The Liberal Party, planned in 1929, organized early in 1930 when its candidate against a Republican prohibitionist netted nearly 300,000 votes. The Liberal Party platform, published 1931–promised explicitly to do away with the Prohibition Amendment, all blue laws, and the Ku-Klux Klan.
The third communist experiment–after the Plymouth and Paris disasters–begun in 1917 when the Czar’s Christian Empire was overthrown, was barely thirteen in 1930. But it had successfully rid the Central Powers of an adversary–thereby bringing the United States into World War I lest Federal Reserve member banks have to write off the loans they’d made to drug-exporting European Allies. Liberal Party organizers openly rejected communism in an era when one of the Bryan brothers of Populist Party and prohibitionist fame graced the Klanbake-cowed, dry Democratic ticket of 1924. Members of the Progressive party, so named the better to push the “progressive” income tax plank from the Communist Manifesto into the Constitution, were opportunistically silent on prohibition even after morphing into the Socialist and Socialist Labor parties next election season. Sure enough, the Republican Party, dominated by the Methodist White Terror backed by ku-klux turncoats, defeated “Whiskey Al” Smith and elected Herbert Hoover, the evangelically dry Germanic Quaker, on the Anti-Saloon-League-approved prohibition-enforcement platform.
This capitulation to the forces of superstition by “both major” parties left Liberal Party organizers no choice but to go it alone after the stock market so eloquently foretold the nation’s economic future in 1929—seven months into Hoover’s enforcement of the Five and Ten law making beer a major felony. After discussion of the “strangling grip” with which the “ecclesiastical union” of the “narrow and fanatical of mind” was throttling the nation’s freedom and economy, Liberal Party organizers rejected the prohibition laws passed by “entrenched politicians of the two old parties…”
The situation, in other words, was not all that different from 1971, with Richard Nixon bombing overseas with conscripts and running Operation Intercept into a year-long recession complete with wage and price controls. In fact, 1931 was also much like the current prohibition-related asset-forfeiture depression begun under a bomb-dropping Republican administration in 2007. These States are now repealing their marijuana prohibition laws—despite federal scolding—the way they legalized beer from 1922 through 1933. Then, as now, Political Action Committees grabbed all the headlines, and every effort was made to keep the existence of the Liberal Party a secret, just as Nixon’s campaign subsidy law has kept the media from mentioning the Libertarian Party these past 45 years.
The strategy was already wearily familiar in 1931. The Anti Saloon League and Women’s Christian Temperance Union were in all of the churchly periodicals, while the dripping-wet Chicago Tribune never tired of running column-inches about the American Association Against the Prohibition Amendment (AAPA), the New Crusade, or Pauline Sabin’s White Ribboners, a.k.a. the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform.
Things are no different today. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and NORML are media bait among their single-issue faithful, but panhandling PACs struggle to blank out the Libertarian Party–without which they would have no chance whatsoever of changing the laws. One major difference is that folks in the thirties were fed up and courageous. They returned fire against the agents of the “two old parties” and were not into limp-wristed socialism.
The new party idea hadn’t been new since before the Civil War. In November of 1922 there was already talk of organizing a “wet” party to call for relegalizing beer and liquor. Discussion was resumed in 1927, when the Supreme Court ended the loophole whereby the Fifth Amendment protected bootleggers from having to declare illegal income. Bootlegging, previously untaxed, became a major tax liability.
“Liberalism” in Wisconsin made the news in 1929, when the state legislature began chafing under prohibition, alcohol poisoning, blue laws, and movie censorship. But things got serious in a hurry when Samuel Hardin Church, president of the Carnegie Institute, threw his weight behind formation of a liberal-minded party to repeal prohibition early in 1930 at a meeting of the AAPA, the party changed election outcomes by draining off wet “spoiler” votes that November.
Entrenched looter parties reacted as you’d expect–by lying. Their party newspapers were quick to comment on the Anti-Saloon League, AAPA or WCTU meetings and conventions, but kept a deafening silence about small, competing parties. This was odd because the Prohibition party – America’s oldest third party and third-oldest party – had been in existence since Reconstruction, and had forced adoption of the Prohibition amendment by using that platform plank to drain off a small percentage of votes. No new policies ever came from the Democratic or Republican platforms. But Republican newspapers pretended in 1931 that there was no Prohibition party, save for cryptic mention of a hypothetical wet party as a possibility long–after the Liberal Party had upset election applecarts.
By May of 1932, Pres. Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia University was backing the Liberal Party in radio broadcasts all over the country. Conservatives, who had pointed to the prohibition law as the major reason for America’s prosperity in the roaring 20s, now stood surrounded by a crumbling economy and rising unemployment, with “We Want Beer!” marches breaking out everywhere. Tycoons like John Raskob and Pierre DuPont threatened to shift their financing to the repeal party as women voters came out en masse for repeal. Unlike saloons, speakeasies did not discriminate against women, who developed a taste for tippling and wanted their husbands and boyfriends released from prison. But fanaticism was still powerful, and there was a very real chance the Republicans could win if the Liberal Party were to drain wet votes away from the Democratic party.
Democrats saw the writing on the wall and smoothly changed their platform. Even Herbert Hoover realized by convention time that any candidate who was openly for prohibition would most certainly be defeated. The battle over the prohibition plank in the 1932 Republican Party resembled the fight over the Ku Klux Klan plank during the 1924 Democratic convention. None of this would’ve happened if the Liberal party had not published its platform demanding the repeal of the 18th amendment and the Volstead act, just as the Prohibition amendment and Volstead act themselves would never have passed were it not for the constant political pressure exerted by the Prohibition Party and its allies. The collapse of banking and financial industries disproved the myth that dry totalitarianism was good for the economy. Statistical information emerged showing quite clearly that the Prohibition amendment itself – together with the income tax – had been the major cause of the Great Depression.