent C. Wayland Brooks to the Senate in 1942. He will oppose the President on all issues of foreign and domestic policy. Since the Republicans are within two of controlling the upper house of Congress, our foreign programs particularly aid to Europe can now be effectively opposed. The South's twelve-man contribution to the Democratic side of the Senate will join the GOP to try and defeat everything from the Marshall Plan to Point Four. Republicans can, of course, blame any political mistakes the Congress may make on the Democrats who technically control both Houses.
Another important section of the 1948 Democratic platform will not be fulfilled now; the Taft-Hartley Act will still be law in 1952. Organized Labor failed in its biggest campaign; it could not defeat Robert A. Taft, even with comic books and heavy spending. And the men in party national committees will not forget that Labor could not deliver the vote, that it, in fact, missed by 430,000. Because of the Taft-Ferguson result, Labor may lose some of the strength it has had in making party policies.
Whether this election actually means that the nation has become more conservative, or is turning against the Fair Deal, cannot be judged. After all, the Democrats suffered less of a loss this time than at any off-year election since 1934. But Congressmen, wary of crossing their constituents, may be unwilling to take a chance. Certainly, laws like the McCarran Act will remain in force, perhaps be strengthened in states as well as in the federal government.
Although many people will not like seeing the Fair Deal fail of passage, it is the effect of "McCarthyism" on the thinking of the U.S. citizen and his representative that will count most.
On what that effect has been and is depends the state of our civil liberties. This is what the politicians--and everyone else--should worry most about for the next two years.
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