National Affairs: Wallace on the Way

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Last week Midwestern farmers studied the actions of a man who might be President.

There was nothing sensational about these actions. This was typical: Henry Wallace, a pleasant-appearing, embarrassed man with an honest eye and a slight touch of hay fever, drove into the farming community of St. Peter, Minn, to campaign as the Democratic nominee for the Vice-Presidency. A Democratic National Committeewoman lives in St. Peter; nevertheless something had gone wrong. St. Peter citizens did not know the candidate was in town, did not even know that he was coming.

Candidate Wallace stopped unheralded at a street corner and engaged four surprised passers-by in conversation. A tireless talker, the ablest interpreter of intricate New Deal theories of spending, lending, taxation, Henry Wallace held forth on these matters while the crowd grew slowly from four to 40. Shy but resolute, he fixed his blue eyes on the ground as he talked, sometimes scuffed the dirt away with his shoe. Presently one listener spoke up: "The trouble is, there's no limit to this spending." Henry Wallace replied that when private capital does not flow Government funds must be expended. An elderly man suggested that interest rates had been pounded down, while taxes increased, thus injuring men of property. Fair-minded Henry Wallace agreed that "some had been hurt" but contended that greater good had been achieved. By this time he was standing in the street, while 75 stood on the sidewalk. Then, with a criticism of Republicans in Congress, and a note of praise for Senator McNary, his Republican rival, Henry Wallace returned to his automobile and set out for New Ulm, Sleepy Eye, Olivia, Moose Lake, Crookston, Fergus Falls, Elbow Lake and other small towns in the farm belt.

So last week ran the campaign of Henry Wallace, 51, author of Corn and Corn Growing, editor, savant, dreamer and mystic. There was nothing quite like it in U. S. political history. Three weeks ago the candidate opened with his acceptance speech in Des Moines, in which he damned Republicans as the party of appeasement. Then he spoke in twelve Illinois communities, moved on to Weeping Water, Neb. and so followed his methodical, patient, unheralded path into 41 cities and towns that had gone for Roosevelt in 1936. Other men got the headlines—chief among them, Franklin Roosevelt. Other men drew the crowds—notably, Wendell Willkie.

New Dealers, who had counted on Wallace to do the fighting, were disappointed. Some editorial writers were pained. Henry Wallace told farmers who had always been Republicans (except for their two votes for Franklin Roosevelt) that Hitler wanted the Republican Party to win. To violently protectionist cattlemen, he praised the Hull trade treaties.

He talked dry economics to Nebraska farmers who were waiting for a chance to cheer about something. From eleven Nebraska cities and towns Henry Wallace drew a total of 15,000. In Minnesota his biggest crowd was 1,300, smallest, 35.

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