A national political convention in the U. S. is a vast vegetative process by which man in the mass distills out of himself that which he calls Leadership, the quality of the result depending upon many preceding months of social and economic weather, upon the current fertility or poverty of the soil that is the mass mind.
Banked tightly in their rows and boxes in the teeming hothouse of Chicago Stadium last week, flooded with artificial light, seething and waving in a slow chaos of mob emotions, the Democracy presented a spectacle not unlike the steaming jungle of man's origin. Predominant were the lowest of political vegetables—the common or garden delegates with no thought or power but to vote as instructed by the folks at home or the bosses in the hothouse. Planted among them were some of society's finest flowers—Byrds from Virginia, Maryland's Ritchie, New York's Davis. Like Irish potatoes and more noxious growths were the city delegations—Tammany's full-blown ward heelers, micks from Brooklyn and Boston, hybrids from Chicago under the leadership of Mayor Anton J. Cermak, lusty bumpkins from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, and drooping gone-to-seed specimens from the country roadsides of all the States. Beside each delegation, like sticks showing what had been planted there, stood the state guidons. On the platform above the massed delegates, in a little orchard of flags and microphones, was the fruit of previous years of party vegetation, the National Committee. In a separate enclosure, the Press hovered over the scene, its individuals buzzing busily to carry news pollen or angrily to sting the Democracy with satire and ridicule.
Groaning Stalk. A tall, tough stalk growing in this Democratic garden was James Aloysius Farley, Convention manager for Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York. Yet even he looked wilted and broken when he clumped into his Congress Hotel suite last Friday morning after an all-night session at the Stadium. In those dragging hours a sullen minority had blocked, if not beaten, his candidate's nomination. Manager Farley dropped into a chair and groaned.
For four years Jim Farley had been building the Governor of New York up for the Presidency. Since February he had traveled indefatigably back & forth across the country corralling convention delegates. He had put his candidate into primaries where he could win without wounds, steered him clear of contests with Favorite Sons. He had arrived in Chicago with a clear majority of delegates. He had captured all the convention machinery. He had confidently predicted victory for Governor Roosevelt on the first ballot. Yet since dawn that morning three ballots had come & gone at the Stadium and the Roosevelt nomination was unharvested. Jim Farley's plans had been stalled by the stubborn enmity of Alfred Emanuel Smith and a half-dozen Favorite Sons.
When not playing Presidential politics, Mr. Farley is chairman of the New York State Boxing Commission. In him is something of the blatant tenacity of the prize ring. Yet as he sat alone at the Congress Hotel he was defeated by forces beyond his control. The Smith faction, captained by Jersey City's hardboiled Frank Hague and backed by Tammany Hall, was relentlessly bitter in its opposition. Mayor Hague had attacked Governor Roosevelt as the "weakest man" to nominate. The California and Texas forces of Speaker Garner, led by lean, leathery William Gibbs McAdoo, had lined up with the Brown Derby on every convention vote so far. The minor candidates had stood their ground for a break that never came. The loss of one Roosevelt State on the next roll-call would mean disaster.
Deal, During that dismal afternoon Louis McHenry Howe, the New York Governor's personal secretary and political eyes-&-ears, was waiting in Room 1502, centre of the Roosevelt spider web, when a little group of McAdoo friends marched in.* They had worked for the onetime Treasury Secretary in 1924 and were now ready to help out the onetime Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Speaker Garner, they reported, was ready to drop his candidacy for first place on the ticket, provided he was given second place. Under the influence of Publisher William Randolph Hearst, flattered with the notion of making a President, Mr. McAdoo was ready to swing Texas and California to Roosevelt and thus bury the hatchet—in Al Smith's back. At this news Mr. Howe's wrinkled face wrinkled even more. Reaching for the telephone, he called Governor Roosevelt in Albany to confirm the deal. The Governor would be delighted to have Speaker Garner on the ticket with him. Convinced of Governor Roosevelt's good faith, the McAdoo visitors withdrew to execute the details of State caucuses. Mr. Howe informed Jim Farley, two flights up, of their candidate's prospective victory. Mr. Farley, who chews gum when happy, chewed gum happily. All that remained now was to notify Missouri, Illinois and Ohio to drop their favorite sons and get on the bandwagon.
The deal that effected the Roosevelt-Garner nomination came as the climax to a four-day convention struggle. At the outset after the keynote speech (TIME, July 4) Manager Farley established his clear Roosevelt majority of 100 votes or more by winning delegation contests from Louisiana and Minnesota and electing Senator Thomas James Walsh permanent chairman over Jouett Shouse. But those same ballots nailed down the anti-Roosevelt States—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia—as a minority strong enough to veto any nomination.