The First Speech of the Democratic Party

The First Speech of the Democratic Party

When the Music Stopped

The music stopped at about 2:30, after the first round of speeches had started, after the opening ceremonies, when the National Anthem was sung, and after the President, as the chairman of the National Flag Day Program had said the last time, had given a brief eulogy for Father Louis E. Howe.

There was a long silence, the first silence at the end of a speech. “Let them cheer,” said one of the speakers, the President of Michigan. But the music stopped. The President raised his hand for silence, for the last time. Then he made a little speech.

The speaker was Senator James “Silky” Martin, who had been nominated by the liberals for President of the United States. His speech was a mixture of anger, regret, and resignation. “I am here tonight,” he told the crowd, “on behalf of the Democratic Party, who for years have been a party of the working class, of the common people. The world changed, the world is changing and the class system as we knew it is dying out. We saw the change coming in the election of 1928, the year of the Great Depression, and our party and America are now on the way to the New Deal. But we were betrayed by the Democratic Party in 1928—by the so-called ‘bosses’ who were the bankers and the monopolies—all the so-called ‘bosses,’ as they called Wall Street.”

Senator Martin was on the platform at the Democratic Convention in 1932, at Cleveland, and spoke at the Convention in Philadelphia the following year. Now he was talking, for the first time, of the economic crisis of the depression itself. “The great thing the American people of all classes can gain from the New Deal,” he said, “is that they may have something to look forward to beyond the present depression which does not touch all the people equally, but which will touch all the people in a more or less degree.”

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