1936 was a great year for Republicans…in Maine. That year Alf Landon won the state and two Republicans won seats in the House of Representatives that had been held by Democrats: James C. Oliver (1895-1986) and Clyde H. Smith. Oliver, who had run on a platform of generous old-age pensions and inflationary currency, quickly distinguished himself as different from what could be expected of Maine Republicans. For one thing, he was one of the most visible supporters of radio priest Father Charles Coughlin and for another he was most likely to divert from Republican orthodoxy on issues such as labor and public power although he stuck stronger to it on the minimum wage and foreign policy than his Maine colleagues Smith and Owen Brewster. Oliver’s opposition to Roosevelt was not so much a conservative one, rather the populistic sort of Father Charles Coughlin and Dr. Francis Townsend. By 1938, many conservative Republicans were opposing Oliver’s renomination, some even going as far as to back his Democratic opponent. He also supported the Townsend Plan as did Smith and Brewster when it came for a vote in 1939. In his six years in Congress, he got an MC-Index score of 62%. Oliver’s consistently non-interventionist record aged poorly in Maine after Pearl Harbor and in 1942 he lost renomination to Robert Hale. Hale was both an internationalist and more conservative on domestic issues.
Oliver subsequently served in World War II and in 1951 he switched to the Democratic Party. He seemed a top recruit for the Democrats and they didn’t seem to mind his prior record of supporting Father Coughlin as they nominated him for governor in 1952. Although Oliver badly lost this contest, he in 1954 and 1956 ran against Hale and almost defeated him the latter time. He tried once more in 1958, and prevailed. In his single term in Congress as a Democrat Oliver proved to be staunchly liberal, only dissenting from the Democrats on foreign aid increases in 1960. Along with Senator Edmund Muskie, he reflected an increasing openness of Maine’s voters to the Democrats. Unlike Muskie’s election, his comeback proved a fluke as he lost reelection in 1960. Oliver’s MC-Index score in his last term was a 6% with a lifetime of 48%. He subsequently continued his career in the real estate business and ultimately moved to Orlando, Florida, where he resided until his death.
Hagerty, J.A. (1938, September 11). Revolt Against Oliver – Republicans Increase Opposition to Promoter of Townsend Plan on Eve of Election Disaffection Among Republicans…Republicans Support Democrat The Townsend Plan Issue Robbery a Political Issue. The New York Times.
The Maine Primary. (1936, June 23). The Journal-News.
Townsend Active in Maine Race. (1936, June 14). The Sunday Star.
At some point I will write a grand post on Joseph McCarthy. I really, really want to get it right and paint a complete picture of his anti-communist crusade. For now, however, I will focus on his ideology based on votes. A lot of people would think of him as being ultra-conservative, so placing him on my scale at between 90-100%. However, his actual MC-Index score is an 83%. His lifetime modified Americans for Democratic Action score is a 16%, and his DW-Nominate score is a 0.287. By contrast, John McCain gets a 0.381, Bob Dole a 0.322, and Mitt Romney (as of writing) a 0.294. This makes me wonder how much McCarthy was not merely defined by his own beliefs and actions but also by his more extreme supporters.
McCarthy attracted support for his investigations from both mainstream and fringe right. Some of the latter supporters included Gerald L.K. Smith, Willis Carto, and Gerald Winrod, all staunch bigots. The support of such bigots contributed to accusations that he was anti-Semitic, but McCarthy’s voting record seems to contradict this as he voted for the unsuccessful Ferguson Amendment to the Displaced Persons bill in 1948 and the successful Kilgore substitute to the Displaced Persons bill in 1950, both which served to increase admission of Jewish refugees into the United States. Some of the mainstream conservatives included Everett Dirksen of Illinois, Bourke Hickenlooper of Iowa, Styles Bridges of New Hampshire, and William F. Buckley Jr. of National Review. His most devoted Senate supporters were Herman Welker of Idaho, William Jenner of Indiana, and George Malone of Nevada. McCarthy’s domestic record was mostly mainstream Republican conservatism. He, for instance, opposed the continuation of price controls, particularly sugar. This would provoke controversy as McCarthy had accepted a loan (which he repaid) from a Pepsi-Cola executive, which got him the nickname “the Pepsi-Cola kid”. He supported most of the domestic agenda of the conservative 80th Congress such as tax reduction and the Taft-Hartley Labor Act, and opposed the Taft-Ellender-Wagner Housing Act. He was, however, more concerned about countering monopolies than many other Republicans, opposing basing point pricing legislation. Joseph McCarthy’s record on civil rights was primarily positive. In 1950, he voted against an effort spearheaded by Senator Richard Russell (D-Ga.) to weaken army desegregation and voted to end debate on the Fair Employment Practices Committee. As you might expect, McCarthy was among the strongest backers of domestic anti-communist legislation, such as the McCarran Internal Security Act.
McCarthy not only focused on anti-communism at home, but also abroad. He voted for the Truman Doctrine in 1947 and for the Marshall Plan. On the latter he was reluctant, did only after he had voted to cut the program, and subsequently he became a critic. One McCarthy push that really made clear who his closest allies were was his opposition to President Eisenhower’s nomination of Chip Bohlen as Ambassador to Russia. Bohlen had disagreed with the containment strategy of George F. Kennan and called for letting the USSR have its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. However, Eisenhower easily prevailed over McCarthy on this one, Bohlen being confirmed 74-13. Joining McCarthy in dissent were ten Republicans and Democrats Edwin Johnson of Colorado and Pat McCarran of Nevada, both who had been staunchly non-interventionist before World War II. A more broadly supported effort was his proposal to cut aid to nations that traded with Communist China, but this proposal failed too 34-50, with majorities of Republicans and Democrats again voting against. McCarthy abstained from voting on his censure as did his Wisconsin colleague Alexander Wiley and John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who deliberately scheduled his back surgery so he would miss the vote. McCarthy was a friend of the Kennedy family, had employed Robert F. Kennedy on his staff, and had not campaigned for Henry Cabot Lodge’s (R-Mass.) reelection in 1952. After McCarthy’s censure, his stature fell and support for his proposals was minimal, but with his closest friends sticking by him.
In 1956, McCarthy was one of only four Republicans to vote against Eisenhower’s nomination of his Solicitor General Simon Sobeloff to the 4th Circuit Court. The other three were Welker, Jenner, and John J. Williams of Delaware. McCarthy, Welker, and Jenner voted against him for his opposition to use of informants in national security cases while Williams, who voted for McCarthy’s censure, may have done so over his support for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), a decision he thought was judicial overreach. His record ended with his death, with most of the subsequent narratives surrounding him being pushed by those who had opposed him.
HR 6391. McCarthy motion to suspend the rules for the purpose of proposing an amend. to reduce assistance to any recipient nation by $1 million for each cargo of communist goods shipped prior to date on which communist China becomes party to final Korean peace. Govtrack.
1952 was a great year for the Republican Party: they won the presidency and won control of both chambers of Congress. Senator Richard Nixon (R-Calif.) was now vice president, and in his place Governor Earl Warren, himself a presidential contender, picked his protege, Thomas Kuchel (1910-1994), to succeed Nixon. One might think of Kuchel as something of an avatar for Earl Warren were he in Congress rather than on the Supreme Court, as he had served as controller under him. Kuchel displayed conservatism in his first two years in Congress, scoring an 80% on the MC-Index, including a vote against censuring Joseph McCarthy. He justified this vote despite expressing distaste for McCarthy in a 1980 interview as consistent with his vote on the Dennis Chavez election case, in which he was one of only three Republicans to vote for his seating over the Republican who contested the election (Gillette, 10). After the 1954 election, Kuchel would build up his reputation as a moderate Republican and gained a lot of support from the Rockefeller Republicans. Indeed, he sided with Eisenhower on almost every significant issue. In 1958, Kuchel supported the California GOP’s effort to swap moderate Governor Goodwin Knight and moderate conservative Senator William F. Knowland, which failed on both fronts; Pat Brown (Jerry’s father) won the gubernatorial race and Congressman Clair Engle won the Senate race.
In 1959, the senator’s profile rose considerably with the leadership election in the GOP. Although the conservatives won the leader position with the election of Illinois’ delightful and politically shrewd ham Everett Dirksen, the Rockefeller wing won the whip position with Thomas Kuchel. Kuchel’s record during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations was highly conciliatory, with him scoring at lowest a 26% and at highest a 50%. He played a key role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and considered this one of his proudest achievements. Kuchel was also a staunch internationalist (albeit an anti-communist one) and helped Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) to get support for President Kennedy’s Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, which banned above-ground nuclear testing. For California, he was instrumental in the establishment of Redwood National Park.
Kuchel vs. Conservatives
Thomas Kuchel had, to put it charitably, a testy relationship with conservatives and more extreme characters on the right in the GOP, and partly it was his voting record. He had supported numerous key planks of the Great Society, including the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964, Medicare in 1965, and the failed effort to repeal the “right to work” section of the Taft-Hartley Act. He was also one of only three Republicans to vote against a school prayer amendment in 1966. Kuchel did, however, oppose rent subsidies, federal dictation of unemployment benefits, and in a notable disagreement with his mentor voted for an amendment to permit state legislative apportionment to take into account factors other than population. His underwhelming record from a conservative perspective in truth wasn’t enough to do him in.
Despite being party whip, he did not endorse Richard Nixon’s bid for governor in 1962, Barry Goldwater’s and George Murphy’s campaigns for the White House and the Senate respectively in 1964 over ideological disagreements, and Ronald Reagan’s campaign for governor in 1966. He did not endorse Nixon in 1962 because he opted to endorse no one else in his bid for governor in a failed effort to appear independent and please both moderates and conservatives. In 1966, he did not endorse Reagan because he conditioned his endorsement on him publicly repudiating the John Birch Society, which he didn’t do. Kuchel didn’t endorse him despite the Reagan campaign promising that there would be no primary challenge to him in 1968. He even went as far as to accuse the conservative movement in 1966 of being “a fanatical neo-fascist political cult in the GOP, driven by a strange mixture of corrosive hatred and sickening fear, who are recklessly determined to either control our party, or destroy it” (Kabaservice, 169). It is only fair to note that Kuchel’s harsh antagonism to this wing did not come out of a vacuum. He had received a string of letters from John Birch Society members warning of an invasion of the United States from Mexico. As Kuchel stated, “I got thousands of letters telling me that Chinese communists were in Mexico preparing to invade California” and after investigating he wrote a letter stating, “We have no evidence of communists gathering in Mexico, Chinese or otherwise” (Reich). The Birchers subsequently labeled him a “comsymp” (communist sympathizer) by them. Worse yet, Kuchel, a man who was married and had a daughter, was maliciously libeled by an accusation that he was a homosexual based on a claim that he was arrested for such behavior in 1949 (the man arrested was not Senator Kuchel). The perpetrators, which included a Los Angeles police officer, were successfully prosecuted for libel.
Kuchel seemed to be under the impression that given his leadership position in the GOP that he could burn bridges with the conservative wing based on the actions of certain extremists. His antagonistic relationship with the party’s conservative wing in addition to an anemic campaign (which he admitted to) narrowly cost him renomination in 1968 to the superintendent of public instruction Max Rafferty, a staunch conservative. Kuchel stated on his loss in his final Senate speech, “Some of the votes I have cast I know have been very costly to me politically. I think it is…vital that the Senate of the United States lead political opinion instead of following it” (U.S. Senate). It could be argued Kuchel got the last laugh when Rafferty lost to staunchly liberal Democrat Alan Cranston, the product of a campaign that started by alienating more moderate Republicans and an accusation that Rafferty had been a draft-dodger during World War II. Kuchel’s MC-Index score was a 48%, indicating an overall moderate record even though his words for conservatives were immoderate. Despite his loss, he had no regrets about his position, stating “Progressive Republicans brought to politics the philosophy of governing for the many. What comes particularly to my mind is Medicare. If it weren’t for Medicare today, there would be tens of thousands of Americans living in the poorhouse, with no care. It was a baker’s dozen progressive Republicans in the Senate who agreed we would vote for Medicare….I was their spokesman, and we provided the necessary margin for passage.” and said of conservatives that their theme “was militant anti-communism…They seemed convinced we were about to be invaded by the communists” (Reich).
Kuchel was a combative party moderate and although some of his decisions surrounding the conservative wing of the party are understandable and his 1962 refusal to endorse Nixon certainly didn’t cost him (he won his reelection handily that year), his 1966 refusal to endorse Reagan despite being offered an olive branch as well as his calling the conservative movement a “fanatical neo-fascist political cult” set him on his course to defeat. Kuchel is, like his mentor Earl Warren, without doubt a figure who could not be elected, much less become whip, in the modern Republican Party given not just their disagreements but outright antagonism to the conservatives.
Gillette M.L. (1980, May 15). Interview of Thomas H. Kuchel. Lyndon Baines Johnson Library Oral History Collection.
Kabaservice, G. (2012). Rule & ruin: the downfall of moderate and the destruction of the Republican party, from Eisenhower to the tea party – studies in post war US political development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Reich, K. (1994, November 23). O.C. Politician and Ex-Senator Kuchel, 84, Dies. The Los Angeles Times.
In March 2020, Amazon as part of its efforts to limit anti-Semitic material, took most versions of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) (1925) off of its website for sales, but this lasted only a week after controversy over whether censorship or confronting works of hate was more effective. What they did was put a note from the Anti-Defamation League as well as a critical review of the book on its listing. The sales of the book in Hitler’s lifetime not only spread his message, but it also made his fortune with the help of the Nazi Party’s publisher, Max Amann. These sales carried internationally after his rise to power in Germany but different versions were released to different nations. This was something that journalist Alan Cranston, who had been a correspondent in Germany in 1937 and 1938, discovered after seeing an English version of Mein Kampf in an American bookstore and noticed it was significantly less thick than what he had seen. Missing were the explicitly anti-Semitic and militaristic sections, parts that would cause alarm with the American public. Cranston, wanting to do more to change the world as opposed to reporting on it, got published the original work in full with an anti-Nazi cover through Stackpole Sons, a Hearst subsidiary, with the profits going to war refugee organizations rather than Hitler himself. Hitler was not pleased and sought to censor his very own book in the United States by suing through publisher Houghton Mifflin on grounds of copyright infringement. The legal theory behind the defense was as follows, as the book had initially been published in Austria and Austria was no longer a nation through the Anschluss that the copyright had expired. The court that heard the case in Connecticut did not buy this argument and sided with Houghton Mifflin, but before the book was taken off the market by court order half a million copies had been sold. That’s right, Adolf Hitler censored his own book in the United States!
Cranston would after World War II pursue a career in politics, serving as state controller of California and then as one of its senators from 1969 to 1993, where he would be known as a staunchly liberal Democrat who supported civil rights and environmentalism and opposed nuclear weapons. He was also reprimanded as one of the “Keating Five”, which is a story in itself for a future post.
As the first anniversary of the 1/6 capitol storming approaches us, I was curious to read not what the mainstream media was saying, which by and large echoed the Democratic position quite frankly, but what was being said in Congressional debates by the supporters of the objections. This is a bit of an unusual venture for me as it is very recent history and one might say its even ongoing given the existence of the 1/6 commission. I will focus only on the allegations surrounding Arizona and Pennsylvania as those were the only states in which objections were voted on, even though several legislators expressed that their objections on these were also statements against practices in other swing states that Biden won.
Full disclosure here, I did not support the challenges at the time for five reasons: I considered them hopeless, a grandiose way to express displeasure with how the mainstream media covered Biden as opposed to Trump, unsupported by evidence, politically unwise, and to stroke the galaxy-sized ego of Trump. I never personally liked him even though I found myself in agreement with many of his policies (deregulation, judicial nominations, lower taxes, opposition to “woke” politics, opposition to policies that are “open borders” in all but name) as they were mostly adoptions of conservative policies. Although my mind hasn’t changed on the wisdom of the challenges after reading these and conducting background research on claims made, especially considering what happened on January 6th, I have reached the conclusion that most arguments that came from most Republican legislators were based on charges of constitutional violations in the election process and not a charge of “systemic voter fraud” as former President Trump and a few other outspoken folks on the right alleged. Most of the grounds for objection were far more reasonable than presented by the bulk of the media, but because Trump focused on the systemic voter fraud allegation that was the one that got the most press and attention from Democrats, and it happened to be the very worst argument against certifying. This, along with the Capitol raid, served to irreparably damage any case he might have had based on process. I grant that any extra time taken to review or delay the process in these states based on rejections would almost certainly have not changed the outcome and that for Trump specifically anything other than him winning wouldn’t have been acceptable. If nothing else, his call to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger proved it. I also found some facts I did not previously know. Some background information that is relevant to what is presented:
The Arizona Voting Registration Deadline Case
A little over a week before the Arizona voter registration deadline, progressive organizations Arizona Coalition for Change and Mi Familia Vota file a lawsuit against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, alleging that their voter registration efforts being shut down due to COVID-19 mandated shutdowns without an extension of the deadline was unconstitutional per the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Hobbs, a Democrat, did not extend the October 5th deadline. However, District Court Judge Steven Logan (an Obama appointee) ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, extending until October 23rd. However, this ruling was undone by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which found the extension to be illegal yet gave prospective voters a two-day grace period to register, making the deadline October 15th. In this ten-day period over 35,000 people registered to vote. Biden won Arizona by 10,457 votes. However, this resulted in 10,922 voters registering as Republicans, 8,292 registering as Democrats, 498 as Libertarians, and 15,422 voters registering with neither party (Oxford, 10/16). Biden was estimated by Washington Post to have won 53% of independents as opposed to Trump’s 44% and won Democrats 96-3%, with Trump winning Republicans 90-9%.
Controversies Surrounding Changes in Pennsylvania Voting Law in 2020
In 2019, the Republican-led state legislature passed and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 77, which allowed for voting by mail up to 50 days before an election and permitted people to sign up to vote by mail permanently, expanded time for voter registration by fifteen days, and gave financial aid to counties for new voting machines. This law was passed overwhelmingly with less than a handful of GOP legislators in opposition. In March 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and lockdowns were put in place by the states. This also served to impact voting and voter registration policies. The changes instituted by both the governor and the state Supreme Court (which has a 5-2 Democratic majority) included a unanimous ruling that ballots cannot be rejected because of a failure for signature matching alone. The state of Pennsylvania also authorized the use of unsecured drop boxes outside of legislative authority, which the Trump campaign tried to stop but lost an October 2020 lawsuit. The practice has apparently been in use in other states before this. In addition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the deadline for mail ballots by three days, thus the deadline became 5 p.m. on November 6th, rather than 8 p.m. on Election Day. Another matter of controversy in Pennsylvania regarded the uneven application of “ballot curing” in counties, with the state issuing a guidance on the matter. Many Democratic counties got voters notified about faulty ballots to be fixed while numerous Republican counties did not, however the practice was not uniformly done by Democrats or Republicans.
The following Republican representatives spoke for rejecting electors on the grounds of unconstitutional election procedure:
Mo Brooks, Ala.
Paul Gosar, Ariz.
Andy Biggs, Ariz.
Lauren Boebert, Colo.
Kat Cammack, Fla.
Brian Mast, Fla.
Steve Scalise, La.
Clay Higgins, La.
Mike Johnson, La.
Andy Harris, Md.
Yvette Herrell, N.M.
Lee Zeldin, N.Y.
Elise Stefanik, N.Y. – Voted against Arizona objection, for Pennsylvania.
Dan Bishop, N.C.
Madison Cawthorn, N.C.
Ted Budd, N.C.
Jim Jordan, Ohio
Bill Johnson, Ohio
Warren Davidson, Ohio
Glenn Thompson, Penn. – Voted against Arizona objection, for Pennsylvania.
Lloyd Smucker, Penn. – Voted against Arizona objection, for Pennsylvania.
Jeff Duncan, S.C.
Jodey Arrington, Tex.
Roger Williams, Tex.
Representatives who voiced support for the “systemic voter fraud” argument were:
Mo Brooks, Ala. – If you count his charge that massive numbers of illegal immigrants voted and voted 80% Democrat (H89).
Paul Gosar, Ariz.
Matt Gaetz, Fla.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ga.
Brian Babin, Tex.
Arizona Objections (Gosar-Cruz)
Some notable arguments were in Jim Jordan’s speech; he regarded as suspicious Trump’s crowds vs. Biden’s crowds, estimating an event for Biden being 50 people while Trump had 5,000, stating incredulously, “But somehow the guy who never left his house wins the election?” (Congressional Record, H79) He goes on to state that 80 million Americans had doubts and 60 million believed it was stolen. Jordan also states, “We asked for an investigation. We asked Chairman Nadler, Chairwoman Maloney for an investigation. They said no. They wouldn’t want to investigate something that half the electorate has doubts about. It is just the Presidency of the United States” (Congressional Record, H79). He gets to the meat of his case afterwards, stating that the elections were conducted improperly because the state legislature didn’t decide in Arizona and Pennsylvania election procedures that went into use. He objected to voter registration being extended 18 days past October 5th in Arizona (its date for ending voter registration) because of an Obama-appointed judge despite Arizona law. Jordan regards this decision as contrary to the U.S. Constitution. He protests the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania extending the date mail-in ballots could arrive from 8 pm election day to Friday, and that ballots were processed before election day contrary to Pennsylvania state law Pennsylvania law. Jordan also alleges that Democratic counties permitted ballots to be “cured and fixed” before election day. He goes beyond this and charges that Democrats perpetrated violations of State Constitutions in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) joined the objection, citing Article II, Section I of the Constitution. He held that States are required to determine electors and states that Arizona’s voter deadline, which had been in place for 30 years, was extended from October 5 to October 23 in response to a lawsuit from a group demanding an extension and permitting registrations after that date to stick, despite a finding that that the state’s deadline, in place for 30 years, was constitutional (Congressional Record, H80). He complained of biased media coverage of the debate surrounding the certification of the electoral college. Biggs also charged that 32,000 people voted in violation of Arizona law. Included in his statement were about 1,000 affidavits and declarations regarding potential voter fraud in Arizona.
Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) argued that Article II, Section I, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution was violated, which states, “Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors” as well as the election clause giving state legislatures the authority to dictate “the times, places, and manner of holding elections” (Congressional Record, H82). She holds that all votes cast from voters who registered after the October 5th deadline were unconstitutional.
Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) charged that the audit of the Arizona election was stopped after a court found a 3% error rate against Trump and a 0.03% error rate against Biden and alleges 400,000 mail-in ballots altered, switched, or erased from Trump’s totals (Congressional Record, H85). He also alleged that over 30,000 illegal aliens voted in Arizona. (Note: this is probably a botched interpretation of the voters registered between 10/6 and 10/15) Gosar also claims that over a thousand residences were visited for proof of residency and address, with 456 failing, with the Recorder’s office used as an address (Congressional Record, H85). Although he makes some out there claims, his stance is not to flip the election for Trump, it is to “Remand the slate back to the secretary of state, back to the Governor, with the following instructions: Until a full, complete electoral forensic audit is allowed by the secretary of state, the electors currently certified will not be counted” (Congressional Record, H85).
It was after this speech that the attack on the Capitol occurred.
Pennsylvania Objections (Hawley-Perry)
Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) held that the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court and secretary of state “unilaterally and unconstitutionally rewrote election law eliminating signature matching requirements” (Congressional Record, H88).
Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) stated that although systemic voter fraud was unproven, he alleged a “systemic failure in the application of Pennsylvania’s voting law when it comes to the 2020 general election” (Congressional Record, H101). He also stated the following irregularities, “Uneven application of the law; ballot curing; ignoring signature validation requirements; using unsecured drop boxes; accepting ballots beyond the deadlines; and interfering with certified poll watcher access, among others” (Congressional Record, H101). Thompson held that these actions were taken by Governor Wolf, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State, and by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. As a side note, the U.S. Supreme Court also permitted the acceptance of absentee ballots in North Carolina and Pennsylvania past Election Day on October 28, 2020.
Andy Harris (R-Md.) cited the Democratic secretary dismissing signature authentication for ballots (Congressional Record, H101).
Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) held that Marc Elias, the Democratic Party’s chief election lawyer, had planned to inundate State and Federal courts with hundreds of election lawsuits to undermine State legislative control over elections (Congressional Record, H91). On a side note, Elias would in March 2021 be hit with an ethics sanction over a lawsuit against Texas over straight-ticket voting (Larsen).
Ted Budd (R-N.C.) most succinctly put forth the case of Republican objectors, “To sum it up, Pennsylvania officials illegally did three critical things: One, they radically expanded vote by mail for virtually any reason. Two, they removed restrictions when a ballot can be sent in. Three, they removed signature verification on those very ballots” (Congressional Record, H106).
On the widespread voter fraud arguments:
Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) argued, “I would like to point out that all the cases that have been thrown out have been thrown out on standing, not the evidence of voter fraud…By objecting today, we are telling the thousands of witnesses who signed affidavits that we have their back, and we will not allow local officials who violate their own election laws to steal this election from those who lawfully voted” (Congressional Record, H102).
Brian Babin (R-Tex.) stated, “I have no doubt that there was widespread election fraud this past November, and I am not alone. I stand here today speaking for 75 million Americans whose voice was unconstitutionally silenced” (Congressional Record, H105).
The objections began with Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) announcing that he would object to election certification. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and ten others followed suit, with him calling for an election commission to investigate election charges, based on the 1877 commission (I wrote about that one last year).
Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) held that 39% of Americans believed that the election “was rigged”. He contends that such a longstanding belief among so many people constitutes a threat to legitimacy in the future and states that “I am not arguing for setting aside the result of this election. All of us are faced with two choices, both of which are lousy. One choice is to vote against the objection, and tens of millions of Americans will see a vote against the objection as a statement that voter fraud doesn’t matter, isn’t real, and shouldn’t be taken seriously. And a great many of us don’t believe that. On the other hand, most, if not all, of us believe we should not set aside the results of an election just because our candidate may not have prevailed. So I endeavored to look for door No. 3, a third option, and for that I looked to history to the precedent of the 1876 election, the Hayes-Tilden election, where this Congress appointed an electoral commission to examine claims of voter fraud” (Congressional Record, S15).
Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) stated, “There is no question our U.S. Constitution empowers State legislatures to execute free, legal, and fair elections. Unfortunately, in several States, the clear authority of those State legislatures to determine the rules for voting was usurped by Governors, secretaries of state, and activist courts. Our laws and Constitution should always be followed, especially in a time of crisis. I don’t rise to undo a State’s legally obtained electoral college votes; rather, I rise in hopes of improving the integrity of the ballot to hold States accountable to the time-proven constitutional system of the electoral college” (Congressional Record, S23). Marshall also cites support for the commission.
Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) argued, “I say to Pennsylvania, quite apart from allegations of any fraud, you have a State constitution that has been interpreted for over a century to say that there is no mail-in balloting permitted except for in very narrow circumstances, which is also provided for in the law. Yet, last year, Pennsylvania’s elected officials passed a whole new law that allowed for universal mail-in balloting, and they did it, irregardless of what the Pennsylvania Constitution said” (Congressional Record, S25).
A lot of the objection to counting was based on court cases of varying validity in the run-up to the 2020 election that Republicans lost and the bypassing of State legislatures. It was by and large a protest over court decisions they lost, decisions made without State legislatures, and the beneficial effect they had on Democratic voter turnout (the degree to which I think this is true is overall minor). I also regard as an open question whether objection to the electoral vote count was an appropriate way to protest irregular election practices in the context of COVID-19, but two things are clear to me based on this research: the Republicans as a group were far more reasonable than portrayed in the press in their objections, with only five of them actually giving backing to Trump’s “systemic voter fraud” charges, and that Democrats mostly responded just to the low-hanging fruit among charges. I completely and utterly reject the charges that these actions were “seditious” or based upon a wish to undermine the will of the people. Sometimes the words of politicians get unfairly judged on what extremists do with them, as was the case with Rep. Clare Hoffman (R-Mich.), who I covered recently, for his “Judases” speech before Congress in January 1942. And in this case, it isn’t at all clear to me that the people who stormed the Capitol were reacting to claims of unconstitutional uses of authority in response to COVID-19 issued by most Republican members of Congress, rather the “systemic voter fraud” charge made by Trump and among his loudest and proudest supporters.
A few observations:
I realized I didn’t know the best arguments the GOP representatives were making. It was the worst arguments that got the most publicity, from Trump, the Democrats, and the MSM.
Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) comes off as one of the most effective and sensible of the dissenters in arguments, and you wouldn’t know it if you didn’t check out the Congressional Record (and how many people do, honestly?). I suspect there are greater things in this woman’s future.
The “size of crowds” argument is a popular one among Trump partisans but annoys me as it completely fails. The reasons are, first, because Biden supporters were more likely to stay out of crowds given their higher fear of COVID-19. This also hindered their voter turnout operations as there was less door-to-door campaigning. As someone who has worked on campaigns before, I know damn well how much more effective door-to-door is than phone calls. Second, it is entirely possible to have higher base commitment but lower popularity overall, and this was precisely the case with Trump. The people who show up at his rallies are NOT representative of the American public, as much as they’d like to think they are. It’s like the “which candidate has more yard signs” metric to predict who wins elections.
The argument surrounding judicial fiats and bypassing State legislatures NEVER GETS ADDRESSED directly by the Democrats, only lumped in with the numerous outlandish charges of voter fraud.
The group among the protestors that stormed the capitol really gave the Democrats political ammunition. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called this effort a “coup” before the attack happened (S16).
Exit poll results and analysis from Arizona. The Washington Post.
In 1948, the Republicans lost their delusions that the 1946 election was a repudiation of the New Deal, and one of their losses was Earl Lewis losing to Democrat Wayne Hays (1911-1989) in Ohio’s 18th district. Hays, a staunch supporter of President Truman, became known as tough and mean; when Sam Rayburn (D-Tex.) wanted the second investigation into tax-exempt institutions, also known as the Reece Committee, undermined, he picked him to join the committee. Hays would proceed to fight the committee at every step of the way, criticizing it for having nine of its ten witnesses being part of the committee staff and walking out after the witness outside of the committee, San Francisco attorney Aaron Sargent, charged Senator Paul Howard Douglas (D-Ill.) of having connections to socialist organizations. Hays was ultimately successful in hamstringing the committee’s public operations, and this in addition to the unfortunate timing of the Reece Committee’s report relegated it to being forgotten by most. He was a liberal overall with his MC-Index life score being a 19%, but he was also a staunch party loyalist: he demanded the stripping of Adam Clayton Powell (D-N.Y.) of committee assignments for endorsing President Eisenhower for reelection over his view that the 1956 GOP platform was better on civil rights than the Democratic one. He would after voting against excluding instead of censuring Powell, vote for the resolution excluding him from the 90th Congress for misuse of office funds. Hays had some personal controversies of his own. In 1963, he was criticized for taking the head waiter of the House, Ernest Petinaud, to London and Paris on a junket, having the House pay for all his expenses. Hays defended the expense by saying that he served as a messenger for the junket and that he was invited partly because he was black and partly as a reward for being a nice fellow (Langeveld). In 1966, Hays again attracted controversy for how he handled a traffic stop. He was cited for speeding and for driving away from the officer who pulled him over for having offended him (Langeveld).
Hays was a loyal supporter of most items in the Democratic agenda, and in 1969 he succeeded Omar Burleson (D-Tex.) as chair of the House Administration Committee. It was during the Nixon years that Hays reached the zenith of his power, ruling at least partly out of fear that if he was upset, he would cut off the air conditioning to the offending member of Congress. He was indeed the most feared man in Congress, known sometimes as “the Archie Bunker of Capitol Hill” and became known for taking pleasure in settling personal scores (The Los Angeles Times). As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Hays was someone who especially Democrats had to please. He backed public financing for presidential elections but not for Congressional elections, holding that it would be too chaotic. Among actions that caused controversy included the removal of jump seats in the House elevators, requiring staff to stand at all times, and banning tips for House barbers (Langeveld). Hays and Phil Burton (D-Calif.), another fellow known for being quite tough, formed an alliance for leading the House. It was Burton who referred to him as “the meanest man in Congress” (Langeveld). Republican Representative Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania (1983) agreed, “While his colleagues might have argued over whether he, as chairman of the House Administrative Committee and the Democratic Campaign Committee, was the second or third most powerful member of Congress, few disagreed that he stood in a class by himself as the meanest man in the House” (63-64).
Although Hays was indeed tough and mean, he was reelected time and again from this otherwise competitive district as he excelled at constituent service and was highly attentive. As an obituary noted, “He could stand at a rally and call voters by their first names; he sent greeting cards to mark marriages, anniversaries, births and graduations” (The New York Times). Hays would regularly help constituents with issues surrounding the federal bureaucracy and they thanked him through reelection. He also was known for taking heat for Congress when others would rather not step up.
As it turns out, Wayne Hays was not unassailable in his personal life. In 1976, his mistress, Elizabeth Ray, revealed that he had hired her as his secretary despite having no secretarial skills whatsoever and he had given her a lavish office. At the time of the breaking of the story, he had been married to his second wife for six weeks, and Ray was offended at not being invited to the wedding. As Ray recounted, Hays stated the marriage wouldn’t change the relationship “if you behave yourself” (Clark & Maxa). Shortly after the revelation, Hays almost died of an overdose of sleeping pills. He did admit to the affair in a speech before the House on May 25, 1976, stating, “I hope that when the time comes to leave this House, which I love, Wayne Hays may be remembered as mean, arrogant, cantankerous and tough, but I hope Wayne Hays will never be thought of as dishonest” (Los Angeles Times). His time came in September 1976, as he opted to resign in the face of an Ethics Committee investigation for misuse of government funds. It was not lost on observers that Hays was in hot water for one of the reasons Powell was, improperly employing a person they were in a relationship with. He made a brief comeback when in 1978 he won election to the Ohio state House, but lost reelection in 1980 by 500 votes to future Congressman Bob Ney.
Clark, M. & Maxa, R. (1976, May 23). Closed Session Romance on the Hill. The Washington Post.
In 1964, a member of the politically celebrated La Follette family announced her endorsement…for Barry Goldwater. This is strange as the La Follette family has been associated with progressive values given its most famous member, Senator Robert La Follette (R-Wis.), who stood for a great many progressive causes in his day and was without doubt the most left-wing Republican senator in his time. Suzanne La Follette (1893-1983) found no inconsistency with her support for her cousin in 1924 and her support for Goldwater in 1964. She even asserted her belief that “Fighting Bob” would, if alive, also support Goldwater! La Follette held that it was not her who had moved to the right, rather the politics of the United States that had moved to the left in forty years. The latter was undoubtedly true, as the nation reelected Calvin Coolidge in 1924 and elected Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. However, I question that La Follette would endorse Goldwater, as his son, La Follette Jr., strongly supported the New Deal and this support hardly wavered during his Senate career. Suzanne La Follette was the daughter of Congressman William La Follette (R-Wash.), who sided with the Bull Moose faction and had an overall moderate record. She was an ardent advocate of women’s suffrage and was supported by her family in her ambitions. La Follette stated that the men in her life had all been “good feminists” (Simkin). She regarded the state not as a benefactor of women but rather an entity that limited the freedom of women. La Follette was also from the time of the Bolshevik Revolution a foe of communism.
In 1919, she joined The Nation, at that time run by Oswald Garrison Villard, and the following year she joined up with The Freeman with libertarian Albert Jay Nock, who mentored her. La Follette considered societal taboos on single motherhood and female sexuality to be a form of subjection of women…that they weren’t fulfilling their prescribed duty for society by getting married. She wrote as such in Concerning Women (1926), arguing “The ultimate emancipation of women then will depend not upon the abolition of the restrictions which have subjected her to man – that is but a step, though a necessary one – but upon the abolition of all those restrictions of natural human rights that subject the mass of humanity to a privileged class” (Simkin). La Follette believed that women should be able to have full command of their lives. She also wrote freelance for numerous intellectual publications of the day including H.L. Mencken’s American Mercury and New Republic. In 1930, La Follette founded New Freeman, which was a libertarian paper that critiqued government intervention in domestic and foreign affairs, which lasted until December 1934.
In 1937, La Follette participated as secretary in the Dewey Commission to determine the validity of the Moscow Treason Trials as well as the accusations against Leon Trotsky. The commission found them to be completely false, which they were, and she participated in the writing of the final report Not Guilty. The trials had been prompted by the murder of popular Politburo member Sergei Kirov, who likely was murdered as a result of plotting by Stalin and the NKVD both to get a potential competitor for power out of the way and as a pretext to initiate the Great Terror by alleging a great conspiracy to murder him (Linder). In the 1940s, she worked on behalf of the American Federation of Labor, and worked to keep communists out of the organization, who would instead exercise their influence in chapters of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
In 1950, La Follette cofounded The Freeman with John Chamberlain and Henry Hazlitt. Within two years, however, disagreements arose among them as Chamberlain and La Follette took positions favorable to Joseph McCarthy and endorsed Robert Taft for president. Hazlitt did not agree, and he commented on the situation, “[I[t quickly turned out that both Suzanne [La Follette] and Forrest [Davis] were bent on making The Freeman a McCarthy and primarily an anti-communist organ rather than an exponent of a positive libertarian philosophy. I regarded McCarthy as a sort of bar room fighter, often reckless and sweeping in his accusations” (Blanchette). Ultimately Hazlitt won the battle as the editorial board sided with him, with Chamberlain, La Follette, and Davis resigning.
In 1955, La Follette was one of the founders of National Review and was managing editor until retiring from the post in 1959. She was among the founders of the Conservative Party of New York and ran for Congress for the 19th district (Manhattan) in 1964, only getting about 1% of the vote. Concerning Women got renewed interest with the women’s rights movement and was republished in 1972.
Bird, D. (1983, April 27). Suzanne La Follette is Dead at 89; Writer, Editor and Early Feminist. The New York Times.
Blanchette, J. (2006, January 1). The Freeman: Through the Years. Foundation for Economic Education.
In 1932, Michigan’s 4th Congressional District elected a Democrat for the first time in a long time. Unfortunately, it turned out that the victor, George Foulkes, was corrupt; he was accused of soliciting and accepting illegal campaign contributions from postmasters in August 1934 and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in 1935 for it. Because of this district’s typical partisan leanings and Foulkes’ ethical failings, Clare Hoffman (1875-1967) defeated him in 1934. Hoffman was a prominent attorney who was said to have established much of the law in Michigan given the cases he took on, including representing a nudist colony in 1933. He was also a man of unique practices, including having his suits tailored with no pockets to counter a habit of putting his hands in his pockets. Hoffman also had in 1912 backed Theodore Roosevelt over William Howard Taft through running on the Bull Moose ticket for reelection (unsuccessfully) as Allegan County’s prosecutor, but you wouldn’t know it given his record in Congress. Hoffman voted against Social Security, holding that it was an exercise in taking “from thrifty, saving Peter to Pay unfortunate Paul” (Walker, 20). He was also highly critical of the more radical Townsend Plan and stood along with C. Jasper Bell (D-Mo.) and Scott Lucas (D-Ill.) as the plan’s harshest critics. Hoffman considered the plan an “economic impossibility” and questioned the math behind the plan, which indeed didn’t add up (Walker, 22). Perhaps the most liberal he got was in backing the Patman Bonus Bill, which President Roosevelt twice vetoed. After the Flint Sitdown Strike of 1936-1937, outraged by the intrusion on property rights, he became an intractable enemy of organized labor, opposing union initiatives at every turn and pushing numerous efforts to limit their power and influence. In 1937, he offered to the mayor of Monroe, Michigan, given Governor Frank Murphy’s tolerance of sit-down strikes that he thought were illegal and the threat of CIO organizer Van A. Bittner to send his men into the city, a “group of peaceably inclined but armed and well equipped reliable citizens to aid in the defense of your city” (Walker, 49-50). This sounds very familiar to modern readers given the civil disturbances that began in 2020. Hoffman’s proposal was of course highly controversial and opposed by Monroe’s Congressman, Republican Earl Michener. However, he spoke so often on this and other issues that he got appreciation from people who felt cowed by the aggressive CIO. Hoffman himself once joked that a good argument could be made for retiring him to save money on printing pages in the Congressional Record given the frequency of his speeches (Walker, 111). Indeed, he would daily make one minute speeches denouncing Roosevelt and the New Deal. Hoffman both dished it out to his opponents and was able to take it, which made him formidable on the House floor. Although he introduced numerous bills to counter organized labor, none passed. However, Hoffman would participate in the drafting of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.
Congressman Hoffman often accused President Roosevelt of trying to become a dictator, and his proposal for court packing and executive reorganization he regarded as evidence in addition to other legislation that increased the powers of the Executive. However, some of his criticisms of his targets were way blown out of proportion and could be petty, such as his attack on Eleanor Roosevelt’s (one of his favorite targets) Office of Civil Defense during World War II, mocking her for employing two Hollywood stars as providing cushy jobs for the wealthy, resulting in the resignation of Roosevelt and the actors (Walker, 130).
Clare Hoffman: Seditionist?
Although Hoffman voted for American participation in World War II and pledged to support the war effort, he remained outspoken in his caustic criticism of FDR. This included delivering two incendiary speeches in January 1942, together titled “Don’t Haul Down the Stars and Stripes”, more commonly known as the “Judas” speech, in which he accused Interior Secretary Harold Ickes and others including author Clarence Streit (who wrote books calling for a world government) of being “Judases” by betraying the nation’s sovereignty in supporting the creation of a United Nations, which was subsequently distributed by American fascists for their propaganda (Walker, 121). Although Hoffman didn’t name Roosevelt, he was known as a supporter of the creation of a UN and thus by implication could be regarded as a “Judas”.
Another issue brought up against him included Congressman Hamilton Fish’s (R-N.Y.) secretary, George Hill, using his frank to distribute propaganda from Nazi propagandist George Sylvester Viereck before American involvement in World War II (Walker, 124). He delivered speeches at rallies for Gerald L.K. Smith’s America First Party, an overtly anti-Semitic party, and he was also highly critical of the Great Sedition Trial of 1944. Hoffman’s characteristically caustic criticisms of the Roosevelt Administration as Pearl Harbor remained fresh in the memories of Americans plus his views on foreign policy from 1939 to 1941 led his detractors to accuse him of being a fascist or pro-fascist. President Roosevelt had been pressing a reluctant Attorney General Francis Biddle for a trial of people FDR saw as fascist and/or subversive, and eventually such a trial did happen with the Great Sedition Trial. However, he had been pushing Biddle for more than just a group of propagandists and activists, he wanted two Congressmen indicted as well. One of them was his hated enemy Hamilton Fish (R-N.Y.) and the other was Hoffman, and The New Republic actively encouraged the Roosevelt Administration to censor conservative critics (Powers, 183). Roosevelt was probably smarting over the latter’s “Judas” speech. Hoffman did indeed have to testify before a grand jury four times regarding this speech before plans to indict him were dropped (Walker, 119). One of the defendants of the Great Sedition Trial, Elizabeth Dilling, was indicted for reprinting one of Hoffman’s speeches in her newsletter. Hoffman condemned the trial, stating that the defendants were no more guilty than he was. The newspaper of the Communist Party of the USA, The Daily Worker, claimed this to be an admission of guilt. As I wrote before on the trial, none of the defendants would be convicted.
Ultimately, regarding accusations of sedition, researcher Donald Edwin Walker (1982) concludes in his dissertation on Hoffman, “That he may have not shown the most astute judgment in choosing the people with whom he associated is true, but it is also apparent that he was to a great extent merely the victim of guilt by association. He agreed with the fascists on various points, mainly on the need to avoid war and the threat of Communism, but he was not as extreme in some of his views as many of the fascists were, nor did he share the rabid anti-Semitism that characterized some. It seems that the connection between the fascists and Hoffman was simply that they used each other as a means to disseminate some of their ideas” (143). Hoffman did indeed never criticize the war effort itself, and his constituents agreed that he was patriotic, returning him to Congress in the 1944 election by a hefty margin. His popularity among his constituents was not just because he was a staunch Republican opposed to the CIO, but also due to the great attention he gave to the needs of his constituents. It is critical to understand the importance of constituent relations when considering why an elected official gets back in office despite perhaps being extreme or making outlandish statements. Hoffman would later be deeply involved in the drafting of the National Security Act of 1947, the government reorganization that established the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Hoffman/Winchell Feud
Radio commentator Walter Winchell, who repeatedly cast doubt on the patriotism of Hoffman and others who had the temerity to criticize the Roosevelt Administration, including him asking “How about the voters going after those other saboteurs who landed in Congress?” met Hoffman’s ire (Walker, 144). He did not take this lying down. Hoffman commented on Winchell that his “imagination is exceeded only by his disregard for the truth and his insane desire to injure. His warped brain is constantly taxed to find new individuals to slanders. His broadcasts bring to mind a moronic child who gains pleasure by impaling flies on pin points or torturing small animals. Apparently, he derives a sadistic pleasure when he thinks he has injured someone by his malicious half-truths or complete falsehoods” (Walker, 144). Hoffman and Winchell, who also engaged in legal action against each other, would trade barbs so much that some members of Congress grew tired of the former talking about the latter.
Hoffman and Anti-Semitism
Unfortunate as it is, Clare Hoffman made some anti-Semitic remarks and was accused of being an anti-Semite. He recommended anti-Semite Elizabeth Dilling’s “The Red Network”, he was a good friend of Rep. John Rankin (D-Miss.), the worst of the House’s race and Jew baiters of the time, and he engaged in some of his own on the latter in 1945 in response to proposals for a Fair Employment Practices Committee. Hoffman denied that anti-Semitic discrimination happened in most alleged cases and stated, “It is a well known fact that many of the most powerful financial institutions in this country are controlled by the Jews” and called for for statistics on ownership of numerous industries owned by Jews (The Sentinel). Such statements did not go unanswered, especially considering we were on the verge of winning the war against Nazi Germany. When accused of Jew-baiting by Rep. Matthew Neely (D-W.V.), he responded thusly, “If I were a member of the Jewish race, I’d be proud of it. Why shouldn’t I be? Don’t Jews hold good jobs in the country? Aren’t they in control of the moving picture industry? Don’t they hold high places in industry? They don’t hold these high places simply because they’re Jews” (The Sentinel). Hoffman maintained an association with Gerald L.K. Smith until 1949, when they broke over the latter’s racism after the former introduced an anti-discrimination measure. Smith attributed Hoffman’s action to “senility”, which was clearly false (Jeansonne, 88). Indeed, he hardly slowed down until the early 1960s.
The Truman Era: No Compromise!
In 1943, Hoffman had voted against the Fulbright Resolution calling for the establishment of a United Nations and in 1945, he was one of only fifteen representatives to vote against American participation in the body. Hoffman led the opposition to the Truman Administration’s Full Employment Bill, which was intended to have been a full execution of Keynesian policy. Congress ultimately adopted a compromise the following year that called for “maximum employment”. Hoffman characteristically voted against that one too. Hoffman also voted against the Greek-Turkish Aid Act as well as the Marshall Plan in the 80th Congress. Despite having his hopes for Truman initially, Hoffman if anything became more opposed to him than Roosevelt.
The Eisenhower Era: No Compromise!
Hoffman didn’t go along with the modern Republicanism of President Eisenhower and opposed him just about any time he went in a liberal direction. He remained a foe of foreign aid and opposed federal aid to education. Hoffman opposed all major expansions of domestic government for reasons both budgetary and Constitutional. He also during this time mentored Rep. H.R. Gross (R-Iowa) in parliamentary procedure so he too could be a formidable presence in the House.
He was also a vigorous investigator, and as a member of the subcommittee investigating organized labor and racketeering in the Detroit area, he set his sights on the Teamsters Union. His investigation was revealing some highly unsavory things about the Teamsters Union and its boss Jimmy Hoffa including misuse of employee pension funds, but it was for the time shelved by Republican leadership allegedly at the behest of Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield over his and committee chairman Wint Smith’s (R-Kan.) protests. Hoffa was a life-long Republican who had given backing to President Eisenhower as well as to Senator Homer Ferguson of Michigan for reelection. In 1958, Hoffman condemned as silly Jimmy Hoffa’s “independent” investigation into racketeering in the Teamsters Union, headed by former Senator George Bender (R-Ohio), which the McClellan Committee ultimately discovered had, despite him being paid $58,000, produced no ousters of organized crime figures in the union (Walker, 311). Hoffman’s investigation was used as evidence in hearings by the McClellan Committee on union corruption and resulted in the Eisenhower-backed Landrum-Griffin Act in 1959 that curbed secondary boycotts and picketing. Much of the Landrum-Griffin Act itself, by the admission of sponsor Robert Griffin (R-Mich.), was influenced by Hoffman (Walker, 320). Evidence from Hoffman’s investigation would also be used to convict Hoffa in 1964 on misuse of pension funds.
Hoffman and Civil Rights
Hoffman was one of the few Republicans to vote against anti-lynching legislation, doing so in 1937 and 1940. He also opposed bans on the poll tax through federal legislation, and the Truman Administration’s Fair Employment Practices Bill. Before the 1948 election he urged Southern Democrats to push to nominate someone palatable to the GOP in exchange for the shelving of Truman’s civil rights program (Walker, 199). In 1949, Hoffman proposed a third way between segregation and desegregation, stating his support for separate facilities for whites and blacks with the latter getting at least equal if not better (as recompense for whites having many more years of opportunities) and facilities for those who wanted to integrate (Walker, 229-230). He didn’t want anyone forcibly integrated or segregated, and like most whites in his time he was at least personally against interracial sexual relationships. Hoffman was, unsurprisingly for someone of this time, staunchly opposed to homosexuality. He called for the firing of all homosexuals from the federal government (Walker, 232). Hoffman also introduced a version of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1946 that included sex, ancestry, and union membership but it was recommitted to the House Labor Committee where it was shelved (Freeman, 177). He also tended to see parallels between civil rights and labor issues. For instance, while condemning the lynching of a black man, Hoffman stated, “Is it a crime to kill a man when he is colored but just a customary union procedure to beat him to death during a strike?” (Walker, 312)
After Brown v. Board of Education (1954), he voted against the 1956 civil rights bill and the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The latter he regarded as undermining right to trial by jury as criminal contempt of court violations would not be ruled on by juries and reasoned that denial of the right to vote should just be made illegal instead of providing four reasons (Walker, 311). However, he voted for Powell Amendments in 1946, 1956, and 1960 and voted for the final version of the Civil Rights Act of 1960 after voting against the House version of the bill. He did not speak on the House floor why he changed his vote from the original House bill to adopting the Senate amendments, but I strongly suspect given his propensity to compare civil rights legislation to other matters, particularly labor, that he voted for because of what Congressman Emanuel Celler (D-N.Y.) noted on changes to the bills, “In title I, obstruction of court orders, the House version was limited to the obstruction of court orders dealing with school desegregation. The other body broadened the scope of this title to include all Federal court orders and increased from 6 months to 1 year the penalty of imprisonment” (Congressional Record, 8498). Hoffman had voted for Richard Poff’s (R-Va.) motion to delete that section, perhaps because it wasn’t expansive, as the Senate ultimately made it. Given that Hoffman had expressed feelings against racial discrimination on several occasions and his strong beliefs on adherence to the law, his Powell Amendment votes do appear to add up as sincere. This is especially so when you consider that he had a reputation for being frank and upfront about his views, which colleagues appreciated even when strongly disagreeing with him.
Clare Hoffman was, as could be expected, a firm opponent of the Kennedy Administration, but his vigor was hampered by a stroke in early 1962 that followed a minor one in late 1961. This prompted the octogenarian to retire, albeit reluctantly. In 1965, at ninety years old, he refused to participate in the newly enacted Medicare (Walker, 333). Hoffman died on November 3, 1967, being born during Reconstruction, and having lived to see the Civil Rights Era and the Summer of Love. I see on the plus side that Hoffman was a staunchly committed conservative, never was accused of profiting off his office, was a highly capable debater, contributed to important labor and national security legislation, and was honest in his views. I see on the downside that he on multiple occasions espoused anti-Semitic sentiments and he was rather behind on civil rights in numerous ways, even if some of those ways were meant as part of his views on organized labor. Hoffman’s MC-Index score was a whopping 99%.
Braden, T. (1977, February). The Birth Of The CIA. American Heritage, 28(2).
After Brown v. Board of Education (1954), civil rights got a renewed focus in the United States, and the first two laws after on the subject, the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, were rather modest. This compromise legislation garnered no Republican dissenters in the Senate, but both times there were such dissenters in the House. All of these people at some point in their careers voted for something favorable to civil rights and in the case of the longer-serving ones it was for anti-lynching or anti-poll tax legislation. These are the folks who opposed both:
James B. Utt, California – Serving since 1953, Orange County’s Utt had a long-standing negative record on civil rights and at one time spread a rumor through his newsletter that a large group of “barefooted Africans” might be training at a UN camp in Georgia for an invasion of the United States. I covered him in a previous post. Died in office in 1970.
William Cramer, Florida – Serving since 1955, Cramer was known as the father of Florida’s Republican Party and he stuck with opposition to civil rights for the most part until 1965, when he voted for the Voting Rights Act. Opted not to run in 1970 for a Senate bid, which failed.
Hamer Budge, Idaho – Serving since 1951, Budge was known as a guy who stood staunchly for limited government. After his defeat for reelection in 1960, he served on the Securities and Exchange Commission and chaired it under President Nixon from 1969 to 1971 and predictably took a less activist approach.
Noah Mason, Illinois – Serving since 1937, by the 1950s and early 1960s he was probably the most conservative person representing the state in Congress and he routinely took hardline positions. Mason’s opposition to civil rights was based on his strong conception of state’s rights and his skepticism to forcing legislation on an unwilling populace, writing “A law has little chance of being enforced if it does not have the approval and support of the majority of the people affected” (Mason). Retired in 1963.
Ben F. Jensen, Iowa – Serving since 1939, Jensen was notable for his opposition to public ownership of power generation and his support for reducing the size of government and budgets, stating “In Congress I am called the watchdog of the Treasury and I am proud of that title” (The New York Times). In 1954, he had been wounded in the Capitol Hill shooting by Puerto Rican nationalists. Lost reelection in 1964.
Wint Smith, Kansas – Serving since 1947, Smith I recently covered as Bob Dole’s predecessor in Congress. On the many subjects he was conservative on, he was uncompromising. Retired in 1961.
August Johansen, Michigan – Serving since 1955, Johansen was extremely conservative, rivaling the cantankerous octogenarian Clare Hoffman for most conservative Michigan representative at the time. Lost reelection in 1964.
Clarence E. Kilburn, New York – Serving since 1940, Kilburn opposed most civil rights legislation. He was quite conservative on domestic matters but was an internationalist, having voted for Lend-Lease and foreign aid bills. After he retired, he was interviewed in 1970 on his career, and on the question of civil rights, he said, “Well, I thought a lot of it was bunk and a lot of it was for demagogues” and expressed skepticism over the impact of New York’s civil rights law (Langlois & McGowan, 139). Retired in 1965.
John Taber, New York – Serving since 1923, Taber long had a reputation as a figure focused on budget cutting and hadn’t changed much on domestic issues since he first came to Congress. He had voted against all of the New Deal innovations, including Social Security and the minimum wage, and played a central role in the planning and implementation of the 80th Congress’s agenda as chair of the House Budget Committee. Retired in 1963.
Charles Jonas, North Carolina – Like most of the rising Southern Republicans, Jonas opposed civil rights legislation except for the 24th Amendment and the Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968. The Jonas family had been Republican long before the party began to make significant gains in 20th century North Carolina. Retired in 1973.
Bruce Alger, Texas – Serving since 1955, Alger was one of the most extreme conservatives in Congress and seemed to be under the belief that civil rights matters would progress naturally without federal legislation; he did not sign the Southern Manifesto. Alger also led the so-called “mink coat mob” of conservative women who accosted LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson shortly before the 1960 election. For this spectacle, Richard Nixon would subsequently blame Alger for his loss of Texas, as he had been leading in polling before the incident.
Richard Poff, Virginia – The only Southerner to be part of the House Republican leadership, his signing of the Southern Manifesto as well as his voting throughout the 1950s and 1960s on civil rights matters seems to have been motivated by political survival rather than racial prejudice. He was Nixon’s first choice for the Supreme Court spot left vacant by Hugo Black’s death, but withdrew over fear of a bruising confirmation fight. Governor A. Linwood Holton Jr. would appoint him to Virginia’s Supreme Court in 1972.
Joel Broyhill, Virginia. – Serving since 1953, he signed the Southern Manifesto and was more enthusiastic about segregation than Poff. He recommended segregation be reinstated in Washington D.C. public schools in 1956. Lost reelection in 1974.
Ben F. Jensen Is Dead at 77; Ex-Representative From Iowa. (1970, February 6). The New York Times.
Brown, E. (2011, June 29). Richard H. Poff, Virginia congressman, dies at 87. The Washington Post.
In 1952, Congressman Jesse Combs decided to retire. He had run for office initially in 1944 in the name of challenging Martin Dies Jr., the chair of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, but Dies had a health scare and opted to retire. Combs’s progressive reputation would largely continue in his successor, Jack Bascom Brooks (1922-2012). Brooks quickly followed the leadership of Speaker Sam Rayburn and regarded himself as like him politically, “I’m just like old man Rayburn. Just a Democrat, no prefix or suffix” (Politico). Although not as liberal as many of his Northern colleagues, Brooks could prove highly partisan, and this was evidenced in some of his actions and behaviors. He gained a reputation for being tough and mean, chomping his cigar and interrogating bureaucrats for wasting taxpayer money. Brooks’ efforts saved taxpayers a lot of money; former Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe stated, “He literally has saved American taxpayers billions of dollars through his actions in improving government efficiency and eliminating waste” (Politico). Indeed, such measures he sponsored to this effect were the Brooks Act of 1972 and as chairman of the Government Operations Committee from 1975 to 1989, multiple laws including the Paper Reduction Act of 1980. He was also staunchly pro-organized labor unlike many Texas Democrats, and in 1959 he was one of four Texas Democrats to vote against the Eisenhower-backed Landrum-Griffin Act, tightening restrictions on secondary boycotts and picketing (Robertson, 15).
Brooks and Civil Rights
Jack Brooks’ record on civil rights was more forward-thinking than for many Texas politicians. He didn’t sign the Southern Manifesto, although neither did most Texas legislators, and although he voted against the House version of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 as did all other Texas legislators, he voted for the final Senate product and voted for funding the Civil Rights Commission in 1958 and 1959. However, Brooks also voted against Powell Amendments (as did other Texans) and he voted against both the House and final version of the Civil Rights Act of 1960. His greater antagonism on the subject than in the future under Democratic presidents perhaps served as a reflection of his partisanship.
During the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, Brooks was an enthusiastic backer of civil rights measures, voting for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Brooks, however, wasn’t 100% on board with liberal positions on civil rights. In the 1970s supported measures curbing the practice of busing and opposed affirmative action and racial quotas. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee from 1989 to 1995, Brooks would sponsor the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
Support of LBJ
As a Texas Democrat, Brooks was one of the strongest supporters of President Lyndon B. Johnson, backing almost the entirety of the Great Society, including the unsuccessful effort to roll back the “right to work” section of the Taft-Hartley Act, one of only four Texas representatives to do so. Indeed, the 1960s was Brooks’ most liberal decade. He also backed the Johnson Administration on the Vietnam War, which he extended to support for Nixon’s war policies. Brooks even went as far as to back fair housing legislation and was one of only two Texas Democrats to vote against Rep. Arch Moore’s (R-W.V.) motion to delete the fair housing section of the 1966 civil rights bill.
Opposition to Nixon and Reagan
Jack Brooks despised President Richard Nixon and did not hide this when he exposed through an investigation that he had used taxpayer funds to improve on his San Clemente mansion, and his opposition to revenue sharing was suspected of being motivated by an animus to the Republicans, who had developed the idea (Burka & Smith). He also played a prominent role in pursuing impeachment charges against Nixon over Watergate. Brooks drafted the impeachment articles against President Nixon, stating when asked about the theme of the second article on the misuse of government agencies, “The theme of this article is that we’re gonna get that son of a bitch out of there!” (McNulty & McNulty) Nixon would later call him his “executioner”.
In 1976, Brooks was described in Texas Monthly as a liberal Democrat and that his reputation was polarizing as he was often caustic in his rhetoric, “People either love Jack Brooks or they hate him. No one is neutral. There is little dispute about him politically – he is a fervent Democratic Party loyalist, dependably pro-labor, and a master at dipping into the pork barrel – but virtually no agreement about him personally” (Burka & Smith). His lifetime MC-Index score is a 21%, being on the cusp of solidly liberal, with his most conservative decade being the 1970s.
During the Reagan years, Brooks led the House investigation into the Iran-Contra Affair and opposed Reagan’s economic policies, including income tax reduction and cutting social services. He also opposed Reagan’s ramping up of defense expenditures, particularly the Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed by its critics as the “Star Wars program”. One position, however, he continually stood for was opposition to gun control. He was a member of the NRA and knew his Beaumont-based district well.
Gun Control Push From Democrats and Fall
The enthusiasm for gun control legislation ramped up in the early 1990s with a solid majority of Democrats in favor and a considerable minority of Republicans for (including former President Ronald Reagan) and Brooks tried to stop such measures. He voted against the Brady Bill in 1993, being all too aware that this was political poison in his district. However, Brooks’ stance on guns didn’t stop him from voting for the omnibus 1994 crime bill that he sponsored and included a ban on semi-automatic firearms, a provision he had fought against. According to President Bill Clinton in his 2004 memoir, Brooks presciently warned on the provision, “the NRA would beat a lot of Democrats by terrifying gun owners” (The Crime Report). This vote for the crime bill resulted in his defeat to the bizarre Republican candidate Steve Stockman; he was the longest-serving incumbent to be defeated for reelection in American history.
Brooks was bitter about his 1994 defeat and that of the Democrats as a whole, calling it “The Hate Wave of ‘94” and stated on the Republicans, “They want to cut education. They want to cut Medicare. If they want more old people to suffer, more children to suffer, more young people to not get a shot at an education – if that’s what they want and the people endorse it, that’s the way it will be. I personally think that people will not like that very much and change it” (Ratcliffe).
Burka, P. & Smith, G. (1976, May). The Best, the Worst, and the Fair-To-Middlin’. Texas Monthly.