Public Men in and out of Office

By J. T. Salter | Go to book overview

15
ALBEN W. BARKLEY "Reservoir of Energy"

BY J. B. SHANNON

WHEN SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, ALBEN BARKLEY, "broke" with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 over the latter's ill-advised veto of a new tax bill, the episode created a sensation. A fleeting but embarrassed hero among his erstwhile bitter foes, the Kentuckian emerged from this political tempest in a teapot a larger and more national figure, apparently leader of the Senate in substance as well as in title. Several causes lay back of his new declaration of independence.

Political observers, unmindful of Barkley's long record as a successful vote-getter and because of presidential support, have unfairly described him as a coat-tail rider and have referred to him as a Roosevelt "stooge." The Kentuckian has tasted but one defeat, and then by a small margin in a primary. In 1938, Barkley happened to be the instrument chosen by Democratic conservatives to beat the President. Many local observers are still dubious whether Roosevelt's intervention aided or injured Barkley, who had the support of the largest labor organizations, the powerful Farm Bureau Federation with its large membership in Western Kentucky, where Democrats are most numerous and loyal, and the Louisville Democratic organization. Finally, as the Senator appraised the situation in 1938, Chandler opposed the WPA and Barkley favored it, so why should not workers on WPA support Mr. Barkley? Political pressure was unnecessary. As a matter of fact, the regions in Kentucky where WPA employment was highest, but traditionally and consistently Republican, opposed Barkley both in the primary and the final election. Yet Barkley

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