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senate, not until there was overwhelming evidence of a hierarchy of bosses, big and little, did there begin to be a general awakening of the people to the existence of a system wholly mercenary, reared upon the greed for special privileges and the sale of such privilege by the skilful manipulators of the political party-organizations.
The issue has now been fairly made up between Special Privilege and Democracy, between government by purchase and government by the people. The contest will be a long one. It has already taken many forms and will assume countless more. Its crucial battles will be in the city, for there the struggle between privilege and the common good is most constant and most intense. It is in the city that the victory of the one side or the other will be most far reaching in its consequences, for nothing is more certain than that the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the United States will be city-dwellers. This is already true of the Eastern states. The triumph of privilege in the city will mean, therefore, that the vast majority of the American people have been made the subjects of government by purchase. And it will mean much more. The increasing domination in state after state of the city "machines" over the state organization of political parties foreshadows the outcome in state and in nation.
If the fight of the people to put down government by purchase masquerading in the forms of democracy can be won in the city and a government accountable to the people set up in its stead, democracy will triumph in state and nation. If the people lose their fight in the city, they will lose it in state and nation. The city is the battle-ground of democracy.
96. REFORM OF ELECTION LAWS.
During the last twenty-five years the plan of nominating candidates by direct primary election has held a large place in the minds of reformers desirous of freeing elections from boss control. Nevertheless primary elections, though tried in a number of States, have not proved entirely satisfactory, there being a number of points in
regard to the method of conducting the election which still remain to be settled.1 But in the following selection, Professor Merriam points out that, aside from the imperfections in the methods employed, primary elections cannot be relied upon solely to eliminate the boss and restore popular control:
A study of primary election legislation shows that the desired results cannot be obtained until other and important political changes have been made. Unless primary laws are accompanied or followed by other developments of the political situation, comparatively little will result from the movement. No friend of direct nomination should indulge the pleasant dream that the adoption of a law providing for such a system will, of itself, act as a cure for all the present-day party evils. Disillusionment and discouragement are certain to follow in the wake of any campaign conducted on such a theory. It is necessary to understand that the political conditions are far too serious and far too complicated to be cured by so simple a specific.
In the first place, it is not likely that the direct nominating system will achieve its full results until the number of elective officers is materially reduced. Where thirty or forty offices are to be filled at one primary, it is not probable that an intelligent choice will be made from the great number of candidates presented. The variety of qualifications required for the several offices, the multiplicity of candidates clamoring for recognition, the obscurity of many of these candidates, the possibility of "deals" and "slates," make the likelihood of proper selection somewhat remote. It is not probable the result will be any worse than that obtained under the convention system, but, on the other hand, it is not likely to be very much better in the case of the minor offices.
This simplification of the machinery of government may most easily be made by eliminating administrative offices from the elective list. There can be no good reason why such officers as auditor, engineer, and surveyor, should be elective. An auditor must be accurate and honest, and there is no such 1 See above, page 378.
thing as Republican auditing or Democratic auditing. Nor is there a Republican way, or a Democratic way, or a Prohibitionist way of administering the office of engineer. Certainly there can be no form of surveying that could be characterized as Socialistic or Democratic or Republican.
The true principle is that the people should choose all officers concerned with the formulation of public policies. They need not choose men engaged in the carrying out of policies. Policy-framing or legislation is a matter upon which there may be differences of opinion, and men intrusted with the work of drawing up such plans must be elected by, and be immediately responsible to, the people. Regarding the execution of policies once enacted into law, there is less room for difference of opinion. The making of law is partisan, but the enforcement of law should be non-partisan. Laws should not be administered in a partisan way, but efficiently and justly. Administration requires technical skill, and partisanship is destructive to its best development.
If any administrative offices are to be selected by popular vote, the number should be confined to the chief executive officers, such as the mayor and the governor. If these officers are chosen by the people and given the duty of selecting and supervising other public servants on the administrative staff, the result is certain to be a higher degree of popular control than is now generally secured. This principle has been established in the federal government from the beginning, is now being adopted in our municipal governments, and few new elective offices are being provided in state and county government. We are coming to realize that what is needed is popular control over policies, with non-partisan, skilled, and permanent administration of these policies. While in London in 1907, I was greatly interested to see that, although the Moderate party in the London County Council had just won a sweeping victory, which placed it in power for the first time in sixteen years, no changes were made in the administration. The offices and committees of the Council were reorganized to give the victorious party the majority necessary to execute
its policies, but the public servants whose duty it is to execute the policy of the Council remained undisturbed.
Such a change may be denounced as undemocratic in spirit and tendency, but on second thought it will be seen that instead of weakening popular control over government the result will be to strengthen that control. A system that imposes upon the electorate the choice of a mass of officials strengthens the hands of partisan or private interests at the expense of the public. With a smaller number of elective officers, the results obtained under the direct primary system would be far more satisfactory than they can be under existing conditions. Public attention could be focused upon a few offices and a few candidates with better prospects than at present for the elimination of the undesirable and the survival of the fittest. Until this is brought about, the success of the direct nominating system must be seriously menaced.
Another essential change is the return to the original form of the Australian ballot. The party emblem, the party circle, and the party column have nothing to do with the Australian ballot, and were engrafted on the system by American legislatures. In adopting the system, secrecy of the ballot was secured, but the party obtained the advantage of arranging party candidates in columns and permitting the voter to select a list of candidates by marking in the party circle. This mechanical arrangement places a premium upon undiscriminating voting, and often results in the election of unworthy and unfit candidates by sheer advantage of position upon the ballot. If the head of the ticket is elected, the others are likely to be carried along with the leader, regardless of their own merits. Fortunately this plan has not been applied to the conduct of nominating elections, where voting an organization slate with one mark might have worked great damage; but the fact that this practice prevails in the regular elections throws its shadow back over the primaries. The knowledge that candidates, when nominated, will be placed under the protection of the emblem or the circle makes the party, especially in districts where it is strongly in the majority, less careful in its
choice of candidates than would otherwise be the case. It is only human nature to be less studious of the public wishes in a situation where a nomination is equivalent to an election, and where defeat even of the unworthy is a remote possibility. Ballot reform is, therefore, a necessary accompaniment of primary reform. The ballot in the regular election should be made up in the same form as the ballot in the primary election, with the party designation placed after the name of the candidate.
Another requisite to the complete success of the direct nominating plan is the further extension and enforcement of the merit system. As long as an army of officials can be thrown into the field in support of a particular "slate," it will be difficult for the candidate, not so supported, to succeed. The odds are too greatly in favor of the regular army against the unorganized and undisciplined volunteers. Occasionally victory may perch on the banners of the straggling group of reformers and “antis,” but habitually will rest upon the side of the well-disciplined army of office-holders. The honest and intelligent application of the merit principle to administrative appointments reduces the number of workers under the control of a faction, and makes the support of the "slate" far less formidable. If the group in power centers around some principle or policy, it will continue to be powerful and effective in the primaries, even under the merit system; but if the chief element of cohesion was public office, it will be far less vigorous than before. Patronage is not only the force that holds an organization together, but it is the strongest single element, and no practical politician is ever guilty of despising the power of appointing men to, and removing them from, office. There are, of course, many exceptions, but the general practice is for the appointing power to control the political activity of the appointee. When the office is obtained by merit, however, and not by favor, this sense of obligation on the part of the officer and of power on the part of the party ruler ceases. Hence the mobilization of an army for effective use in a primary campaign becomes far more difficult, and the