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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Remembering the Progressive Democrats BY MARK ADAMS The Progressive Democrats first organized as the campus chapter of the young Democrats affiliated with the Democratic Party intending to fight in causes of the New Deal. But immediately they found themselves restrained by conservatives perfunctorily installed as officials of a paper organization by an equally conservative state Democratic Party administration. The greying bald heads and paunches of these state Young Democrat officials who sought to discipline them seem to have been particularly galling to the campus Young Democrats not reflecting their own idea of youth. The campus group was flattered but not persuaded when Jack Garner, the Vice President, wrote them a letter chastising them and demanding that they shut up and behave. The campus group withdrew from under the authority of the Young Democratic organization and took the name of Progressive Democrats. About this time two things happened which served to crystallize their own image of themselves for all time to come. First, since they had crawled out from under the umbrella of announced policies and principles of the Democratic party which at least partially reflected Roosevelt’s embryo New Deal they decided they should set out a statement of principles and policies of their own. The result was the PD Constitution which, verbatim, concludes these notes. I find this remarkable. It is a truism that humanity habitually backs into the future eyes focused on the horror it backs away from but with little thought of where it’s going. But these youngsters the PDs looked very carefully back over their shoulders with firm intent to plan, to pick a better path. It is to be noted that there is nothing radical whatever in their Constitution. Basically its principles might more accurately be termed reactionary it reflects a yearning for return to the local self-reliance, free A Mark Adams, Packrat Press, Washington dom, and independence they identified with their forefathers and the days of an American frontier. Their most radical spesulphur, which was the most air-tight and profitable monopoly exploiting Texas resources \(Jefferson had urged an unequivocal prohibition of monopolies in the Bill of utilities and establishing a commission to enforce it. \(They knew such regulation was rooted in the English common law governing millers dating back approximately to A second crystallizing event occurred about the same time. The PDs were given their baptism of fire. THE BAPTISM OF FIRE The lobbyist for Texas Gulf Sulphur, noting with approval the activities of Martin Dies and his Un-American Committee, got a resolution through the legislature to set up a similar committee “to investigate commu nist activities at the University of Texas.” The resolution, of course, was aimed at driving Dr. Bob Montgomery off the University faculty. The sulphur lobbyist thought Dr. Bob the root of all evil Bob had written a book about the sulphur monopoly and urged a steep state severance tax on sulphur, and besides he taught the course on public utilities in the Economics Department. So Bob’s admiring students on campus specifically the PDs were directly in the line of fire. The rationale of that lobbyist’s DiesMcCarthy gambit, of course, is also rooted in the venerable past. I seem to remember that James I regarding Sir Walter Raleigh as a political threat accused Sir Walter of conspiring with the Spanish against England. That was an outlandishly improbable idea, but it was established to 1983 Courtesy of Packrat Press 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 13, 1998