Politics from Sixty Years Ago: The ACA-Indexes of 1961 and 1962

President Kennedy’s agenda was foremost in the minds of conservatives and the people of ACA to oppose.

I am publishing today a glance at what politics looked like 60 years ago from the perspective of the leading conservative ratings institution of its time, Americans for Constitutional Action. They counted for the 87th session of Congress 23 House votes and 29 Senate votes. The votes primarily surround JFK’s New Frontier programs with a small focus on social issues. Some exclusions ACA had as opposed to ADA include not having a foreign aid vote in 1961 (unless you count the establishment of the Office for International Travel and Tourism) and not having a vote on criminal defendant rights. ACA, however, includes agricultural issues whereas ADA is lacking as well as counting some more lopsided votes for the liberal position (Educational TV for instance). ACA counts only a single vote on the subject of civil rights: Senator Javits’ (R-N.Y.) proposal to grant Attorney General Bobby Kennedy the power to bring civil suits and injunctions on civil rights cases.

Barry Goldwater, the beau ideal of ACA, he scored 100% in both years.

This, along with Americans for Democratic Action’s records of this period, should be a corrective of the misleading narrative that President Kennedy was some sort of a conservative or even would be today. The record of what he supported and opposed should let people know. It is also clear that of the two parties, the Republicans were in this day clearly the more conservative, and of the elected officials in the House and Senate who scored 100% for the entire session, counting vote pairs, 16 of 20 are Republicans. The conservatives who did not disagree with ACA’s position once were Republicans Goldwater of Arizona, Smith, Hiestand, Lipscomb, and Rousselot of California, Hoffman and Findley of Illinois, Bruce of Indiana, Johansen of Michigan, Beermann of Nebraska, Ray of New York, Scherer and Ashbrook of Ohio, Bottum of South Dakota, and Tower and Alger of Texas. The four Democrats were Waggonner of Louisiana, Williams of Mississippi, Thurmond of South Carolina, and Robertson of Virginia. As the 1960s wore on, numerous Republicans would see stunning declines from their 1961 scores, and for a few, it would be the only time they ever got higher than a 50% by ACA. Richard Schweiker (R-Penn.), for example, scores an 83% in 1961 but if you consult his Nixon era scores from my previous Americans for Constitutional Action posts, you’ll see stunningly little resemblance between this Schweiker and Senator Schweiker. Same goes for Charles Mathias (R-Md.), whose score of 67% is the only one above 50% he ever registered on the ACA-Index before having a long career as a liberal Republican. For Democrats, particularly from the South, there is a dramatic difference in how many of them vote as opposed to Democrats today, but you also see in some states a significant presence of progressives.

Basis for ACA-Indexes:

1961 ACA-Index, House

1961 ACA-Index, Senate

1962 ACA-Index, House

1962 ACA-Index, Senate

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