The Ten Most Conservative Legislators from 1857-present (According to DW-Nominate)

Senator Charles Waterman, the #1 Conservative.

Certainly, some would believe it’s hard to get more conservative than people like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, the most visible of the Congressional freshmen who are rather “out there”. The truth is, they are very conservative but there are more conservative people in our history. I am going back to when Republicans first entered the scene for how far back on this one, and according to the DW-Nominate scale, these are the ten most conservative legislators since 1857.

  1. Frederick C. Smith, R-Ohio – 0.92

    Frederick C. Smith (1884-1956) was, according to DW-Nominate, the most conservative legislator to come out of the Roosevelt era. He was a physician thoroughly opposed to the New Deal and was a consistent vote against work relief. Smith was also one of the most extreme foes of Roosevelt’s foreign policy and opposed the Marshall Plan after World War II. Strangely enough, despite his support for prior anti-subversive measures, he cast his vote against the Mundt-Nixon Communist Registration bill in 1948. The anarcho-capitalist economist Murray Rothbard wrote positively of him in 1950. He also seems to have been an absolutist in his opposition to the minimum wage, voting against Wingate Lucas’s (D-Tex.) conservative substitute to the 1949 amendments because it was too weak, as evidenced by his vote against the final bill.

    9. Samuel F. Hersey, R-Me. – 0.925

    Samuel F. Hersey (1812-1875) served a single term in the House from 1873 until his death in 1875. He was known as a “lumber baron” in the state of Maine and was a close personal friend of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin. Hersey opposed inflationary currency but didn’t cast many votes, thus his exceedingly high score may not be reliable per admission of Voteview.

    8. Thomas A. Garrett, R-Va. – 0.931

    Representative Thomas A. Garrett (1972- ) was extremely conservative but only served one term from 2017 to 2019 and this was due to personal problems, notably bad press about his and his wife’s use of Congressional staff for personal tasks and his alcoholism, the latter which prompted him not to continue his political career.

    7. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. – 0.936

    Tommy Tuberville (1954- ) is a freshman senator, so perhaps his score goes down a bit in the future. He was one of five senators to vote for both the objections to the electoral counts in Arizona and Pennsylvania and as you gathered, one of former President Trump’s strongest supporters. He notably ended Jeff Sessions’ effort to return to the Senate after his time as Attorney General, his status as a major football coach and being more pro-Trump helping him.

    6. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M. – 0.936

    Yvette Herrell (1964- ) is a freshwoman in Congress, so perhaps her score goes down a bit in the future. She voted for both of the electoral objections of the Arizona and Pennsylvania elections and is the first Cherokee woman elected to Congress.

    5. H.R. Gross, R-Iowa – 0.955

    I have written in the past about this legend of Congress who served from 1949 to 1975. H.R. Gross’s (1899-1987) high score can be attributed to his frequent “nay” votes in his later sessions on proposals most of Congress agreed with. His record after 1954 was ultra-conservative and he was notorious for opposition to the space program, pork, and high spending in general. Gross also never voted for foreign aid.

    4. Mark Bacon, R-Mich. – 0.97

    Mark Bacon (1852-1941) of Michigan served from March 4th to December 13th, 1917, when the House ruled in favor of the contest of the election the man he defeated for reelection, Democrat Samuel W. Beakes. He was from Michigan’s 2nd district and was one of the legislators who voted against American involvement in World War I as well as against increasing the income tax to fund it. Bacon also voted for protections for freedom of the press during wartime.

    3. Darwin Finney, R-Penn. – 0.983

    Darwin Finney (1814-1868) of Pennsylvania was in truth not a notable legislator aside from scoring this high. He also did so based on a fairly limited number of votes that he cast in 1867, dying the next year. Really not much about this guy save for him voting against relief for the west and south and being one of ten representatives to vote favorably on a resolution for Irish independence from Britain.

    2. Charles Underhill, R-Mass. – 0.991

    Charles Underhill (1867-1946) served from 1921 to 1933 and had previously been an anti-suffrage activist. He voted against the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act in 1921, voted for income tax reduction, opposed veterans’ bonuses, and opposed measures in general that would expand the size of the federal government. Underhill was also one of the few Republicans to oppose the Child Labor Amendment in 1924. After almost losing reelection in 1930, he chose not to run for another term.

    1. Charles Waterman, R-Colo. – 1

    Charles Waterman (1861-1932) was a close ally of Calvin Coolidge and had served as general counsel for the Federal Oil Conservation Board. In 1924 he lost the Senate nomination for the special election in Colorado to Rice W. Means, the directing head of the KKK in Colorado, but defeated him in a 1926 rematch. Waterman’s victory was part of a series of events that signaled the end of the national influence of the Ku Klux Klan and the year 1926 election was the Waterloo of the state’s Klan. He grew ill in 1932 and announced he wouldn’t run for reelection, dying later that year.
    Six of ten of these legislators either served or have served two years or less in Congress.

    Of them, Waterman, Underhill, Gross, and Smith have so far developed a long enough record to firmly justify such a designation. Hersey, Bacon, and Finney are noted as having cast relatively few votes and may not be the most reliable inclusions here.

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