“AMERICAN LEADERSHIP IN 1944″ By Orson Welles
Free World, September, 1944
The interests of the small farmer and the small businessman, to say nothing of the enormous tasks of international organization, must be entrusted to a more catholic guardianship than that of Labor. The rights of the common man…can be claimed for him only by a popular movement, recruiting the whole vigor of progressive labor but not dominated by its personnel. Such a movement…is scarcely visible on the American scene. If there were any claim to its vital existence, Henry Wallace would not have been defeated at the Democratic Convention.
The liberal press has sought to comfort its readers with Harry Truman’s voting record…(which will be) marked down as a triumph for organized labor. The blame for the defeat of Wallace, however, must be partially acknowledged by organized liberalism.
Wallace’s direct support…was mostly unprofessional…That clumsiness is symptomatic and ominous.
Wallace supporters’…lack of organization (and) dependence on progressive labor, reflects the whole condition of American liberalism.
The suggestion that Roosevelt abandoned Wallace because the Vice-President’s progressive dauntlessness discomfited the President is absurd…But it’s true that…Roosevelt is careful of his Presidency…a politically skillful care, and we are grateful for it.
But there is something to thank God for in the spirit of Henry Wallace. We can only regret that each of these great men has not a little of the others greatness. They were a wonderful team. If Roosevelt were even braver in behalf of principle, and if Wallace had mastered only a little more of the tricky craft of politics, perhaps the team would not have broken up. What is missing in each of them is just exactly what was needed to beat Wallace’s enemies. Roosevelt’s caution at least proves he hasn’t forgotten that these enemies are covertly, but even more passionately, his enemies as well.
Both (Wallace and Republican progressive Wendell Wilkie) functioned within the framework of their political parties, both were at war with their party machines and party bosses, and both were disastrously reckless in that warfare.
The liberal movement cannot afford the political failures Willkie and Wallace were guilty of this year.
Surely it would not have cost the President renomination if he had spoken out as did the Vice-President at the Chicago Convention.
It’s clear he avoided it to avoid splitting the party;…(However) a forthright statement of liberal principles from Roosevelt at that time would have laid the foundations for the liberal party whose emergence is generally expected after his retirement.
It is Roosevelt’s historic opportunity to found that liberal party. If he had stood clear of the Democratic bosses and openly defied the dirty banner of White Supremacy at the Convention, it’s true he might have seriously handicapped his chances for reelection, but he would still have kept votes enough to give a liberal party such a fair and hopeful start as it’s not likely to enjoy four years hence.
Roosevelt is presently visiting the moral side of conservatism. He knows better than any of us what will win an election and what will lose it. That’s true. But it’s also true that only Roosevelt knows what percentage of safety he requires. When he abandoned Henry Wallace we were not discouraged in our suspicion that the percentage required is very large.
…if the liberal opinion remains a mere minority vote, democracy is doomed. Henry Wallace is the particular prophet of that opinion. He is no day-dreaming theorist…he is always more responsible than romantic.
He was triumphantly successful in Latin-America and in China. And they were not easy missions.
He is the spokesman and also the product of progressive sentiment, and the new significance he has given to the institution of the Vice-Presidency is due not only to the size of Henry Wallace as a man, but to the size of the opinion responsible for his existence.
Henry Wallace is man enough for any place in history. There remains only the question of whether he is politician enough to make it.
Mr. Willkie’s party has all but excommunicated him for his outspoken progressiveness, and Dewey’s nomination was easily agreed upon because…the character of his statesmanship…is certainly not to be praised for those qualities which rendered Willkie embarrassing to a staunchly conservative party.
The Willkie of “One World” must be heard from again.
The Roosevelt of the Atlantic Charter must be heard from again.
The President remains, in spite of everything, the beloved liberal of the world, but his popularity at home seems to be all that holds together the left and right wings of the Democratic party, and his liberalism is in strategic hibernation.…the Roosevelt persuasiveness may be bulwark enough against Republican Toryism, but we affirm that more is called for today from the leader of the American democracy.
American progressives in this election have no choice but Roosevelt.
Most progressives remain Roosevelt partisans even though few among them have forgiven his cheerful scuttling of the New Deal, for just as few have forgotten that he was their most effective champion. They will vote for him again because of what he’s done in their behalf, and…his capacity for success.