"The Democratic Party represents a larger part of the progressive power and thought of the country than any other party".
President whose progressive policies brought the Democratic Party back from the wilderness where it had languished since the Civil War and whose achievements set the tone for U.S. government in the 20th century. The nation’s leader during World War I, his idealism and activism had a permanent effect on the goals of...
President whose progressive policies brought the Democratic Party back from the wilderness where it had languished since the Civil War and whose achievements set the tone for U.S. government in the 20th century. The nation’s leader during World War I, his idealism and activism had a permanent effect on the goals of American foreign policy, and his internationalist outlook favoring U.S. involvement abroad, though before his time, came after World War II to be seen as prophetic.
Typed Letter Signed on White House letterhead, two pages, July 14, 1916, during his reelection campaign, to J. C. Parker, Editor of Lefax Magazine in Philadelphia. “I have read your letter of July tenth with a great deal of attention and with very serious interest, and realize as keenly as you do the anomalous conditions by which many of the Progressive voters of the country are being confused and misled, as well as the old, inveterate attractions which seem to control the choice of many of them in matters political. In answer to the questions contained in your letter, I will say that, for my own part, I have no jealousy whatever of independent organizations intended to keep the independent voters of the country reminded of their obligations and fully informed as to parties and the conditions under which their votes are being solicited. For myself, I sincerely desire and have tried to deserve the support of all progressive, forward-looking men. I believe, and I think that recent experience has confirmed the belief, that the Democratic Party represents a larger part of the progressive power and thought of the country than any other party, and that it can be made the instrument, and is being made the instrument, of leadership in the direction which all men who love justice and progress must wish to take. It is for that reason that I am proud to be its nominee and to have the opportunity to lead it.”
An extraordinarily important letter on Wilson’s political philosophy, with reflections on his motivations. The magazine marked up page two of this important letter for publication. The Democratic Party is “unequivocally the party of progress and liberal thought.”
Franklin Roosevelt. In 1924, the Democratic Party was deeply divided, and this was on display at the National Convention in New York. Candidate Alfred E. Smith, New York’s governor, was a Catholic and an opponent of prohibition, and was bitterly opposed by Democrats in the South and West. His opponent, former Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo, a Protestant, defended prohibition and refused to repudiate the Ku Klux Klan, making him unacceptable to Catholics and Jews in the Northeast. The convention was the longest in American history, going 103 ballots Ð and 17 days Ð before the leaders threw in the towel and the convention settled on a nonentity, former West Virginia Congressman John W. Davis. He was trounced by Coolidge in the general election. This failure caused some serious soul-searching in the party about how the party could place itself in a leadership position again. Leading this reassessment was the party’s 1920 vice presidential nominee, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took the step of writing to party leaders. He told them that the national party organization was too weak, and made suggestions on how to strengthen it.
Even more importantly, he made a bold statement about the Democratic Party’s core principles, explaining why he was a Democrat.
Typed Letter Signed, two pages, New York, December 5, 1924, to Thomas F. Harwood, cotton mill owner and lawyer from Gonzales, Texas, who had been a delegate to the 1924 National Convention. “A number of acknowledged leaders of our Party have asked my opinion as to what should be done to make the Democracy a stronger and more militant organization nationally. In recent years and in many States we have succeeded in electing Democratic governors. Yet these same States we fail to carry for our presidential candidates. It is fair to reason that the Party organization is far weaker nationally than locally…I take it that we are all agreed on certain fundamental truths: 1. That the National Committee, or its Executive machinery should function every day in every year and not merely in Presidential election years. 2. That the National Committee should be brought into far closer touch with the State organizations. 3. That the executive machinery for year in and year out work should be put on a continuing and business-like financial basis. 4. That publicity for fundamental party policy and for the dissemination of current information should be greatly extended. 5. That party leaders from all sections should meet more frequently in order to exchange views and plan for united party action. Something must be done, and done now to bring home to the voting population the true basis and sound reasons why the Democratic Party is entitled to national confidence as a governing party. There is room for but two parties. The Republican leadership has stood and still stands for conservatism, for the control of the social and economic structure of the nation by a small minority of hand-picked associates. The Democratic Party organization is made more difficult by the fact that it is made up in chief part by men and women who are unwilling to stand still but who often differ as to the methods and lines of progress. Yet we are unequivocally the party of progress and liberal thought. Only by uniting can we win. It is not, I take it, a matter of personalities or candidates, but a matter of principles. If in the next three years we stop wasting time in booming or opposing this man or that for a nomination four years away, and devote ourselves instead to organizing for party principles, for the taking advantage of our opponents errors and omissions, and for presenting our own logical and progressive program, we shall gain the confidence of the country; and find it far easier to choose a representative and successful ticket when the time comes.”
FDR had been a minor figure riding on the renowned Roosevelt name when he was chosen to run for vice president in 1920, and was submerged for years afterwards by his bout with polio. At the Democratic National Convention of 1924, he signaled his interest in returning to politics by making the nominating speech for Al Smith. However, it was this letter, dated just a month after the general election, which marked his actual reemergence onto the national stage. Its scope, outreach to a broad spectrum of party dignitaries, thoughtful advice and call to principles immediately thrust him into prominence. It gave him stature in his own right, and elevated him to a position as a leader. His activity level within the party dramatically increased, and in 1928 he was elected governor of New York, a post then second only to president of the United States in public exposure and power. Four years later he was president. From the Forbes Collection.
Harry S. Truman. President whose plain speaking and integrity have made him one of the most respected men ever to serve in the Oval Office. He was also one of the most successful, as his Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe after World War II and his policy of containing communism eventually led to its demise. In this letter, he gives a lesson in civics and explains why he is a Democrat.
Typed Letter Signed on U.S. Senate letterhead, Washington, February 5, 1938, to Charles Schwager, who had obviously written Truman saying he did not belong to a political party. This surprised and displeased Truman, who responded as follows: “I read your letter of January 31 with a great deal of interest, and cannot see how a person could be an American citizen for 35 years and not be actively involved in some political party. The success of the American form of government is due entirely to the two-party system of government. My suggestion to you would be to affiliate with that party which stands for the things that are of the most benefit to the greatest number. I am a Democrat and have been a Democrat all my life, and I am proud of it because I think the Democratic Party is for the down-trodden and the common every-day people.”
An incredible statement from one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. A truly unique group that has taken us 15 years to compile.
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