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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—Presidential primaries have been going on in various states and now I think it is time to call attention to the fact that in the great city of New York we have a primary on June 7. And this primary is one that I think the nation would do well to watch.

In many areas of our city there will be primary fights between Reform Democrats and the regular party machine. The fact that there are tickets of independent Reform groups in the field is a sign that the people of the city are trying to recapture their independence.

There have been pleas on the part of the regular party machinery for unity, but at the same time a complete ignoring of the fact that the unity they call for under their leadership led to the defeat of the Democratic party in New York City and in New York State in the last election.

It is high time that an effort should be made in this moment of crisis, when many of us are deeply troubled over our international situation, to bring back to the people participation in their local political affairs and to give them a chance at least to elect leaders in their districts and to the national convention who will dutifully and conscientiously represent them.

In the national campaign of 1956 the leaders in New York City—the ones now crying for unity and who have always managed to maintain a certain amount of unity with the state Democratic organization—showed no unity whatsoever in the support of the national candidate, Adlai Stevenson. I saw how little they did when it came to his speeches in New York City. They managed to make the meetings that were held here small and inconsequential.

In the 20th Congressional District here the fight against the Tammany Hall Congressman—Ludwig Teller—has been clouded by the fact that he has in some cases voted with the liberals in Washington—when it did not make any difference to Tammany how he voted. So, he has the endorsement from his colleagues of being a good Congressman. It would be well for the people of the district to examine how much time he has spent in Washington.

Being a member of the House of Representatives is a full-time job, but Tammany does not consider that their Congressmen should really be there serving the people as long as they are there when Tammany desires them to be there. They are free to cast their votes toward building good reputations for themselves, but if Tammany wants their votes they will give them.

That is why it is important in the coming primary to elect in the 20th Congressional District William F. Ryan for Congress and Manfred Ohrenstein for the New York State Senate. These two gentlemen will be independent except that they are pledged to serve the interests of their constituents.

For the first time in this 20th Congressional District Democrats have united to support qualified candidates for a whole slate. So, I think New York's June 7 primary is one which the nation should watch with interest. If the Reform candidates are able to win here, it will show that amateurs, with virtually no funds and unpaid workers, can defeat an entrenched boss's candidates and end the political domination of the machine. This will mean something to the whole Democratic party, not only to the city and state.

These candidates need help, of course, and those who are interested in this city must give them the help that will make them succeed. It will be important to vote the Reform ticket straight through, because even the delegates and alternates to the national convention from this 20th District, if elected, will give us independent votes at the convention—votes not controlled by Mr. Carmine De Sapio

If there is victory here it will give courage to other areas of the country where the same kind of fight is needed.


(Copyright, 1960, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 26, 1960

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.