tv [untitled] July 8, 2012 8:30am-9:00am EDT
but they're not objective either. those are the more sensationalist papers, where they take positions, too, and take more extreme political positions. it's really -- it's after the civil war and especially after the turn of the century. william randolph hurst. one of the unknown incidents to most people is the mckinley as sass sass nation, right? >> that year was what year. >> i was afraid you would ask me that. out of my period. 1901 i think. please edit that. the mckinley is assassinated and in a lot of the media it's blamed on the hurst press. because william randolph hurst papers tended to be democratic and rabble roused about rich or poor. >> the other papers were
blaming? >> yes, the more stayed papers. by that time the hurs is it papers were ultra sensationistic and there were other sober papers like "the new york times." and it basically discredits. it's one of the things that seriously discredits old style super partisan journalism when the president got killed because they -- of the way they whipped up the people. now, the contenders, our 14-week series on key political figures who ran for president and lost but nevertheless changed political history. we feature former governor of new york al smith who was the democratic presidential candidate in 1928. this two-hour program was recorded at the new york state assembly chamber in albany, new york. each sunday at this time through labor day weekend, you can watch "the contenders" on "american history tv" on c-span3.
i come here tonight to the al smith dinner knowing i'm the underdog in these final weeks. but if you know where to look, there are signs of hope. there are signs of hope, even in the most unexpected places, even in this room full of proud manhattan democrats, i can't shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me. [ cheers and applause ] i'm delighted to see you here tonight, hillary. >> i was thrilled to get this invitation and i feel right at home here because it's often been said that i share the politics of salford e. smith and the ears of alfred e. newman. it is an honor to be here with al smith. i obviously never knew your great grandfather. from everything senator mccain has told me, the two of them had a great time together before
prohibition. >> of course i am delighted but not surprised by the final repeal of the 18th amendment. i felt all along that when this matter was properly submitted to the rank and file of our people, they would ready see it had no place in our constitution. it would be very difficult, if not impossible to estimate the benefits that would come to this country from the lessons taught to the coming generations to make it their business to see that no such matter as this is ever again made the subject of federal constitutional law. >> and you've been listening to the 2008 presidential nominees talking at that year's annual al smith dinner followed by sal smith himself talking about the lifting of pro biggs in 1933. hello and welcome to "the contender" seer reechlts we come
to you live from the new york seat assembly from al smith served for 12 years before being elected governor and becoming the democratic nominee for president in 1928. our guests for the next two hours as we relive the 1928 presidential election and the life and career of al smith, john evers, the former historian for the new york state assembly and a phd candidate at sunni albany and doing his dissertation on al smath and also joined by beverly gage of yale university, the author of "the day wall street exploded." professor gage, if you could, set the scene for us to begin? 1928, the united states. what was going on in this country? what were some of the issues that were going to be discussed in the 1928 election? >> the 1928 election is one of the most interesting and one of the most vicious elections in american history.
we have candidates who i think really embody two different sorts of americas coming to conflict in elections. we have al smith who is the subject tonight. al smith is urban. he's from new york city. he's an irishman. he is catholic and he represents a kind of immigrant urban america that has come of age in the last 30 years. on the other side, as a republican candidate we have herbert hoover who in many ways could hard by be more different than al smith. he press ooes from the midwest, from iowa, straight laced, distinctly nonurban. he's pious. we wears very starchy dollars and these two men in 1928 as they go up for the presidential election really encapsulate some of the most important cultural and political clashes of that moment, clashes over
prohibition, to some degree clashes over the economy. but in in ways this turns out to be a cultural election that hinges on which of these two americas is the mayor ska that's going to be voted into office. >> it's been said the three ps influenced this election, in 1928, prohibition, prejudice and prosperity. >> i think the three ps really do capture it. on prohibition, we have al smith who is one of the nation's most outspoken opponents of prohibition. prohibition has been in effect by 1928 for almost a decade. it has been a real problem for most of that time, and throughout al smith, like many urban politicians, has said that it's a bad idea, not only because it infor instance on americans' free dornlgs but because it's causing a law enforcement crisis and there are many people who are quite concerned about this by 1928. so what's going to happen to
prohibition is one of the big questions. we have herbert hoover on the other side. in terms of prosperity, as you might imagine, both of them are running in favor of prosperity. the problem for al smith is you've had eight years of republican rule, first warren harding and followed by calvin coolidge. so the republicans sort of has a leg up on the prosperity front. you have the 1920s, a boom decade for wall street, for large segments of the economy, less for farmers and agriculture at that point. that's our second p. i think the darkest part of this election and the reason i said it really is one of the most vicious elections in american history is our third p, the question of prejudice. and al smith -- i think most americans today are probably more familiar with john kennedy as a catholic candidate. and even in 1960, that causing real stir, a real set of questions about the presidency, but al smith raised all of those
questions much earlier in 1928 which already had been a decade that has been seized with a lot of questions about immigration, immigration reform, the rise of the ku klux klan and those come into play in his candidacy. >> john evers, the role of catholicism in the 1928 election, how did it play out? >> well, it was a vicious campaign. smith was not -- this was not new to him, when he ran in new york state to be governor of new york state he faced it then. in 1914, martin glen who assumed the office of governor faced anti-catholic prejudice. it showed up in the 1915 constitution election as a whispering campaign. smith went into this knowing this would be an issue. in fact, he addressed this issue in 1927 in his reply to the "atlantic monthly" discussing why a catholic man could be 79, which was a very good statement. it was intellectual, went right
over everybody's heads and didn't help his campaign. >> as we mentioned earlier, we're in the new york state assembly chamber in albany, new york, in the new york state capital building, finished in 1894. we're also pleased to have join us a studio audience of albany area residents, some college students, some historians, some interested in al smith folks here. and they'll also have a chance to ask some questions of our two guests about al smith and the 1928 election as will you. we'll put the phone numbers up on the screen. we're not going to take phone calls up for a little while. we'll put them up on the screen so you can start to dial in now. this is the sixth in our 14-week series "the contenders," the focus, 1928 election, al smith. 202-737-0001 in east and central, 0002 if you live in mountain and pacific time zones. john evers, what kind of
candidate was al smith in 1928? >> he was a fighter. if you look at him and you see the short stature and the pug nauseousness of him, his gravelly voice comes out. this is one of the first campaigns where radio plays a role. he campaigns from the back of trains which is very common, but he goes out there and tries to engage america on issues important to americans. as we already talked about, they didn't want to talk about those issues. prosperity was there. so we couldn't talk about issues, to say i was 2 candidate of prosperity, that's the republican party. he wanted to talk about water power. his speeches were well reasoned. on paper he was a fantastic candidate. but he just was swimming uphill the whole time. >> beverly gage, electoral vote count at the end of 1928, 444 for herbert hoover, 87 for al
smith. what states did he win and why? >> well, it was definitely a blow-out election. and i think the real -- in some ways we can almost say so al smith, maybe he should thank his lucky stars he didn't win the 1928 election and herbert hoover -- we might remember al smith's name a little more, but what would we remember him for? i think it was really heartbreaking for smith and smith's supporters in part because it had been such a nasty campaign. one of the big guess of the election ultimately became was it prosperity? was it simply the fact that republicans could take credit for this boom decade and, therefore, smith really never had a chance or was it a rejection of all the things that smith really felt deeply and he stood for, and i think smith really took that to heart. he was very concerned about that and the real nastiness of that
campaign. he had some support but not a whole lot. >> there's a fourth p i want to talk about and that's progressivism. al smith was known as a progressive during his time in the legislature, as governor. did that play an issue at all. how were progressive politics identified back in this era? >> progressivism, when you think about it as a historical phenomenon, you think about it as a turn of the century phenomenon that begins around 1900, teddy roosevelt as our pioneer progressive. what it means by the 1920s is very hard to define in many ways. there were people who called themselves progressives who supported prohibition and who were very impassioned about it. there were those who called themselves progressives and opposed al smith and were very impassioned about it. the basic idea of progressivism is a sense that had come about that al smith really did stand for, that you could use
government in new and sort of proactive ways to deal with some of the really pressing social and industrial conditions that americans faced back in the early part of the 20th century. al smith as governor and then running as a canned sdat for president, really tried to make that case. he chains his mind a little later when the new deal comes along. we'll get to that probably. that was really the basic idea of progressivism, was the idea that you could use federal power in a significant way to change people's lives for the better. >> i think that's a key point about smith is, we talk about the new deal today and all the programs, the social security issues, all the things that fdr brought in. when smith ran for president, he had experimented with all these things in new york state. he was a champion of the labor issue. he was a champion of hyd hydroelectric power, a champion of parks and recreation. he was one that wanted to spend money for the social programs of new york state.
they were all forerunners of the new deal. when he ran in 1928 people didn't want to hear that issue. it was overclouded by prosperity, a whispering campaign about his religion, it was this unknown politician with this thick new york accent that came out to the farm country. even smith when he campaigned -- in fact, he had one funny story, he was driving on the train through wyoming. they were about an hour out. he sees a horse out in the field and says, oh, we must be getting close to civilization, there's a horse there. the guy says no, that's a wild horse, we have about an hour to go. it showed how much smith was out of his element. he was really used to new york and think the country was used to somebody other than a new yorker, that were used to calvin coolidge, warren harding, herbert hoover. >> if you were elected governor of new york in this time, were you a shoo-in or automatic for consideration on the national stage? >> absolutely. al smith was nominated -- it was
always the favorite son candidacies. in 1920 they nominated al smith for president in 1920. it went one round. of course they dropped the votes and they go with -- eventually it was cox from ohio. in 1924 they really went out for smith. it was in new york city, 103 ballots. eventually he had to with withdraw and they had a compromise can't dat, also a new yorker. in 1928 he win it is nomination. all through history, the new york governor, this is even modern history, the new york governor is considered presidential material. if you look at the people who have run and won and those who have run and lost, you'll see new yorkers all through history. >> i'll jump in there. new york was incredibly important. there really were two key political states, new york was one of them. ohio was the other one. they kept producing president after president. i don't think we really have
states quite like that anymore. maybe we could look to something like texas. it's also not just within the democratic party. you see when you look at the republican par tirks teddy roosevelt, charles evans hughes, all these figures coming out of new york city politics. when you look at democratic party, you see roosevelt and smith. new york state has two machines going and has pretty significant national effect. >> two machines? >> the famous machine is the tammany machine, but the republicans had an incredibly powerful next work as well. >> what is tammany hall? >> tammany hall is technically just the new york city democratic party. the manhattan democratic party. tammany hall from the mid 19th sech century was best known as the machine of machines in urban america. it was identified as primarily irish machine, a machine in new york that really depended on
neighborhood power, word power and that was as much about sort of taking care of your neighborhood and coming up through the neighborhood as it was anything really about national politics. tammany, absolutely the most powerful force, certainly in new york city politics at that moment, but really in new york state democratic politics as well. >> john evers, how did tammany hall fit into the 1928 election? >> that was the brush that painted smith into a corner. we talk about the religion issue. this started at the convention in 1928. tammany hall would go to the conventions, and they'd always have -- as we said, new york was a key staechlt they would nominate the democratic candidates. in fact, many elections we had both a democratic candidate and republican candidate from new york state like teddy roosevelt ran in 1924 against alton brooks barker t chief judge in new york state. tammany hall was always seen as
the corrupt machine. it was seen as boss tweed, people like william jennings bryan would rant and rave about tammany. he wanted their votes, but didn't want a tammany man there. eventually smith is the tammany man and the candidate. it shocked many of the people within the democratic party. >> al smith lost new york in the 1928 election: >> he did. he had the sad fate of losing the race for president of the united states in seeing his hand picked successor win. as we've always discussed -- >> for governor. >> fdr wins. it smith the dynamics of smith-roosevelt relation. ultimately roosevelt winds up where smith wanted to be and smith winds up in retirement. >> we will get into that. beverly gage, when we asked you prior to the show some of the issues you thought were important to the 1928 election, one thing you mentioned was the
role of the media in 128. why? >> i think particularly for al smith he had come of age as a media battler, particularly william randolph hurst was after him and after him, one of the most powerful newspaper tycoons in the country. smith i think had a certain amount of confidence by 1928 that he knew how to fend off these kind of press attacks, but ultimately in the election, one of the interesting things about the catholic issue is we now understand it to have been absolutely crucial to this election. smith openly acknowledged it. a lot of it was done and talked about through innuendo. john mentioned earlier the idea of a whispering campaign, that it wasn't something that was going to be said in the press, but at the same time the press was going to kind of feed into these images. so i think smith, from my reading of it anyway, was sort of behind from the first with the press in part because there
was so much coded language being used. in part because the press like the ir rasable, feisty personality. they were quite contemptuous of it and fed a public narrative that didn't accord him the respect he might have deserved. >> i think one of the things interesting about smith and the press is he loved the press. he used to hold press conferences here in albany. he had a great relationship what's on the record, off the record, except for the battles with hurst and his newspapers in new york state. he really enjoined that. when he left the safe confines of new york state and this whispering campaign came out and there were papers that weren't friendly to him and wouldn't cover the issues that were important in the campaign, smith was greatly hurt by that. he wasn't used to that. he also wasn't used to the media of the day. the pie plate, he used to call the microphone you used to speak into, right in this.
>> reporter: room, he would speak into the microphone. he didn't like to read prepared speeches. smith used to write, he would take out of his coat pocket an envelope. he wrote everything on the back of envelopes. he had this custom of saying these are the points i'm going to make, i'm going to speak from the heart. when the campaign started to be more the prepared speech, he wasn't used to that. he was getting used to do it the old tammany hallway, meeting 350e78, greeting people and going out amongst them. >> just to jump in. you also mentioned the rise of radio. i think that that made a huge difference in how americans were able to perceive smith because he's this new york guy. i will not attempt -- do you want to attempt to do an al smith impersonation. >> i don't have a deep enough voice. >> he had this thick new york accent. but the fact that people could not only read about him, but hear him. in many ways he sounded foreign.
he didn't sound like he came from another country but he sounded different from them. that 3w5i78 another big issue in the campaign. >> this was the first time people were able to hear in mass media their candidates, correct? >> oh, yeah. there was always -- as radio started to get bigger and the media started to circulate, certainly tv came much later, people would hear the campaigns from their ward leader, political machines, read it in the paper. they didn't see the candidates let alone hear the candidate. when you candidate that pronounces radio as rad-eo, it added to the whispering campaign. >> again, we're live from the new york state assembly chamber in albany, new york, "the contende contenders," al smith. we're looking at al smith, four-time governor of new york, 1928 president nominee for the
democrats. throughout this two hours that we'll be talking about al smith, we'll return to the 1928 election as often as our callers or questioners want to. but we want to learn a little bit about what and where al smith came from. here is a little bit of al smith talking about how he was raised. >> i was born down at 107 south street under the brook lidge bridge. the bridge was erected when i was a small boy. my father was at the opening ceremony. when he came home, he said alfred, i've just witnessed the great spectacle, but at the same time a very bitter disappointment. >> what did he mean? >> here is the story as he told it to me. he said, son, this bridge has kept thousands of men working
for years, the cables, the concrete, the wiring, the machinery cost millions of dollars. today was the opening. bands were playing, flags were waving. they cut the tape and finally it happened. >> what happened? >> why, they found out that all you could do was go to brooklyn. >> this is the neighborhood wra al smth grew up, born on south street by the south street sea port. he raised his children here. he went to school right around the block, st. james until 8th great until his father died and he had go off to work and support his mother and sis his center. this was al smith. this is the lower east side. this is where his accept came from. this was kind of where it all began for him. it was all irish and italian.
they came off over there from ellis island and settled in here. he got involved with tammany hall and through this neighborhood and kind of grew from there. >> and that second speaker was al smith iv, al smith's great grandson. john evers, what is the lower east side and the importance of in al smith's -- >> i didn't know vocal cords could be inherited. that sounded like his grade grandfather. the lower east side is the southern tip of manhattan. that's where smith was from, a little on the southeast side. it was a port. it was not like it is today. but there were ships. smith wrote when he was a kid that was his playground. he came from an irish family. but it's interesting that it's not well known, although being rediscovered now. smith's father was actually from german and italian roots. smith used to claim he didn't know this. he probably didn't know this. he grew up in this bustling
area. the center of his neighborhood was the catholic church. he went to st. james, he was an altar boy. he worked and sold papers. the sad part about his early life, he lost his father very young. he was about 12. his father was a trucking man, a teamster. he would cart goods from the sea port through the city. he died young and forced smith to leave school. he never graduated from the eighth grade. he always said he graduated from eighth grade which wasn't true and indiana harrieted his father's truck business which also wasn't true. that might have been self consciousness of sitting in a chamber with people with wealthy backgrounds from up state. this struggling diehard neighborhood shaped him forever and made him tough. for the rest of his life, it was a catholic church, a family and a democratic party.
>> he went through seventh grade? >> he had to leave about a month or two prior to graduating eighth grade because things were too tough at home. >> beverly gage, 1873 al smith was born lower east side of new york. paint the larger picture. what was new york like snk what was the country like in 1873? >> 1873, new york is growing increasingly different in the rest of the country. at that point we're eight years out from the end of the civil war. that remains for much of the country, the dominant political fact of recent history. in new york you're beginning to see the city change in all sorts of interesting ways. in the 1830s, '40s, 50s, you have this first massive wave of immigration from places most lifkly ireland, germany and irish and german immigrants had settled the city. by the time you're getting into
the 1870s, '80s, '90s in particular you're getting waves of immigration from new areas, italy, russia, eastern europe. so new york is really becoming the way we think about it as a kind of polyglot city. this is really the age where that's beginning to congeal. as part of this, all these groups are beginning to organize. as we said, this is sort of the shady of tammany hall, getting the bearings in new york in the middle of the 19th century ooeps. what were conditions like? the lower east side is famous during these years, particularly as you get into the late 19th century as being the single 340e69 crowded place on the face of the earth. there's not much ten meant regulation at that point, not much by way of sanitary regulations. kind of a free-for-all. enormously crowded conditions.
often you have big problems with disease on the lower east side because sanitary conditions are poor. in many people's memories you also have very tight-knit ethnic neighborhoods which had powerful institutions. sometimes churches, for other groups sometimes synagogues, sometimes labor unions beginning to emerge during these years. the lower east side at that moment is this tightly packed very intense place in new york, and for a lot of the country it's a symbol of -- for many people, the urban ills that are beginning to really press upon the country, overcrowding, industrial strife, poor working conditions, disease and for many people, and this continues through to the 1920s, immigration itself being a symbol of a way that the country is changing. >> i think that in smith's day it was the same. he would talk about the sailors from the different