Two decades ago there existed a numerous body of people identifiable as the American public. The nation was divided into two broad horizontal groups—Republicans and Democrat. First a man was one of the public. Second, he was either Republican or Democrat and, beyond those classifications, there was little else.
Today that order has undergone a significant and quite complete change. It began with the growth of the labor unions to a position of political strength. The successes which this group achieved through close organization proved a lesson to other groups.
The result is that today a man is not first a member of the public. In relating himself to any political, social or economic situation, he is conscious first of the fact that he is a member of a sub-classification. He is a member of the farm bloc, a labor union man, a closed shop man, an open shop man, a prohibitionist, an antiprohibitionist, a woman suffragist, a world court man, a League of Nations man, an ultimate consumer, a profiteer, an international banker, etc. He is, last and least of all a member of the American public.
The citizen who comes to Washington to testify before a Congressional Committee appears, never any more as a member of the public, but as a member of some group, some special lobby. Probably the last survivor of the public who made a record of his classification was Louis Brandeis of Boston, now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Brandeis sued the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad on behalf of the general public and in his sole capacity as a citizen of the State of Massachusetts.
The witness who might now appear on behalf of the public would find an uncertain reception. He would be confronted with questioning of a nature which would amount to a charge that he must be concealing his actual interest to put forward so unlikely a claim as primary membership in the public. There would be prying to see just who or what he actually did represent.
This would be justified for the public has disappeared. There no longer is a great mass of Americans, walking shoulder to shoulder, with the same general goal as destination.
The war accelerated the movement in this direction. It engendered divisions which sprang up with tremendous vitality as soo