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It's that time of year again. Not quite Christmas, past Thanksgiving, and still soon enough to speculate about presidential candidates without making any commitments.
The Democratic speculations are actually the most interesting, mainly because there are more Democrats to speculate about. But the most peculiar thing about the Democrats--whether you think there are thirteen, seventeen, or twenty of them in the running--is that almost all of them are senators. The Democrats have never in this century picked a senator as their presidential nominee; the only Republican candidate who was a senator was also a winner, but his name was Warren G. Harding.
Bryan was a former congressman, Wilson a governor, Cox a governor, John W. Davis a corporation lawyer, Smith and Roosevelt, both New York governors, Truman a Vice-President (Lots of vice-presidential material comes from the Senate.), and Stevenson a governor. The Republican nominees are similarly heavily pro-gubernatorial, from McKinley through Dewey.
Even with the institution of presidential preference primaries, governors are just more likely to control their own state's convention votes than any outsider. And so the leading Democratic prospects in 1960 are Meyner of New Jersey, Pat Brown of California, Soapy Williams of Michigan, Faubus of Arkansas, and Happy Chandler of Kentucky. Of course, precedent doesn't mean a thing, and Adlai, even without any favorite-son backing from Illinois, could be the choice of a convention unable to decide among a host of mediocrities. The 1924 convention, deadlocked between Smith and McAdoo, turned to Davis, also a corporation lawyer, who had nothing resembling the national fame Stevenson has amassed in two losing tries at the White House.
A few senators will also go to Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, or wherever the quadrennial spectacle is staged, holding their state delegations under tight control. Humphrey's engineering of the GOP collapse in Minnesota pretty well assures him a united delegation. The governor, Orville Freeman, is his boy; and the pro-Kefauver faction which split Minnesota's votes in 1956 has been pretty well extinguished. Symington holds Missouri, Kennedy can count on New England, and Gore, Kefauver to the contrary notwithstanding, controls Tennessee. Lyndon Johnson certainly doesn't have to worry about Texas, and probably not very much about the rest of the Southwest. But Richard Russell and Harry Byrd will have a large voice in the direction of the South's bloc of votes, and if Lyndon puts the finger on someone whom they don't like, they will not be desultory about saying so.
All of which leaves the convention looking like a Rube Goldberg contraption carried over into politics. Pat Brown, for instance, will find himself up against a strong liberal faction in California, where Paul Ziffren, the national committeeman, will probably try to throw the delegation to the most liberal candidate--a category Pat Brown doesn't exactly fit. Ziffren, having elected Engle to the Senate, will be feeling his oats and is backed up by a large and noisy group of intellectual youngsters. New York, too, may not stay with Wagner very long, if either Meyner or Kennedy start bidding high.
A propos of Massachusetts' own, there is a story making the rounds about Kennedy's need for help from the Texas leaders. A Kennedy scout was touting his boy to a Texas politico and finished his spiel with a question: "You don't seem to care about Jack's being a Catholic, do you?"
"No," he was told, "He's an Irish Catholic isn't he? It's those Roman Catholics we don't want."
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