Progressive Party 1

In 1948, left leaning New Dealers broke with the Truman Administration and organized the Progressive Party. The Progressives nominated former Vice President Henry A. Wallace for President. He ran on a peace platform, protesting Truman's Cold War policies and urging conciliation with the Soviet Union. The Communist Party, USA infiltrated and manipulated the Wallace campaign. The Wallace ticket won more than one million votes. The Communists dropped the Progressive Party after 1948, but the party lingered on for several years. The Philadelphia Progressive Party testified before the City Charter Commission on January 27 and October 31, 1950.

The first testimony follows:

January 17, 1950, page 66

The next group to appear on our program is the Progressive Party of Philadelphia, Henry Beitscher.

(Mr. Henry Beitscher came forward and took the stand).

MR. BEITSCHER: Mr. Chairman, Members of the Commission:

For purposes of identification, let me say that I am the Director of the Philadelphia Progressive Party, which is a recognized party under both the State and County law for the purposes of the 1950 election, and which has demonstrated its support in the last two elections where it received as its highest vote 22,000 votes in the city, and on individual issues of local concern has indicated support running to three times that number, as, for example, during the dispute over the PTC fares in 1949. .

Let me also say by way of introduction that in substance, what I am presenting here has been approved by the County Committee of the Philadelphia Progressive party and has been wisely discussed in all of our ward clubs.


INTRODUCTION: The fundamental question before the Charter Commission, in our opinion, is how to improve and advance democratic processes in city government. This is the root for all reforms so urgently needed in Philadelphia. We stress democratic government rather than efficient government because the efficiency we want to see flows from democracy. Hitler had efficiency and Mussolini's trains ran on time. We don't want that kind of "efficient" government.

The people must be given the kind of governmental machinery through which they can effectively express their will. Specifically, the aim of the Charter should be increase the control of Philadelphians over their elected officials, so that no machine boss can flout the public need or engage in the corrupt practices, typical of the machine-controlled party, without fear of voter reprisal.

One of the major reasons for the almost unbroken 70-year control of government by the Republican party in Philadelphia has been the voters' fear of the Party bosses and what might happen to their real estate assessments, their businesses or their jobs if they rebelled against one-party rule. So great a part has fear played, that many Democrats register Republican "to play it safe". It took an outbreak of unprecedented scandals in local politics to bring the cup to the brimming point in the 1949 elections.

But the fear remains. The new charter can transfer that fear from the voter to the party boss. It can encourage the rank and file voters of all parties to feel that they have the power to establish and maintain good government in Philadelphia. it can force all parties to live up tot he standards of public need and public welfare.

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We say that the new charter can bring such a situation to pass by providing for the election of a representative City Council, which will be an accurate cross-section of the community interest and opinion, rather than the exclusive domain of the party which happens to be the majority. From such a representative council can flow the immediate and long-range legislative and administrative reforms which correspond to the public interest.

PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION: Together with most students of representative city government we agree that a system of Proportional Representation offers the best possibilities for achieving a representative city council and for eliminating corruption from city politics.

1950 Hudson

The proposal for Proportional Representation is not new to Philadelphia. Your predecessors, the Philadelphia Charter Commission created by the State Legislature in 1937 recommended in its report to the Legislature in 1939 that city council be elected by Proportional Representation. (Appendix to Legislative Journal, 1939, pp. 5670 & ff.)

The proposal failed of passage in the State Legislature soley because the Republican Party machine stifled it in committee in the Lower House of the State Legislature. It passed the State Senate by a vote of 38 to 8.

This time, legislative approval of the charter is not required. Consequently, there are no direct obstacles which a well-oiled machine can place in the way of a referendum vote on Proportional Representation.

As the report of the Charter Commission stated, "Through the use of Proportional Representation in the selection of councilmen, voting groups obtain representation in proportion to their voting strength, and the composition of council, therefore, is the same as a cross section of the electorate. A voting majority receives a council majority and a voting minority cannot possibly do so. Minority representation is assured, however, unless the minority votes are less than the total votes divided by the number of council seats to be filled. This representation is given to various sorts of minorities. Sometimes it is to minority parties. Sometimes it is to groups within parties. Sometimes it is to unattached independents. . . . Under Proportional Representation, voters are permitted to make their own groups, on whatever basis happens to appeal to them. The groupings, experience shows, are usually far better than the artificial groupings forced on the voters be defective methods of election."

The Commission quotes Charles A. Beard, in part as follows: "Proportional Representation is the way out. It calls for no legal and rigid classification of groups. It simply permits the voluntary and natural groupings of citizens to secure honest and direct representation of the views. it encourages them to put forward their best spokesmen - men whose views are known and understood. . . ". (Ibid. 5674).

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It is interesting to note that the Charter Commission, headed by Thomas Evans,
unanimously recommended Proportional Representation. Support for the Commission recommendations was voiced by every Philadelphia newspaper and practically every important civic and labor organization. Parenthetically, I call your attention to the Bulletin editorial of Tuesday of this week, which attributes the successes of good government in Cincinnati, at least in part, to the PR system of electing City Council.

1950 Plymouth


1. It makes for effective voting by making nearly every vote count.

Under our present system of elections, the Republican Party elected every member of City council in 1947 and polled about 55% of the total vote. The other 45% of the vote was completely wasted, as far as representation was concerned. Under PR, as many as 90% of the total voters will help elect councilmen. This contrast highlights the advantages of PR to good government. PR will prevent almost half of the votes from being wasted. it will also provide an outlet for the great number of voters who vote for the candidates of the majority party as a mere choice of evils after their real wishes have been thwarted at a machine-controlled primary.

2. It maintains majority rule, but destroys majority monopoly.

As an eminent Swiss publicist, Ernest Navelle, wrote in 1865: "In a democratic government, the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all."

3. It gives a new freedom to the individual voter.

He can vote for candidates he really wants without fearing that his vote will be washed. PR makes this possible by doing away with the straight ticket vote and by giving the voter an opportunity to vote for candidates in order of his preference. Such voting freedom can make startling differences in the calibre of candidates put forward and the votes actually cast.

4. It provides a check to machine rule.

Many a machine enjoying large majorities under plurality elections has gone down to defeat under the new freedom of PR. The annals of PR are full of wrecked or reformed political machines, such as those in Cincinnati, Sacramento and Toledo. Under PR, a political machine cannot rule unless it gets a
willing majority for its candidates.

5. It reduces the possibilities of fraud and bribery.

In plurality elections, a slight shift in votes in close districts can make the difference between election and defeat. The temptations for buying or stealing votes are therefore tremendous. Money almost "pouring into the streets" and "voting cemeteries" are not unknown phenomena on Philadelphia election days. In PR elections, stolen or bought votes

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have only their proportionate effect on the result. The cost and risk of stealing even on seat approaches the prohibitive. The supervised central count that goes with a PR election makes even a small amount of fraud difficult and large-scale fraud well nigh impossible.

6. It puts an end to Gerrymandering and provides an automatic system of reapportionment. The purpose of gerrymandering is to draw election district lines so that most of one party's vote will count and most of another party's vote will not. This cannot be done under PR, because nearly all the votes will count in each district. The method of applying PR in New York City indicates an easy and fair solution of the vexing problem of reapportionment, on which the Charter Commission has heard a number of complicated proposals. In the New York PR Councilmanic elections, each borough was considered a permanent district, electing as many councilmen within the borough as received the quota total of 75,000 votes. The total number of candidates, receiving the required 75,000, were considered elected and made up the City Council, (incidentally, the elimination of PR in New York City has restored the kind of conditions to which all good government forces here in Philadelphia are strenuously opposed. The new City Council, elected with PR, is made up entirely of Democrats, with one lone exception, despite the fact that the Democrats polled only 51 per cent of the vote. Such are the consequences of abandoning PR.)


The central objection to PR is that it weakens party control and permits the independent voters and candidates to prevail more easily. This objection has the merit of stating the truth, but who, aside from party bosses, and perhaps their bosses, can find objectionable a system that weakens party control and strengthens the independent voters? No more eloquent testimony in favor of PR is needed than this objection to it.

It is also argued that PR is confusing. There is nothing confusing about PR except to those who try to lick the system and circumvent its purposes. To them, it becomes confusing indeed, because it is as foolproof a system as man has yet devised. As far as the voters are concerned, they can readily understand everything about PR which concerns them. They can understand how to vote PR; that is as simple as 1, 2, 3. They can understand that their vote will count for their first, second or third choice and so forth. They can understand that PR gives representation to minorities and assures majority rule. And they can look upon the results and see they are good.

The remainder of the objections to PR are so transparently misfounded or prejudiced that it would be superfluous to deal with them here.


To summarize, PR is the only system by which a representative city council can be realized. A representative city government is key for all other needed changes, immediate and long-range. It will unfreeze government

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and make it responsive to what the people want. PR is the only way to assure keeping our city government on a high plane of public service, free from one-party misrule. If the cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy,m then PR is the way to get more democracy in local government. PR is not merely a reform. It is an urgent reform. it is more. It is the single greatest need in Philadelphia government today.

1950 Chrysler


The only other proposal thus far advanced before the Charter Commission for minority representation on City Council is to employ the election system now in force for City Commissioners and magistrates.

We consider this proposal to be inadequate and unsatisfactory and self-defeating.

First of all, it assumes unrealistically that all minorities are represented by one minority party. This is hardly the case today and is less likely to be the case in the future. There are today in Philadelphia, three political parties recognized by the State and County law for 1950 election purposes; namely the Republican, Democratic and Progressive Parties. There is no more justice in giving
one minority party the exclusive right to speak for all minority political opinion than there is in giving the majority party the right to represent itself and all minorities. A one-party monopoly to represent all minorities is no better and will lead to the same results as one-party monopoly over everyone, majority and minority alike.

The future may very well bring additional parties onto the Philadelphia scene. As the Bulletin of Tuesday, January 24th, points out, there are three parties in Cincinnati, the Republican, Democrat and Charter parties. In New York, minority parties flourish to the benefit of the public interest. In addition to the dominant Democratic Party, which was the original seat of corruption in New York (Tammany Hall) there is a Republican Party, a Fusion Party, an American Labor Party, a Liberal Party and a Communist Party, all of which enter candidates and succeed often as not in electing them.

The trouble with the county commissioners-magistrate proposal is that it assumes that there are, or ought to be, only tow parties. It rests on the mythical necessity of maintaining a
two-party system. Yet, American history is studded with examples of third party movements. The Democratic Party of today was a third party in its inception. The Republican Party of today began as a third party. Our history has many occasions when new parties were created, because the two existent major parties were riding rough-shod over the needs of the people.

The 2/3-1/3 proposal may very well tend to give stature to a minority party that is merely a political parasite, and not a fighting party, truly representative of the people. Both major parties may be under the control of political machines, and the election may be simply a choice of evils. Such a choice is no choice at all.

1950 Chevrolet

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Again, neither major political party may give adequate representation to the views of non-political minorities, such as industrial workers, Negroes, or the unemployed, or the ill-housed. Where these groups are discriminated against in housing or employment, or civil rights, and neither major party is fighting to improve their conditions, it is little comfort to have the choice of electing either a Democrat or a Republican. They must seek to influence one of those parties or organize a third party. The difficulty of influencing an entrenched party machine may make the latter course more feasible. Shall groups such as these be denied representation, because they reject a Republican majority or a Democratic minority?

The concept that democracy is safe so long as there are only two parties is false doctrine. Democracy is safe only so long as its institutions function democratically. Too often the two party system gives us the form but not the substance of democracy.

Two additional features of the 2/3-1/3 proposal merit objection. First, the majority party is in the position to dictate which minority candidates shall be nominated and elected. At the least, the majority party can take over the primary of a minority party is indicated by the experience of the American Labor Party in upstate New York, where the Democrats registered enough of their followers as ALP to run a whole slate of Democrats on the ALP line. The Progressive Party of Pittsburgh had a partially similar experience in the 1949 elections. How the majority party can determine which minority candidate shall be defeated may be readily seen by considering a magistrate election. let us say that there are 7 magistrates to be elected, the majority party getting four and the minority three. Both parties run four candidates. The Republican party majority has ranged form 50,000 votes upward in magistrate elections with he major exception of last year. The difference between the votes of the Democratic candidates for magistrate is usually 200-300. By having 300-400 Republican machine men vote for 3 of the Democratic magistrates, the Republican Party can assure the defeat of the 4th Democratic candidate.

Further, the whole system of voting for county commissioners and magistrates has a peculiar disenfranchising effect. For example, in the case of the 7 magistrate candidates mentioned above, no voter is permitted to vote for more than four, although 7 are to be elected, and any voter may be called before any of the seven elected. thus, in order to guarantee the election of a one-party minority, all voters are deprived of the right to have any influence on the election of two-third of offices, despite the fact that they are directly affected by how all the candidates conduct themselves in office.

1950 Chevrolet


Many proposals have been advanced before the Charter Commission in favor of election of Councilman At Large, either in toto, or in majority, in preference to the present system of election by district. The main reasons advanced for such a proposal have been that at-large elections readily permit the use of the county commissioner-magistrate system for minority representation and that at-large elections encourage better calibre candidates to run for office.

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Our objections to the 2/3-1/3 system have already been stated. Let me add that the Progressive Party is flatly opposed to election at large without accompanying it with Proportional Representation.

Election at large without PR entrenches the control of the majority party and perpetuates machine politics. It will not necessarily produce better calibre candidates. Indeed, it will certainly restrict the candidates run by all minority parties. It will set a premium on money and newspaper support. It will give those candidates with large financial backing an overwhelming advantage over those without it. It will tend to create an aristocracy of well-financed candidates from the majority party. It will make it extraordinarily difficult for the voters to express their will. In short, at-large elections without PR, reproduce all of the evils of district elections on a larger scale, with none of the advantages of district elections.

Election at large without PR would have the most adverse effect on the aspirations of the Negro people in Philadelphia for full representation in elected city government. This was illustrated in the 1949 Councilmanic elections in Detroit. In this city, Rev. Chas. A. Hill, a prominent Negro minister and chairman of the Progressive Party of Michigan, polled 117,000 votes and yet failed of election. The result of at-large election in Detroit is that there is not a single Negro sitting in the nine-man Detroit City Council.

The testimony of the Committee of 70 before the Charter Commission on January 10, 1950, Mayor David L. Lawrence is quoted approvingly in favor of election at large to City Council as practiced in the Democratic-controlled city of Pittsburgh. What Mayor Lawrence neglects to say, however, is that there is not a single Negro sitting in the nine-man council of Pittsburgh. The only other source quoted by the Committee of 70 in favor of election at large in its January 10th testimony is the Charter Commission of Cincinnati. But what the Committee of 70 neglects to say is that election a large in Cincinnati is accompanied by PR. What the Committee of 70 also neglects to say is that 2 of the 9 members of Cincinnati's City Council are Negro, elected as a result of the voting freedom of PR.

One of the merits of the present district election system is to permit the Negro people who constitute a relatively heavy percentage of the total registered vote in certain councilmanic districts to use their voting strength as a means of assuring representation in city council. Election at large without PR would strike a serious blow against these aspirations and permit Negro representation in city council soley on the base of the whims and political maneuvers of party bosses. This is obvious from the fact that the registered Negro vote in Philadelphia is 15% of the total on a city-wide basis, whereas in specific councilmanic districts their percentage of the total runs as high as 43%. As it is, Negro representation with district elections is grossly inadequate. Although they account for 17% of the population, only one Negro sits in City Council, or
4.5% of the total. Election-at-large without PR can even wipe that out.

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With PR, we favor at-large elections. Under PR, candidates can concentrate in one or two districts with only supplementary votes from the rest of the city and still be elected. PR preserves the best features of district elections and does away with the worst.

Without PR we strongly favor the continuation of district elections to city council, with more districts and more councilmen. Minority groups within a party and minority peoples with the city can more effectively influence a district election than they can a city-wide election.

A basic weakness of our election machinery is that the "organization" usually controls nominations because of their control of Primary elections in which relatively few voters participate. Bucking the "organization slate" on a city wide scale is well-nigh impossible. Bucking such a slate on a district basis is at least within the realm of possibility.

1950 Studebaker


As another feature of popular control of elected city officials, we propose that the Charter include provisions for initiative, referendum and recall. These are time-honored democratic procedures as applicable today, if not more so, than they were in the so-called more primitive days of democratic government.

The mere existence of initiative, referendum and recall in the hands of the voters can exert a powerful influence on an unresponsive city council, controlled by an arrogant majority. The actual use of these weapons of democracy can be devastating.

Under this system voters would have the right to propose any ordinance for adoption by city council, the right to adopt or reject the same, by referendum.

A step in this direction has already been taken in the enabling act for the Charter (Act 155, approved April 21, 1949) which provided for initiative and referendum with respect to charter amendments. The procedure provided in Act 155 can readily be applied to city ordinances, with the additional provision that referendum not be mandatory in cases where council by majority vote approves substantially the ordinance proposed by initiative.

1950 Lincoln


Similarly, the provision in Act 155 with some modifications can be applied to the recall of any elected official governed by the powers of the Charter.

The Progressive Party will be glad to submit to you within the next few weeks a detailed procedure for the use of initiative, referendum, and recall.

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The new Charter should fully reflect the strong sentiment prevailing in Philadelphia for recognition and enforcement of the rights of the Negro people and other minorities.

We propose that adequate provisions be drawn the guarantee the following:

1. The full participation in employment of qualified Negro citizens in all departments of government which the Charter Commission has the power to regulate.

2. Prohibition of the use of any city funds by any commission, department, or agency covered by the Charter, or any firm under contract to any commission, department or agency covered by the Charter, which engages in discriminatory practices or segregation because of race, color, creed or political belief.

3. The creation of a permanent agency of city government with power to enforce the foregoing provisions, which can very well be in the present city FEPC. The FEPC exists today by grace of a city ordinance and may not exist tomorrow by virtue of a contrary ordinance. We propose that the FEPC be written into the Charter to assure its permanence.

4. A Philadelphia Civil Rights provision, patterned after, but more inclusive and stronger that the State law, banning any discrimination or segregation because of race, color, creed or political belief in any or all public places in the City of Philadelphia with adequate enforcement provisions.

1950 Ford


It is our understanding that public hearings will be concluded on Monday of next week, and that the Charter Commission will then proceed to the drafting of the actual charter. We urge that further hearings be definitely scheduled by the Commission, to give the citizens of the city an opportunity to state their final views on any and all features of the draft.

CHAIRMAN GARMAN: Is there any interrogation, gentlemen?

MR. RINGE: Mr. President, I do not wish to ask the gentleman any questions, but it seems to me there has developed a certain amount of mis-understanding. I say that because of certain communications which we have received and because of the statement which this gentleman just made that is is his understanding that public hearings will come to an end on Monday and we will then begin to draft the Charter. I think it should be understood -- and I don't mean to be the spokesman -- that we have been engaged in the draft of the Charter ever since we started, and we will continue with that job, and that any suggestions which anyone may have to make to the Commission will be

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given full consideration, even if someone desires to be heard. There is no thought of cutting our job into specific niches and stopping this and beginning with that. So that any communications which are addressed to the Commission will receive attention. I just think it is helpful to make that statement so that there won't be any misunderstanding.

MR. BEITSCHER: I was not suggesting that there w no plans for further hearings. I was just urging that in the vent there were --

CHAIRMAN GARMAN: In other words, Mr. Beitscher, I think you used the expression that the Commission would then begin to draft the actual charter. I think a better word would be the tentative charter because after that is completed, as Mr. Ringe has attempted to say, the citizens will be given ample opportunity to express their views upon that tentative draft. I think that answers what you have in mind.

If there is no further interrogation, we will proceed.

The Far Left and the Philadelphia City Charter
Progressive Party 1
Progressive Party 2
Communist Party