Not a Cabinet but a Coalition:
How the second-rate leaders chosen by Mr. Roosevelt way turn out to be a first-rate government organisation.

By Jay Franklin

The marble of Praxiteles was once a mass of tiny shellfish in the Pleistocene; the canvas of Raphael was once wild flax; the steel of a battleship had to be dragged from damp and darkness, put through the fire and forged power of resistance. The law of physics is the constant degeneration of matter, but the law of art, including the art political, is the transformation of inert matter into higher and more special forms. When a painter smears a few metallic pigments on a piece of cloth, we are not surprised when the result is beautiful, but when a President selects a few second-rate men and assembles them in a Cabinet, we are shocked and astonished that the separate parts are not as beautiful as the whole effect.

President Roosevelt had only three obvious courses of action in forming his Administration, and he followed none of them.

He could easily have gathered a Cabinet of All- the-Talents Many of us hoped and expected that he would do so. Journalists and bankers grew misty-eyed at the thought of an Administration which would include Owen D. Young, John W. Davis, Alfred E. Smith, Newton D. Baker and Bernard M. Baruch. Such a Cabinet, announced the day after election, would, they thought, have allayed public unrest and prevented business uncertainty during the four months' interregnum. Heavy pressure was brought to bear on the President-elect, but he resisted it and abided by his decision to announce no Cabinet appointments before the middle of February. He made vigorous efforts to induce Carter Glass to take the Treasury, and selected Walsh of Montana as Attorney-General, but he turned down all the other valuable antiques in his party, principally because they were antiques.

Or he could have formed a Cabinet of young. energetic and practically unknown men who could dramatize the passing of pre-war styles in statesmanship and give the country the impression of the deliberate turning of a page in our history. He didn't do it, because, for one thing, when he came to look for the right young men he couldn't find them.

Or, finally, he could have formed a Cabinet of experts, drawing heavily upon the professorial "Brain Trust" of his campaign and upon the best qualified technicians to handle the government's business. He didn't do it, possibly because of a certain public impatience with both engineers and professors in politics.

The Cabinet which he finally formed struck the public as a dismal anti-climax to the high hopes of the new dealership. Wisecrackers observed that the Forgotten Man was in the Cabinet. Even his best friends felt apologetic and his bitterest critics were puzzled. For the Cabinet was distinctly a Cabinet of second- ratersÄcontaining neither the great names, the youth nor the expertness which the country had been led to expect by its various predilections. It lacked the suave glitter of political ormolu. It could not even be described as a medicine cabinet, despite the "Doctor's Mandate" which the country had given the Precident-elect. Collectively it was undistinguished and unexpected. Delvers in the over-worked simile of the new deal compared it variously to a new shuffle with same old pack and to a cold hand with a stripped deck. Certainly there were few face cards and there was no assurance in this deal that deuces would be wild.

Yet the Roosevelt Cabinet is the most significant administrative set-up this country has seen since the Civil War, for it is more than a Cabinet it is a Coalition. It emphasizes the fact that, geographically, the new Administration represents the South and the West; that, politically, it represents the old-line Democrats in alliance with the Progressive Republicans and the represents liberals; and that economically, it represents the farmers and the industrial workers. It was more than an election which occurred in 1932, it was the formation of a new political alignment and the promise of a peaceful revolution. Here was no coy inclusion of some house-broken member of the opposition as a gesture of amity. It was a frank alliance of the elements which had elected Roosevelt, an open recognition of the fact that this alliance had to be perpetuated or else the Administration would collapse. Hence the Cabinet!

A fluoroscopicc test of the new gang clearly reveals its internal structure:

GEOGRAPHY.ÄItem One. The Solid South is no longer in effective control of the Democratic Party. although it is still strongly represented. Carter Glass in the Treasury with the other Southern Senators, would have given tile South control of two of the three key in the Administration Senator Glass's refusal of the offer. like the death of Senator Walsh, has obscured the outlines of an extremely significant geographical set-up. The two real Southerners in the Cabinet- Hull and Swanson - hail from the border States of Tennessee and Virginia. The third Southerner, Daniel C. Roper, has lived in Washington for the last forty years and was sponsored by McAdoo of California

Item Two. The West is represented in about half of the Cabinet posts. The late Senator Walsh of Montana was kingpin in the scheme of Western representation; his place is temporarily held by an Easterner, pending further researches into "available" Trans-Mississippi statesmanship. Governor Dern of Utah in the War Department and Louis W. Douglas of Arizona, as Director of the Butget complete the West's direct representation. Furthermore, both Senators from California are represented by personal selections: Roper in Commerce for McAdoo and Ickes of Illinois in the Interior for Hiram Johnson.

POLITICS. - Item One. The Progressive Republican wing of the Roosevelt coalition has three representatives. William H. Woodin, Secretary of the Treasury, is a New York Republican who went Democratic several years ago. Harold I. Ickes of Illinois, Senator Johnson's Ambassador to the President, has been active in progressive and reform Republican politics for thirty-five years. Henry A. Wallace, the new Secretary of Agriculture, has long been identified with the advanced independent Republican group in Iowa.

Item Two. Liberal opinion is represented by Wallace, proponent of the "Domestic Allotment" plan; by Lew Douglas in the Budget Bureau (a post corresponding to what the British would call Minister without Portfolio); and by Miss Frances Perkins in the Department of Labor. Roosevelt's appointment of Miss Perkins, in the teeth of the bull of excommunication issued by William Green of the Federation of Labor, was an act of great sagacity. The vicious theory that this particular post is the private property of union labor officials has been broken and a woman has been given Cabinet rank for the first time in our history.

Item Three. Practical politics: Jim Farley as Postmaster-General, Colonel Louis Howe and Marvin McIntyre in the White House Secretariat, will attend to the mechanics of this coalition.

ECONOMICS. - Item One. The farm interest is amply secured by the inclusion of Wallace e and Professor R. G. Tugwell (under-secritary) in the Department of Agriculture and the appointment of Henry Morgenthau, Jr., as Chairman of the Farm Board, in charge of the financial side of agricultural recoustruction.

Item Two. The interest of industrial labor is served by the appointment of a successful and liberal industrialist as Secretary of the Treasury and of a social welfare worker as

Secretary of Labor. There isn't a banker in the Cabinet.

The greatest surprise of all in this neat bit of political craftsmanship is the absence of youth. Roosevelt was elected by the post-war generations. Where are they in his Admin istration? The Secretary of State is aged sixty- two; the Secretary of the Treasury is sixty-five; Senator Walsh, who was to be Attorney-General, was seventy-four and his last-minute substitute - Homer Cummings of Connecticut - is in his sixties, as is the Secretary of War. Secretary Swanson of the Navy is seventy-one and Secretary Ickes is in the late fifties. Secretary Wallace is fifty-four, Secretary Roper is sixty-six and Miss Perkins is fifty-one. The baby of the Cabinet is none other than Jim Farley, aged forty- five. The average age of this Cabinet is nearly sixty years. Farther down in the official hierarchy, the younger brain trustees, the Tugwells, Moleys, Douglases and Morgenthaus revolve in their minor orbits, but if youth is going to be served in this Administration it must wait until it has cease d to be young.

Here then you have a group of middle-aged practical politicians assembled in one political grab-bag by the most cataclysmic elec tion in recent American history In origin, they range all the way from the farm and the frontier to the brownstone front and the city slum. They include a man who has composed symphonies and plays the violin in bed, a Lucy Stoner of impeccable Episcopalian antecedents, social reformers like Ickes, unregenerate political manipulators like Farley, old line Southern gentlemen, suh! and genial Babbitts. They present a pretty good cross-section of American life. You could find such a group as this any day in a queue at the bank, in a hotel restaurant or at a musical comedy. If cast adrift on a life boat or marooned on a desert island, they would rapidly go crazy in each other's company. What would Farlev the fighter and Woodin the violinist talk about, outside of politics? How would a corn belt inflationist like Wallace and a Mc Adoodler like Roper get on for five minutes in a smoking car? What could a bright and advanced social reformer like Miss Perkins find in common with the charmingly neolithic Southern gentlemen? What could practical politicians like Homer Cummings and George Dern do with an uplifter like Ickes? What do the five lawyers in the Cabinet - Hull, Cummings, Swanson, Ickes and Roper - think of serving in the same body with two metallurgistsÄWoodin and Dern, one Boxing Ccommissioner, an editor and a female welfare worker? And what do the latter think of the lawyers with their irritating "whereases", 'buts", "ifs" and "aforesaids"?

The answer is, that for the first time since the war, none of these things matters in the slightest. What the Cabinet is, is less important than what the Cabinet does, and the history of the Anglo- Saxon race is crowded with examples of second- rate men accomplishing first-rate results. The Civil War was fought and won by the North with the help of a discordant and mutually suspicious Cabinet of unpromising political compromises. The Wilson Administration was not conspicuous for the brilliance of its Cabinet officers and yet they did a brilliant job in first reforming the internal administration of the country and then in fighting a victorious war. On the contrary, Harding's Cabinet was easily the most brilliant assemblage we have had in a generation, with Hughes, Mellon and Hoover holding key positionsÄ yet the Harding era is not a period to which we point with pride. Both Taft and Hoover could command the services of the most distinguished men in a party which had been long in power, and yet they both failed to accomplish results acceptable to the American electorate. the American electorate. The answer is the old physical law that not only weight but speed determines momentum. You could set the ten wisest men in Christendom around a table and then, if you gave them nothing particular to do, they would do nothing in particular. On the other hand, take a Lenin a Mussolini or a Hitler, exile him, imprison him, but leave him an idea of action, and he will overthrow entire civilizations if necessary to reach the objects of his policy. There is no substitute for action in politics.

That is why Roosevelt's anticlimactic Cabinet of pleasant and heterogeneous second-raters, infected with the urge for action, is capable of giving the country a first-rate run for its money. For the difference between political administration and political statesmanship dies in action, and the history of politics - and of war - proves that even unwise action is safer than no action at all. A Cabinet of incompatible mediocrities, of compromises and second choices, embarked on action, is more significant than a thousand Big Men, young men or eminent specialists, restricted to deliberation, propaganda or expert diagnosis.

The recent election was the American substitute for a revolution and the Cabinet is simply representative of the union of political, geographic and economic forces which is bringing this revolution to completion. This Cabinet is precisely the kind of advisory body which will make it all the more possible for Roosevelt to assume the role of dictator should events so shape themselves as to make this necessary. Roosevelt is the keystone in a new political coalition composed of unstable forces in a novel combination. Lacking a common body of doctrine and a unified political background such coalitions inevitably seek unity in the form of an individual

But in the mechanics of political organization the only manner in which the Roosevelt Coalition can be held together is by action, and the only source of action acceptable to all elements of the coalition is the personal leadership of the President. The swift moves for Presidential authority over the banks and the budget graphically illustrate this fact. President Roosevelt must be a personal ruler rather than a party leader. His Cabinet must be, in some sort, a sheet of blotting paper to absorb the ink of his terse proclamations First-rate men are unreliable for such a purpose, as Wilson discovered when he tried to over-ride Bryan on the Lusitania correspondence, but second-rate men, as Wilson also demonstrated during the war, are capable of giving the country a first - rate administration so long as they are held by a single man to a policy of vigorous action. Whether the country needs a dictator is a moot question but it is certain that Roosevelt's new Democratic- Progressive-Liberal alliance requires one. The tendency, in such a time of revolution, to carry dictatorship out of the party and apply it to the country, is very strong, and very dangerous, for while it is true that political self- government languishes in an era of inertia, it is also true that its very roots are poisoned during an era of one-man rule. Can history point to any single dictatorship which has left the people better prepared to administer their own affairs than they were before? Can history point to any democracy which did not, in time of crisis, strive to surrender its opinions and institutions to the single man who was prepared to act ? These are the questions posed by the Roosevelt Cabinet. The next four years will provide the answers.