The National Democratic Party,

The National Republican Party

excerpted from the book

Indispensible Enemies

The Politics of Misrule in America

by Walter Karp

Franklin Square Press, 1993, paper

[originally published - 1973]


The National Democratic Party

... winning Presidential elections is no more the basic purpose of the national parties than winning local elections is the basic purpose of most state parties. Rather, it is control of the party. From the point of view of national party leaders, the only alternative to controlling the national party is total political disaster. Any President of the United States can, if he chooses, virtually destroy every state machine in his party. If every office is a potential menace to party organizations, no office is more menacing than the most powerful office of all. This is one of the most important single facts about national party politics in America. The would-be rulers of a national party, therefore, cannot afford to take chances. They must control Presidential nominations so tightly that no man they cannot trust in the Presidency has the smallest chance of gaining it. They must also prevent serious insurgent threats from arising, for even a serious, failed challenge to a national party's rulers can damage their rule; it will expose, if nothing else, that the purpose of a national party convention is not to "pick a winner" but to pick a candidate who serves party interests-even if he happens to be a loser.

National parties resemble state parties in this, that the prevailing doctrine about parties describes what party leaders are perpetually striving to avoid. Nominally, each national party is a coalition of independent state parties concerned with party success in state and local elections and with enjoying an independent voice in choosing a Presidential nominee. Were most state parties independent competitive parties, the national syndicate of state parties would be exceedingly difficult for any permanent ruling clique or oligarchy to control. In fact, however, the majority of state parties-and those of most of the largest states-are collusive, boss-controlled organizations, and it is they who control the great majority of delegates at national conventions. These boss-controlled units of the national party are united by a powerful common bond of interest-they wish, at the very least, to remain boss-controlled parties, and they share a common need to ensure that no one will win the Presidential nomination who will not protect their organization and its power.

The ruling bloc of the national Democratic party has been called many things in its long history: "The Dixie-Daley alliance"-James Reston of The New York Times; the "Boston-Austin axis" Representative Richard Bolling, Democrat of Missouri; "The bosses and the bollweevils"-Senator Charles Goodell, Republican of New York. The various names point to the same thing: a permanent alliance between Northern state parties controlled by city machines and the Bourbon oligarchs who predominate in the Southern states. Together they control the national Democratic party, dictate the party's choice of Presidential nominees, determine the party's policies, decide the party's national issues. Under Democratic Presidents, their interests shape the policies of national administrations. In Democratic-controlled Congresses, they and their minions determine what legislation will pass.

How, it will be asked, can the Bourbons and the Northern city bosses be permanent allies when they are, for the most part, determined ideological adversaries? The Bourbons are obstructionists, apparently opposed to trade unions, to welfare legislation, to civil rights, to Federal programs, to Federal bureaucracies, to Federal infringement of the rights of states, opposed, in short, to virtually everything that the liberal wing of the party supports, and city machine politicians make up a large proportion of the Democratic party's professed liberals. In Congress it is notorious that big-city liberals propose precisely the kind of legislation which Bourbon legislators perpetually block. To all appearances the Northern city machines and the Southern Bourbons are not allies but antagonistic wings of a national party sharply divided along sectional and ideological lines.

The mutual enmity is taken for granted. It is the staple of most political writing. Yet what, after all, is the evidence of it? Chiefly this, that Southern Bourbons in Congress block the reforms which Northern Democrats propose. There is an obvious begged question, however, in this: the tacit assumption that most Northern and big-city Democrats actually want their reform proposals enacted and that the Bourbons by their independent power frustrate these genuine desires. There is, however, an infallible way to test this assumption: if we see the Northern liberal wing of the party trying to increase its power at the expense of the power of the Bourbons. Politically speaking, there is no other evidence. To say you want something done without trying to gain the power to do it is tantamount in politics to not wanting it done. What then does the Northern wing of the Democratic party do to increase its power at the expense of the Bourbon obstructionists? The answer to that question is: less than nothing. Virtually all the power which the Bourbons enjoy is freely given them by their alleged "antagonists" within the Democratic party.

To the obvious question, how does the Bourbon minority get its power, the conventional answer is the seniority system, that curious dispensation by which Bourbons always end up on top and Northern reformers on the bottom of the legislative hierarchy.

It is not seniority but its discretionary use which gives Bourbons their power in the Senate. This discretionary power is in the hands of the Democratic Steering Committee, which gives out the committee assignments every two years. Since this committee is controlled by Bourbons, the result, as Horn observes, "is perpetuation of party control in the Senate by the most senior members and especially the senior Southern conservatives." According to Clark, the Steering Committee made its assignments "in a manner which entrenched the control of the establishment over the committee structure of the Senate." The real key to Bourbon power in the Senate is Bourbon control of the Steering Committee.

In the House, the committee-assigning agency is the Democratic membership of the House Ways and Means Committee. Like its Senate counterpart it is controlled by Bourbons and chaired, at this writing, by Wilbur Mills of Arkansas.

This brings us to the heart of the matter. Bourbons do not control these assignment-making committees by accident. In a Democratic Congress the members of the Democratic Steering Committee are appointed by the Majority Leader of the Senate; the Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee by the Speaker of the House. Every two years, the Democratic Majority Leader turns over this crucial committee-assigning power to Bourbons and proBourbons. Every two years the Democratic House Speaker has turned over the same power to Bourbon Congressmen, even when the opportunity to do otherwise is great. In 1955, when there were five Democratic vacancies on Ways and Means, Speaker Rayburn gave three seats to Bourbons. Every Democratic Majority Leader, every Democratic Speaker of the House acquiesces in and connives at the biennial restoration of power to the Southern Bourbon minority. And who elects the Majority Leader in a Democratic Senate? The entire body of Democratic Senators, a caucus in which Bourbons are outnumbered by more than two to one. Who elects the Speaker in a Democratic Congress? Again, the Democratic caucus, in which Bourbons are outnumbered by at least three to one. The Bourbons do not "win" power. Every two years the Northern machine wing of the Democratic party unfailingly votes in secret caucus to bestow power on the Bourbon enemy. It is as simple as that.

So far from being political antagonists, the Northern city machine parties and the Southern Bourbons are the closest of political allies, so close that no power has yet appeared in this Republic strong enough to divide them. The bond between them is like the bond between local chiefs within a state party: the survival of each would be imperiled if they did not make common cause. United they control the national Democratic party, united they control Presidential nominations, united they can ensure that Democratic administrations and Democratic Congresses do everything needed to protect their interests. United their power is enormous. Since 1932 the destiny of the American Republic has largely been in the hands of men who have earned their trust.

Any independent politician who seriously threatens either wing is invariably the enemy of both. When Senator Eugene McCarthy made his insurgent bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1968, the two wings of the party smoothly united behind Hubert Humphrey. Northern liberals derided McCarthy for calling for a "weak Presidency" and repudiating the centralizing traditions of New Deal liberalism. Instead of supporting McCarthy for precisely those ideological reasons, the Bourbons supported Humphrey, the alleged epitome of that New Deal liberalism they profess to abhor. Bourbon principles had nothing to do with the matter, control of the party everything. McCarthy was a genuine anti-boss candidate, Humphrey a party hack.

Party politics is invariably circular: the ruling bloc of the national Democratic party must perpetually use its power to protect that power. It is the abiding policy of the wings of the national syndicate to help each other retain local power... the Bourbons serve the interests of the Northern bosses precisely by blocking their reform proposals. On the other hand, it is the abiding policy of the Northern machine wing to protect Bourbon rule in the South, for if that rule collapsed, the Northern city machines would be doomed, hapless rumps of an uncontrolled national party. Whatever the Bourbons need to maintain their hegemony in Southern states, therefore, the Northern party bosses provide them.

... the permanent danger to the Northern Democratic party bosses is that Southern voters will elect Senators, Congressmen and delegates to national conventions who are accountable to the electorate. Political men who are thus accountable cannot be reliable servants of a party's interests, for politicians, like other men, cannot readily serve two masters, in this instance their party and their constituents. The Bourbons and their Northern allies must do all they can to see that Bourbon officeholders are not subject to continuous effective political opposition at home from the citizens themselves. The task is far from easy.

The foundation of Bourbon power,(as V. 0. Key has shown) is the so-called black-belt counties-plantation areas for the most part - where the black population is concentrated and the whites form a local minority. The white leaders in these counties have generally formed a compact obstructionist bloc, whose power, privilege and prosperity have depended on the disenfranchisement, suppression and exploitation of black people, on the economic dependency of the poor whites, on general ignorance and illiteracy, in a word, on securing a peculiarly wretched status quo. Their vote forms the Bourbons' voting bloc, the only real equivalent in America to a European class vote. The Bourbon voters in the black-belt counties, however, are a minority of the population in every Deep South state. Even apart from black people, they are a minority serving a minority interest-their own. This is why the conflict between the Bourbon whites and the whites of the so-called white counties (where the black population is small) has been the central political struggle in the history of every Southern state.

Starting with a determined voting bloc on their side, a bloc with financial resources to tap, with considerable social influence and, usually, strong overrepresentation in the state legislature, Bourbon politicians have considerable leverage but no hegemony. Reasonably united, the non-Bourbon voters can destroy Bourbon rule as they almost did between 1892 and 1896 under the leadership of the People's party, which, as C. Vann Woodward observed in The New York Times Magazine in 1972, "struggled hard to unite black and white voters in the South against the racist propaganda of the old party;" namely the ruling Democrats. The central policy of the Bourbons is to make sure that such a union does not reoccur by splitting, suppressing and even terrorizing the majority opposition.

... To prevent another Populist revolt of poor white and black farmers after 1896, the Bourbons (with the indispensable help of the Northern Democrats and the Republican party) passed laws and constitutional amendments disenfranchising black and poor white voters, which had the obvious advantage of depriving their enemies of the ballot. After that, they were able to pass, in the following decades, an elaborate legal system of racial segregation that made cooperation between blacks and whites a virtual crime. They did this not because the white majority was virulently racist but because, politically speaking, it was not racist enough. Without a formal, institutionalized racial system, as the Bourbons well knew, racism in the white counties would languish as it is doing today with the repeal of Jim Crow laws and the reenfranchisement of black people. Woven by law into the fabric of daily life, kept alive and perpetually incited, however, racism has been used by the Bourbons as their chief instrument of political control. It has enabled them to attack dangerous anti-Bourbons as threats to "white supremacy" and the "Southern way of life"; it has enabled them to pretend that the only issue in state politics was whites versus blacks rather than Bourbons versus everybody else. It has enabled them, therefore, to split the anti-Bourbon ranks, to intimidate ambitious men, to raise racist mobs against insurgents and in general to render the majority of Southerners politically ineffectual for long periods of time.

Yet not even institutionalized racism has been sufficient to ensure] Bourbon control, not even combined with disenfranchisement, control of the electoral machinery, legislative overrepresentation and a virtual monopoly of political money. To render themselves safe from non-Bourbon opposition, the Southern oligarchs have had to ensure, as far as they could, that the white farmers remained in economic subjection as tenants and sharecroppers and thus open to brutal economic coercion whenever they showed signs of political independence. For years, too, the Bourbons had to keep out of Southern states all but the most corrupt racist trade unions for fear that Southern whites would transform their union locals from mere collective bargaining agents into centers of political activity. To minimize the conditions for free politics, the Bourbons have made sure that local self-government is conspicuously lacking in the South, where local control of schools and township government is virtually nonexistent-the county being, for the most part, the smallest unit of government in most Southern states. In short, the Bourbon oligarchs have had to encourage all that corrupts, divides and degrades, and to suppress all that might liberate in order to maintain their hegemony. That and that alone is the meaning of the Bourbons' so-called conservatism.

The help which the Northern Democratic bosses provide is easily summarized: it consists of whatever the Bourbons need to maintain their hegemony. Take, for example, the Bourbons' use of racism as an instrument of political control. 'What have the national Democratic bosses done about eliminating it from the South? The answer is they have done everything they dared to maintain it. In 1912, when the Jim Crow system was still so new the Bourbons feared that the North would not tolerate it, Josephus Daniels, a North Carolina editor and politician, announced publicly that "the Southerners" (i.e., the Bourbon oligarchy) were "seeking a national policy on the subject of the race question, for they know that short of a national policy they will never be secure." After appointing Daniels as his Secretary of the Navy, President Woodrow Wilson helped give the Bourbons what they sought: in 1913 his Administration instituted racial segregation among Federal employees in Washington, thus making racism a Federal institution as a first step toward making it that "national policy" which the Bourbons rightly regarded as the basis of their security. It remained a national policy under President Franklin Roosevelt, who made sure that his huge legislative majorities did nothing to impair Jim Crow in the South. To quote Basil Rauch's History of the New Deal, 1933-1938, a friendly account: "The President had never suggested or supported the numerous proposals for repeal of the poll tax by Federal enactment or any other reform which might reduce the supremacy of the Bourbons, Roosevelt, in fact, twice blocked anti-lynching bills that had passed the House with large majorities.

When the grass-roots civil-rights movement began growing in strength in 1960, John F. Kennedy promised civil-rights legislation but submitted none to Congress as long as he could hold out. Instead he appointed segregationist judges. In the famous confrontation with Governor George Wallace at the University of Alabama in 1962, the whole scene was arranged so that Kennedy would look "good" in the North and Wallace, the diehard segregationist, would look "good" in the South. Why make a segregationist look good? Why not humiliate him absolutely and demonstrate to Southerners what they know today, that the segregationist cause was dead and its leaders impotent? Because that is exactly what Kennedy did not want to do, the beneficiaries of segregation being the Bourbon oligarchs whose power Kennedy, like every other organization Democrat, was dedicated to protect.

Only the 1965 Voting Rights Act stands out as a genuine act in favor of political equality for Southern black people, and that was forced out of President Johnson and the Democrats by overwhelming, angry and popular demand. As Evans and Novak point out in their biography of Johnson, the President thought he had successfully put off civil-rights agitation for years with the politically empty 1964 Civil Rights Act. He only acted in 1965 because it became impossible not to. The Democrats hardly deserve credit for a law which the citizenry forced from their unwilling hands and which they have since done their best not to enforce.

Apart from suppressing political equality in the South as long as they could, the Democratic bosses contribute to the oppression of Southern black people through the less visible mechanism of the Federal bureaucracy. Agriculture Department programs are routinely administered so that destitute black farmers can get no benefits. According to a 1969 New York Times story, the Farmers Home Administration deliberately "withheld from blacks" information about obtaining home loans. When Congress in 1965 passed an agricultural law which had the unforeseen effect of helping black farmers obtain crop support payments for the first time, Johnson's Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman, scuttled the provision by administrative order. Such practices explain why four million rural black people are destitute in the South. It has been standard Federal policy since the beginning of the New Deal farm program to keep black farmers impoverished. The reason for doing so is not economic but political: the poor are easy to control.

Since economic dependence is the second key to Bourbon control, the national Democratic party has done what it could to keep Southern whites poor as well. Federal minimum wage rates are kept so low, for example, that they benefit few people except sweated Southern laborers, whose employers, conveniently, are given widespread exemptions from the minimum wage schedules. During the New Deal era, when a few reformers in the Department of Agriculture tried to help Southern sharecroppers, Roosevelt had them fired at once. He had no intention of making what he termed "a social revolution" in the South, by which he meant weakening the Bourbon hegemony, which would be a political revolution indeed.

The national Democratic party helps the Bourbon oligarchs in innumerable ways, but its single most important contribution to Bourbon rule in the South is granting Bourbons power in Congress, for it allows them to take care of themselves-to make sure the Federal bureaucracy acts in accordance with their wishes, to distribute legislative favor to local Bourbons while withholding it from antiBourbons and so on. Liberal Democratic administrations assist here, too, since they usually pour Federal patronage into Bourbon hands while withholding it from anti-Bourbons. According to Tom Wicker, President Kennedy "channeled ample patronage southward, provided defense contracts in profligate supply ... and spread flattering attention on Southern leaders" who returned the favor by blocking the legislative program which Kennedy was allegedly trying to pass.

the Roosevelt Administration made a massive effort to help losing party bosses maintain control of their parties in the face of unwanted electoral success. The results were soon felt at the polls. In 1936, when Roosevelt and the national Democratic party stood at the very peak of popular success, Democratic representation in the ten Republican bastions fell off to 38 percent. Two years later it was down to 20 percent or normal, and the local party bosses were once more out of danger. Keeping party politics "normal" in this way is one reason state parties have changed so I little since the turn of the century.

Just because they nominate a candidate does not mean that the party bosses want him to win. Far from it. If the Democratic bosses allowed McGovern the nomination because they urgently needed a fake rebel to lead an ostensibly reformed party, they had compelling reasons, nonetheless, to secure his election defeat. A victory, even for a fake insurgent like McGovern, could only make genuine insurgency more promising to many and encourage yet more newcomers to enter active politics. On the other hand, a defeat, especially a severe one, would strengthen the party oligarchy considerably. Newcomers to active politics would be crushed with disappointment, branded as losers and quickly returned to private life. The more stubborn or high-ranking among them could be readily "purged" in a post-election "search for scapegoats," a vindictive activity that can be carried out quite openly, however, since it confirms the myth that winning means everything to the party professionals. In the aftermath of defeat, the Democratic bosses would be able to claim that it is they, the loyal "regulars" (whose true hallmark is disloyalty to the party label), and not a band of "amateurs" and "ideologues," who alone know how to win elections. By a defeat in 1972 the Democratic party bosses would be able to efface from memory the all-important fact that it was they, not the "amateurs," who courted defeat four years before in order to stymie an uprising of "amateurs." Of the soundness of these calculations the Democratic bosses had ample evidence, most recently the fact that the national Republican organization became more cohesive than it had been in some years after it helped the Democrats crush Goldwater in 1964.

The Democrats' effort to defeat McGovern, conspicuously absent in the contest for the Presidential nomination, was obvious enough in the election campaign. From Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Cook County, Illinois, and beyond, virtually every urban machine "sat out the election" or "cut the top of the ticket." This involved such standard organization practices as not getting out the straight-ticket voters, diverting Presidential campaign funds into local organization coffers, keeping McGovern speakers off local platforms and McGovern's name off local posters, confirming and amplifying whatever suspicions the local electorate might harbor against the candidate. A Cook County ward-heeler spoke for Democratic ward-heelers throughout the country when he told an American Broadcasting Company interviewer during the campaign that McGovern is "gonna lose because we're gonna make sure he's gonna lose."

The elected servants of the party syndicate played their part, too, in the dump. Democratic Senators and Congressmen who had earned reputations as liberals, as reformers, as opponents of the Vietnam War kept virtually silent throughout the campaign. This was an essential part of the Democratic effort to isolate McGovern and make him appear an extremist. As if to prove that McGovern's attack on Pentagon expenditures was grossly irresponsible, Democratic legislators who had themselves opposed Pentagon spending from 1968 to 1971 suddenly switched sides and, in the middle of the campaign, voted overwhelmingly and without debate for an enormous defense appropriation. To show that McGovern's views on Vietnam were extreme, a Mayor's Conference which had called for immediate withdrawal in 1971 also switched sides in 1972 and voted, under Mayor Daley's leadership, to endorse President Nixon's Vietnam policies. Despite all this, the Nixon Administration was ridden with enough scandals in 1972 to sink any incumbent, but here, too, the Democratic minions in Congress came to Nixon's rescue. When a journalist, jack Anderson, disclosed that the Administration had taken an enormous bribe from the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, Senate Democrats dropped the investigation as fast as they could. When it was discovered that highranking Republican officials had ordered the wiretapping of Democratic headquarters in Washington, D.C., Congressional Democrats decided not to investigate at all on the grounds that the issue was already before the courts, thereby showing a nicety of legal scruple which party politicians never manifest when they are trying to win elections. An Administration wheat-sale scandal and a milk-pricing scandal were similarly shunted out of sight by the obliging Democrats. During the campaign Democratic legislators were so openly helpful to the Republican President that the press began speaking of Nixon's "mastery" of Congress, something which had hitherto gone unnoticed for the plain reason that it never existed until the Democrats in Congress conjured it up for the campaign.

Because the Democratic bosses were determined to defeat their own candidate, their faithful allies, the AFL-CIO chieftains, conspicuously refused to endorse Senator McGovern, thereby denying him millions in money and manpower. Since McGovern was the first Democratic Presidential candidate the AFL-CIO had ever refused to endorse, it also played a vital part in making the Democratic nominee appear an extremist, someone beyond the bounds of responsible politics. Lastly, the Democratic oligarchy employed the most venerable of all means for dumping elections: charging "dissension" in their candidate's campaign entourage. The merit of this charge is its self-proving nature. Should a high-ranking traitor in the nominee's circle-in this case former Democratic National Chairman Larry O'Brien-complain of "dissension," the very complaint "proves" that dissension exists, with the clear implication that the candidate is an incompetent bumbler. This was something nobody had noticed during McGovern's nomination campaign when the party bosses allegedly cowered in fear of his "smooth-running" organization.

Without the party oligarchy to shield him from the light, Senator McGovern was mercilessly exposed for what he was-a poltroon, a hypocrite, a sheep in plastic wolf's clothing. "A 'hack' himself," as his friend and biographer Robert Sam Anson rightly observed, McGovern, when he saw the party bosses run away from him, could think of nothing better than hot pursuit. Were he a different kind of man, the bosses, of course, would not have nominated him. On the organization level, McGovern fired or sidetracked numerous followers whom local party bosses deemed persona non grata. He routinely assigned followers from one state to run his campaign in another, thereby preventing potential insurgents from building a local power base during the course of his campaign. Whatever the local Democratic satraps ordered, McGovern carried out; whatever harmed them he remedied. Under the slightest pressure from his fellow Democrats there was scarcely a reform proposal he did not retract, a firm affirmation he did not renege on from the moment when, after promising "1,000 percent" support of his running mate Senator Thomas Eagleton, he cut the ground from under Eagleton's feet. Having laid claim to unstained "sincerity," McGovern gave clear signs of boundless hypocrisy which he proceeded to confirm day after day. When he told the Governor's Conference in September 1972 not to worry about his program because Congress would dispose of it anyway, he virtually announced in public that his program was wind. Behind this suicidal expediency lay McGovern's sole notion of election strategy: the effort to prove to the party bosses that even if he, a fake insurgent, were elected President he was willing and able to betray his followers, to scotch insurgency, to jettison his reforms and to give the party machine every aid and sustenance, in a word, that he would be a President whom the oligarchy could trust and hence a nominee whom they could afford to see elected. No other Presidential candidate was ever so willing to destroy his own public reputation out of deference to the power of the party bosses as the candidate whom the bosses had paraded before the public as the man who had destroyed their power.

Blessed with an exposed poltroon for an opponent, two national parties for allies and the inestimable boon of four years of non-opposition (which made a mean-spirited blackguard appear a "statesman," a man of uncertain temper appear the coolest of helmsmen, a scandal-ridden Administration appear the fount of law and order), President Nixon won a curious kind of landslide victory. Generated neither by hope in the victor's future deeds nor gratitude for his past ones, the landslide election brought out the smallest percentage of Presidential voters since 1948. Since Democrats, despite the landslide, gained two Senate seats, captured seven of eleven governorships and lost a negligible thirteen seats in the House almost entirely through reapportionment (i.e., collusion at the state level), the 1972 elections demonstrated how efficiently a party oligarchy can "cut the top of the ticket" and how much power it wields.

One final point: it might well be asked why Taft and Nixon, Kennedy and Wilson intervened on the side of the party regulars and oligarchs, why Roosevelt protected losing Democratic bosses in so many states as well as Bourbon obstructionists in the South, and, more generally, why any President of the United States, once elected, does not turn against the party bosses who nominated him. There is no theoretical answer to this question. It is a fact that they have not done so and the practical reason is obvious. Had any of these Presidents ever shown antagonism to party power, or favor to the kinds of reforms and policies that would weaken party power, the party bosses would not have nominated them in the first place. The whole purpose of party organizations at every political level is to sift out, sidetrack and eliminate men of independent political ambition, men whom the party bosses cannot trust. Every act of every party organization is taken in order to secure this very capacity to eliminate the unreliable and to reward the faithful. It should hardly be surprising, therefore, that, given party organization control over politics, independent men rarely sit in the higher seats of public trust, least of all in the Presidency.

What the private thoughts of party politicians are is open only to speculation. Doubtless every loyal party servant believes to some degree or other in the virtues of the party system. Absolute cynicism is rare, and men are inclined to overlook the failings of that which has raised them to eminence. Mayor Daley, who knows as much about the corruptions of party politics as any man alive, reportedly defends the party system because it allows poor boys such as he was to achieve power and prominence. Other party politicians doubtless invent other spurious apologia for the party system they serve, but whether they believe them or not is susceptible to no proof. We can judge the character of public men only by what they actually do; we do not judge their actions by presumptions about their character. It is true, nonetheless, that any American President might betray the party organizations. This is exactly why party bosses must try ceaselessly to control Presidential nominations and party nominations all the way down the line.


The National Republican Party

The Democrats, for the most part, can turn issues on and off like tap water according to changing organization needs. Between 1896 and 1900, as I said, the Democratic party, forced to save the Southern Bourbons from the Populist party, transformed itself overnight into the party of William Jennings Bryan and "agrarian radicalism." In 1904 the same leaders who had nominated Bryan for the Presidency turned around and nominated a New York corporation lawyer, the antithesis of agrarian radicalism. In 1924, to take another example of a Democratic volte-face, agrarian Democrats-Protestant, anti-Tammany, anti-city-appeared to be making, according to conventional history books, a "last-ditch stand" against the Northern urban wing of the party at a "strife-torn" national convention. Yet a mere two years later, the word was out that the Tammany Catholic Al Smith would be the nominee for 1928, a nomination which he won without a contest. The "bitter" representatives of agrarian unrest, seemingly so potent in 1924, had disappeared without a trace in 1928. That is because agrarian interests had not attended the national convention in 1924, a Democratic convention being chiefly-1972 excepted-a conclave of party bosses and their henchmen representing themselves.

... Outside the South and the Border states, the Democratic party, as a winning party, appears on the map as a series of pinpoints. Its bastions are, for the most part, concentrated urban masses. Republican state parties, in contrast, are spread out over most Northern states. The political significance of this is great. Republican state parties must encompass the citizens of scores of counties and hundreds of townships, each with its own local politics and civic leaders, political activists and officeholders.

Forced by its geographical extension to accommodate these active local citizens, Republican state parties in the North are saddled with party members other than workers and boodlers, namely a rank and file of active, influential citizens interested in the Republican party for reasons other than favors. Confined to city bastions, on the other hand, the Democrats in the North have no substantial rank and file of citizens permanently attached to the organization. Senator McCarthy's 1968 insurgency was dangerous, even in defeat, precisely because it turned so many liberal voters into local party activists. With some important local exceptions-certain New York City districts, for one; several university towns, for another-the chief permanent outriggers of the Democratic party organization are not citizens, but trade-union officials, "ethnic spokesmen" virtually appointed by the party organization, and, frequently, the Catholic Church hierarchy. This, as 'White has rightly pointed out in his account of the 1960 elections, is why the "Republican party is completely different from the Democratic party." 'Whereas the Democrats are chiefly party "professionals," the Republican party, in his words, consists of "an organization wing" and a restive citizens wing.

Burdened with an extensive rank and file of citizens external to the party organization, Republican regulars have been forced to provide them with something equally external to organization politics: some satisfying, unifying and more or less permanent political principle. This is because the only thing that can coalesce a plurality of citizens, in contrast to mere clubhouse boodlers, is a principle which they all agree to share. Moreover, the more varied and independent are the members of a state party's rank and file-the more they begin to approximate a coalition of free citizens-the more basic the unifying principles must be. Historically, the only political principles that have successfully united an extensive and varied plurality of citizens in this Republic have derived from the Republic itself. They have been, and perhaps must be, principles which appear, at least, to square with the preservation and enhancement of self-government, with equality of privilege and equality of right. This has certainly been the case with the Republican party's principles. Republican bosses, however, have no more interest in acting upon republican principle than the Democratic machine does. They may support the principle of equal privilege and equal opportunity, but it is the interest of party organizations, as will be seen, to dispense special privilege; they may speak for representative institutions, but party power consists precisely in controlling the representatives whom the citizenry elects.

By fiat [Nixon] declared that the Silent Majority had only one issue on its mind, namely "law and order." By fiat he declared that the country was "turning to the right." By fiat he declared that a "conservative majority" was "emerging." Since the Democratic machine was saying the same thing at the time, the party bosses were in perfect unison for two years.

... law and order was a fake issue raised by Nixon for the sole purpose of drowning out other issues, and this it certainly accomplished. Whether Nixon truly believed it would win elections for Republicans can never be known,

National party collusion means that neither national party will raise issues or initiate policies or launch partisan attacks which would weaken the other party's organization. It means that if either party raises issues or institutes policies that protect its own organization, the other party will not seriously oppose it, for what strengthens one party machine will probably strengthen the other. This is why both national parties will unite to snuff out a grass-roots movement even if, like the Townsend movement, it appears to be a threat to only one of them. This is the reason the Democrats let Nixon foist the law and order issue on the American people for two years while helping him "take the Vietnam War out of politics." Without such collusion between the two national parties, real issues could not be removed from the public arena or fake issues imposed upon it. Indeed there is no successful abuse of power carried out by either party's national administration, no betrayal of the common interest to a special interest, which does not depend for its success on the nonopposition of the other national party. The Democrats could not have taken steps to expel small farmers from the land had the national Republican party spoken in the farmers' behalf, or to launch a war had the national Republican party spoken for peace. Collusion between the two national party organizations means that, for all practical purposes, this Republic is now ruled by a single political oligarchy. Yet that collusion requires neither conspiratorial meetings nor constant plotting. It arises solely from the fact that neither party organization could survive without the other; that is the heart of the matter.

The political implications of national party collusion are vast, but let one example of it suffice here to suggest its scope and significance. That example is the oppression and degradation of black people carried out in the years after 1896. In the aftermath of the Populist revolt ... Bourbon Democrats disenfranchised black voters and then instituted a legal system of racial segregation in order to protect their fragile hegemony. These measures grossly violated the Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Republicans' own Voting Rights Act of 1869. The Bourbons could not have enacted these measures, would not have dared enact these measures, had the ruling Republican party protested, had the Bourbons even expected the Republican party to protest. Republican bosses and Republican Presidents did not protest. They saw their own Republican voters decimated by disenfranchisement, they saw their own winning party in North Carolina ruined by disenfranchisement, yet they let this unconstitutional degradation of American citizens pass unopposed. They even went further. They appointed judges who upheld those unconstitutional measures; they turned their Southern parties into "white-only" parties to give themselves an alibi for not defending the constitutional rights of black people in the South. They were as silent on the race question for fifty years as the Democrats were. Why did the Republican party bosses do this in defiance of every party principle and every party memory? Because, quite simply, if the Bourbon hegemony had fallen in the South, the Democratic machine would have fallen in the North, and without the national Democratic oligarchy there could be no national Republican oligarchy.

The historic degradation of black people in this century was the direct consequence of the collusive politics of two national party organizations united in their common interest in remaining party organizations. The invisibility of black people from the turn of the century until after 1954 was not due to white racism but to the bipartisan exclusion of black people from the public light and the public arena. The Bourbons needed a national policy on the race question and they got that policy, they could only have gotten that policy, through the connivance of the national Republican party. To suppose that the degradation of black people is but the reflection of white racism is to swallow one more time the mendacious presumption which I believe I have now laid to rest-that the party organizations, bent exclusively on winning elections, are the "translators of public opinion" and the "handmaidens of democracy."

The abiding principle of action of the party organizations, the principle which necessitates their collusion, is their constant and unremitting effort to remain party organizations and thereby control elected officials.

Indispensible Enemies

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