RINOs From American History #3: Gilbert Gude

Maryland’s 8th district, which is currently represented by 1/6 Committee Democrat Jamie Raskin, is centered in Bethesda and is a district liberal in character and voting habits. However, this district used to be up for electing Republicans…liberal ones that is.

The 1966 midterms were a backlash against President Lyndon B. Johnson, Vietnam, and race riots, and one of the beneficiaries was Gilbert Gude (1923-2007), who won an open seat. This was the same year, incidentally, that Republican Spiro Agnew was elected governor over a segregationist Democrat in George Mahoney. Gude, unlike many people in this series, was right off the bat leaning in the liberal direction, with his 1967 Americans for Constitutional Action (ACA) score being a 34% and his Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) score being a 73%. Gude rejected the labels of liberal and conservative, thinking of himself as “a liberal on civil rights and a moderate on fiscal matters” (Schudel). He had previously served in the state legislature as well as the state senate and had chaired Congressman Charles Mathias’s successful 1964 reelection campaign. After President Nixon’s election, he would only become more liberal, opposing President Nixon’s Vietnam War policies and voting for the Cooper-Church Amendment in 1970 to cut off funds for troops in Cambodia. He also supported increased gun control. Gude became most known, however, for his advocacy for environmental laws and succeeded in amending the Clean Air Act to require publication of auto emission test results, worked for the protection of the Potomac Valley, worked the protection of the Chesapeake and the Potomac River, and the creation of the C&O National Historical Park, now one of the nation’s most frequented national parks (Kelly & Rasmussen). In 1972, he supported Rep. Henry Reuss’s (D-Wis.) unsuccessful effort to add an amendment to the Water Pollution Control Act to require firms use the latest water pollution control technology by 1980.

In 1970, Gude faced a Democratic opponent with a big name: Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., the son of the House’s Majority Whip Hale Boggs of Louisiana, but he won reelection by over 26 points. He was, in short, unbeatable. Even in the 1974 midterms, in which the Republican Party was harmed by the Watergate scandal, Gude won reelection in this Democratic district by over 30 points. In 1976, Gude decided to retire to accept a post as the head of the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service. That year, Gude got a 9% from ACA, with ADA giving him an 80%. He would serve in this next role until 1985. After his retirement, two more Republicans with a philosophy much like his would be elected from the district: Newton Steers (1977-1979) and Constance Morella (1987-2003). The Montgomery County district would fall from Republican hands in the 2002 midterms as the district was made even more Democratic.


Kelly, J. & Rasmussen, F.N. (2007, June 8). Gilbert Gude. The Baltimore Sun.

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Schudel, M. (2007, June 9). Gilbert Gude, 84; GOP Legislator, Environmentalist. The Washington Post.

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Van Hollen, C. (2007, June 12). Tribute to Congressman Gilbert Gude. VoteSmart.

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RINOs From American History #2: Clifford P. Case

In 1944, Congressman Donald H. McLean of New Jersey’s 6th district is calling it quits. McLean is a staunch Republican, having been strongly opposed to the New Deal, voting against Social Security and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Indeed, when McLean’s time in Congress began in 1933, the area most opposed to FDR and the New Deal was the Eastern seaboard. This would change dramatically over the next twenty years and his successor represents a wider change on the Eastern seaboard for Republican politics in Clifford Philip Case (1904-1982).

Although McLean was moderately internationalist, Case is staunchly so, and on domestic policy he proves a moderate. He believes in economic controls in times of national emergency and frequently votes so. In 1946, the Republicans win control of Congress and in this session, he will reach the peak of conservatism. He supports most domestic legislation put forth by the Congress’s leadership including tax reduction and the Taft-Hartley Act and backs President Truman’s foreign policy to the hilt. He also shows a moderation when it comes to anti-communism in his support of softening proposed anti-subversive legislation in 1947. Case also sponsors an anti-lynching proposal and votes to ban the poll tax. After the GOP loses control of Congress in the 1948 presidential election, Case moves substantially to the left. He supports much of President Truman’s proposals, including public housing, aid for middle-income housing, and price and rent controls. Case even gets a 100% by Americans for Democratic Action in 1952. By contrast, in 1948, he had scored a 15%. In August 1953, Case would resign Congress to become chairman of the Fund of the Republic, a Ford Foundation institution with its intent to be to protect freedom of speech and civil liberties. This was a response to Joseph McCarthy and politicians like him. He would during this time of course condemn McCarthy and pledge to vote him off of the Subcommittee on Investigations, and this would strengthen opposition to him from the right of the Republican Party when he ran for the Senate in 1954. Conservatives pushed a write-in campaign for former Representative Fred Hartley, sponsor of the Taft-Hartley Act, but he attracted few votes. Conservative sources denounced him as “a pro-Communist Republicrat” and “Stalin’s choice for Senator” (McFadden). The Star-Ledger charged that his sister, Adelaide, had been affiliated with communists in her college years, a charge Case strongly denied (Rutgers). However, his votes for the Nixon-Mundt Communist Registration Bill in 1948 and for the McCarran Internal Security Act in 1950 undermine these takes, especially when actual pro-communist Congressman Vito Marcantonio had voted against both. However, it is true that Case was less enthusiastic about anti-communist measures than many Republicans. The 1954 race was incredibly close, and with Eisenhower and Nixon heavily campaigning for Case in the state, he won the election against Congressman Charles R. Howell by only 3,507 votes.

Case and Eisenhower

Senator Case pledged “1000% support of Eisenhower”, which Americans for Democratic Action condemned in 1955 as “…nearly 1000% repudiation of liberal practices and principles…” (Americans for Democratic Action). Indeed, of the three Republican presidents he served with, Eisenhower would be the one whose positions he would back the most. This was due both to Eisenhower’s moderation and Case’s moving towards Eisenhower’s moderation. He also of course strongly supported the president’s internationalism. However, ADA wouldn’t remain disappointed with Case, especially with the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies. Case was also the first Republican senator to support Medicare when he was the only one of them to vote for Senator Clinton Anderson’s (D-N.M.) Medicare proposal in 1960. That year, he won reelection by over 12 points.

Case: 1960s and 1970s Liberal

With the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, Case proved one of the most supportive Republicans of the New Frontier, although he opposed Kennedy on public power and agricultural legislation. He proved enormously popular with New Jersey voters, who thought highly of his maverick status among Republicans and liberals respected him. Case thoroughly supported the Great Society and was unwaveringly favorable to civil rights legislation. During the 1970s he would vote to uphold Great Society programs and equity-based policies such as busing and affirmative action. During the Great Society Congress, Case was one of only two Republican senators to vote against both a school prayer amendment and a legislative apportionment amendment, both proposed by Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.). He also opposed reinstatement of a federal death penalty in 1974 as well as the Hyde Amendment in 1976. Case’s liberalism was so strong in this period that in 1971, 1974, and 1976 he scored a 0% by Americans for Constitutional Action. Americans for Democratic Action had scored Case 100% in 1967, 1968, and 1969. Indeed, there was minimal difference between him and his Democratic colleague Harrison Williams on major issues. At this point, you might be wondering why Case is still a Republican, and to that he provided an answer: ”I am a Republican, and I believe in the Republican Party. But I have my own convictions as to what the Republican Party should stand for, and I intend to fight for them as hard as I can. And I will not be driven away from my Republicanism simply because some Democrats happen to agree with me on certain issues – and some Republicans don’t”(McFadden).


Clifford Case had a number of legislative achievements. He had been one of the floor managers of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and in 1972, he got the Case Act passed, requiring the president to report an executive agreement reached with another country to Congress within 60 days (Pearson). Although initially he had been supportive of the Vietnam War, he turned against it as the sixties wore on and during the Nixon Administration, he was a solid “dove”, supporting both the Cooper-Church Amendment cutting off funds for military action in Cambodia and the McGovern-Hatfield “End the War” Amendment in 1970. In 1973, Case scored a major legislative victory when he sponsored with Frank Church (D-Idaho) an amendment prohibiting further U.S. military actions in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia after August 15, 1973, without Congressional approval. Troops had already been pulled from Vietnam due to the Paris Peace Accords but not in Laos and Cambodia. President Nixon, not having the numbers in Congress to fight this amendment given Watergate, reluctantly signed it into law.

Case and Carter

Case is mostly supportive of President Carter’s initiatives but opposes his sale of Airborne Warning and Control System planes to Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. This was part of his pro-Israel stance, as Egypt and Saudi Arabia were antagonistic to Israel at the time and indeed many liberals opposed the sale. He also proves a strong voice in support of the Panama Canal Treaty, believing it best for the health of relations with South and Central American nations.

By the late 1970s, the mood is souring among Republicans for liberals, and in 1978 Case faces a challenge from Jeff Bell, speechwriter for Ronald Reagan’s 1976 campaign who moved to New Jersey to challenge him. He does not take this challenge seriously and spends most of the primary season in Washington D.C., which proved to be a mistake as Bell pulls an upset. It is an old story in Washington: the seasoned veteran gets cocky and refuses to consider a possible loss seriously. The most recent occasion of this that stuck out in my mind was Senator Richard Lugar’s (R-Ind.) loss of renomination. This was due both to an exaggerated claim of him being a RINO but also to him losing touch with the voters of his state. For Case, it was the latter and a not exaggerated case of the former. Bell proceeds to lose the election to future presidential contender Bill Bradley by 12 points. Case would subsequently serve as the chairman of the Board of Directors of Freedom House. He had been a cigarette smoker throughout his life and in 1981 he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Despite an operation on one of his lungs in August, he succumbed to his illness on March 5, 1982.

Although Case is not the last Republican senator from New Jersey, he is the last to be elected by the voters: Nicholas Brady and Jeffrey Chiesa were placeholders appointed by Republican governors. Some sources classify Case as a moderate Republican, but truth be told after 1960 he could be regarded as staunchly liberal. Both ACA and ADA agree on this. DW-Nominate, which is a wider-based scale, gives Case a -0.108. This is one of the lowest scores a Republican has ever received. Whatever ideological basis he had for being a Republican seemed to have been mostly ancient history by his 1978 renomination effort.


ADA World Congressional Supplement. (1955, September). Americans for Democratic Action.

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Clifford P. Case II: Loyal Son, Scholar, Statesman: Early Political Career. Rutgers University Libraries.

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McFadden, R.D. (1982, March 7). Ex-Senator Clifford P. Case, 77, Is Dead. The New York Times.

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Pearson, R. (1982, March 7). Clifford P. Case, Former Senator From N.J., Dies. The Washington Post.

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Americans for Constitutional Action on the Ford Years

Gerald Ford will probably be one of the forgotten presidents as more time passes by, as he had one of the shortest terms in presidential history and wasn’t even elected to the office! This is too bad because Ford was a good guy and he was more than a placeholder president.

In 1974, the Congressional Republicans get hammered in the midterms, providing a difficult environment for the unelected President Ford who wishes to both heal the nation and hold the line on spending in the face of stagflation. The young liberal Democratic freshmen, known colloquially as the “Watergate Babies”, make their presence felt promptly as the driving forces in the ousters of committee chairman F. Edward Hebert (D-La.), William R. Poage (D-Tex.), and Wright Patman (D-Tex.). The former two are outed for being too conservative and the latter over alleged infirmity. This signals, as I have written in the past, that seniority alone does not make for committee chairmanships, and this pushes the party more towards liberalism, a trend that has only accelerated. The new Congress pushes a lot of liberal legislation, much of which entails spending over what the president wants. Ford stands as a fiscal conservative. He opposes legislation regarding strip mining, spending $6.5 billion on aiding ailing railroads, funding public works for job creation, childcare services, agriculture, and spending for the Labor-HEW Department. Ford also opposes tax reductions without budget caps, a vintage conservative position as of late. He stands for the free market as well in his support for deregulating oil prices, but this would not happen until the Reagan Administration. On foreign policy and military policy conservatism, Ford is for partial lifting of an embargo on Turkey, opposes more Congressional oversight over U.S. international arms sales, and is against postponing the development of B-1 Bombers. On the liberal side supports pay increases for government, foreign aid, energy conservation legislation, and bailing out New York City. His scores are:

1975 (House) – 73%

1976 (House) – 100%

1975 (Senate) – 80%

1976 (Senate) – 89%


100% in 1975:


Rousselot, R-Calif.
Burgener, R-Calif.
Symms, R-Idaho
Crane, R-Ill.
Hutchinson, R-Mich.
Robinson, R-Va.


Goldwater, R-Ariz.

100% in 1976:


Steiger, R-Ariz.
Clawson, R-Calif.
Kelly, R-Fla.
Symms, R-Idaho
Hansen, R-Idaho
Montgomery, D-Miss.
Latta, R-Ohio
Hall, D-Tex.
Poage, D-Tex.


Fannin, R-Ariz.
McClure, R-Idaho
Curtis, R-Neb.
Helms, R-N.C.
Bartlett, R-Okla.
Thurmond, R-S.C.
Scott, R-Va.
Hansen, R-Wyo.

ACA-Index Basis for 94th Congress:

ACA Scoresheets for:

1975 (House)

1975 (Senate)

1976 (House)

1976 (Senate)

A Vote on Fascism?

A major debate that Americans have, and in truth most of it comes down to accusing your political opposition of being bullies, is what constitutes fascism? The United States arguably has in its time adopted policies that are fitting with fascism. They may not be the ones you think either. But one that people can agree constitutes fascism is the formation of a cartel, which under government supervision, businesses decide prices on goods and services. We had this very system for a short time in the United States under the National Industrial Recovery Act. This act established the National Recovery Administration, and membership in this organization by business included numerous codes they had to follow. Included in this was a minimum wage, the right to collectively bargain, and businesses in this organization would together decide upon pricing. These codes also served to limit newcomers to fields in the name of order. While membership in this organization was officially voluntary, support for President Roosevelt and his efforts to fix the broken economy was strong, and feelings towards those who were dissenting could be venomous. Businesses that did not participate risked being picketed and boycotted. Thus, many signed up for this program and would put on their window fronts the NRA’s Blue Eagle logo, which some critics called the “Soviet Duck”. In order to achieve this cartel, however, that anti-monopoly and anti-trust laws had to be suspended. This got a mixed reception, including dissension among people who up to that point were regarded as good progressives…people like Montana’s Burton K. Wheeler. Organized labor was disappointed that collective bargaining had not been implemented. Ironically, Wheeler would face accusations of fascist sympathy given his staunch non-interventionism. I have found a most curious vote regarding this very subject. This is an amendment to the work relief appropriations bill in 1935, with the notoriously independent Senator William E. Borah (R-Idaho) leading the way. He proposes to restore the anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws suspended, effectively dismantling the cartel system. This proposal failed on a 33-43 vote.

The vote went as follows:

YEA: 33

Democrats: Black (AL), Ashurst (AZ), Adams (CO), Maloney (CT), Fletcher (FL), McGill (KS), Tydings (MD), Clark (MO), Wheeler (MT), McCarran (NV), Copeland (NY), Gore (OK), Thomas (OK), Smith (SC), McKellar (TN), King (UT), Byrd (VA), Glass (VA)

Republicans: Hastings (DE), Townsend (DE), Borah (ID), Dickinson (IA), Capper (KS), White (ME), Vandenberg (MI), Schall (MN), Barbour (NJ), Frazier (ND), Nye (ND), Metcalf (RI), Norbeck (SD), Gibson (VT)

Farmer-Laborers: Shipstead (MN)

NAY: 43

Democrats: Bankhead (AL), Hayden (AZ), Lonergan (CT), George (GA), Pope (ID), Dieterich (IL), Minton (IN), Van Nuys (IN), Murphy (IA), Barkley (KY), Logan (KY), Radcliffe (MD), Walsh (MA), Bilbo (MS), Harrison (MS), Truman (MO), Murray (MT), Burke (NE), Pittman (NV), Brown (NH), Hatch (NM), Wagner (NY), Reynolds (NC), Donahey (OH), Gerry (RI), Byrnes (SC), Bulow (SD), Bachman (TN), Connally (TX), Sheppard (TX), Thomas (UT), Schwellenbach (WA), Neely (WV), Duffy (WI), O’Mahoney (WY)

Announced Against: Robinson (AR), Bulkley (OH)

Republicans: Hale (ME), Couzens (MI), Keyes (NH), McNary (OR), Steiwer (OR), Austin (VT)

Progressives: La Follette (WI)

A few notes about this vote:

Republicans Hastings and Townsend were without doubt the two most conservative senators in the 74th Congress. The two opposed practically everything about the New Deal and would vote against Social Security that year. Same goes for Metcalf. Dickinson, White, and Vandenberg were also conservatives with Barbour and Gibson being a bit less so. Capper and Nye would move to the right later on.

Republican conservatives are not wholly off the hook though: Hale, Keyes, and Austin were firm domestic conservatives, with Hale and Austin voting against Social Security. Steiwer was a moderate conservative, McNary pretty much hovering around the edge of moderate to moderate conservative, and Couzens was a moderate.

Democrat Robert Reynolds of North Carolina was widely thought of as a fascist if not a fascist sympathizer.

Democrats Hugo Black of Alabama and Sherman Minton of Indiana would both become Supreme Court justices. Guess who the better one was?

Democrat Robert F. Wagner was one of FDR’s “Brain Trusters”.

Democrat Harry S. Truman, later president, voted against restoring the antimonopoly and antitrust laws.

My point here is not necessarily to point the finger at people who cast “nay” on this vote as fascists, but to point out that embracing a fascist policy may be easier than you think, especially if you see the circumstances around you as warranting emergency measures. Indeed, probably no one scores a 0% on the F-Scale Test, designed to measure fascist beliefs. I, for full disclosure, got a 33% on it.


National Industrial Recovery Act. VCU Social Welfare History Project.

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To Amend H.J. Res. 117, By Restoring the Antimonopoly and Antitrust Laws Which Were Suspended by the National Industrial Recovery Act. Govtrack.

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RINOs From American History #1: Lowell P. Weicker Jr.

I have previously written criticism about the usage of the term RINO (Republican in Name Only) and in short detail written about who I consider real RINOs, which has been so utterly abused that it can mean any Republican who pisses off another at any moment, anyone who isn’t 100% personally loyal to Trump (although that seems to be going out the door), or for a single real or perceived breach of conservatism. However, the term used to have genuine meaning…someone whose party affiliation was Republican but did not vote as a conservative. Today’s conservatives fail to appreciate how many of those types there were in the party 40-50 years ago. I intend to restore this term to its original meaning…people who really do not fit within the Republican Party because of lack of adherence to a moderate to conservative philosophy. That’s right, I don’t think that someone who is a party moderate should be regarded as a RINO, rather people who have major records against the party line and favoring the Democratic Party’s policies. The first I will cover was a bit of bête noire for conservatives during the Reagan years as he stood out the most as a critic of President Reagan and grew more liberal throughout his time in office: Lowell Palmer Weicker Jr. (1931- ) of Connecticut.


A lawyer by profession, Weicker became active in Connecticut Republican politics in the early 1960s, during which time he was a conservative. In 1962 he was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives representing Greenwich, serving from 1963 to 1969. He simultaneously from 1964 to 1969 served as First Selectman of Greenwich. In 1968, Weicker sought an upgrade and defeated incumbent Donald Irwin for Connecticut’s 4th District by four points.

Congressman Weicker

Representative Weicker voted as a moderate in his first term and was in quite the hurry to move up. In 1970, he set his sights on the Senate, and it was good timing too – Senator Thomas J. Dodd had been censured by the Senate for personal use of campaign funds in 1967 and had lost renomination to anti-Vietnam War activist Reverend Joseph Duffey over this scandal. However, Dodd wasn’t giving up and he was running for reelection as an Independent. This left the environment favorable for Weicker as the Democratic vote split between Duffey and Dodd. Although the Republicans didn’t win the Senate as President Nixon had hoped, they did gain seats and Weicker was one of them.

Senator Weicker – From Nixon Supporter to Opponent

Initially, Weicker was a supporter of Nixon and had happily campaigned with him in his first Senate bid. Nixon was to his right, but not dramatically enough for him to be a critic. Indeed, Weicker often supported during this time increased military spending (although far from always), sometimes supported fiscal conservatism, opposed public funding of presidential campaigns, and opposed postcard voter registration (this today would be called “voter suppression”). His more liberal areas included support for busing, opposing restoring a federal death penalty in 1974, support for foreign aid, and he was a supporter of a strong minimum wage. Although initially a supporter of President Nixon’s Vietnam approach, Weicker would before his administration was through become a critic. He would also go from supporting the importation of chrome from Rhodesia, which was under UN sanctions, in 1971 to supporting legislation to impose a ban in 1973. He then became a critic of Nixon overall after being placed on the Watergate Committee.

On August 12, 1973, Weicker publicly stated that all the tapes and documents regarding the Watergate break-in should be released, or the people would have no confidence in Nixon (The New York Times). He would even call for Nixon’s resignation before the release of the Watergate tapes, particularly irking the president. Nixon wasn’t alone in this feeling; as Weicker recounted, “People in Connecticut were very much behind President Nixon, as was the rest of the country. They thought he could do no wrong, and when I was in Connecticut, I would get flipped the bird all the time, whether it was on the streets or in the car, for the role that I was playing. After Watergate was over, then the needle goes all the way the other way, and I’ve got huge favorability ratings” (Bendici). Later in life, he would give a positive appraisal of Nixon. Weicker held that “Richard Nixon, aside from his shadier side, was actually a very good president. Why he had to go off on this other tangent is absolutely beyond me. He did, and he got caught” (Keating).

Moving to the Left

After the Nixon Administration, he grows friendlier to federal measures on issues like housing and social spending generally. Consistent with his pro-union politics, he supports the common site picketing bill, permitting the picketing of an entire construction site even if the union didn’t have complaints with all contractors working on the site. Weicker also supports the 1976 Clark Amendment for Angola, prohibiting aid to entities involved in military or paramilitary operations. Congress would repeal this amendment in 1985 (a move Weicker opposed) with the support of the Reagan Administration.

In 1976, Weicker wins reelection by 16 points and all counties. The last Republican to have won all counties in running for the Senate was Governor Raymond Baldwin in 1946, and no Republican would repeat Weicker’s feat. Weicker continued his independence during the Carter Administration and twice during the 1970s threatened to leave the party. He had a bit of an unfortunate tendency to be in the right and then blow it by being insulting. In one instance, he called out a baseless attack from Senator John Heinz (R-Penn.) who in response to Weicker proposing to stop aid to a Pennsylvania rail mill and another senator pointing out cutting this aid would harm a Colorado firm, he pondered aloud if the Colorado firm was a subsidiary of a Connecticut company. However, Weicker did so by saying he was “an idiot or devious”, a breach of Senate decorum (Wald). In another instance, he was the first senator to point out a shift in the Carter Administration foreign policy towards Egypt. However, Weicker proceeded to accuse President Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski of scrapping a “balance of power” approach for a “world order” approach, and that American Jews were an obstacle to this, darkly warning that “We know from history that time and again, when national leaders ran into difficulties, they found it convenient to blame their problems on the Jews. And we know what were the results” (Wald). The common interpretation of this was that he was calling Brzezinski a Nazi. In 1979, Weicker announced his candidacy for president, but withdrew before the primaries as he wasn’t getting the national traction he needed.

The Rise of Reagan

Although many Republicans are jubilant over the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Weicker is not. His politics have been growing more liberal in an increasingly conservative party. He fights many of the Republican Party’s social as well as economic positions during this time, although he does join the rest of the party in voting for the 1981 tax cuts. Weicker also in 1982 delivers a notable speech before the AFL-CIO convention in which former Vice President Walter Mondale and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) are present, denouncing “Reaganomics”, holding that the combination of tax and budget cuts on social welfare programs produced a “great human tragedy” (Richards). He then delivered a rather peculiar pitch for the attendees, to defeat Democrats who supported Reagan’s policies and to elect Republicans who were more critical, like himself. Weicker simply saw himself as upholding tradition within the GOP, stating, “I happen to believe that my party is the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower, not the party of Thurmond and Helms” (Richards). Conservatives in the Republican Party were quite unhappy with him and chose as their preferred candidate Prescott Bush Jr., Vice President Bush’s brother. Weicker fairly easily holds off this challenge and wins reelection in the 1982 midterms by four points over Congressman Toby Moffett. Had Bush Jr. won the nomination, the odds are he would have, like Jeffrey Bell in New Jersey in 1978, gone on to lose the election.

Weicker gets more and more liberal as the Reagan Administration progresses, in 1987 and 1988 respectively Americans for Democratic Action rates him 85% and 90%. The American Conservative Union rated him a 26% on his lifetime score, with 1987 and 1988 being 4%. He is also a strong critic of the Reagan Administration’s military spending, especially regarding the Strategic Defense Initiative (popularly called “Star Wars” by its critics). At this point, conservatives are seeing little difference between him and liberal Democrats. This is especially so after he made efforts to prevent the nomination of conservatives in the state Republican Party in 1986, which was blamed for poor performance in this election. As William F. Buckley Jr., whose National Review endorsed Joe Lieberman over Weicker in 1988, wrote in 2006 on him, “The all-time generator of negative conservative satisfactions was Lowell Weicker. He was first senator from Connecticut, then governor. He was the King of Schadenfreude: dispenser of the nectar of health & satisfaction when we conservatives had a chance to vote against him” (Buckley). However, conservatives were not his only problem. Andrew J. Bates (1988) of The Harvard Crimson, in an article in which he is otherwise supportive of him, described his approach as a “blustery, abrasive, and confrontational style” which put off colleagues on both sides of the aisle and a lack of interest in campaigning and local matters. Conservative voter defection on Election Day compromises Weicker’s Republican base support enough for him to lose reelection by less than a point. Although he is done in the Senate, he is not so with elected office.

Weicker and A Connecticut Party

Weicker’s career on the state level was reborn with a budget crisis, and he campaigned on his own created party, “A Connecticut Party”, proposing to resolve this crisis without imposing an income tax. The state of Connecticut’s voters had long resisted an income tax, and when one was imposed in 1971 by the state legislature, it was revoked in six weeks due to immense public backlash. He won a three-way race, with many Democrats choosing to vote for his third-party ticket over that of their own nominee, Congressman Bruce Morrison. However, upon being elected, Weicker reverses course and supports an income tax to resolve the budget crisis. Three bills that were sent to him without an income tax he vetoed, and his acts even brought partial government shutdown. An income tax is ultimately adopted along with certain spending cuts and reductions in the corporate and gas taxes. Although initially unpopular, after the state’s budget crisis was resolved he regains popularity but chooses not to run for reelection in 1994 to spend time with family. The state’s income tax has been controversial since its adoption, but it has never been repealed despite multiple governors running on that platform as the state has become overly reliant on it as a source of revenue (Fitch).

Although Weicker considers both a presidential run on the Reform Party ticket in 1996 as well as a Senate run in 2006, he ultimately opts to stay in retirement. He has since retirement been a critic of the Republican Party and has endorsed Democratic candidates for president. As of writing, he is the last surviving senator of the Watergate Committee and the last Republican to have represented Connecticut in the Senate.


Bates, A.J. (1988, November 14). The Elephant Bucks A Maverick. The Harvard Crimson.

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Bendici, R. (2012, July 31). Final Say: Lowell Weicker. Connecticut Magazine.


Buckley, W.F. (2006, September 26). Vote for Lieberman? National Review.

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Fitch, M.E. (2019, December 3). Temporary income tax “myth” has roots in Weicker’s pitch to lawmakers. Yankee Institute.

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Keating, C. (2019, December 1). Lowell Weicker built his reputation challenging Richard Nixon during Watergate; he says

Republicans in Congress are afraid to do the same with Trump. Hartford Courant.

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Release of Tapes. (1973, August 13). The New York Times.

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Richards, C.F. (1982, April 7). Weicker unleashes attack on Reagan. UPI.


Wald, M.L. (1979, September 23). Weicker Still Jousting With All Comers. The New York Times.

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About Al Gore…Sr.

When you hear the name “Al Gore”, you think of the environmentally motivated vice president who lost one of the most controversial elections of American history. However, like so many people in politics, he wasn’t the only politician in the family. The first Gore was Albert Gore Sr. (1907-1998).

Gore’s rise began locally when he ran for superintendent of the Smith County School Board. Although the incumbent won, Gore had run a strong campaign and won the respect of the incumbent. After the incumbent was diagnosed with a terminal illness, he requested that Gore succeed him, and he did (Hill). His wife, Pauline, played a critical role in his campaigns and was a key advisor to him on issues including civil rights and the Vietnam War.

Gore in the House

Gore was first elected in 1938, a backlash election to President Roosevelt, and he proved in his first two terms to be highly independent, often voting against liberals on domestic issues. For instance, he voted to cut WPA funding, investigate the National Labor Relations Board, and against increasing bond powers of the US Housing Authority in 1939. However, he was loyal to the party on foreign policy and he was strongly supportive of the TVA (and by extension, public power development) and New Deal agricultural legislation. His record on domestic issues would shift more to the party liberals during the 78th Congress. Gore would, especially later in his career, be widely regarded as a liberal, albeit maintaining his independence to a degree. He briefly served in the military from December 1944 to March 1945.

During the Republican 80th Congress, he voted against most of their domestic agenda, making exceptions for the Taft-Hartley Act and the Nixon-Mundt communist registration bill. Gore would be largely loyal to the Truman Administration in his support of public housing, strong minimum wage legislation, foreign policy, and controls on prices and rents, but still maintained some independence in his leading the charge against the Brannan Plan. Named after President Truman’s Secretary of Agriculture, Charles F. Brannan, the Brannan Plan would have, for a two-year trial run, scrapped the intricate system of price supports for farmers, replacing it with guaranteed minimum income. With Gore at the helm, the Brannan Plan was sunk in the 81st Congress with a substitute that made minor changes to the existing system, getting seventy-nine Democrats and all but four Republicans on his side.

1952: A Year of Change

Senator Kenneth McKellar was an institution in the state of Tennessee. He had first been elected to the House in 1910 and was then elected to the Senate in 1916. Although a progressive for his time, he had grown less so later in his career. Although a key backer of the Tennessee Valley Authority, he also feuded with its chief, David Lilienthal. McKellar would come to oppose his nomination to chair the Atomic Energy Commission in 1947. He was still thought of as a senatorial powerhouse in 1952, but he was 83 years old and visibly in decline. Gore, by contrast, was 44 years old and traveled around the state to campaign. McKellar’s campaign slogan was “Thinking Feller? Vote McKellar!” to which the Gore campaign, on advice of his wife Pauline, ably responded with, “Think Some More – Vote For Gore!” (Our Campaigns) 1952 was a year of change for Tennessee, and the state’s Democrats pulled for Gore by 15 points. It was also in this year that the Crump political machine, based in Memphis, became restricted to that city. At the time, although Dwight Eisenhower won the state, on the state level Republicanism remained limited to East Tennessee and Gore trounced his Republican opponent by over 53 points.

Gore and the Interstate Highway System

Although I previously wrote that President Eisenhower’s Secretary of Commerce, Sinclair Weeks, deserves a huge amount of credit for the planning and implementation of the Interstate Highway System, Gore co-authored and sponsored the legislation with Representative George Fallon (D-Md.) and likewise deserves a lot of credit for America’s greatest public works project. Such sponsorship certainly helped his prospects for the vice presidential nomination that year, but his colleague, Estes Kefauver, got the nod instead.

Gore on Civil Rights

Albert Gore Sr. was, for his time and place, quite pro-civil rights. Although he voted against the Gavagan-Fish Anti-Lynching Bill in 1940 as did all other Tennessee Democrats, Gore, with fellow Representative Estes Kefauver, proved consistent in voting to ban the poll tax. They were in truth among the first Tennessee Democrats to vote for civil rights legislation.
As a senator, Gore voted for the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1968 (despite his opposition to the fair housing portion) as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 24th Amendment. His votes regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are rather odd. Although he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he wasn’t opposed to it in its entirety. Gore supported the public accommodations title of the law, but opposed the employment discrimination title as well as the title depriving funds for segregated schools. It was the latter part that motivated his vote against, and he had motioned to recommit the bill right before the final vote to only have funds cut off if a school district defied court orders to desegregate (Metcalf). Gore was also one of three Southern Democrats in the Senate to not sign the Southern Manifesto. The others were Lyndon B. Johnson (who probably wasn’t asked to sign as party leader, Southerners recognized he had more national ambitions) and Estes Kefauver.

Gore and the 1960s

Gore was a supporter of both the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. He strongly supported the creation of Medicare, sponsoring the measure with Senators Clinton Anderson (D-N.M.) and Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) in 1964. He was likewise a supporter of LBJ’s flagship legislation for the War on Poverty, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. On foreign aid, Gore was becoming a bit more of a skeptic, siding with Senators Wayne Morse (D-Ore.) and Bill Proxmire (D-Wis.) on certain proposals to cut foreign aid. He also opposed two Constitutional amendments pushed by Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) to counter Warren Court decisions on legislative apportionment and school prayer. Gore would also join J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.) in critiquing the Vietnam War.

Increasing Election Difficulties

Tennessee was slowly but surely becoming more and more Republican. The state’s two votes for Eisenhower proved more than flukes given the popularity of the general…its electorate also voted for Nixon in 1960. In 1962, Tennessee’s 3rd district, based in Chattanooga, elected its first Republican representative since 1920 in Bill Brock. Unlike the last Republican to represent the district, he would win reelection. In 1964, Gore faced a strong challenge from future Congressman Dan Kuykendall. Although Senator Barry Goldwater got thrashed in the election and it brought down some Republican candidates, Kuykendall did get 46% of the vote, running ahead of him. Absent Goldwater’s frankness on his belief that the Tennessee Valley Authority should be sold, Kuykendall may have won. By contrast, in 1958, also a bad year for the GOP, Gore had won reelection against sacrificial lamb Hobart Atkins by 60 points.

Gore and Occidental Petroleum

Albert Gore Sr. maintained a strong connection with the CEO of Occidental Petroleum, Armand Hammer. Hammer, who had major connections with the USSR that have been alleged to have gone as far as spying for them, was himself quite a character who deserves an entry of his own and I plan on giving him one. Gore first met Hammer in the 1940s and he became a major bankroller for not only his political campaigns, but also those of his son up until his death in 1990. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had long suspected Hammer of being a Soviet agent, but left him alone so he could continue monitoring him until accusing him of being one in 1962, and Gore leapt to his defense on the Senate floor (Karon).

This connection to Occidental Petroleum, which would also get most of the naval oil reserves on Elk Hills during the Clinton Administration, would be an inconvenient subject of discussion in 2000 given Gore Jr.’s environmental advocacy and charges that Bush was a candidate of oil. After his Senate career, Gore Sr. would be on the board of directors of Occidental and would head up one of its subsidiary companies.

Despite this connection, however, Gore himself cast a number of votes that were unfavorable to oil interests. He multiple times voted to reduce the 27.5% oil depletion allowance and voted against removing the power of the Federal Power Commission to regulate oil prices in 1956.

Reelection in the Age of Nixon

In 1970, Gore would be less fortunate in his opposition and in the direction of the state. In 1966, Republican Howard Baker Jr. had won Tennessee’s other Senate seat and in 1968, Nixon won the state with national Democrat Hubert Humphrey coming in third. Goldwater, now back in the Senate, was not running for president and Nixon held the office. Nixon was determined to fight out this midterm, even going as far as to hope for a Senate majority. Although he was hands off in the reelections of many Southern Democrats, as they agreed with him on many major issues, Gore was different. He was one of the more liberal ones and had a record of opposition to Nixon’s Vietnam War policies. Gore had also voted against his Southern Supreme Court nominees, Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell. The Republicans scored a top recruit in three-term Congressman Bill Brock of Chattanooga, who capitalized on these issues as well as his vote against Dirksen’s school prayer amendment and lambasted him for what he called a “radical-liberal” record (the “radical” part was undoubtedly an exaggeration) and accused him of representing liberal coastal elites rather than the people of Tennessee, and Gore would assert that Brock’s conservative record in Congress was against the interests of Tennesseans. On Election Day, he would beat Gore by about four points.

Although his political career was now over, Gore lived a long life, long enough to see some satisfying victories. For one, Brock would be defeated in 1976 by a Democrat close to his philosophy in Jim Sasser, who would serve three terms. But better yet for him was seeing his son’s rise from representative of his old district to the Senate and finally, to the White House as Bill Clinton’s VP. Tennessee would move largely into the Republican column by his final years but would twice vote for Clinton/Gore.


Al Gore’s Father Dead at 90. (1998, December 5). CBS News.

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Hill, R. Tennessee’s Old Gray Fox: Albert Gore. The Knoxville Focus.

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Karon, T. (2000, September 25). Gore’s Big Oil Connection: An ‘Occident’ of Birth? TIME.

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McKellar, Kenneth D. Our Campaigns.

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Metcalf, J. (1964, June 20). The Civil Rights Act is approved after an 83-day filibuster. New York Daily News.

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Weil, M. (1998, December 6). Vice President Al Gore’s Father Dies. The Washington Post.

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Weingroff, R.F. (1996, Summer). Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956: Creating the Interstate System (Sidebars), No. 60, Vol. 1. Federal Highway Administration.

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The 1923 Speaker Battle

Frederick H. Gillett, R-Mass.

After a fifteen-vote struggle as well as a prior rejection in 2015 in favor of Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy of California is finally Speaker of the House. The sort of fight we saw over the last few days has, as a number of publications have already written on, a century old precedent. The party in question was the same, but circumstances politically were a bit different. Although the party was conservative, the rebels were not from the right, rather from the left. The current fight was establishment vs. anti-establishment Republicans, with oscillations among the pro and anti-McCarthy factions about whether former President Donald Trump’s support of McCarthy was relevant. The most obvious presence among the rebels were Wisconsin Republicans. The state and its Republicans were in a state of rebellion against the national party and in 1924 Senator Robert La Follette (R-Wis.) would win the state’s electoral votes.

The first two years of the Harding Administration had proven awful from a progressive perspective. Lower income taxes, higher tariffs, pro-business policy, and limited government were the rule. Other issues included coal strikes, the economy still recovering from a mini-depression, and discontent over Prohibition enforcement. The Speaker of the House at the time was Frederick Gillett of Massachusetts. Gillett was a well-respected figure and a principled conservative. By DW-Nominate scoring, he gets a 0.662, making him the fourth most conservative representative in the 67th Congress. Gillett was also considered a passive figure who would go with what his fellow conservatives wanted. Much of the behind-the-scenes power was from former Minority Leader James R. Mann of Illinois. In 1922, the Republicans took a beating in the midterms, losing 77 seats in the House, much of the losses coming from urban areas. However, the Democrats had suffered worse in the 1918 and 1920 elections combined, leaving the GOP with a majority of 18 seats rather than 171. This gave frustrated progressives within the Republican Party an opportunity to fight for reform.

Unlike the rebels of 2023, who varied in the candidates they wanted between ballots with no solid consistent agreement about who should be speaker instead of McCarthy, the rebels in 1923 consistently championed Henry A. Cooper of Wisconsin for speaker. Cooper had, like Gillett, first been elected to Congress in 1892 and was a prominent member of the GOP’s progressive wing. He had only lost an election once, in 1918, when he lost renomination to conservative Clifford Randall due to his vote against World War I. A smaller contingent embraced another representative, Martin B. Madden of Illinois, who was less conservative (although not by that much) than Gillett and represented a majority black area in Chicago.

The GOP rebels for Cooper were:

Henry A. Cooper (R-Wis.), the leading choice of the rebels.

Frank Clague, Charles Davis, Oscar Keller, and Harold Knutson of Minnesota. Knutson was the least progressive among them and would become much more conservative later in his career.

Fiorello LaGuardia of New York. LaGuardia would later become arguably New York City’s greatest mayor.

James Sinclair of North Dakota.

Edward Voigt, John Nelson, John Schafer, Florian Lampert, Joseph Beck, Edward Browne, George Schneider, James Frear, and Hubert Peavey, all of Wisconsin. The monolithic rebellion from the Wisconsin delegation illustrated just how much Senator La Follette’s brand of politics had come to dominate the state, with the only detractor remaining in 1923 being Senator Irvine Lenroot, who was a moderate and a former ally. Cooper himself voted present as did the state’s Socialist, Victor Berger.

Farmer-Laborers Ole Kvale and Knud Wefald of Minnesota. The Farmer-Labor Party was a progressive offshoot of the Republican Party which would later merge with the Democrats. Thus, the state’s party being officially known as the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party.

Voting for Madden:

Martin B. Madden, R-Ill., minority choice of rebels.

Magne Michaelson, Frank Reid, and Edward King of Illinois. – All three were to the left of the median of House Republicans, were strongly pro-organized labor, and were certainly the most progressive Republicans representing the state at the time.

Roy Woodruff and William F. James of Michigan. – Although originally a Progressive of the Theodore Roosevelt mold, Woodruff would become extremely conservative during the Roosevelt Administration.

Ultimately, the rebels held out for three days in which eight votes were cast with no speaker decided. Finally, Majority Leader Nick Longworth (R-Ohio) reached an agreement with the rebels to loosen the rules and limit the speaker’s power, thus more potential for progressive legislation to reach the floor. Thus, on the ninth ballot, most of the rebels voted for Gillett. The exceptions were the third-party members Kvale, Wefald, and Berger. The rebels had won concessions…for now. In 1924, President Coolidge ran for a full term, and numerous progressive Republicans threw their support behind Senator Robert La Follette (R-Wis.). After Coolidge’s resounding victory, the progressives, particularly the ones who had sided with La Follette, were booted off committees in retaliation by the new Speaker, the man who had negotiated a truce with the progressives. Gillett had been elected to the Senate, defeating popular Democratic incumbent David I. Walsh, largely thanks to the coattails of the even more popular Coolidge. He served a single term.


Gillett, Frederick Huntington. Voteview.

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Al D’Amato: The Man Schumer Had to Beat

In my last post, I covered Mitch McConnell’s predecessor, Dee Huddleston. Today I will turn it around and cover Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s predecessor, Alfonse D’Amato (1937- ). New York has in truth been a Democratic state for many years before Schumer was elected to the Senate, so it must be understood how D’Amato could get elected.

New York Politics in the mid-late 20th century: the four-party cocktail

The dynamics of New York politics for a time were strange, with there being four relevant parties: Republican, Democrat, Liberal, and Conservative. The Liberal Party had emerged from a 1944 exodus of anti-communist liberals from the American Labor Party, at the time its foremost figure being the famously pro-Soviet Congressman Vito Marcantonio. Although the Liberal Party often endorsed Democrats, they also backed liberal Republicans. This created some interesting political calculations and encouraged Rockefeller Republicanism in the state. Although they didn’t endorse Rockefeller himself, they consistently endorsed Senator Jacob Javits in his campaigns and twice backed John Lindsay for New York City’s mayor, their endorsement being crucial to his viability after he lost the Republican nomination in 1969. The Conservative Party, responding to the incentives of Republicans to move liberal, formed as another force in 1962 to represent conservatives when they were dissatisfied with Republican Party nominations. In 1965, they notably ran National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. for New York City’s mayor, a quixotic bid that served to give conservatives an option. The dynamics between the four parties most notably came to a head after the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968. Governor Rockefeller appointed Congressman Charles Goodell of upstate New York, who although previously a mostly fiscally conservative Republican who was liberal on foreign aid and civil rights, he shifted to staunch liberalism as a senator in an effort to win the Liberal Party nomination along with the Republican nomination. Although that part of his plan worked, his bid to win a full term was complicated by the entry of Buckley’s brother, James (who will turn 100 if he lives to March 9th!) as the Conservative Party candidate. He would win the election as the liberal vote was split between Goodell and Democratic Congressman Richard Ottinger, giving New York their most conservative senator since James W. Wadsworth Jr., who had lost reelection in 1926 to liberal titan Robert Wagner. This would be the single greatest achievement of the Conservative Party of New York. Such dynamics would emerge again regarding Senator Javits ten years later.

Javits had been one of the most liberal Republicans in national politics since the 1940s, being regarded by conservatives as one of if not the most “me too” Republicans, and commanded a loyal following, particularly among New York City’s Jews, but his reelection prospects were getting increasingly complicated by 1980. His equally liberal Republican colleague from New Jersey, Clifford Case, who also had a long career in the Senate had lost renomination in 1978 to conservative activist Jeffrey Bell, who would proceed to lose the election. Javits was also going to be turning 76 that year and worse yet, his revelation in February 1980 that he had been diagnosed with ALS the previous year. Although ALS usually kills its victims between two to five years of diagnosis, his was developing at an abnormally slow rate, so he thought he could survive one more term. It also didn’t help that in 1974, James Buckley had beat him to the punch in calling for Nixon’s resignation over Watergate. Republican conservatives turned to Al D’Amato, the supervisor of the Town of Hempstead and vice chairman of the Nassau County Board of Supervisors. Like Clifford Case had in 1978, he lost renomination to a more conservative challenger. However, Javits had still won the Liberal Party nomination, so he proceeded as their Senate candidate. The Conservative Party also nominated D’Amato, thus the right had a united front in the election. The Democrats nominated liberal Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, resulting, just like in 1970, a split among liberals. Unlike New Jersey’s Bell, however, D’Amato won by 1.4% on account of the race being three-way, with Javits getting 11% of the vote on the Liberal Party ticket. This was the same dynamic that had allowed James Buckley to win in 1970. Also elected to Congress that year from Brooklyn and Queens was Chuck Schumer. Javits would die of complications of ALS in 1986, falling just short of what would have been a full term, and the Liberal Party would decline in influence afterwards.

Senator D’Amato

Although the majority of New Yorkers hadn’t voted for D’Amato, he sought to make himself more marketable in the state. He moved towards the center and became known foremost for securing funds for and addressing constituent service in New York State, leading his critics to call him “Senator Pothole”. However, he and his supporters embraced this name, and indeed, New Yorkers proved receptive. D’Amato would also go to bat for the state through filibusters. In 1986, he engaged in a 23 1/2 hour solo filibuster on the military appropriations bill for it stopping funding of the building of a jet trainer plane from a Farmingdale, N.Y. company in which he read from the Washington D.C. phonebook (RealClearPolitics). This was the second longest filibuster in Senate history. That year, the Democrats nominated a staunch liberal in Mark Green, the chief speechwriter for Senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.), and D’Amato prevailed by over 15 points, this time with a majority. He was socially liberal on issues surrounding civil rights and gay rights, supporting affirmative action and anti-discrimination laws for homosexuals, and opposing “don’t ask, don’t tell”. D’Amato, however, was conservative on the subject of “law and order”, favoring the death penalty and weakening the exclusionary rule. He also, more controversially for the Democratic and pro-choice New York, had a pro-life record. D’Amato was strongly in favor of defense spending while being more liberal on issues regarding organized labor as well as domestic spending. He would also vote for the Family and Medical Leave Act. In 1992, with reelection looming and drawing a tougher opponent in New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, he conducted the ninth longest solo filibuster, this time regarding the dropping of aid for a typewriter company in Cortland, N.Y. that motivated the firm to move operations to Mexico for 15 hours and 14 minutes, in which he sang “South of the Border” (Down Mexico Way). To this day, he is the only person to appear twice among the top ten solo filibusters of Senate history. D’Amato won reelection by 1.2%. Always cognizant of jobs in New York state, he voted against NAFTA.

Throughout his time in the Senate, D’Amato was the de facto boss of the New York Republican Party, and provided critical support for the campaigns of both George Pataki to the governorship
and Rudy Giuliani for Mayor of New York City in 1994. That year, he sang his version of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in response to the Democratic crime bill over what he regarded as pork, singing,

“President Clinton had a bill, ee-ay-ee-ay-oh.
“And in that bill was lots of pork, ee-ay-ee-ay-oh.
“New pork here, old pork there,
“Here a pork, there a pork,
“Everywhere pork, pork.
“The president’s bill cost much too much,
“And it must be chopped.
“With a chop, chop here,
“And a chop, chop there
“Chop that pork off everywhere.
“Then we’ll have a bill that’s fair,
“Ee-ay-ee-ay-oh” (Powers).

He would also be accused by critics of running a corrupt political machine, and these claims were bolstered by a Senate Ethics Committee rebuke in 1991 for permitting his brother to use Senate stationery to write a letter to one of his clients as well as a perception that large campaign contributions could result in extraordinary legislative action from him (Harden). In 1995, D’Amato wrote Power, Pasta, and Politics: The World According to Senator Al D’Amato, in which he offered his insights on the politics of his time.

During the Clinton years, D’Amato maintained a moderate conservative record and was acidic in his criticism of the Clintons during hearings regarding the Whitewater controversy. He also attracted particularly strong criticism for his vote against the Brady Bill, as gun control measures poll well in New York. His record as well as his declining share of the vote in a state that had voted for not just Clinton in 1992 and 1996 but also Dukakis in 1988 spelled trouble for his next reelection in 1998.
Although initially former Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, who had been the first woman to nominated for vice president on a major party ticket in 1984, was the top nominee for the Senate race, Congressman Chuck Schumer campaigned energetically throughout the summer of 1998 and massively outspent Ferraro. Ferraro’s campaign stalled while he was gaining in Democratic polls and by the September 15th primary, he won with 50.8% of the vote.

D’Amato knew he was at risk, and launched negative attack after negative attack on Schumer, claiming he had a poor attendance record and derided him as a New York City liberal who didn’t care for upstate New York, with Schumer responding constantly and calling D’Amato a liar. He blundered when while making a speech encouraging Jewish leaders to support him, he called Schumer a “putzhead” (this is the Yiddish equivalent of calling someone a “dickhead”) and referred to the obese Congressman Jerry Nadler as “Congressman Waddler” and performed a physical imitation of him. This wasn’t D’Amato’s first time getting negative attention for impressions; during the O.J. Simpson trial he had used a Japanese accent to mock Judge Lance Ito, for which he apologized (USA Today).

Schumer focused his attacks on D’Amato implying that he only focused on local issues when his reelection was coming up and condemned his vote on the Brady Bill, which he had sponsored in the House. On Election Day, Schumer prevailed by 10 points. His lifetime ACU score was a 67% and his DW-Nominate score was 0.182.

In researching D’Amato, I found myself surprised that on a surprising number of meat and potatoes cultural issues he was conservative. From a New York senator, I honestly didn’t expect him to be staunchly pro-life and pro-gun. That being said, a point I have made in the process of my writings is that constituent service can get a politician a long way despite policy disagreements. It worked for Vito Marcantonio of Harlem, New York, the legendary skinflint H.R. Gross of Waterloo, Iowa, and Al D’Amato for three terms. This leads me to ponder, could D’Amato have won in 1998 had he not called Schumer a “putzhead” and beat Strom Thurmond’s filibuster record?


Chuck Schumer for Senate – 1998 tv ad. YouTube.

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D’Amato accused of insulting Schumer. USA Today.

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Harden, B. (1998, November 4). New York’s Veteran ‘Senator Pothole’ Gets Run Over by Schumer. The Washington Post.

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Longest Filibusters in American History – Alfonse D’Amato. RealClearPolitics.

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Powers, R. (1994, August 25). New York’s Singing Senator Voices Objections to Crime Bill With PM-Crime Bill Bit. Associated Press.

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Schumer topples D’Amato in New York Senate race. (1998, November 3). CNN.

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