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Repealing National Prohibition
by David Kyvig
Copyright 1979 by the University of Chicago
Chapter 8 - Taking Sides
The months and years culminating in the national-party conventions of 1932 saw the most crucial political battles in the campaign to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment. In 1928 the major presidential candidates had expressed divergent views on national prohibition, but their parties had written similar platforms. At their 1932 conventions, however, Democrats and Republicans produced sharply contrasting planks on the liquor ban, tying the law's fate thereafter to partisan fortunes. Both parties furiously debated the issue between 1928 and 1932, but advantages lay on opposite sides in the two parallel discussions. The dry president who carried the 1928 election for the Republicans dominated his party's councils during the next four years. The losing wet Democrat enjoyed no such control over his party, but he had installed a like-minded party chairman who was willing to fight for his views. In each party strongly divided opinion kept the question alive and the outcome uncertain until the convention voted on the 1932 platform. The major antiprohibition organizations, their ranks swelled by the depression, joined in each struggle and stood ready to label each party's position as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The June 1932 convention decisions completed a highly publicized process of partisan alignment which had been developing ever since 1928 and which would assume great significance.
The odds against conventional political success seemed so long when twothirds congressional and three-fourths state approval were required that antiprobibition forces looked hopefully for some way of side-stepping the normal constitutional amendment process. If drys could block change merely by retaining the support of one house of thirteen state legislatures, the only way to end national prohibition, some believed, would be for the courts to declare the Eighteenth Amendment invalid. Wets made their last serious attempt to bring this about in 1930 with a challenge to the constitutionality of the Eighteenth Amendment's ratification.
The United States Supreme Court, in upholding ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in Hawke v. Smith and the National Prohibition Cases in 1920, had not answered every question about the amending process. At the time several constitutional scholars questioned whether the amending power could be used to take away state legislative or police functions without the direct assent of the people of the state. If this were possible, they argued, state government could be destroyed by amendments approved by legislative majorities in three-fourths of the states, but not by the people. The possibility of a legislature acting contrary to the popular will could not be dismissed following the Ohio referendum episode which had prompted Hawke v. Smith.' However, after the Supreme Court ignored these issues, little was heard concerning them for several years.
Late in 1927 the New York County Lawyers' Association began reexamining the Eighteenth Amendment's constitutionality. A committee studied the matter and in March 1930 released a report prepared by one of its members, Selden Bacon.' Bacon contended that the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution ("The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people") limited Article V, the amending article. The means of ratifying an amendment-by state legislatures or convention-were to be determined on the basis of rights and powers affected by the proposal, not by congressional whim.
If the amending power was unlimited, Bacon said, Congress and legislative majorities in three-fourths of the states could wipe out all individual rights protected by the first eight amendments, although those eight amendments were assumed when adopted to be beyond the possibility of usurpation by the federal government and subject to surrender only by the people themselves. In Hawke v. Smith, however, the Supreme Court had ruled that ratification was a federal function, not subject to any limitation imposed by the people of a state. If so, complained Bacon, all rights guaranteed the individual could be voted away by a state legislature without citizen consent. Clearly the founding fathers had not intended this.
Bacon pointed out that conventions, not state legislatures, had ratified the original Constitution. In a special election the people had conferred specific power upon their delegates to approve this form of government. Concern with limiting federal power over the individual had led to adoption of the first ten amendments. The Ninth Amendment prevented informal expansion of federal powers. The Tenth sought to check their extension through constitutional amendment. State legislatures, contended Bacon, could appropriately ratify only those amendments which merely involved the rights of state governments themselves; popularly elected constitutional conventions must be employed when individual rights were to be affected. Since the Eighteenth Amendment involved individual rights, Bacon concluded, it had been improperly ratified.'
The committee issuing Bacon's report urged that a test case be carried to the Supreme Court, but the lawyers' association took no action.' Bacon, however, belonged to the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, and on the evening of March 31, 1930, he and his colleagues met with Henry Curran, William Stayton, and Pierre du Pont to discuss his report. Association leaders listened enthusiastically to what Bacon told them, for his argument both confirmed their view of the Constitution and offered a possible means of overturning the Eighteenth Amendment. The next day the executive committee voted to print and distribute 25,000 copies of Bacon's report in pamphlet form. Stayton wrote to Henry Joy, "The point raised by [Bacon] is of high importance to the future constitutional history of this country."' Within a few months, Bacon's group began a test case, appealing in the Newark, New Jersey, federal district court on behalf of William Sprague, a bootlegger caught transporting beer in clear violation of the prohibition law. Captain Stayton personally attended the trial on October 9, 1930, to hear Bacon's argument, and other AAPA leaders followed the Sprague case with great interest . 6
On December 16, 1930, Federal Judge William Clark startled the nation by declaring the Eighteenth Amendment void because it had not been ratified by the convention method. He quashed William Sprague's indictment. Clark, a thirty-nine-year-old judge with a reputation for judicial independence, arrived at the same conclusion as Bacon by a slightly different route. Reportedly with advice from constitutional-law professor Edwin S. Corwin of Princeton, Clark held that historical and theoretical principles of local self-government and popular sovereignty required that amendments transferring powers reserved to the states or the people be ratified by the method most closely representing the people. A constitutional convention elected to decide one issue only was satisfactorily representative. The members of a state legislature, elected on a variety of issues, perhaps not even including the proposed amendment, did not necessarily reflect the popular will and thus were not competent to act for the people on such an amendment.'
Pierre du Pont and Grayson Murphy, among others, publicly hailed Judge Clark's decision, though they continued their other antiprohibition activities. As expected, within two months a unanimous Supreme Court reversed the Sprague ruling. The Court, hearing arguments on January 21, 1931, and delivering its opinion on February 24, specifically rejected Bacon's and Clark's views, declaring that Article V gave Congress a clear right to choose the method of ratification. Neither the Tenth Amendment nor a reasonable interpretation of Article V placed any limitation on the amending power. The Supreme Court once again emphatically declared that the Eighteenth Amendment had been legally adopted.'
Although success eluded the antiprohibitionists in U.S. v. Sprague, the case nevertheless proved important. "Even if this opinion meets with a cold reception in the appellate courts," wrote Judge Clark in clear anticipation of the Supreme Court's action, "we hope that it will at least have the effect of focusing the country's thought upon the neglected method of considering constitutional amendments in conventions."' Bacon felt that Clark "has so widely advertised the subject that almost any lawyer now who can get a copy of it will really study our brief."" Bacon and Clark did draw attention to the significance of the method by which amendments were ratified. In the nearly 150 years since the Constitution had been adopted by state conventions, only the legislative process had been used. U.S. v. Sprague served as a reminder that the Article V provision for ratification of amendments by elected state conventions was available as a form of referendum.
A month after Judge Clark's decision and before the Supreme Court ruling, the Wickersham commission, in its report on prohibition, concluded that part of the difficulty in enforcing the law was that "the ratification of the Amendment was given by legislatures which were not in general elected with any reference to this subject." The commission observed,
In many instances, as a result of old systems of apportionment, these legislative bodies were not regarded as truly representative of all elements of the community. When ratifications took place a considerable portion of the population were away in active military or other service. It may be doubted if under the conditions then prevailing the results would have been any different if these things had not been true, yet these circumstances gave grounds for resentment which has been reflected in the public attitude toward the law and thus raised additional obstacles to observance and enforcement. I I
Three commissioners, William S. Kenyon, Paul J. McCormick, and George Wickersham, specifically recommended that the people's will regarding prohibition be determined by the only available form of national referendum, a repeal amendment submitted by Congress to popularly elected state conventions. This referendum idea appealed to others as well."
After the U.S. v. Sprague ruling, the AAPA and other repeal advocates insisted that conventions be used to accurately represent the public's wishes in ratifying any change in the prohibition amendment. Both the 1919 Ohio fiasco and the overrepresentation of rural, presumably dry, voters in most state legislatures worried wets. Judge Clark's decision persuaded Pierre du Pont, for one, that constitutional guarantees of individual rights could not legitimately be altered except by popular consent. II On the other hand, the Supreme Court's treatment of the Sprague case disabused wets of any hope that the courts might settle the prohibition question favorably in the foreseeable future. 11 The Court's decision forced antiprohibitionists to recognize that their goals could only be achieved in the political arena.
By 1931 the route to repeal increasingly appeared to run through the Democratic party. Although neither had resolved the issue, both Republicans and Democrats had taken steps to affirm positions assumed in 1928. The AAPA sought to win support from each, but with very different results.
As the 1932 national elections drew closer, the contrasts became more and more clear.
Herbert Hoover's defense of national prohibition, as he sought nomination and election to the presidency in 1928, and at his triumphant inauguration, disenchanted some Republican wets. As we have seen, Pauline Sabin quickly surrendered her Republican National Committee seat so that, she said, party ties would not hamper her work for repeal. Henry B. Joy made a great show of resigning from the Detroit Republican Club in December 1929, saying that he could not in good conscience support a party which did not oppose prohibition and its evil effects. Newspapers all over the country carried the AAPA director's condemnation of his party's policy. Former senator James Wadsworth announced that he would attend the 1930 New York Republican state convention to fight for a wet platform and candidates, but for the first time in twenty-five years would not be a delegate. He did not want to feel bound by convention decisions, should they prove unsatisfactory."
A prominent Republican congressman and former United States Solicitor General added to the chorus of dissent within the party. James M. Beck epitomized political conservatism in the 1920s. Upon Beck's election to the House of Representatives in 1926, the Washington Post called him "the acknowledged leader of those who are opposed to the extension of Federal power."" In speeches and books, Beck repeatedly praised individual liberty, d-.lql sovereignty, an independent judiciary, and the checks and balances system as the keystones of the Constitution and American greatness." Prohibition affronted Beck more than any other issue in the twenties. "No amendment has more vitally affected the basic principle of the Constitution viz. Home Rule," he wrote. "That the federal government should prescribe to the peoples of the States what they should drink would have been unthinkable to the framers of the Constitution. " 11 As solicitor general under Harding and Coolidge between 1921 and 1925, Beck had often expressed frustration at his obligation to defend federal prohibition and enforcement in court." Once in the House, he felt more comfortable in publicly criticizing the liquor ban.
Beck found himself increasingly estranged from his party's position and allied with the A,"A. In 1930 the Philadelphia congressman, urged on by Stayton and Joy, rose in the House to issue a ringing denunciation of prohibition and Republican support for it. He suggested that Congress simply nullify the law by refusing to appropriate funds to enforce it. Challenging Hoover's pledge to enforce the liquor ban, Beck asserted that government power had limits. Acceptance by the people, he said, gave laws their legitimacy. The Eighteenth Amendment destroyed the basic principle of local self-government and infringed individual rights; current widespread public resistance followed the grand tradition of revolt against oppression. The Whig party's attempt to compromise on the moral issue of the Fugitive Slave Law had brought that party's destruction, "a sinister omen for the Republican Party even in this day of its great power," Beck preached. "I say it with regret, but I say it as a necessary warning, that the Republican Party cannot longer afford to sell its soul to the fanatical Drys and if it does, and thus becomes the party of Prohibition, it may have a like fate.""
Despite Joy, Wadsworth, and Beck's discouragement, by the 1930 elections the AAPA had not abandoned hope of converting the Grand Old Party. That year the Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin state Republican platforms endorsed repeal, while Illinois and Rhode Island Republicans pledged to abide by prohibition referendums (which wets subsequently won, 2 to 1 and 3 to 1). This heartened the AAPA. In the New Jersey senatorial primary, Dwight Morrow opened his campaign with an emphatic call for repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, saying that the federal government could not appropriately exercise a local police function and, furthermore, that a national liquor policy ignored local diversity. The AAPA greeted his declaration with great enthusiasm, reprinting the speech and distributing it widely. Morrow, after all, was certainly one of the country's most distinguished and well-known Republicans, a J. P. Morgan partner, a very successful ambassador to Mexico, and a close friend of Calvin Coolidge, not to mention being Charles Lindbergh's father-in-law. When Morrow won first the primary and then the general election, the AAPA rejoiced that the Republicans were beginning to come to their senses."
Having several of its leaders from the Philadelphia-Wilmington area, the AAPA went to great lengths to persuade Pennsylvania's dominant Republican party to join the state's Democrats in supporting repeal. In 1930 rival Republican factions headed by Gifford Pinchot and William Vare fought for control of the party. Pinchot was adamantly dry, while the Vare machine candidates, though privately wet, took an ambiguous position on prohibition. Therefore the Pennsylvania AAPA, labeling itself the Liberal party, entered its own slate, headed by association director Thomas W. Phillips, in the Republican primary. Phillips polled 281,000 votes, most apparently taken from favored Vare candidate Francis S. Brown. As a result, Pinchot won the gubernatorial nomination by a slim 15,000 votes. The association felt it had demonstrated that it held a balance of power, much as the AntiSaloon League had once done, and that thereafter Republican candidates would no longer straddle the prohibition issue. The Liberal party eventually gave wet Democratic candidate John Hemphill its gubernatorial nomination. Several prominent Republican AAPA directors, among them Robert K. Cassatt, Samuel Vauclain, president of Baldwin Locomotive, and Pennsylvania Railroad president W. W. Atterbury, a member of the Republican National Committee, endorsed Hemphill as well. Nevertheless, the AAPA clearly hoped to win over Pennsylvania Republicans by the next election." In fact they turned a deaf ear to a proposal by Samuel Harden Church, the president of Carnegie Institute and an AAPA director, that they turn the Liberal party into a full-fledged third party."
After the 1930 campaign, the Republican party's national leadership showed further hostility to the wet cause. Immediately after the election, Senator Simeon D. Fess of Ohio, the new Republican national chairman, warned that the party must clearly stand for prohibition enforcement. To endorse repeal or straddle the issue would prove fatal in the next election.
Within two months, President Hoover released the Wickersham commission report. Some close to the president expected him to use the report to free himself from his pledges to maintain prohibition; but when he ignored the individual recommendations of the commissioners and opposed any change whatsoever in the law, he tied himself and his party to the drys more firmly than ever before. Dwight Morrow, who had raised antiprohibitionists' hopes, provided a final disappointment. Once he had entered the Senate, Morrow dutifully supported the president and remained silent on repeal."
While Republicans enlarged their commitment to prohibition enforcement, the Democratic party shifted increasingly toward advocacy of repeal. The wet wing of the party continued to expand, while once-powerful dry convictions faded. No fewer than fourteen state Democratic platforms, including such populous states as Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, endorsed repeal in 1930." In fact, only one congressional race in the country that year, the Senate contest in Montana, pitted a wet Republican against a dry Democrat. " National chairman John J. Raskob, who had entered politics mainly because of prohibition and who refused to allow party politicians to duck the issue easily, did much to generate the growing Democratic sentiment.
The Democrat's landslide loss in 1928 brought calls for Raskob's resignation as party chairman." However, since this converted Republican businessman collected or personally contributed more money in 1928 than Democrats ever before had available to wage a national campaign, indeed more than the Republicans for the only time other than in 1912, most party leaders were willing to have him remain." Bitterly disappointed by Smith's defeat, Raskob determined to raise the Democratic party from the ashes. He would "build an organization which parallels, as nearly as conditions will permit, a first rate business enterprise operating all the time, spending money effectively and meeting the real issues at hand.""
In the past, the national committee had been active only during presidential campaigns. Raskob recognized that winning elections required a continuous effort. Others had suggested this before, but Raskob first put it into effect." In the spring of 1929 he appointed Jouett Shouse as a full-time executive for the national committee and hired Charles Michelson, formerly the New York World's Washington correspondent, to direct publicity. Raskob set Shouse and Michelson about the tasks of building up the party throughout the country and presenting the Democratic side of political issues. He pledged his own continuing financial support so that the effort could be maintained for four years. Even in the depths of the depression, Raskob contributed $15,000 to $30,000 a month." In short, John Raskob personally created a permanent, professionally staffed national organization for the party, an important innovation which has since become the norm for both parties.
Jouett Shouse, the new executive chairman, had worked as a newspaperman and lawyer before being elected to Congress as a Kansas Democrat in 1914. The Women's Christian Temperance Union was powerful in Shouse's district, and he voted regularly for prohibition legislation, including the resolution proposing the Eighteenth Amendment. A Wilsonian Democrat and enthusiastic supporter of the war effort, Shouse met defeat for reelection in 1918. He subsequently served as an assistant secretary of the treasury under Carter Glass and counted among his duties supervision of the new prohibition enforcement agency. Shouse returned to private life as a lawyer and lobbyist during the 1920s, although he emerged momentarily in 1924 to lead the Kansas delegation to the Democratic national convention, where it supported the dry William G. McAdoo. Raskob asked Shouse to serve on a national advisory committee during Smith's 1928 campaign, and for the first time the former congressman spoke out against prohibition." In selecting Shouse to direct the national committee's day-to-day affairs, Raskob chose an adaptable and unlikely looking partisan warrior. Shouse dressed impeccably, wore a pince-nez, and carried a walking stick. This charming, eloquent gentleman worked tirelessly and effectively, exploiting his connections in all sections of the party." Although it may not have appeared so at first, Shouse also proved a valuable ally to Raskob in the struggle to commit the party to oppose national prohibition. As he grew more acquainted with Raskob, Shouse took up the antiprohibition cause with more and more vigor.
In his first two years as national chairman, Raskob concentrated on fund raising, organization, and publicizing the statements of Democratic office holders. He said little regarding his own political concerns. But his wet views drew wide attention nevertheless. A 1930 Senate investigation of lobbying acutely embarrassed Republicans by revealing that their national chairman, Claudius H. Huston, was also a well-paid lobbyist for the Tennessee River Improvement Association. To divert attention from Huston's improprieties, Republican Senator Arthur R. Robinson of Indiana pointed accusingly to Raskob'S AAPA connections. Called to testify, Raskob freely admitted his long membership in the association and contributions of $64,500 since the beginning of 1928. He supported the AAPA'S principles and trusted its leaders, Raskob said, but took no personal role in its activities. The national chairman denied having tried to commit the Democratic party on the liquor question. The Senate committee then called Curran and Stayton and subpoenaed the association's records. The investigation disclosed a good deal about the AAPA's activities and views, but discovered nothing scandalous regarding Raskob." In effect, the lobby inquiry principally stressed to the public that considerably more sympathy for prohibition repeal could be found among Democratic leaders than among their Republican counterparts.
After two years as chairman, John Raskob plainly felt the national committee was the legitimate voice of the Democratic party. Al Smith had for the most part abandoned any role as party spokesman following his defeat. Raskob abhorred a leaderless, inarticulate organization. So while Smith remained silent, Shouse and Michelson, under Raskob's watchful eye, guided the party. They labored diligently to restore party harmony, strengthen party machinery throughout the country, and keep up criticism of Republican shortcomings. Aided enormously by an economic collapse during a Republican administration, the Democrats scored tremendous gains in 1930, winning fifty-three additional seats and control of the House and picking up eight seats to come within one seat of a majority in the Senate.
The Ohio Senate race typified the Democratic resurgence. Robert J. Bulkley of Cleveland, a lawyer and, during World War I, a War Department assistant to AAPA leader Benedict Crowell, made prohibition repeal his central theme in a five-way primary and later in his campaign against dry Republican incumbent Roscoe McCulloch. Bulkley ran a well-organized, well-financed campaign with support from both the party and wet organizations. He stressed the standard AAPA complaints that widespread prohibition violation encouraged disrespect for laws generally, that prohibition's economic benefits all went to criminals, and that federal power was encroaching dangerously on state functions. Bulkley won 55 percent of the vote in a state drys called the "mother of prohibition" and the Chicago Tribune termed the "stronghold of the drys." The economic climate helped Bulkley carry normally Republican Ohio, but his wet views distinguished him from other Democrats in the primary, which he won by a two-to-one majority over his closest rival, and they continued to attract great attention in the general election." To Raskob, such election victories vindicated his efforts; they also confirmed his view that the national committee should speak out.
Shortly after the 1930 elections, Raskob and Shouse began urging that the national committee issue statements of Democratic positions on important questions. Although it seldom chose to do so, the committee was authorized to recommend policies for the next convention's endorsement. Raskob often asserted that the party should stand for something, not just try to win elections on expedients. Foremost on the chairman's mind was prohibition repeal. Shouse began telling Democratic leaders and audiences that the party must take a definite stance on prohibition. He voiced alarm over the crime and contempt for law engendered by the existing system, and favored a return to state control of the liquor traffic. Raskob, meanwhile, was planning to ask the national committee to recommend publicly that the next party platform support a new constitutional amendment allowing any state to exempt itself from national prohibition. Under this plan, a state could supervise the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages without federal interference if a majority of voters approved in a referendum. Albeit more carefully worked out, Raskob's "home-rule amendment" resembled plans proposed by Al Smith in 1928 and Pierre du Pont in 1929." His plan sought to disarm opposition by avoiding a straight repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment and protecting states which wanted to remain dry, but Raskob clearly aimed to take liquor control out of federal hands.
While Raskob and Sbouse prepared to take up the home-rule amendment with the Democratic national committee, President Hoover released the Wickersham commission's prohibition report, along with his own endorsement of continued enforcement. Shouse and Joseph P. Tumulty urged Raskob to delay action to avoid the risk of dividing Democrats. The Republican position was now so well-known, they argued, that an expression of opposition had become unnecessary. A determined Raskob overcame their objections, and both were soon helping prepare for a discussion of prohibition at a March 5, 1931, meeting of the national committee."
Raskob's desire to repeal prohibition collided with the presidential aspirations of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1928 Roosevelt had won the New York governorship while Smith was losing his race for the presidency. Smith considered himself FDK's political patron and expected to play an important role in the new Albany regime. Roosevelt's failure to seek the advice of his predecessor upset Smith. The unconcealed antipathy which arose between Roosevelt and Raskob, Al Smith's close friend and ally, is often assumed to have been a product of the conflicting presidential ambitions of FDR and Smith. Differing economic attitudes are credited as a contributing factor." However, for a businessman in the twenties, Raskob held quite progressive economic views." He remained adamantly conservative only on the need for action to come through state government to protect against distant, excessive federal power. For this reason, unlike Roosevelt, he was very much concerned with prohibition and its implications. Raskob, whose sincere dedication to repeal led him to contribute more than $120,000 to the AAPA between 1926 and 1933, relegated other political issues to secondary importance. "There are few things more necessary or expedient to the future welfare and well-being of our country and its people," he explained privately, "than some modification of existing liquor laws that will restore temperate life. `0 Preoccupied with prohibition, Raskob saw little in the New York governor's record to recommend him on the issue. Roosevelt, on his part, appears not to have appreciated the depth of the national chairman's feelings on prohibition and to have assumed he was simply trying to further the cause of Al Smith.
In fact, although Raskob greatly admired Smith, he was willing to support any candidate with a satisfactory position on prohibition. Indeed, the national chairman encouraged the presidential aspirations of Maryland Governor Albert Ritchie, who, like Smith and unlike Roosevelt, had long opposed the Eighteenth Amendment."
Roosevelt had always hedged on prohibition. In his first campaign, a New York state assembly race in 1910, he had won support from wets and drys alike by supporting local option. His image as a moderate dry who would balance the ticket with the wet James M. Cox had helped him gain the 1920 vice-presidential nomination. In 1923 Roosevelt advised Governor Smith to defend the state prohibition enforcement law, the Mullan-Gage Act, to avoid alienating drys. On the grounds that New York was obligated to assist the federal government in prohibition enforcement, he urged a veto of the legislature's repeal of the law. Roosevelt also suggested that Smith mollify wets by sponsoring new legislation going no farther than to require state authorities, upon request, to assist federal law-enforcement officials. Smith rejected such evasions and approved the Mullan-Gage repeal. In 1928 Smith and Raskob, with great difficulty, convinced the popular Roosevelt to run for governor to strengthen the national Democratic ticket in New York. Roosevelt, not completely recovered from polio and facing some financial burdens, was not eager to return to politics yet. Raskob made a $25,000 donation to the Warm Springs Foundation to free Roosevelt of financial obligations so that he could make the race. In the gubernatorial campaign, Roosevelt avoided the prohibition issue as much as possible despite its importance to the Smith campaign. Such behavior, along with FDR's unconcealed objections to Raskob's appointment as national chairman, hardly increased Raskob's enthusiasm for Roosevelt. "
As governor, Roosevelt established an irregular record on prohibition. Initially, he ordered state law-enforcement officials to arrest Volstead Act violators and turn them over to federal courts, since New York had no prohibition law. Then at the 1929 Governors' Conference, he urged that states be delegated full responsibility for prohibition enforcement. The New York Democratic convention in June 1930 included in its platform a call for prohibition repeal. Earlier that spring, Roosevelt had led Smith and Raskob to believe that he would favor, or at least not oppose, such a plank. However, Roosevelt apparently tried to back away from this commitment, avoiding the issue throughout the summer. Finally, on September 9, with the political tide in New York running strongly against prohibition, Roosevelt announced that he favored repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment and its replacement with an amendment giving states the right to sell liquor through state agencies, or to ban it, as the people wished. The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment applauded his stand, however belated, and attributed Roosevelt's overwhelming reelection to it."
Soon after his reelection as governor, Roosevelt began his quest for the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination. He and his advisors wanted to avoid the prohibition issue, seeing it as potentially embarrassing. A declaration for repeal, it was felt, would cost the New York governor much of his extensive southern support, while a defense of prohibition would ruin him with northern urban Democrats. Better, therefore, to ignore the issue, the Roosevelt camp believed. Thus they viewed Raskob's home-rule amendment as a clever tactic to damage their cause by forcing FDR to take a position." Raskob earnestly wanted the party committed to repeal, and the presence of a front-running presidential candidate who was undependable on the prohibition issue could only increase his desire to insure that this was done without delay.
When the Democratic national committee met in Washington, D.C., on March 5, 1931, Raskob spoke of the party's Jeffersonian principles. Recalling that Jefferson recommended limited federal authority and strong local government as bulwarks of liberty, Raskob urged that the party rededicate itself to the spirit of the Constitution by ending unreasonable government interference in business and, especially, by supporting his home-rule amendment on prohibition. Raskob denied that he was seeking commitment to a specific policy, claiming that he merely wished the national committee to refer his proposal to the convention for earnest consideration." Such a national committee request would, of course, have had nearly the effect of a policy statement.
The Roosevelt forces were prepared for Raskob. They arranged to have the New York Democratic committee, on March 2, adopt a resolution denying that the national committee had any right to pledge or advise the party on controversial issues. A copy of this resolution was sent to every national committee member except Raskob and Shouse. Roosevelt's campaign manager, James Farley, aroused Southerners. Senators Cordell Hull of Tennessee, Joseph T. Robinson of Arkansas, and Cameron A. Morrison of North Carolina vigorously attacked Raskob and his plan at the March 5 meeting. Recognizing the strength of the opposition, Raskob asked that any decision on his suggestion be deferred." The national committee chairman later confided to Shouse that he was upset with Roosevelt's actions to block what Raskob considered "a constructive thing." Raskob wrote Roosevelt a rather angry letter, criticizing the New York resolution, forcefully defending the powers of the national committee, and insisting that the party squarely face the prohibition issue. Roosevelt made no reply, a sign of the growing rancor on both sides."
Both sides felt they had won a victory, and, in view of their goals, each had. Roosevelt and Farley thought that by blocking a vote they had prevented an erosion of their position. Raskob, on the other hand, considered that progress had been made toward a strong Democratic repeal plank. He told another AAPA director that the proposal would have carried by a vote of about seventy to thirty, but that "in line with good democratic doctrine" he was willing to defer action for several months hoping to "sell the south the fairness of the proposal on prohibition and secure its support and coopera0on."" Raskob's optimism could only have been reinforced by the widespread, generally favorable notice his effort received in the press." The party was strengthening its antiprohibition image.
Raskob's efforts did not slacken after March 1931. One month later he Wrote a lengthy letter to national committee members defending his proposal. The party needed to enunciate the principles for which it stood, he repeated. The national committee bore a duty to recommend policies for the party's consideration. The home-rule amendment was constitutionally legitimate and would restore decision-making to the people. "Can any patriotic citizen deny the people opportunity to vote on this important and vital question and properly call himself a Democrat?" he asked." The chairman's letter attracted much attention and considerable praise. Jouett Shouse kept the issue alive by roundly criticizing national prohibition and recommending Raskob's home-rule plan to the Women's National Democratic Club."
In November 1931 Raskob again sought endorsement of his proposal. He Wrote to the ninety thousand contributors to the 1928 Democratic campaign, and after attacking the Eighteenth Amendment for expanding federal power, asserted that the party should face the issue and present a plan for reform based on states' rights and local self-government. An accompanying questionnaire asked whether the recipient favored a platform pledging all Democratic congressmen to support a resolution submitting the prohibition question to the people. Raskob also inquired whether the contributors preferred his home-rule plan or straight repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. "Do you believe," he asked finally, "other economic issues will be so overwhelming in the 1932 campaign that the Democratic platform can successfully ignore the prohibition question with its economic problems by remaining silent or by adopting a mere law enforcement plank as was done in the 1928 convention?""
Raskob reportedly planned to present the questionnaire results to the national committee as evidence that it should recommend a prohibition policy to the Democratic convention. The Washington Post, however, accused Raskob of splitting the party over prohibition. Leaping to defend his friend, Pierre du Pont asked why the American people should be deprived of 4 chance to vote on the issue." The Roosevelt camp again saw Raskob's initiative as hostile and began marshalling strength to oppose the chairman at the January 9, 1932, national committee meeting. The motives of the Roosevelt forces were complex. They desired to maintain party harmony by avoiding the prohibition issue. They also wanted to increase FDR's prestige by pinning a defeat on Raskob. " Before the meeting, Raskob claimed he was not trying to commit the party to a wet plank with the home-rule plan, but rather was seeking a common ground, based on Jeffersonian principles, on which all Democrats could agree. He felt that delegates should have an opportunity to consider the issue carefully before adopting a platform plank. Raskob then arranged a compromise with Harry F. Byrd and other influential dry Democrats whereby his questionnaire would not be discussed at the meeting and the home-rule plan would be referred to the national convention without recommendation. Observers considered the January 9 national committee meeting a victory for Roosevelt, since discussion of prohibition was forestalled and a Roosevelt candidate was easily elected national committee secretary." But approval without debate of the Raskob-Byrd agreement inched the party still closer to a decision on the wet-dry question. Committing a previously evasive convention to face the issue represented an antiprohibitionist victory. The following month, in a speech in Buffalo, Roosevelt, recognizing the direction of Democratic thinking and wishing to avoid being labeled altogether dry, repeated his 1930 call for the rights of states to choose how to regulate liquor."
As the 1932 national political conventions drew near, pressures on both parties increased. Al Smith publicly endorsed Raskob's home-rule amendment as a way of returning to state liquor control." In the Senate, new hearings on modification and repeal showed the size and number of antiprohibition organizations growing. Steadily worsening economic conditions generated more arguments that repeal would produce new government revenue, reduce taxes, create jobs, and expand demand for agricultural products. " In March 1932 House wets mustered enough strength to force the first roll call ever on repeal. The vote came on a petition to discharge from committee a resolution similar to Raskob's home-rule amendment offered by Representatives James Beek and J. Charles Linthicum of Maryland. Beck had drafted the resolution in consultation with AAPA leaders. Although the discharge vote failed 227 to 187, it achieved the wet objective of putting every House member's prohibition position on record just prior to their reelection campaigns. Furthermore, it vividly demonstrated that repeal sentiment in the House was nearing a majority."
Changes in public opinion appeared to be accelerating. A new Literary Digest public opinion poll showed a substantial shift in popular attitudes since 1930. Unlike earlier surveys, which had offered Volstead Act modification as an alternative, the spring 1932 poll offered only two choices, continuance of the Eighteenth Amendment or repeal. Of the 4,668,000 votes cast, 73.5 percent favored repeal. Forty-six states registered majorities for repeal. In light of charges that this poll exaggerated wet strength, as well as the disrepute into which Literary Digest polls fell after the magazine's famous 1936 prediction that Alf Landon would defeat Franklin Roosevelt, it should be pointed out that this final Digest prohibition poll closely reflected repeal voting the following year. The thirty-seven states holding repeal convention delegate elections in 1933 produced a 72.9 percent wet majority. Even with some polling error, the Digest results represented a substantial public demand for repeal."
Not only moderates but also formerly committed drys were joining the long-time wets in advocating repeal. Charles Stelzle, a prominent Presbyterian clergyman whose 1918 book Why Prohibition! argued persuasively for national prohibition, offered his services in behalf of repeal to Pierre du Pont. "Like many others who sincerely believed in what we advocated at that time, I am personally greatly disappointed in the results obtained through its enactment," he explained, "and I am quite prepared to say so, with the same sincerity that prompted me because of my previous conviction."" John D. Rockefeller, Jr., announced a far more spectacular reversal shortly before the Republican convention. Together with his father, Rockefeller had contributed $350,000 to the Anti-Saloon League over the years and had come to be regarded as a leading supporter of the prohibition movement. In a public letter to Nicholas Murray Butler, Rockefeller explained,
When the Eighteenth Amendment was passed I earnestly hoped with a host of advocates of temperance-that it would be generally supported by public opinion and thus the day be hastened when the value to society of men with minds and bodies free from the undermining effects of alcohol would be generally realized. That this had not been the result, but rather that drinking has generally increased; that the speakeasy has replaced the saloon, not only unit for unit, but probably two-fold if not three-fold; that a vast array of lawbreakers has been recruited and financed on a colossal scale; that many of our best citizens, piqued at what they regarded as an infringement of their private rights, have openly and unabashedly disregarded the Eighteenth Amendment; that as an inevitable result respect for all law has been greatly lessened; that crime has increased to an unprecedented degree-I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe."
Rockefeller stunned drys and elated wets with his appeal to both parties to support repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment."
Organizations opposing prohibition also stepped up their efforts to influence both parties as the conventions drew near. They demanded that the public be given a chance to decide the liquor question. The AAPA reminded Congress that the Anti-Saloon League, though now violently opposed, had once asked exactly the same thing. In April, Henry Curran denounced efforts to delay or avoid meeting the issue and called upon each party to provide people an opportunity to vote on the simple question of whether or not to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment. The following month the AAPA president appealed to each Republican delegate by letter to declare for immediate and complete repeal, or at least pledge to submit the issue to popularly elected state conventions. National prohibition had failed, Curran wrote, and three-fourths of the American people wished to abolish it." Pierre du Pont told James Farley that he would not contribute further to the party until it endorsed repeal. The Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform addressed a similar request to Democratic delegates. The VCL, meanwhile, sent to Hoover and possible Democratic nominees a resolution signed by fifty-three prominent attorneys. Joseph Choate, emphasizing that repeal mattered more than party allegiance, said, "The question of whether the Republican or the Democratic party shall run the government is subordinate to the question whether our traditional form of government is to continue at all. ""
On June 7, 1932, the leaders of the four major antiprohibition organizations, the AAPA, WONPR, Voluntary Committee of Lawyers, and Crusaders, together with the American Hotel Association, a national trade association, announced formation of the United Repeal Council to coordinate activities in the fight for repeal." Suggested months earlier, this joint committee proved difficult to establish. Petty jealousies and friction between Henry Curran and Fred Clark of the Crusaders evidently proved stumbling blocks. Matthew Wolf's AFL group, Labor's National Committee for Modification of the Volstead Act, participated in organizational talks, but for reasons which are not clear declined to join. Pierre du Pont's election as chairman of the council acknowledged AAFA preeminence among antiprohibitionists." The appearance of the URC on the eve of the party conventions intensified interest in forthcoming Republican and Democratic decisions.
Four years of developing partisan polarization over national prohibition culminated in June 1932 in Chicago. Despite the nation's terrible economic distress, prohibition alone stirred intense feelings at both political conventions. Whether because it seemed a simpler problem to solve or offered the hope of economic relief, many of those present felt national prohibition was the crucial question of the moment. When the smoke finally cleared, the two parties had publicly committed themselves to contrasting positions on repeal, making a November showdown inevitable.
The Republicans met first. They gathered in a dispirited mood, for the necessity of renominating President Hoover and the difficulty of reelecting were equally apparent. Quite a few Republicans felt the party's only chance of success lay in endorsing repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment." Others felt that abandoning the law courted disaster at the polls. Hoover rejected all suggestions that he modify his position. His appointments secretary not only turned away a VCL delegation, but earlier he had refused a request from Hoover's own ambassador to Sweden to present a plan for solving the prohibition problem based on the Bratt system." The difficulty of resolving the liquor question added to the convention's pervasive gloom.
Republican wets put considerable pressure on their party. Several months before the convention, the Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition, founded in December 1931 by AAPA directors Raymond Pitcairn, Lammot du Pont, Joseph H. Choate, Jr., Thomas W. Phillips, Henry Joy, and other wets, began urging the party to declare for repeal. In a form letter to contributors to the 1928 GOP campaign, the committee warned that unless it stood for repeal, the party could not win in 1932." Committee chairman Pitcairn, Pauline Sabin, Matthew Woll, Nicholas Murray Butler, and Colonel Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune repeated the warning at a convention-eve rally of eight thousand antiprohibitionists in the Chicago Coliseum." Throughout the spring of 1932, and especially during the weeks immediately preceding the Republican convention, the volume of White House mail regarding prohibition reached its heaviest level in Hoover's term. A large majority urged modification or repeal, generally on economic grounds, until late May, when many drys, reading newspaper reports that the president favored resubmission of the amendment to the states, wrote urging Hoover to stand firm." On the eve of the convention, H. L. Mencken described the wet Republicans as roaring with confidence. "If platforms were settled in hotel lobbies," he reported from Chicago, "there would be nothing left to do save play 'The Star-Spangled Banner' and open the saloons.""
The United Repeal Council urged Republican platform writers to adopt a plank drafted by Curran, Pauline Sabin, and others. It affirmed the people's right to decide the Eighteenth Amendment's fate by pledging Republican congressmen to submit a repeal resolution to state conventions." Pierre du Pont, James Wadsworth, Nicholas Murray Butler, and other wet spokesmen appeared before the platform committee. Meanwhile rumors flew that Hoover and his inner circle had decided upon some middle course between repeal and a law-enforcement plank."
The resolutions committee gave the antiprohibitionists a cold reception. Hoover's representative, Treasury Secretary Ogden Mills, dominated the proceedings and obtained passage of a prohibition plank tailored to the president's preferences." This plank first pledged the party's continued support for law enforcement, then pointed out the prescribed method for amending the Constitution. The Eighteenth Amendment, the plank continued, was not a partisan issue. "Members of the Republican Party hold different opinions with respect to it and no public official or member of the party should be pledged or forced to choose between his party affiliations and his honest convictions upon this question." The party instead should submit a new amendment to popularly elected state conventions. The terms of this proposed amendment revealed the essence of the Republican position.
We do not favor a submission limited to the issue of retention or repeal, for the American nation never in its history has gone backward, and in this case the progress which has been thus far made must be preserved, while the evils must be eliminated.
We therefore believe that the people should have an opportunity to pass upon a proposed amendment the provision of which, while retaining in the Federal Government power to preserve the gains already made in dealing with the evils inherent in the liquor traffic, should allow States to deal with the problem as their citizens may determine, but subject always to the power of the Federal Government to protect those States where prohibition may exist and safeguard our citizens everywhere from the return of the saloon and attendant abuses. "
This plank offered something to the wets-submission of prohibition reform to a popular vote. At the same time, it promised the drys continued federal liquor control. "The Hoover plank," snorted H. L. Mencken, "at least has the great virtue of being quite unintelligible to simple folk.""
Wet Republicans, outnumbered in the platform committee and unhappy with a plank which avoided obligating party office-holders to support even modest changes, carried their fight to the convention floor. When Senator Hiram Bingham of Connecticut offered a minority report recommending immediate repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, a spontaneous six-minute demonstration erupted. The galleries cheered as Bingham went on to decry prohibition and say that the country had a right to know whether the GOP stood for or against the law. Nicholas Murray Butler also drew applause as he charged that the majority plank denied the people a right to vote on the basic issue of restoring the Constitution to its original form. Booing and jeers from the floor as well as the galleries greeted defenders of the administration plank, but with solid southern support they managed nevertheless to win a roll call on the issue, 690 to 460."
The platform fight marked a new peak in antiprohibitionist strength within Republican ranks, but it demonstrated, to a nationwide radio audience among others, that wets remained a minority at odds with party leaders. "Don't change barrels while going over Niagara" was the general Republican philosophy, concluded a sarcastic New Republic." The United Repeal Council quickly condemned the Republican plank for refusing to return the liquor problem to state control. Pierre du Pont insisted that the Eighteenth Amendment's failure could not be remedied on the federal level; unqualified repeal was necessary. Republican AAPA members chose even harsher words. Wadsworth called the plank a fraud, and Curran termed it completely unsatisfactory." Even the staunchly Republican New York Herald Tribune lamented, "In some paradise for politicians there may yet be devised a compromise more inclusive and vague than the wet-moist-dry plank.... To date it has no rival."" By its action in Chicago, the GOP reaffirmed the image it had been developing for several years and entered the 1932 election campaign identified as the defender of prohibition.
The 1932 Democratic convention was quite unlike its Republican counterpart. Given the party's excellent prospects of regaining the White House after twelve years, the mood was optimistic, the struggle for leadership fierce. The contest for the presidential nomination essentially pitted Roosevelt against a field of challengers, nearly all wetter than FDR. With the economic crisis generating only attacks on the incumbent administration and vague pledges to improve conditions, the Democrats divided principally on whether to endorse repeal or avoid committing themselves, as had the Republicans. The Roosevelt forces held the latter viewpoint, so the platform and presidential contests intertwined.
The battle among Democrats actually began at a meeting of the committee on arrangements in April over the question of convention officers. John Raskob proposed that Jouett Shouse be chosen temporary chairman and keynote speaker to recognize his party service, a suggestion that won much support. The Roosevelt camp objected, fearing that Shouse would seek to block the New York governor's nomination. Shouse had followed Roosevelt's announcement of his candidacy with calls for states to send uninstructed delegations to Chicago, a clear attempt to keep the nomination out of Roosevelt's hands." At the April meeting, a compromise was worked out whereby the Roosevelt candidate, Senator Alben Barkley of Kentucky, would be named temporary chairman and Shouse would be "commended" for permanent chairman. This arrangement was approved over the telephone by Governor Roosevelt, who pointed out that the committee lacked the power to recommend a permanent chairman but could "commend" one." Raskob and Shouse believed Roosevelt was committed to this agreement. Otherwise, Charles Michelson pointed out, they would have fought for the temporary chairmanship, having a good chance to win." Soon after the April 4 meeting, however, the Roosevelt camp announced it would support Senator Thomas J. Walsh of Montana for permanent chairman and denied that "commending" Shouse constituted a binding commitment. This incident added considerably to an already deep distrust of Roosevelt by Raskob and other leading antiprohibitionists, such as Chicago mayor Anton Cermak."
Before the convention opened, the resolutions committee wrestled with the prohibition problem. Pierre du Pont, Pauline Sabin, William Stayton, and Fred Clark as well as other wets and drys presented their views to the committee. Sentiment reportedly was growing rapidly within the party for a platform endorsement of repeal. A subcommittee, heavily weighted with Roosevelt supporters, was ordered to draft a prohibition plank. This subcommittee presented a plan written by two Roosevelt backers, Cordell Hull and A. Mitchell Palmer, which endorsed submitting the prohibition question to the states but did not pledge party nominees to support repeal." Once again Roosevelt was seeking to skirt the prohibition issue.
When Chairman Raskob called the convention to order on June 27, he departed from the usual practice of recalling past party glories and urging harmony. Instead, he pled fervently for a platform pledging party congressional candidates to submit repeal to state conventions. Condemning the Republican prohibition plank as deceitful, Raskob asked Democrats to be true to Jeffersonian traditions of states' rights and home rule." As he had for two years, Raskob in his last public appearance as party chairman pressed for a Democratic commitment to repeal.
In the resolutions committee, support for a strong repeal plank increased steadily, fueled by the convention's warm reception of Raskob's and keynote speaker Alben Barkley's calls for repeal. A group within the resolutions committee, led by Senator David 1. Walsh of Massachusetts and Governor William A. Comstock of Michigan, proposed a plank explicitly endorsing repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment and also favoring interim modification of the Volstead Act. The United Repeal Council urged adoption of an almost identical plank. When the platform drafters recessed on June 28, they were divided between the Walsh and Hull planks. The following day, they voted 35 to 17 for the Walsh version."
While the prohibition fight preoccupied the resolutions committee, the fortunes of Franklin Roosevelt were declining. Roosevelt entered the convention with a substantial majority, though less than two-thirds, of the delegates. An unsuccessful effort to end the party rule requiring a two-thirds majority for nomination made it appear that Roosevelt lacked enough votes to win, caused his support to dwindle, and encouraged several other serious candidates. Then Shouse supporters accused Roosevelt of bad faith for breaking his agreement on the permanent chairmanship. On a roll call, the Roosevelt candidate, Senator Thomas Walsh, defeated Shouse by only 626 to 528.'o Roosevelt's position appeared further eroded. With a floor battle over the prohibition plank imminent, Roosevelt seemed in danger of losing the nomination to Al Smith, John Nance Garner, Newton D. Baker, or Albert C. Ritchie, all of whom had endorsed repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment.
On June 29, in a tumultuous five-hour session, Democrats debated the prohibition issue before galleries packed with supporters of wet Chicago mayor Anton Cermak. Senator Gilbert M. Hitchcock of Nebraska presented the platform. When he read the sentence, "We advocate the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment," most of the 20,000 people in the convention hall erupted into twenty-five minutes of parading, cheering, and vigorous applause. The Crusaders unfurled a huge "End Prohibition" banner. The New York Tinies called it "the first spontaneous demonstration of joy that has been seen in Chicago this convention year." The plank, which Hitchcock was finally allowed to finish reading, demanded that Congress immediately pass a repeal amendment to be submitted to state conventions, that in event of repeal the federal government help protect states against liquor imports in violation of their laws, and that, pending repeal, Congress modify the Volstead Act to legalize and tax the manufacture and sale of beer. Cordell Hull then offered his minority plank; it met a cold reception. In the ensuing debate, a parade of speakers urged delegates to endorse repeal emphatically. Al Smith received an emotional ten-minute ovation when he appeared to speak. Jouett Shouse recalled Raskob's and his efforts to rebuild the party and said "the outcome of this platform as presented by the majority to this convention is all the reward that either he or I ask at the hands of the party.
Recognizing the convention's mood and fearing further deterioration of their strength, Roosevelt's forces abandoned the Hull plank. The word went out that delegates pledged to FDR were free to vote as they pleased. When the roll was called, delegates stood 9341/4 to 2131/4 in favor of the majority plank. Only eight states preferred the Hull plank. 91 Raskob's years of agitation and rising repeal sentiment had produced an unmistakable Democratic commitment to repeal.
With the prohibition plank settled to their satisfaction, a major wet objection to Roosevelt's nomination disappeared. The party was now publicly pledged to repeal regardless of its candidate. No longer could FDR's nomination be blocked on the basis of the prohibition issue. This was perhaps the only basis on which a successful anti-Roos,evelt coalition could have been built. No other candidate had sufficient support to challenge the New York governor, and when Roosevelt reached an accommodation with John Nance Garner, the nomination was his.
In his moment of victory, Roosevelt sought to reassure the antiprohibitionists, blithely ignoring his former position (a not uncommon Roosevelt practice which never failed to exasperate his foes). "I congratulate this convention for having had the courage, fearlessly, to write into its declaration of principles what an overwhelming majority here assembled really thinks about the 18th Amendment. This convention wants repeal. Your candidate wants repeal. And I am confident that the United States of America wants repeal."" The nominee, however, granted little public recognition to Raskob's party rebuilding efforts which had put it in good shape for the 1932 presidential contest. This added to the bitterness which the outgoing national chairman felt toward the victory of a man whom he distrusted, whose positions he disliked, and against whom he had struggled. Raskob consideted Roosevelt a radical, sensing in the New York governor's position on prohibition a greater tolerance of federal activity than he could accept. Nevertheless, Raskob hosted a national committee dinner for FDR at the close of the convention and, eager for a Democratic victory in the fall, later contributed $25,000 to Roosevelt's campaign. 94
His almost obsessive concern with prohibition proved at once Raskob's great strength and glaring defect as Democratic chairman. His beliefs had led him to devote enormous energy and funds to building up the party after the disaster of 1928. At the same time, they had caused him to neglect other issues, in particular the economy, which offered the party its best chance in years to turn the Republicans out of office. Raskob favored tariff reduction and other Democratic economic reform proposals; despite his background he made no noticeable effort as chairman to advance business's special interests. Nevertheless, he clearly judged politicians more on their position on prohibition than on their economic policies. Furthermore, Raskob forsook the national chairman's traditional role as party harmonizer. His business experience emphasized rational, orderly problem solving by those in authority, not compromise to balance or avoid offending various political interests. His preoccupation with repeal had led him into conflict with Roosevelt, the presidential candidate most likely to run well in all parts of the country. Had the Democrats lost in 1932, Raskob would have borne a major portion of the responsibility. Even though the organization and issues he prompted helped achieve victory, the party chairman displayed little sensitivity to the complexities of partisan politics. Judged as a crusader, Raskob succeeded; but measured as a party leader, he proved a mixed blessing.
The conventions over, the parties and the antiprohibitionists looked ahead to the fall elections. The parties were now completely polarized on national prohibition. Coast-to-coast networks had broadcast both parties' convention debates and decisions for millions to hear. AAPA leaders who had condemned the Republican position on repeal praised the Democratic plank unstintingly. Pierre du Pont warmly approved the Democrats' action. Henry Curran called it "a sound, honest plank."" As the result of a four-year process in which members of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment had played a significant part, the Republican party became publicly identified as dry and the Democrats as wet. Franklin Roosevelt, who may still have worried about the effect it would have upon his election prospects, declared that on the prohibition question "the two parties offer the voters a genuine choice this year."" Given this partisan division, the 1932 election results would presumably provide the nation's verdict on the fate of national prohibition.
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