The American Tradition

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Samuel Seabury found the ideal man, helped to get him elected as mayor of New York, and saw him give the metropolis the best government it has ever had … and the man who so completely embodied the virtues of the democratic tradition which Judge Seabury served was not an American of ancient lineage, born and bred to the noblest civic tradition, but the son of immigrants, a man of mixed Italian and Jewish descent, Fiorello La Guardia. It was precisely this flamboyant, tough, nonconformist fighter, who had come up from nowhere at all, who could strike hands with the descendant of John Alden to bring New York redemption from the scaly corruptionists who had so long had the city in their grip. La Guardia justified Seabury’s faith; the two of them together—as unlikely a combination as the story of American politics can display—justified the faith of millions.

You never quite know where you are going to find it. The oldest and simplest of the democratic traditions—that the people deserve decent government and that they will insist on getting it once qualified people show them how to do it—was abundantly justified here; and it found its embodiment in two strangely contrasting persons—the old-family civic aristocrat, and the no-family scrapper from Harlem who shared in his vision, his courage, and his dedication. Out of this blend comes America’s greatest strength.