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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One thought on “RINOs From American History #2: Clifford P. Case

  1. Jeff Bell Was Something Of A Pioneer IN Supply Side Economics… Even IN Defeat! Strange But True. Perhaps You Can Include A Follow Up Piece. Enjoyed This Story. Thanks From Dave IN TEXAS.

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