Senator Zales Ecton : a product of reaction
Carman, Timothy John
MetadataShow full item record
From Montana’s initiation as a state until 1946, no Republican had ever been elected as a Congressional Senator. In 1946, Zales N. Ecton defeated Leif Erickson in a virulent and scurrilous campaign to become the first. The nature of the 1946 election is not unpreci-dented in Montana politics, but it certainly ranks with the most vituperative. Although an immediate cause of Ecton’s victory relates to.the obstreperous tenor of the campaign, the complete explanation is broad-based and certainly not uncomplicated. Burton K. Wheeler’s defeat by Erickson in the Democratic primary became of particular significance to Ecton and the Republican attack. The "smears and counter-smears" prominent in the primary served to develop a foundation on which Ecton was able to expand. Thus the constituents were initially socialized by the Democrats lending validity to Ecton’s extension of similar accusations. The role of the press in Montana and its relation to the Anaconda Company provides additional insight. The "Company's" opposition to Erickson, coupled with its control of a certain element of the Montana press, provided Ecton with an advantageous political tool. Although Erickson's political career had been short, it provided Ecton with additional avenues of attack. Erickson had developed powerful political enemies and had been associated with groups and projects which became politically detrimental in 1946. Ecton was able to effectively exploit these and other elements of Erickson's political background during the campaign. 1946 found most voters discontented with President Truman's transition to a peace time economy. The whole spectrum of public discontent was exploited by the Republicans, nationally as well as locally, by relating the problems of the Truman Administration to Communist subversion in both the government and the Democratic Party. In Montana, Ecton was able to easily reshape the G.O.P. 's attack of the Truman Administration and re-apply it to Erickson and his political background. It is impossible to measure the exact significance or impact of the aforementioned conditions relative to the Senatorial race. In 1946 no viable polls were being utilized in Montana. Scientifically designed polling devices would have aided greatly in gauging the constituents' view of the significant issues. It is true that such evidence is not all conclusive, but it is certain that the additional tool would have greatly aided this researcher. In that sense, the more direct, ostensible conditions which allowed Ecton's election have already been suggested. There are, however, many additional factors that will be considered. The lack of survey data or any accurate measuring device has prevented this study from being totally selective.