Thomas B. Curtis: Rebel Republican

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The 1950 election constituted a conservative backlash wave against Harry S. Truman, the Fair Deal, and the lack of progress in the Korean War. One of the congressional freshmen was Thomas Bradford Curtis (1911-1993) of Truman’s state of Missouri. He was far from the stereotypical slick or charismatic politician: he was balding, pudgy, always wore a bowtie (I haven’t found a single picture of him without one!), wore ill-fitting suits, sounded like a country bumpkin, and could come off at times as a curmudgeon. However, he was also highly educated, intelligent, kind, honest, and hard-working. Curtis became well-respected for his expertise as an economist and was independent of the will of powerful constituencies: the headquarters of Monsanto was located in his district, and they were strong supporters of protectionist legislation while Curtis backed trade liberalization. Although Curtis was a conservative who was a strong believer in free enterprise and limited government, he departed from the Old Guard of the Republican Party in a few ways, among the most notable were on civil liberties and trade. Most notably on the latter, in 1962 he proved of great assistance to the Kennedy Administration in the passage of the Trade Expansion Act.

Curtis was also a consistent critic of the Republican leadership for being, in his view, too willing to go along with the Democratic majority and in 1958 he voted to oust Minority Leader Joe Martin of Massachusetts. The leadership of Martin’s successor, Charles Halleck of Indiana, was also unsatisfactory to him and in 1964 he joined a group of younger Republican legislators known as the “Young Turks” who voted to replace him with Gerald Ford of Michigan.

Curtis came out often and early for civil rights, starting with his 1951 vote against the establishment of a segregated VA hospital. He backed the Eisenhower civil rights bills, Powell Amendments (block aid for segregated schools), and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Curtis often participated in these debates in Congress and tried his best to attract the black vote to the Republican Party but even he had his limits on civil rights legislation: in 1962 he voted against banning the poll tax by constitutional amendment as he thought it should be done by legislation and he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1968, establishing fair housing laws. Curtis considered the pursuit of civil rights to be both consistent with the Lincoln heritage of the Republican Party and with Judeo-Christian morality.

In the 1960s, he was a staunch opponent of the Great Society including the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and Medicare. Curtis played an active role in the debate on Medicare and even offered the Republican substitute to Medicare, but in the Great Society Congress this went nowhere. Medicare and spending programs disturbed Curtis so much his former legislative assistant J. Robert Vastine stated “I remember him being very disgruntled and working very, very long hours and being sick with a bad cold the whole time. He was very distressed about that program and other programs” (Vastine, 21). He predicted inflation would occur as a result of extensive social and war spending.

In 1967, Curtis led the charge to deny Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-N.Y.) a seat in the House for his unethical behavior, and although he succeeded for the 90th Congress, the Supreme Court ordered his seating in 1969. Curtis was also a master parliamentarian and for years served as the parliamentarian for the Republican National Convention. Highly popular in his district for his independent minded honesty, Curtis could have, according to his former legislative assistant J. Robert Vastine, held his seat for the rest of his life had he wanted to, but he wanted to move on to the Senate. In 1968, he ran to replace retiring Democrat Edward V. Long, but was too devoted to his current job to effectively campaign for the next one and lost by only two points to Democrat Thomas Eagleton. According to Vastine, Eagleton had bought the vote of the black wards in St. Louis, a common practice among the state’s Democrats. Although Curtis wouldn’t have won the black vote in the state whether the wards had been bought or not, it may have made the difference.

After Congress

From 1969 to 1973 Curtis served as Vice President and general counsel for Encyclopedia Britannica and from 1972 to 1973 served as chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting despite having been a critic of arts funding while in Congress. In this post, he accused Nixon Administration officials of trying to politicize the organization. In 1974, he had a rematch with Eagleton but only got 39% of the vote. That same year, he was appointed the first head of the Federal Election Commission and managed to butt heads with President Ford for actions that he felt undermined the commission. Curtis resigned, and, ever the rebel, backed Ronald Reagan in the 1976 presidential primary and attempted through parliamentary tactics to get him the nomination at the convention. From then forward, Curtis was a staunch Reagan supporter and played a major role in authoring his platforms in 1976 and 1980. He retired to Pier Cove, Michigan, and died of a heart attack on January 10, 1993.

Overall, I think Thomas B. Curtis was one of the finest people who served in Congress as he managed to have an eighteen year career there largely based on his integrity and his willingness to speak and act on what he believed was right. It is a pity that he didn’t get elected to the Senate, but there tends to be a ceiling in politics for people who rock the boat like Curtis did.


Interview with J. Robert Vastine, Staff Director, Senate Republican Conference, 1985-1991.  Oral History Interviews, Senate Historical Office, Washington D.C.

Retrieved from

Click to access Vastine_1.pdf



Christmas: A Time of Peace in America

The signing of the Treaty of Ghent, December 24, 1814

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Britain on account of the nation’s providing arms to American Indians as well as their practice of impressment (abduction of foreign nationals to fight for Britain) of American sailors for the Napoleonic War. Two years in, although the British had managed to blockade U.S. ports and burn down the White House, the Americans had successfully blocked efforts to carry out an invasion and political pressure mounted from merchants to end the war and resume trade between the nations. Additionally, the British had stopped impressments as the Napoleonic War had concluded.

In August 1814, the peace negotiations between Britain and the United States began and on December 24, 1814 the Treaty of Ghent was signed that ended the War of 1812, returned all conquered territory, and established a commission to determine the border between the United States and Canada. The Senate voted to ratify unanimously on February 17, 1815. The end of the War of 1812 had also notably ended the threat of European intervention in westward expansion, which was a great long-run victory for the United States. The treaty signed on Christmas Eve was widely celebrated and began the era of greatest American unity, known as the Era of Good Feelings, with James Monroe being reelected president with no major candidate opposing in 1820. Although during the Monroe Administration divisions eventually arose again, I thought that in a time of division as great as ours, it is worth remembering at this time of year a Christmastime peace treaty that brought America together.

The Reece Committee on Foundations: Conspiratorial Nonsense or an Expose of a Threat to the Nation?

Often the state of higher education is bemoaned by conservatives as a hotbed for progressivism or worse, but what if this state of affairs and more for higher and general education had been planned long ago with the direction and assistance of tax-exempt foundations using their funds for other than originally intended purposes? Congress explored this question in two investigations, but I will most focus in this post on the second one of these as it was the most in-depth and controversial.

In 1952, Congressman Eugene “Gene” Cox (D-Ga.), by this time in his career a hot-blooded conservative and one of the leaders of the Conservative Coalition, was trying to score a double-hitter: an investigation tackling both communism and civil rights. He was one of a group of southern politicians of his time that could be considered “red and black” hunters, who investigated any groups that could potentially disrupt business as usual in the South. In April of that year the House approved the creation of the Select Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations, led by Cox. The committee consisted of seven members: four Democrats and three Republicans. However, because Cox was a conservative, the committee had a 4-3 conservative advantage. The investigation, however, wasn’t particularly in-depth: in the fall of 1952 all foundations with assets of $10 million or more were mailed a questionnaire covering their entire operations. Cox himself didn’t get to see the issuance of the committee’s final report, as the 72-year old died on December 24th. In January 1953, the committee declared these organizations loyal, its final report stating, “So far as we can ascertain, there is little basis for the belief expressed in some quarters that foundation funds are being diverted from their intended use”. Of the six surviving members, one was not satisfied with the scope or depth of the investigation: Carroll Reece (R-Tenn.), a former chair of the Republican National Committee. His criticisms were as follows:

“1) Time and facilities were inadequate.

2) Excuses concerning grants to Communists were too readily acceptable.

3) Trustees and officers were not under oath.

4) Only a few Foundations were investigated.

5) The propaganda activities of Foundations were not investigated.

6) Foundations were not asked why they did not support projects of a pro-American type.

7) Extensive evidence was not used.

8) The Ford Foundation was not investigated.” (Dodd, 5)

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Carroll Reece

In 1953, Reece proposed a new investigation, and the formation of this committee encountered more resistance than the Cox Committee. The left-wing lobbying organization Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) had opposed the creation of the Cox Committee and it likewise attacked the Reece Committee, declaring it “a frontal attack on learning itself” (Dodd, 16). Save for Reece of course, all the former members of the Cox Committee still in Congress opposed the creation of this new committee. However, this was a conservative Republican Congress, and thus approved the resolution on July 27th by a vote of 209 to 163.

This committee’s three Republicans were Reece, Jesse Wolcott of Michigan, and Angier Goodwin of Massachusetts. Like Reece, Goodwin had been on the previous committee. Of the two Democrats, one was Gracie Pfost of Idaho, a first-termer and a liberal. Minority Leader Sam Rayburn (D-Tex.) had apparently placed the second one, Wayne Hays of Ohio, on the committee for the purposes of hindering the investigation as much as possible. He had a well-founded reputation for being tough and mean. Reece hired former banker Norman Dodd as the committee’s chief investigator. The committee was given license to investigate whether these foundations were backing “un-American”, “subversive”, or “political” causes, but no definition of these terms was provided by Congress in establishing the parameters of the investigation. Thus, Dodd provided a definition of “Un-American” and “Subversive” for the purposes of the investigation from a study conducted on the subject by the Brookings Institute: “Any action having as its purpose the alteration of either the principle or the form of the United States Government by other than constitutional means (the emphasis here is mine)” (Dodd, 4). Political was defined as “Any action favoring either a candidacy for public office, or legislation or attitudes normally expected to lead to legislative action” (Dodd, 4). From November 1, 1953 to April 30, 1954, Dodd and his researchers went to work.

The leading Democrat on the committee, Hays, took an active role in opposing the committee’s activities and was particularly critical of the way Reece conducted the hearings since he didn’t give equal time to pro-Foundation witnesses. One of the witnesses who testified was San Francisco attorney Aaron Sargent, who had advised Reece on the creation of the committee. Sargent testified for three days and in the process accused Senator Paul Howard Douglas (D-Ill.) of having ties to socialist organizations. This caused a walkout by Hays and Pfost, with the former threatening to punch a heckler on the way out. By contrast, the pro-Foundation witness who came in, Dr. Pendleton Herring of the Social Science Research Council, had his testimony cut off midway. Ultimately, Reece was forced to conclude the hearings and accused Hays of engaging in a campaign of obstruction and stated that any foundation testimony could be submitted in writing. On an interesting side note, included in the investigation was the Rockefeller Foundation’s partial funding of the research of sexologist Alfred Kinsey.

The committee’s final report concluded that with a few exceptions (such as the Institute for Pacific Relations) these tax-exempt institutions had not directly supported organizations that supported communism, but that institutions including the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and Carnegie Endowment were using funds to promote causes that were “subversive” by the committee’s (and the Brookings Institute’s) definition of the term. Namely, causes that would promote a form of oligarchical collectivism.

Among the most notable findings of the Reece Committee:

From “1933–1936, a change took place which was so drastic as to constitute a ‘revolution’. They also indicated conclusively that the responsibility for the economic welfare of the American people had been transferred heavily to the Executive Branch of the Federal Government; that a corresponding change in education had taken place from an impetus outside of the local community, and that this ‘revolution’ had occurred without violence and with the full consent of an overwhelming majority of the electorate. In seeking to explain this unprecedented phenomenon, subsequent studies pursued by the staff clearly showed it could not have occurred peacefully, or with the consent of the majority, unless education in the United States had been prepared in advance to endorse it” (Dodd, 6). Thus, influencing educational curriculum is of the utmost importance to advancing revolutionary policies.

Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations had used their funds for grants with the following agendas in mind:

“Directing education in the United States toward an international viewpoint and discrediting the traditions to which it [formerly] had been dedicated.

Decreasing the dependency of education upon the resources of the local community and freeing it from many of the natural safeguards inherent in this American tradition.

Changing both school and college curricula to the point where they sometimes denied the principles underlying the American way of life.

Financing experiments designed to determine the most effective means by which education could be pressed into service of a political nature” (Dodd, 7).

The American Historical Association had issued a report in 1934 “which concluded that the day of the individual in the United States had come to an end and that the future would be characterized, inevitably, by some form of collectivism and an increase in the authority of the State” (Dodd, 10).

The Social Science Research Council and the National Research Council pushed educational curriculum that serves to indoctrinate American students to forego the freedom of the individual and “substitute the group, the will of the majority, and a centralized power to enforce this will – presumably in the interest of all” (Dodd, 11).

The production of data for these organizations is paramount, with little regard to “principles and their truth or falsity” (Dodd, 12).

The Ford Foundation had been continuing research and grants along similar lines as the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations, including: “the acceptance by the Executive branch of the Federal Government of responsibility for planning on a national and international scale”, “the diminishing importance of the Congress and the states and the growing power of the Executive branch of the Federal government” and “the seeming indispensability of control over human behavior” (Dodd, 14).

Although the majority report was agreed to on a party-line vote, only Reece and Jesse Wolcott (R-Mich.) seemed to agree with the substance of the majority report, as Angier Goodwin (R-Mass.) issued a separate statement in which he disagreed with most of the findings of the committee. Instead, he stated his agreement with the findings of the Cox Committee. Democrats Hays and Pfost did not sign the report and were blisteringly critical of the committee’s methods, motives, and conclusions. They condemned the handling of the hearings and Hays accused Reece of using this investigation to boost his national reputation. Ultimately, no one’s mind changed and the timing of the release of the committee’s report was highly unfortunate as it was during the McCarthy censure. Thus, any coverage of this report was obscured by the news about McCarthy and additionally any investigations involving anti-communism had become suspect in the public eye. I find this disappointing as this investigation uncovered some concerning developments in education like a drift towards left-wing collectivist social theory as opposed to the individualist and liberty-oriented thought that informed the founding of the nation. Additionally, this wasn’t the leftist stereotype of the anti-communist investigation that runs roughshod on facts as it had concluded that most organizations were not backing communism as in backing the aims of the USSR, but that they were backing an alternative collectivized form of government. It also shed light on the power these institutions can wield behind the scenes in influencing the public. If you support collectivization and the downgrade of the importance of the individual, I understand if you believe the former part of my headline question, but I believe the latter especially given what I have seen in general and to a much greater degree in higher education.

Reece continued to serve in Congress until his death in 1961, but Dodd lived quite a while longer and was interviewed in 1982 by John Birch Society officer G. Edward Griffin about his time as chief investigator of the Reece Committee. The interview is about an hour long and the link to it is below if you are curious to watch:


Dodd, N. (1954, April 30). The Dodd Report to the Reece Committee on Foundations. New York, NY: The Long House Publishers, Inc.

Retrieved from

Click to access Dodd-Report-original.pdf

The Johnson Impeachment

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Andrew Johnson was a weak president. Even his historical defenders in the Dunning School tended to admit his poor leadership while defending his aims and intentions. These aims and intentions were populist in that he wanted government to aid poor farmers and laborers…provided they were white. The only reason Johnson ultimately opposed slavery was on the grounds that it harmed poor white farmers and he opposed any civil rights measures beyond abolition. Thus, as president, he vetoed legislation aimed to protect and stabilize the black population in the South, including the Freedman’s Bureau and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Although he had no official power to stop the 14th or 15th Amendments, he vocally opposed both. Johnson was clearly interested in Reconstruction meaning a return to how the South was before the Civil War, sans slavery. The Republican Congress was eager to run Reconstruction and was at loggerheads over Johnson’s policies. In 1867, they passed the Tenure of Office Act over Johnson’s veto primarily for the purposes of protecting Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a major pusher of Radical Reconstruction. Johnson blatantly violated this law when he dismissed Stanton during a Congressional recess and set the stage for impeachment.

On February 24, 1868, spearheaded by Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (R-Penn.), Congress voted to impeach Johnson. Like attitudes on impeachment of the current president, the vote on impeaching him was deeply partisan: all Republicans voted for, and all Democrats voted against. Debate and rhetoric were heated on Johnson, with Rep. William D. Kelley of Pennsylvania, a leading Radical Republican, declaring “Sir, the bloody and untilled fields of the ten unreconstructed states, the unsheeted ghosts of the two thousand murdered negroes in Texas, cry, if the dead ever evoke vengeance, for the punishment of Andrew Johnson” (Brockett, 501) .

The impeachment proceeded to the Senate for trial, where Johnson’s defense was led by future Attorney General William Evarts and Attorney General Henry Stanbery, the latter whom the Republican Congress would punish by preventing his reappointment. Johnson himself never appeared before the Senate on advice of his counsel. Ultimately, seven Senate Republicans broke ranks to prevent Johnson’s removal from office: Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, James W. Grimes of Iowa, Edmund G. Ross of Kansas, William P. Fessenden of Maine, John B. Henderson of Missouri, Joseph S. Fowler of Tennessee, and Peter G. Van Winkle of West Virginia. This was enough for him to avoid removal by one vote. Although his presidency was saved, his reputation was not and it became abundantly clear that Congress was to be supreme in the near future rather than the presidency. Although some of the senators who had broken ranks, like Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, did so out of a conviction that the trial was not done fairly, others such as Edmund G. Ross of Kansas almost certainly were bribed for their votes. This historical tidbit did not make John F. Kennedy’s laudatory Profiles in Courage entry on Ross. Yet another factor was the fact that since Johnson had no vice president, his successor would have been Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio, an irascible Radical Republican. One newspaper reported that “Andrew Johnson is innocent because Benjamin Wade is guilty of being his successor” (Stewart, 317). Wade being successor was certainly the deciding factor in the case of Senator William P. Fessenden (R-Me.), a moderate who despised him.

Despite Johnson’s fall in reputation, there would be a final triumph in his life as well as a few after death. In 1875, he was again elected to the Senate from Tennessee as a staunch critic of Reconstruction, but he succumbed to a stroke only four months after his swearing in. The Tenure of Office Act was repealed during the first Cleveland Administration and the Supreme Court declared in 1926 that the Tenure of Office Act had been an unconstitutional interference in executive power. As I mentioned in a previous post, there was even a movie made in 1942 portraying Johnson as a hero. Said movie resulted in protests and even calls for its censorship and destruction! While of course I would disagree with the film’s portrayal of Johnson, I disagree even more with the notion that we should censor or destroy a film presenting an alternative view. Anyway, since the 1960s, his reputation as a merely a middling president who fought against congressional usurpation of presidential powers fell to competing for worst for his active hindering of Reconstruction.

Today, Democrats aim to impeach President Trump despite not holding both houses of Congress. Unless a “smoking gun” should arise of violating the law, he will not be convicted by a Republican Senate.


Brockett, L.P. (1872). Men of our day: or biographical sketches of patriots, orators, statesmen, generals, reformers, financiers, and merchants, now on the state of action: Including those who in military, political, business, and social life, are the prominent leaders of the time in this country. Philadelphia, PA: Ziegler and McCurdy.

Stewart, D.O. (2009). Impeached: The trial of President Andrew Johnson and the fight for Lincoln’s legacy. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster

James B. Utt: Orange County Conservatism Personified

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In 2018, Republicans suffered a significant setback when they lost control of the House, losing forty-one seats. One of the most notable events in this election was their loss of all the congressional districts in Orange County. This was unthinkable as recently as ten years ago, but Orange County has been changing and its starting to shed its staunchly conservative reputation. In 2016, the county actually voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, a bad reaction to his brand of Republican politics. Although the county had voted Democrat for FDR in the 1930s, it had subsequently turned Republican…very Republican. Most symbolic of the county’s conservatism was its 17-year Congressman James B. Utt, who contributed to this perception of Orange County.

Elected in 1952, Utt quickly developed a hardline conservative reputation. After 1953, he proved consistent in his opposition to foreign aid and in the 1960s he sponsored a resolution that US should leave the UN. He also proved a consistent opponent of federal aid to education, not swayed by President Eisenhower’s support of it. Although he reportedly had concerns about the admittance of the state of Hawaii over the alleged favorable attitudes of its citizens to communism and that there weren’t enough white Christians, he nonetheless twice voted to admit the state. Utt was one of the staunchest foes of JFK’s New Frontier and LBJ’s Great Society programs, believing that the federal government’s role in social welfare should be limited. As the second ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, he pushed back against the Kennedy tax cuts as he and other conservatives feared they would be inflationary. Their fears of inflation would prove correct by the end of the decade. Instead of backing JFK’s tax cuts, Utt authored his own “Liberty Amendment” to the Constitution, which would remove the federal government out of all activities save those specified by the Constitution and repeal the personal income tax. In 1963, Utt praised a bill to eliminate government competition with private sector functions and stated that the federal bureaucracy is “the invisible government which really governs the country”. He was no slouch on social conservatism either, as he regarded public school sex education as a threat to the moral fiber of the nation.

The Controversies of Utt

James B. Utt was an outspoken figure of the right and thus got into many controversies in his day, including on the John Birch Society, civil rights, and his defense of the funeral home industry.

The John Birch Society and Extremism

Although Congressman Utt was never a member of the John Birch Society, he voiced support for the organization and the views of its leadership. This was rather fitting for Orange County as many chapters of the John Birch Society had sprung up there. In 1966, he received the “Statesman of the Republic” award from Liberty Lobby, which I have covered before as a neo-Nazi front organization that masqueraded as a conservative lobby. His successor in Congress would be even more extreme – John G. Schmitz was not only a member of the John Birch Society, he was later kicked out for his offensive public statements and appears to have been a holocaust denier.

Civil Rights

Utt’s civil rights record stands as the most negative of the members of the California delegation to Congress during the Civil Rights Era. Although in 1956 he voted for an Eisenhower-backed voting rights bill and supported Powell Amendments (cut off federal funds to segregated schools) twice, most of Utt’s record was negative. It was so negative that he voted against the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964, 1968, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For the latter, he was one of only five Republicans outside the South to oppose it on both votes. In 1967, Utt was one of only six Republicans outside the South to vote against a bill that provided criminal penalties for intimidation and violence based on race against people exercising their civil rights, including voting. He firmly believed that blacks and civil rights activists were being manipulated by communists to further their ends. This stance aligned perfectly with the John Birch Society’s position on the issue. Strangely enough, however, in 1969 Utt voted against eliminating the Philadelphia Plan, which was a precursor policy to affirmative action.

The “Barefoot Africans” Rumor

In 1963, Utt stated through his newsletter that the United Nations may be training “barefoot African troops” in Georgia to participate in an invasion of the United States. This resulted in many rightist publications and radio broadcasts to warn people about the dangers of the UN and led to the CBS documentary “Case Study of a Rumor”, which placed the weight of the blame for the rumor on Utt. He denied originating it and filed suit claiming his reputation had been damaged. However, Utt’s lawsuit didn’t succeed, with 10 of 12 jurors siding with CBS.

Utt, The American Way of Death, and his Death

In 1963, Utt denounced Jessica Mitford (the “red sheep” of the staunchly right-wing Mitford family of Britain) for her book The American Way of Death, an expose of the funeral home industry for emotionally manipulating the bereaved. He proclaimed her to be a “pro-Communist anti-American”, that her book was a “blow at the Christian religion”, and that the book’s profits would “no doubt find their way into the coffers of the Communist Party U.S.A.” (New York Times). The truth in this denunciation is that Mitford had been a Communist until she resigned the party in 1958 over the revelations of Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech”. Whether she was “anti-American” as Utt claimed depends on whether she continued to hold the same sort of Stalinist views of the US as she did as a member of CPUSA. Utt himself would suffer from poor health starting in the late 1960s and on March 8, 1970, he died of a heart attack at home. His funeral itself could have been a textbook case for Mitford’s book, as it was a tremendous affair (in scope and expenses), with Governor Ronald Reagan in attendance.


James B. Utt was a staunch conservative who never shied away from controversy. While I strongly approve of his staunch anti-Communism and his opposition to expansive federal government, his staunch opposition to most civil rights legislation is troublesome as is his susceptibility to conspiracy theories. For better or worse, he was representative of the political environment and attitudes of post-war Orange County.


Congressman James B. Utt Defends ‘Liberty Amendment’. (1963, March 27). La Habra Star.

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Pearson, D. (1966, September 26). Antics of Congressman Utt. Madera Tribune.

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Rep. James B. Utt of California, 70. (1970, March 2). The New York Times.

The Impact of the New Deal on Southern Voting Habits

The New Deal changed politics in the United States forever, and in one way it did so was it started to get Southern voters and politicians to start thinking twice about left-wing politics. The South had for a long time been known as the “Solid South” as Democrats could count on the votes of these states even in the worst of times due to the Civil War and Reconstruction. Such reconsideration involved questions of race, the growing power of organized labor, and the permanently increasing size of the federal government. For the purposes of measuring the impact, I have calculated ideological averages based on my MC-Index of politicians from former Confederate states who served at least two terms before and two terms during the Roosevelt Administration for comparison. After Woodrum senators are listed. I have mentioned this before, but 0 is most left, while 100 is most right.

Before After
Hill (AL) 10 19
Steagall (AL) 6 23
Oliver (AL) 13 23
Bankhead (AL) 14 5
Huddleston (AL) 16 59
Driver (AR) 17 16
Fuller (AR) 22 24
Parks (AR) 12 8
Sears (FL) 12 18
Cox (GA) 30 59
Ramspeck (GA) 20 21
Vinson (GA) 17 33
Tarver (GA) 27 52
Montet (LA) 24 19
Sandlin (LA) 14 11
Wilson (LA) 14 13
De Rouen (LA) 30 13
Rankin (MS) 18 56
Doxey (MS) 16 26
Whittington (MS) 39 47
Collins (MS) 9 32
Warren (NC) 15 27
Kerr (NC) 22 33
Clark (NC) 26 36
Doughton (NC) 17 48
Bulwinkle (NC) 25 36
Weaver (NC) 16 21
McMillan (SC) 17 54
Fulmer (SC) 16 35
McSwain (SC) 14 15
Gasque (SC) 9 25
McReynolds (TN) 19 15
Byrns (TN) 18 23
Cooper (TN) 26 28
Patman (TX) 10 21
Sanders (TX) 6 20
Rayburn (TX) 24 13
Sumners (TX) 20 44
Johnson, L.A. (TX) 10 36
Eagle (TX) 6 11
Mansfield (TX) 15 32
Buchanan (TX) 30 22
Cross (TX) 19 9
Lanham (TX) 17 66
Blanton (TX) 31 23
Jones (TX) 23 19
Bland (VA) 36 42
Montague (VA) 42 36
Drewry (VA) 34 47
Woodrum (VA) 30 43
Black (AL) 9 6
Robinson (AR) 8 3
Fletcher (FL) 20 12
Trammell (FL) 13 29
George (GA) 17 49
Harrison (MS) 8 21
Byrnes (SC) 12 26
Smith, Ed (SC) 10 50
McKellar (TN) 6 34
Connally (TX) 15 37
Sheppard (TX) 7 6
Glass (VA) 29 55
Average Score 18.17742 28.79032

As you can see, the jump in score is by approximately 11 points, and although this is not shown here, the effect is especially pronounced starting during World War II.

Husband E. Kimmel and Walter Short: Scapegoats for Pearl Harbor


Husband E. Kimmel

Seventy-eight years ago, this country underwent a day of infamy, and it was also one for the commanders on duty at Pearl Harbor, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and General Walter Short. Ten days after the attack, both men were removed from command by George Marshall. The Roberts Commission, formed to investigate Pearl Harbor, determined that Kimmel and Short had made errors of judgment, were unprepared, and had engaged in dereliction of duty. The report determined that had orders been followed that military forces would have fared better in the attack. This was not a court-martial, so neither man could appeal, so to speak, the conclusion of the commission.

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Walter Short

Kimmel and Short argued that they had not been given the information they needed to perform their jobs and there is evidence for their case. Researcher David A. Richardson found that, “Short notified Washington of his plan to protect his forces only against sabotage. (George) Marshall knew that and failed to advise Short otherwise. Thus, Short’s failure to implement these essentially last-day and last-hours readiness measures is directly attributable to Washington’s intelligence support failure, just as the information held in Washington would have allowed Kimmel the opportunity to set general quarters. It would have permitted Short to ready his pursuit aircraft, to plan for and execute a flyaway of all other aircraft. And, indeed, Kimmel might have sortied” (Richardson, 2001). Washington had not notified the commanders of relevant intelligence they had in possession. At least one of the members of the Roberts Commission had regrets about the result – Admiral William Harrison Standley stated, “these two officers were martyred…if they had been brought to trial, both would have been cleared of the charge”. Admiral Raymond Spruance stated, “I have always felt that Kimmel and Short were held responsible for Pearl Harbor in order that the American people might have no reason to lose confidence in their government in Washington. This was probably justifiable under the circumstances at the time, but it does not justify forever damning these two fine officers” (Richardson, 2001).

Senate Exoneration

A 1995 Pentagon study concluded that the blame for the failures of Pearl Harbor went far beyond Kimmel and Short. In response, in 1998 a group of senators, including current presidential candidate Joe Biden, proposed a non-binding resolution to clear Kimmel and Short. One of the measure’s supporters, World War II veteran Senator Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), called them “the two final victims of Pearl Harbor” (Shenon, 1999). The resolution passed on May 25, 1999 by a vote of 52-47.


Richardson, D.C. (2001). FDR: Guilty Short & Kimmel Were Scapegoats. American Heritage, 52(5)

Retrieved from

Shenon, P. (1999, 26 May). Senate Clears 2 Pearl Harbor ‘Scapegoats’. The New York Times.

Retrieved from

S.J. Res. 55.

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Dewey Short: Hillbilly Intellectualism

In 1928, a young man gave a stunning speech before the Republicans of Springfield, Missouri called “Republicanism and Americanism”, in which he stated: “Republicanism is Americanism. It is part of my religion and if I can convert any democrat, I will have served God as well as my country…(We), with unflinching courage and unswerving loyalty, will march together under the united, inspiring and intrepid banner of Republicanism to victory next November” (Rafferty, 95). This speech was so well-received that he was frequently demanded for speaking engagements. Richard Nixon himself would refer to this man as the finest orator he had ever heard. This man was Dewey Jackson Short (1898-1979).

Short the Congressman

In 1928, Herbert Hoover won the presidential election by a landslide and with him came many Republicans on his coattails. Of the 43 newly elected House  Republicans, only 11 would be in Washington after the 1932 election, Short among them. Although he lost reelection in 1930 in the wake of the stock market crash and the Great Depression, he was not done yet. In the meantime, he traveled through Europe and visited the Soviet Union. In 1934, he was elected to the much safer 7th district and his Congressional career truly got its start. Short quickly gained a reputation as the finest orator in the Republican Party and peppered his speeches with alliteration, insults and wit. One of the finest examples of his speeches was his reaction to the Roosevelt Administration’s request for work relief in 1935, which can be read on a previous post:

Some Shortisms include:

“Mr. Jefferson founded the Democratic Party, President Roosevelt has dumfounded it”.

“He is not exactly like some men I know who care no more for their word than a tomcat cares for a marriage license in a back alley on the blackest night”. – Referring to Postmaster General Jim Farley.

“I have always been old-fashioned enough to believe it is much better to ‘git up and get’ than it is to ‘sit down and set.’ The only animal I know which can sit and still produce dividends is the old hen”.


Short was a frequent critic of New Deal legislation as he thought its use of federal power went too far and was uncompromising in his opposition save for Social Security and flood control legislation. He was also a staunch foe of getting the United States involved in European affairs and in 1940 non-interventionists sought to nominate him Vice President. Instead, the nomination went to the moderate Senate Minority Leader Charles McNary of Oregon. That year, Short was one of the leading opponents of the peacetime draft and after World War II he led the opposition to the concept of universal military training. He would similarly oppose the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Short was at times lonely in his state in opposition to the Democrats: from 1935 to 1941 and from 1949 to 1951 he was the only Republican representative from the state.

Short liked to play up his origins, stating in a Chicago speech, “Really, I am just a plain, ordinary country boy, a native hillbilly from the Ozarks in southwest Missouri, where we still cover our houses with bull hides and use their tails for lightning rods” (Wiley). However, this “ordinary country boy” also earned a Bachelor’s in Divinity from Boston College, attended Harvard Law School, and studied at the universities of Heidelberg and Oxford. He thereafter became a Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas before pursuing his political career.

Short on Other Issues

On civil rights, Short has a mixed record. He voted for anti-lynching bills and early anti-poll tax measures, but after World War II, he mostly voted against as he feared the concentration of federal power, an echo of his opposition to the New Deal. Short also staunchly opposed the Eisenhower Administration’s approach on foreign policy as he continued to oppose foreign aid. Most domestic policy that even smelled slightly of Harry S. Truman’s Fair Deal was out as well. In 1956, he was defeated for reelection in an otherwise Republican district on account of a regional issue. Despite Short’s disagreements on foreign policy with the Eisenhower Administration, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Army, a post he served in until 1961.


Rafferty, M.D. (2001). Ozarks: Land and life. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press.

Wiley, R.S. Dewey S. Short: The Silver Tongued Orator from Galena. The History of Stone County, Vol. 1, 236-237.

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A Tale of Two Thanksgivings

FDR celebrating Thanksgiving with polio patients, 1938.

Thanksgiving has passed and for some people the holiday is a source of unique dread as they anticipate our toxic brand of politics to rear its ugly head at the family table. Some articles I have seen in the past even give tips for liberal urbanites on what talking points to use on their coot of a Republican uncle. I don’t talk politics at the table if no one else starts it, but I make an exception on this blog. After all, at one time, the holiday was a subject of political controversy, and not the modern social justice kind.

The history of the legal status of Thanksgiving in the United States starts with George Washington’s first year in office, in which he proclaimed Thursday, November 26th, 1789 as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. Thanksgiving was subsequently proclaimed by presidents on an annual basis to be on different days and even different months. However, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln, ever the game-changer in American history, set a precedent proclaiming Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of November. This would hold for 76 years until it was tinkered with by another one of America’s game-changers.

There were so many ways in which Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the United States, and one of them was Thanksgiving, specifically, what day we celebrated it. In response to concerns from retailers given that Thanksgiving in 1939 would be on the fifth Thursday, November 30th, thus supposedly reducing Christmas sales, FDR changed it by proclamation to the third Thursday of November. The move was unpopular at the time, with 62% of Americans opposing the change, which included 48% of Democrats and 79% of Republicans. Alf Landon, who had run against Roosevelt in 1936, condemned the plan and even compared him to Hitler: “. . . Another illustration of the confusion which his impulsiveness has caused so frequently during his administration. If the change has any merit at all, more time should have been taken in working it out . . . instead of springing it upon an unprepared country with the omnipotence of a Hitler” (Rothman, 2014).

While many states went along with the change, for a time, some states continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on the final Thursday of November. This would commonly be called “Republican Thanksgiving”. The new Thanksgiving itself became known as “Franksgiving”. Yep, that’s right…the day Thanksgiving fell on became a point of partisan contention and people were celebrating it on different weeks. The states of Colorado, Mississippi, and Texas recognized both Thursdays. For three years, multiple Thanksgivings were recognized and celebrated across the nation. To put an end to the mess of having multiple Thanksgivings, Congress passed a law officially designating the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving weeks after declaring war on the Axis powers in 1941 and FDR signed it. This change became widely accepted after World War II and Texas, the last state holdout, celebrated it on the last Thursday for the final time in 1956. Ultimately, the Commerce Department found in 1941 that changing Thanksgiving to the third Thursday had no significant effect on retail sales. Whatever gain might have been reaped from Thanksgiving on the third week was likely nullified by the confusion, chaos, and opposition the change faced.


Rothman, L. (2014, 28 November). FDR Moved Thanksgiving to Give People Time to Shop. Time Magazine.

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