Labor Politics in a Democratic Republic: Moderation, Division, and Disruption in the Presidential Election of 1928

By Vaughn Davis Bornet | Go to book overview

Preface

THIS IS THE STORY of labor and politics in the United States in the Presidential Election of 1928. It is a picture of trade union leaders and political figures working in alternative patterns to change and (as each thought) to improve the nation. One intent of the book is to display in sequence the colors of the ideological spectrum of that day and time. Here may be seen Herbert C. Hoover and the Republicans, Alfred E. Smith and the Democrats, Norman M. Thomas and the Socialists, and William G. Foster and the Communists, all engaged in framing appeals designed to woo laboring men, labor organizations and leaders, or abstract groups like "workers with hand and brain" or "the proletariat." Here also are orthodox trade union leaders like William Green of the American Federation of Labor, Daniel Tobin of the Teamsters, and the leaders of many well-known unions during a time of prosperity, seeking to be influential in helping to decide the final score in the great game of politics.

It was a noteworthy year, 1928 -- midway between two world wars, yet prosperous, confident, and forward-looking. It was a time when reactionaries and radicals minced no words in expressing what was on their minds. For this and other reasons, the nature of the Socialist and Communist programs for redesigning the American economy and body politic stand revealed in their true light -- free of the oddities of linguistics and the alterations in outward conduct that were to come to each group in later decades. Thomas and Foster, both dynamic leaders, were destined to retain throughout their lives their prominence among adherents to their respective ideologies. In Hoover and Smith the two major parties had high-minded and articulate leaders of noteworthy previous experience who were capable of much consistency in appeal.

Certain issues placed before the public in 1928 by single-minded persons were not normally part of American presidential politics. These hotly controverted matters -- religion and prohibition, each highly personal -- had the effect of burying for contemporaries and

-vii-

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