Race Prejudice and Discrimination: Readings in Intergroup Relations in the United States

By Arnold M. Rose | Go to book overview

26.The Dirty Political Campaign Against Al Smith *

Editors of The Nation

[Although the United States had seen strong and violent anti- Catholicism between 1840 and 1900, this attitude seems to have become relatively dormant by 1920. The most significant outward manifestation of anti-Catholicism during the twenties was the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. Prejudice is tenacious and even when dormant may once more become active under stimulation. An illustration of how this may happen is revealed by the campaign against Al Smith for the Presidency in 1928. An issue of The Nation magazine for that year describes the prejudiced canards.]

The nearer the end of the Presidential campaign comes, the worse it appears. One must go far back in our history before one comes across a similar era of Know-Nothingism, or rank, passionate prejudice. Even then it seems on so small a scale as to be trifling by comparison. As we write, two weeks before the election, there is a genuine prospect that the Solid South will be broken at last. For what reason? Some profound political principle? Some grave question of State's rights? Some determination to alter a domestic or foreign policy? Some decision to rebuke a party which has been corrupt and faithless in office? Not at all. What has stirred the South to its depths is frankly the possibility that a Roman Catholic may be elected President. There is, of course, deep and sincere feeling on the prohibition question. Although no President can change the prohibition law or alter the Constitution, the prohibition forces are declaring that the principle is at stake and that cry is seized upon by multitudes, which are eagerly seeking an excuse to cover their religious prejudice, their bigotry, their total lack of understanding of that liberty of conscience and of belief which is the very cornerstone of the American republic.

Not only in the South is the poison at work. Everywhere one goes in the North it is prejudice which seems to be electing Herbert Hoover--prejudice against the Pope; prejudice against Tammany Hall; prejudice against the man who waxes ungrammatical as he waxes eloquent; prejudice against his wife because she has not enjoyed the opportunities for leisure and culture that

____________________
*
From "The Dirtiest Political Campaign," The Nation, 127 ( October 31, 1928), 440; and from "The Democratic Party is Smashed," The Nation, 127 ( November 14, 1928), 507. Copyright 1928 by The Nation. Reprinted by permission of The Nation.

-268-

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