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

David Dudley Field, one of the two legislators who scored a -1.
  1. James A. Lockhart, D-N.C. – -0.912

    James A. Lockhart (1850-1905) was elected in the 1894 election but only served one year and three months as in 1896 he was unseated as Congress ruled in favor of Populist Charles H. Martin’s election challenge. Martin would win the 1896 election as well.

    9. John McQueen, D-S.C. – -0.912

    John McQueen (1804-1867) was a consistent Southern fire-eater and owned seventy-two slaves. Serving in the House from 1849 to 1860, he was an early advocate of secession as he regarded it as inevitable given what he saw as Northern encroachments on the South, including the admission of California and tariffs. McQueen was subsequently elected to the Confederate Congress, where he served from 1862 to 1864.

    8. Coleman L. Blease, D-S.C. – -0.934

    Senator Coleman L. Blease (1868-1942) of South Carolina is a rather curious inclusion here, as he was the worst race-baiter of his state in the 1910s and 1920s and was pro-lynching. His career was more defined by what and who he opposed rather than what he did as South Carolina governor. Blease has most recently been in the news over his role in crafting a compromise on immigration legislation that criminalized unauthorized border crossings as an effort to discredit rules surrounding immigration. Blease served in the Senate from 1923 to 1929.

    7. Charles B. Mitchel, D-Ark. – -0.969

    Senator Charles B. Mitchel (1815-1864) was one of Arkansas’ last senators before it seceded during the War of the Rebellion. Not in truth an impressive inclusion given that he only served four months in office. He died in 1864 while serving in the Confederate Senate.

    6. Roy W. Wier, D-Minn. – -0.98

    Representative Roy W. Wier (1888-1963) was known as a critic of American foreign policy as well as a critic of anti-subversive legislation and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He served for twelve years and his domestic voting record, save for opposition to a highway bill in 1955 and to a flood control program in 1957, was unwaveringly left-wing. Wier had on multiple occasions won close reelections, but his district would by 1960 tire of his politics and elect moderate conservative Republican Clark MacGregor.

    5. William H. Meyer, D-Vt. – -0.998

    I have written about Representative William H. Meyer (1914-1983) of Vermont before, who has the distinction of being the first Democrat elected to Congress from the state since before the establishment of the Republican Party. He was both a Democrat and a socialist and was a founder of the Liberty Party of Vermont, which Bernie Sanders involved himself with in his younger years. The voters preferred Meyer over the arch-conservative Harold J. Arthur in the 1958 midterms, but the state back in 1960 was not ideologically ready to reelect a man who had supported recognition of Red China and nuclear disarmament and he easily lost reelection to Rockefeller Republican Governor Robert Stafford.

    4. Glen H. Taylor, D-Idaho – -0.999

    Senator Glen H. Taylor (1904-1984), who I have written about before, has certainly earned his place here at an almost unreal -0.999. Although my MC-Index score has him at a 5%, this is only because he opposed President Truman’s Greek-Turkish Aid and the Marshall Plan from the left. In 1948, Taylor was selected as running mate for Henry Wallace’s campaign for president under the communist-controlled Progressive Party ticket. He lost renomination in 1950 to D. Worth Clark. Taylor was a most uncharacteristic senator for the state of Idaho…indeed one would have trouble guessing that someone from that state would be regarded as the most left-wing senator.

    3. James W. Elder, D-La. – -0.999

    James W. Elder (1882-1941) seems to have been a strong supporter of Wilson policies during his time in Congress, 1913-1915, but appears to have voted against the Federal Reserve on left-wing grounds, namely that it gave too much power to bankers. Only two other Democratic representatives saw fit to vote against on this ground. In 1914, Elder lost renomination to Riley J. Wilson.

    1 (TIE). Leo Isacson, ALP-N.Y. – -1

    Leo Isacson (1910-1996) was a temporary win for the American Labor Party in the Bronx, and he was the only member of the party aside from Vito Marcantonio to serve in Congress. Isacson’s record was 100% left on economic issues, he opposed the Mundt-Nixon anti-subversive legislation, and opposed the Marshall Plan from the left. He served only eleven months and lost reelection in 1948 to Democrat Isidore Dollinger.

    1 (TIE). David Dudley Field, D-N.Y. – -1

    This rather strange and unimpressive #1, David Dudley Field (1805-1894), was the brother of Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field and seems to have earned this by being highly partisan for his two months in office, particularly surrounding the 1876 election. He played, interestingly enough, a major role in changing the code of civil procedure of New York, changes which would be emulated by numerous states later and during his short time in Congress proposed changing presidential succession. Field also had at one time been an anti-slavery Democrat and then a supporter of President Lincoln, but by the 1870s he had gone back to the Democrats.
Leo Isacson of the American Labor Party, the other member who scored a -1.

Much like the conservative list, many of these officeholders were in office a short time. Only McQueen, Blease, Wier, and Taylor served more than two years in office. Some of these entries also would have to be understood from the old perspective on state’s rights, which I covered earlier regarding how Jacksonians used state’s rights to try to limit corporate power, like Southerners Lockhart, McQueen, Mitchel, Blease, and Elder. Wier, Meyer, Taylor, and Isacson certainly do seem convincing from a modern eye, but simply because they were post-World War II politicians and are thus more easily understandable from our view.

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