The 1958 Grand Council elections took place on 17 February 1958, for the purpose of choosing the Twenty-fourth Grand Council of the Confederation of North America. The elections returned a narrow majority for the ruling Liberal Party, resulting in the elevation of incumbent Governor-General Richard Mason for a second term.
The 1958 elections were a referendum on the New Day, a political program marked by Mason's highly emotional and overtly religious style of governance. The centerpiece of the New Day was the Mason Doctrine, a massive foreign-aid program designed to repair the damage caused by the Global War. Sobel's description of the Mason Doctrine emphasizes the ingratitude of the recipients, and the diversion of funding to military purposes by the Germans in particular. Despite (and often because of) his unorthodox governing style, Mason's support within the Liberal Party was undiminished, and he retained the party's leadership at its national convention in January 1958, where he publicly accepted "the party's will and mandate."
The opposition People's Coalition had been left deeply divided by the contest between James Billington and Perry Jay five years before. Billington had retired from politics after his defeat by Mason, while Jay had become the Minority Leader in the Grand Council, and Mason's most trenchant critic there. At the Coalition's national convention in Norfolk, Virginia in January 1958, Jay faced two opponents for the party leadership. The first was Roswell James, the Governor of the Southern Confederation, a machine politician who controlled the P.C. organizations in the Southern Confederation, Indiana, and Northern Vandalia. The other was Jeffrey Martin, the editor of the New York Herald and the host of a weekly vitavision news program. Although Martin had never held public office, he was popular with the convention's delegates, and was able to gain the party leadership on the seventh ballot. Martin's acceptance speech was a fire-and-brimstone denunciation of every aspect of the New Day. As Sobel notes, Martin was the major beneficiary of the emotionalism he fervently denounced.
The campaign between the two men was marked by parades, vitavised political broadcasts, and, as Sobel puts it, "much ballyhoo." It also further polarized the country between the New Day's supporters and opponents.
|Confederation||Liberal Party||People's Coalition|
Sobel says that the meaning of the election results eluded analysts. While some interpreted the result as a victory for Mason, and thus as a vindication of the New Day, most saw it as a near-defeat, and thus as a sign that North Americans had grown weary of the emotional crusade. In his statistical analysis of the voter demographics, Frank Rusk noted the lack of sectionalism in the election; voters were divided not by regional interests, but by class, education, and occupation. Mason did best among professionals, liberal arts majors, and middle class workers, while Martin did best among secondary school graduates, industrial workers, businessmen, and science majors. Furthermore, these divisions appeared among Negro voters as well as white voters, a sign that race-based differences were disappearing among North Americans.
Sobel's source for the 1958 Grand Council elections is Rusk's Statistical Analysis of the 1958 C.N.A. Elections (New York, 1962). Election results are from the New York Herald, 18 February 1958.
|C.N.A. Grand Council Elections|
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