Darlington Hoopes for President!

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Darlington Hoopes listed among the candidates on the 1952 voting machine sample ballot.

In this 1952 broadcast, Socialist Party presidential candidate Darlington Hoopes makes his case.  The post-war economy is benefitting the few, he argues, not the many. More people work part-time and can't make ends meet. There is growing insecurity about plant closings. He cites figures showing that during the Depression those on the bottom of the economic pyramid actually shared a bigger slice of the pie than now. Increased production has accounted for more goods so the poor seem to be doing better but their relative wealth has gone down. The villain? Big business and its stranglehold on the economic system.

That's why capitalism has to go. The steel companies ("I think the word is usually misspelled") and other corporations manipulate markets for their own gain, not the good of the people. Hoopes points to the British Labour Party, with its nationalization of key industries, as a model for socialist reform. He offers the vision of a classless society with no discrimination, of a government that, in the interests of world peace, reaches out to the poor of Africa and Asia. "They're not going to sit by and peaceably starve to death!" He calls for a grand public works campaign of new schools, hospitals, libraries, and dams. The banks want to do the economic planning, not the people. But when the banks fail, what do they get? Bailouts! He even makes a shockingly early reference to what we would now call ecology and food safety, pointing out that bleached flour, which they call "enriched," is really "depleted!" Except for his quaint delivery and earnest brandishing of statistic after statistic, Hoopes' warnings about income inequality and corporate lawlessness sound as relevant today as they must have sixty years ago. Yet in the election that followed he only got 20,000 votes.

Darlington Hoopes (1896-1989) was a lawyer and perennial political candidate, mostly in his home state of Pennsylvania. Socialism was a longstanding tradition in his family, which could trace its Quaker roots back to 1683, when a descendant crossed the Atlantic to help found William Penn's colony. Hoopes' son, asked about the origins of his father's beliefs when interviewed by the Reading Eagle, points out:

He was a "birthright" Quaker, meaning both mother and father were members of the Religious Society of Friends. His was a religious socialism and, naturally, his concern for his fellow men and women was rooted in his Quaker beliefs. Don't forget, Quakers figured in many of the 20th century's progressive movements - women's suffrage, prison reform, civil rights and the peace movement.

Hoopes had run for vice president on Norman Thomas' Socialist ticket in 1944. His poor showing (even for a third party candidate) can be partly be attributed to a fragmentation of the political left. His opponents that year included representatives of the Progressive Party, the Socialist Labor Party and the Socialist Workers Party. His ambitious platform is presented matter-of-factly, as if it would be relatively easy to implement. His tone is not the fire-and-brimstone of a communist agitator but the energetic urging of a college professor or lay preacher. As Philly.com reports:

Unlike the major-party candidates, though, Mr. Hoopes ran a campaign that cost only $150 and that saw him give a speech in Kenosha, Wis., to an audience of one. As a Socialist, he called for nationalization of banks, railroads, coal mines and the steel industry, and for strengthening the United Nations and reuniting the Germanys. "The wealthy have long used the power of government to enrich themselves," he said in a radio address Oct. 31, 1952. "In a democracy, government is a tool that should be used to advance the common welfare."

But Hoopes was not some dreamy, ineffectual do-gooder. He had been a lawyer and politician for many years and is credited with working on legislation that outlawed child labor in Pennsylvania. As the New York Times noted:

Mr. Hoopes did win public office in Pennsylvania…holding a seat in the State House of Representatives from 1930 to 1936 and at one point being voted the ''most able legislator'' by journalists.

Hoopes comes across in this broadcast as the quintessential nice guy candidate. In contrast to the cliché, he did not finish last. He finished sixth, in a field of eight. 


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 69712
Municipal archives id: LT875