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COULD MR. BLAINE CARRY NEW YORK?
MR. BLAINE'S published utterances are as full of disputed readings as a Greek play. One can never be quite sure of their meaning till they have been annotated, and even then there are passages open to dispute. Since the day of the publication of the Florence letter a vast and varied amount of ingenuity has been devoted to its analysis and interpretation. At first the weight of authority inclined to the opinion that, when he announced that his name would not be presented to the Republican National Convention, Mr. Blaine intended to signify his final and unconditional withdrawal from the ranks of presidential aspirants. This view of the case was earnestly supported by other avowed or expectant candidates and their numerous friends. In fact it was held, in these and other quarters more or less friendly to the Maine statesman, that to seek any different meaning in the letter was to cast injurious reflections alike on the candor and the common sense of its author. Critical commentators noted it as strange that Mr. Blaine should have announced that something the presentation of his name which it is not entirely within his power to prevent, would not happen; while he omitted to say that something over which he has entire control-the acceptance of the nomination-must be dismissed from political calculation. Some of these astute persons were, therefore, unkind enough to stamp Mr. Blaine's letter as merely a new bid for the nomination, from the vantage ground of a candidate who proposes that the honor shall seek him, and who is serenely confident that, in their eagerness to take his place, his rivals will merely demonstrate their own weakness, and elicit a general and overpowering demand for the one man capable of exciting genuine enthusiasm among the rank and file of the Republican Party.
It can be but vaguely surmised what amount of vituperation the party organs would have heaped on these doubters of Mr.
Blaine's perfect ingenuousness, had not Mr. Joseph B. Manley taken the chair of the scholiast, and instructed a somewhat bewildered public as to what his friend, patron, and constant correspondent was driving at. According to this trusty lieutenant, "Mr. Blaine's letter is not to be considered final by any means. He does not decline the nomination, or say that he will refuse to head the ticket. He merely announces that he is not striving. for the honor, and that the time has gone by when he desired it." But if Mr. Blaine is offered the nomination by the National Convention, Mr. Manley believes that he will take it; in fact, will have to take it, if the Convention reaches the conclusion that no other man can win the fight. This does not seem to differ essentially from the view of the captious critics already alluded to. It appears to have relieved them of quite a load of contumely, and there is nothing in Mr. Blaine's subsequent interview with a "World" correspondent to change this estimate of his position. It is, moreover, in harmony with the references in Mr. Blaine's letter to the exceptional strength of the Republican Party at the present time. The party has been four years under what some discontented Republicans call the shadow of Blaineism, and yet the defeated candidate of 1884 feels able to announce that victory in 1888 is within its grasp. "The party has only to maintain relatively its prestige of 1886-87 to give to its national candidate every northern State but one, with a far better prospect of carrying that one than it had for the past six years." So, too, Mr. Manley: "We never began to have anything like such an organization so long ahead of a campaign before. We will go into the fight better prepared than ever before. The nominee will be the man who is most certain of carrying New York, and I do not know of anybody who can do it except Mr. Blaine." There is a logical sequence about this from which there is no escape. The party organization has been in the hands of Mr. Blaine's friends for four years, and the party is stronger at the end of this period than it was in the beginning. Why change the control of the organization now? Mr. Blaine's renomination has been the one definite aim of most of the party managers for four years. Why abandon it now, even if the candidate himself should be resigned to such a
course? Like Napoleon the Little, he represents "a principle, a cause, and a defeat," as no other candidate does or can, and beside his claims those of all his competitors sink into insignificance. Accept the Blaine premises, and there can be but one conclusion, that Blaine's nomination is indispensable to Republican success.
But are the premises correct? Can the Blaine advocates point to such gains as to entitle them to expect that, with a continuance of the party management of the last four years, they can elect the candidate of their choice? Above all, is there a better chance of carrying New York for Mr. Blaine than there was four years ago? The last question goes to the heart of the political situation, and, at the risk of seeming to assume that the less includes the greater, an answer to it must be held to be decisive of the entire controversy. "They reckon ill who leave me out," is a statement which may be made this year more emphatically than ever by the voters of the State of New York. There is no visible chance for Mr. Blaine in Indiana, even if there be in New Jersey, and it needs a change in the presidential vote of both States to leave the political complexion of New York a matter of indifference. There is an amazing coolness about the complacency with which Mr. Blaine, in his Florence letter, refers to the success with which his party overcame the great Democratic plurality of 1882 in this State. He can hardly have forgotten that this plurality was largely due to his own influence, and to the secession or abstention of voters who were more strongly impressed with the necessity of maintaining the vitality of the Blaine faction of New York Republicanism than of saving the party from defeat. Nor can he be ignorant of the 'fact that he came near carrying the State in 1884 because of the direct support, or its diversion to Butler, of a section of the Democratic Party, and that he owed his defeat to his failure to poll the normal strength of his own party.
But, however instructive it might be to follow the sinuosities of Mr. Blaine's mind, it does not bring one much nearer the facts. These lie within comparatively small compass. It will, I suppose, be conceded that these two things are essential to the election of a Blaine ticket in New York next fall: the Democratic allies of the party must be no fewer than in 1884, and the
number of rebellious Republicans must be less. Behind these is the assumption that the relative strength of the two great parties remains pretty much where it was four years ago. On the face of the returns this appears to be true. The State election of 1883 showed a plurality of 16,219 for the Democratic candidate for comptroller. In the election of last fall the Democratic candidate for the same office had a plurality of 15,374, indicating a slight Democratic loss. I select for comparison the vote for comptroller, because in 1883 the plurality obtained by the Republican candidate for secretary of state was due to causes not directly bearing on the relative strength of the two great parties. It would be obviously unfair to argue that, because there was in 1883 a plurality of 18,583 in favor of the Republican candidate for secretary of state, General Carr, while there was in 1887 a plurality of 17,077 against Colonel Grant, there had been a political revolution in the interval. That would not differ greatly from Mr. Blaine's way of dealing with the election returns of recent years, but it is none the less beyond the pale of sober political argument. All that can justly be said is, that the forces which rallied in 1883 to elect General Carr alone of his ticket, had by 1887 passed beyond Republican control. It may, of course, be argued that Carr's exceptional strength was due to the same vote which left the ranks of the Democracy in 1884 to support Blaine, and that the party has shown its weakness by its inability to keep these recruits. The reply to that would be that, in so far as Carr's added vote was Catholic, it had not been directly appealed to since 1884, while in so far as it was due to the liquor interest, it had returned to its proper allegiance.
Let it be assumed, then, for the purpose of the present argument, that the voting strength of the Republican Party in this State bears about the same relation to that of the Democratic Party as it did four years ago; namely, that it is in a minority of about 16,000. It should be understood that the apparent political equilibrium of New York as between the two great parties. has coexisted with some very important changes in the distribution of votes. At the State election of last fall there were 143,000 more votes cast than at the State election of 1883. But of these only 48,000 votes went to swell the strength of the
two great parties, the Republican ticket gaining 25,000 and the Democratic 23,000 votes. The remaining 95,000 represent the difference between the combined votes of the Prohibition and Greenback candidates in 1883, and those of the Labor, Prohibition, and Greenback candidates in 1887. It must be regarded as a fact both curious and instructive, that while two-thirds of the apparent increase of the vote of the State, in four years, has been counterbalanced by the increase of the number of persons whom it is the fashion to call political "cranks," the apparent growth of the two great parties has been about the same. On the face of the returns there are some further facts which it may be well to note. The vote of New York on presidential electors in 1884 exceeded that on State officers the year before by 268,000. Of this increment one-half went to the Blaine electors. The rest, taking no account of the Prohibition vote, may be roughly distributed as follows: 117,000 to the Cleveland and 17,000 to the Butler electoral ticket. The Democratic Party was apparently cheated out of its due share of the increased vote of the presidential year by the diversion in favor of Butler. The managers of last year's Republican campaign believed that they could elect their ticket by the aid of a similar diversion of votes to the various Labor candidates. But, as has been shown, the side tickets of 1887 appear to have drawn about as much from the Republican as from the Democratic strength. It may be held by the Blaine advocates that no reasoning from the experience of last year can affect the prospects of his election, because there is in his name a certain unique potency to attract support from the ranks of the Democracy and of the minor parties to which it furnishes recruits. It is difficult to argue about an article of faith like this, and inasmuch as those who entertain it were among those who confidently predicted that the Labor vote of last year would reach 100,000, it is not, perhaps, necessary to make the attempt.
In any case, it must be assumed that Mr. Blaine's candidacy would leave the normal strength of his own party unimpaired, so that every gain made at the expense of the opposite party would go to reduce the minority of 16,000, which constitutes the numerical factor to be overcome. To illustrate: Suppose that