Creating the issues is the job of the Opposition Party. But what can the Democrats oppose? The Republican Party has grabbed the New Deal banner and embraced it as its very own. It's been a long time since we've had a real Opposition Party in America, a party that will clearly and firmly expose the violations of sound principle made by the party in power.
As always, the Administration will "point with pride" and the Opposition will "view with alarm." In this age when government is held responsible for everything, the Republicans will take credit for all the good things of the past four years, and the Democrats will blame them for all the bad. Do we have peace and prosperity? Hurrah for the Republicans! Is farm income slipping, or neutralism rising in Europe? Make way for the Democrats!
Yet the Democrats can present no real issues, because they cannot offer the voters any alternative to present Republican policy. The Democrat promise of 100% parity to farmers is matched by the equally socialistic Republican Soil Bank. All the Democrats can do is complain that the Republicans don't New Deal enough: "not enough" highways, foreign aid, schools, social security, armament spending, minimum wages, etc. But don't expect the voter to get stirred up over a few million dollars more or less for highways.
Foreign policy issues between the Tweedledum-Tweedledee parties will confuse the average voter even more. Both parties are equally bewildered and confused; both want to be for Peace but against Appeasement; for Anti-Communism, but against War. And so back and forth they will sway, depending on the moods of John Foster Dulles. Dulles talks tough or softly and the Democrats accuse him of inviting war or appeasing Reds.
So where does this vast muddle leave our average voter? He will fall back on Peace and Prosperity, on the prosperity he enjoys and on the truce Ike signed in Korea. Score two big rounds for the Republicans in the game to win the minds of the American voter.
Only the Middle East crisis will provide a genuine foreign policy issue between the two parties. The Republican policy is simply: keep the dollars flowing impartially to both Israel and the Arab states, hoping that both will be pacified. In a showdown, the Administration, lured by oil and air bases, would lean toward the Arabs. The Democrats, on the other hand, have always favored the Zionists, and will take a strong pro-Israel line in the campaign. Neither party will choose America's traditional policy of "no entangling alliances."
In this clash, the voter could decide either way, but my hunch is that he will prefer Republican pleas for bipartisanship and national unity on this issue. Score a thin round for the Republicans.
A striking feature of this campaign is that the Democrats—especially the left-wing Democrats—are excited about plenty of issues. Yet they must wait frustrated on the sidelines, unable to shout about these problems, while the campaign sleepily drags on. What makes the leftists really angry? Issues personified by the newest controversial Senator: Jim Eastland of Mississippi.
The left-wing Democrats—the sparkplugs of the New Deal—are reasonably content on economic and foreign policy matters. By and large, they have seen their views and policies become coin of the realm. But three issues stir them: "civil rights" for Negroes; civil liberties for Communists; and immigration barriers. If they had their way, they would launch an all-out attack on Southern segregation, on Congressional investigations of pro-communism, and on our subtly racist immigration barriers.
But they can't—and "Jim Eastland" tells us why. For their leading opponents are found in their own Democratic Party! Eastland, powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is at one and the same time the chief defender of segregation, of investigations into communism, and the McCarran-Walter Act. Spearheaded by the Daily Worker, the extreme left peppers Eastland daily, just as they used to to attack McCarthy. But the Democrats cannot follow lest they rip their party asunder.
Main St. Vs. Madison Ave.
In this squabble, the Republican Party will simply stand by and smile, playing a very "moderate" game while Democrat passions flare.
Clucking at Democrat infighting and extremism, the Republicans will be moderate in all things: for integration but slowly, for investigations in communism but with safeguards, for revision of the McCarran-Walter Act, but not too drastically. Chalk up another big round for the Republicans.
The poor Democrats can't even level off against their old enemy, Big Business. They set themselves to attack Republican "giveaways"—a feeble issue at best.
But they saw the natural gas "giveaway" put through by the Texan Democratic leadership of Congress—and vetoed by the politically shrewd President. And they can't even denounce Republican millionaires any more—with the leading Democratic candidates matching the top Republicans dollar for dollar. Certainly no Democratic advantage here.
And so, bereft, frustrated, befuddled, the Democrats must fall back on personalities. With no issues to convince the public, they must show that they are nicer or more efficient people than the Republicans. And so they must attack Vice-President Nixon, and paint him as "unpopular." They must show the public again that subtle but unmistakable difference in party personalities—the breezy "man of the people" Democrat versus the stuffy, faintly snobbish Republicans. They will pit Main Street not against Wall Street, but against Madison Avenue—the land of the slick advertising agency.
For counterattack, the Republicans will conjure up the image of little Harry Truman, who left office in a blaze of unpopularity. Perhaps they might mention Alger Hiss once in a while if the going gets really rough. But mostly they will answer with the big Republican seige gun—their Big Issue—Ike Eisenhower.
The Eisenhower popularity is a fantastic and frightening phenomenon. Never before have we considered it almost a sin to criticize a President sharply. Roosevelt had his worshippers, but many bitter enemies too. Eisenhower has only worshippers. Perhaps the Democrats will try to whittle down the Eisenhower Myth in the campaign, but we doubt it. They have waited too late, hoping he wouldn't run.
And so the Democrats will play their only card—Ike's health. And the pitch will be: please America-vote for us for Ike's sake—so he can live out his years in peace and quiet. Vote Democratic to Save Ike!
The Republicans will counter this with Sympathy and Assurance. Sympathy: vote for wonderful, ailing Ike who is sacrificing so much to save his country in time of need. Assurance: that stuff you heard for years about the "man-killing strain" of the Presidency was all nonsense. The doctors say Ike is fine, and we'll do all the tasks, make all the decisions, for him. He'll be better now, because he'll be taking more care of himself. And if we botch things, Ike will be on the job to fix it all.
So great is the voters' love for Ike that this line will score a big hit. Another whopping round for the Republicans.
How The Dems Might Win
In the verbal slugging contest over issues and personalities, we see that the Republicans will capture the voters every time. Does this make Republican victory certain? No! It is still possible that the Democrats will lose every battle, yet win the war.
We must watch these possibly offsetting factors for the Democrats: (1) the South, angry with Chief Justice Warren, will return to the solid Democratic fold; (2) the New Dealers will vote for their original party; (3) the conservatives may finally revolt against the party that speaks free enterprise but acts socialism. They may go fishing on Election Day, vote Democrat, or set up a New Party of their own.