The Searchlight: A Shining Light to Past Politics

Gutzon Borglum 1919.jpg
Gutzon Borglum, Mt. Rushmore sculptor and progressive.

The other night while conducting political research, I encountered a most curious article from almost 100 years ago. This article is from The Searchlight, a progressive magazine and it covers the results of the 1922 midterms and the lame-duck session in which conservative Republicans are said to try to pass as much legislation as possible. One of the featured authors is Mt. Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who writes “Harding’s Challenge to Democracy”. He characterizes the GOP as a reactionary party (eat your heart out, party switch narrative proponents!) and writes, “The West is risen again, Father Abraham, and the South will help! These two great producing districts of our country must join hands against the common national enemy and save our common country – as Lincoln feared would come, an enemy a hundred-fold worse than any we ever faced – the enslaving of all the people by a few through money – holding our food, our fuel, our transportation, our legislation” (Borglum, 8). This common enemy he speaks of are Northern capitalists and their Republican friends. Back then as now, the liberals were fretting over the private sector and the GOP as perilous to democracy. The Harding Administration’s loan to Liberia is regarded as “an imperialist, special privilege measure” (Borglum, 8). A major emphasis exists on Senator Truman H. Newberry of Michigan, who faced a Henry Ford-led campaign against him for his campaign spending. The publication goes as far as to speak of “Newberryism”, which seems to be a form of reactionary political corruption.

The Searchlight reported that the 1922 elections were bad for “Old Guard” and identified the following senators as among that class (with MC-Index scores noted for the 67th Congress, lifetime not yet available for all):

George P. McLean (R-Conn.) – 94

Frederick Hale (R-Me.) – 88

Henry Cabot Lodge Sr. (R-Mass.) – 88

David A. Reed (R-Penn.) – 89

George W. Pepper (R-Penn.) – 92

Frank Greene (R-Vt.) – 100

The article goes on to state that, “In no state where the electorate is alert and not enslaved by partisanship was there endorsement of a reactionary Senator who sought reelection. Let us examine this remarkable situation in a little more detail” (4). The following are identified as reactionary, and I accompany these people with their new MC-Index scores for the 67th Congress:

William M. Calder (R-N.Y.) – 94

T. Coleman Du Pont (R-Del.) – 100

Joseph I. France (R-Md.) – 64, whose opponent, William C. Bruce, was regarded as having “reactionary leanings”. Indeed, Bruce was one of the least liberal Democrats in the 1920s.

Frank B. Kellogg (R-Minn.) – 79

Joseph Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) – 89

Porter J. McCumber (R-N.D.) – 83

Miles Poindexter (R-Wash.) – 93

Howard Sutherland (R-W.V.) – 78

Charles Townsend (R-Mich.) – 87

Henry Myers (D-Mont.) is regarded as a “reactionary Democrat”. His MC-Index score is a 44% in the 67th Congress, which is high for a Democrat in that time. Burton K. Wheeler, his successor, is regarded as a “liberal Democrat”. Wheeler would in 1924 be Robert La Follette’s running mate on the Progressive Party ticket, which implies that the understanding of “liberal” wasn’t all that different 100 years ago than now. Indeed, it seems like that if indeed the meaning of liberal did change, it changed before the 1920s, as opposed to the advent of FDR’s New Deal. There is also coverage of the senators who they regard as progressive who won election and reelection, the MC-Index scores are noted for the 67th Congress: “Ashurst [6], Gerry [12], Jones [28], Kendrick [50], King [47], McKellar [6], Pittman [0], and Trammell [13] are all generally found on the progressive side of important issues and situations. Among the new Democratic Senators, Dill, Wheeler, Mayfield, Copeland and George [20] are reported as fighting liberals, with Ferris and Ralston not far behind” (5). The inclusion of William H. King of Utah is a bit curious given his comparative moderation and in some respects John B. Kendrick of Wyoming as well, but the latter’s MC-Index score gets higher in the 67th Congress because of his pro-tariff votes, which is possibly out of the interests of his state. Some of these people would later move in a much more conservative direction, including Copeland, George, Gerry, McKellar, and Wheeler. Given that their records, with the exception of Copeland, were progressive throughout the 1920s, I think I am on the right track with my MC-Index. My system I think is superior to the “parties switched” narratives of modern progressive journalists in accuracy as it is much closer to capturing the ideological politics of the era.

The Searchlight also had an article on Majority Leader Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass.), who is characterized as “…of the Old Guard, a hopeless reactionary in both politics and economics, excepting occasionally when a campaign approaches. Then, for election purposes, he may reluctantly support a popular progressive measure, such as the maternity bill” (Haines, 12) I have covered Lodge before, and what this publication tells me about him is consistent of what I have read of him before. The Searchlight seems an interesting view into the past, including what publications they collaborate with for savings on progressive subscriptions. These include, The World Tomorrow (a Christian socialist magazine that is now defunct, not the later broadcast of that religious cult), The Dearborn Independent (Henry Ford’s magazine now known mostly for anti-Semitism, shuttered in 1927), La Follette’s Weekly (exists today as The Progressive), The Nation (has existed since 1865), The Commoner (William Jennings Bryan’s publication, shuttered in 1923), The New Republic (has existed since 1914), and The National Leader (I have found no info on this one yet). Anti-Semitism seems to not have been thought of as a great problem for the folks at The Searchlight, and so far, I have also yet to encounter any talk about race. Indeed, minority identity issues are just not a thing for the progressives of this time.

References

Borglum, G. (1922, November 30). Harding’s Challenge to Democracy. The Searchlight.

Retrieved from

Haines, L. (1922, August 31). The Official Facts About Senator Lodge. The Searchlight.

Retrieved from

To Old and New Searchlight Subscribers. (1923, May 1). The Searchlight.

Retrieved from

Your Government at Washington. (1922, November 30). The Searchlight.

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4 thoughts on “The Searchlight: A Shining Light to Past Politics

  1. About the “party switch” narrative, which I as well have written about in the encyclopedia I edit at, the main problem is that many leftists tend to simply assume “racist = conservative, pro-civil rights = liberal.” Examining votes on taxes, tariffs, and foreign policy, and other issues during the early 20th century really debunks much of the narrative, which is unfortunately still perpetuated heavily nowadays. I hope more people see your posts so they can learn some important facts you have to offer.

    That reminds me, another interesting note to add is that I’ve seen leftists accuse school choice and vouchers of being “racist” even though their pro-public education stances are similar to that of the 1920s-era KKK. There’s also the issue of gun control, which I remember reading about how Jim Crow Democrats in the post-Civil War era supported and Republicans like Ida B. Wells opposed.

    1. The expansion of definitions and their application to suit temporary interests, as we are seeing with the concept of racism, is a tool the left has been using increasingly. I’ve noticed since my undergrad days that the more a definition is expanded the less meaning it carries, which I learned in a class taught by a Marxist in which the definition of violence kept being expanded by teacher and students alike. This serves a sinister purpose when applied to speech, which it was in that class. I sure hope more people see my content, and it may get even wider coverage as a YouTube channel (along with other platforms) collaboration with an old friend who has experience in this department is in the works.

      Also, there’s an interesting journal article on gun control which expands upon what you’re saying here, maybe you already read it:

      https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1142&context=srhonorsprog

      1. Yeah, and I furthermore notice the usage of highly deceptive words like “racial conservative” and “racial liberal,” which seems to be for the purpose of extensive narrative building. Those two terms seem to be used particularly by academics and political “experts.”

        BTW, thanks for sharing the .pdf. I’m also looking forward to the upcoming YouTube channel!

  2. The terms “conservative” as well as “liberal” seem to lend themselves to a lot of interpretation and manipulation sans clarification, and this results in not differentiating between American conservatism and the universal application of conservatism: resistance to or slowness to change. This means that “conservatism” in the USSR translates to opposition to market reforms, which is the opposite of the economic perspective of American conservatism. So the term “racial conservative” comes to mean resistance or slowness to the dismantling of Jim Crow, and I think it is used underhandedly to connect the American conservatism of Goldwater and Reagan.

    And absolutely! Several episodes have already been made, its just a matter of wrapping up the first season and starting the channel.

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