The Radical Singing Cowboy: Senator Glen H. Taylor

What if I told you the most radical left senator in American history came from the state of Idaho? By one measurement, this is true.

In 1944, Democratic Senator D. Worth Clark of Idaho was having political problems. He was not satisfactory to many of the state’s Democrats as he had been a strong opponent of FDR’s foreign policy before World War II and he was increasingly unreliable in supporting him on domestic issues. That year, a challenger stepped forth against him: Glen H. Taylor (1904-1984).

Taylor was, among other things, a country singer who had twice before tried for the Senate, but both times lost to incumbent Republican John W. Thomas. One thing that harmed him on the campaign trail was his premature baldness, which made him appear significantly older than he was. What convinced him that he needed to wear a toupee was when a man mistook him for his wife’s father. Taylor was also often characterized as a socialist or communist by his detractors. In his 1944 run, Taylor not only wore the toupee but opted to talk about issues that related to the common voter. He beat Clark despite him having a political machine to help him and he narrowly won the Senate election itself. Taylor became known at the beginning of his term for singing on the steps of the Capitol about his difficulties finding lodging giving the housing shortage, “Oh give me a home, near the Capitol dome, with a yard where little children can play / Just one room or two, any old thing will do / Oh we can’t find a pla-a-a-ce to stay!” (Langeveld) This actually worked, and Taylor was contacted with multiple offers.

As he assumed his Senate duties, he quickly gained a reputation as both a disruptor and an eccentric. In 1946, Taylor joined Progressive Citizens of America, an organization which included prominent progressives, socialists, and communists. In 1946, he got into an altercation with Idaho Republican chair Ray McKaig, in which he broke his jaw. McKaig claimed that Taylor had blindsided him and proceeded to kick him in the face when he was down. Taylor denied that he kicked him and claimed that McKaig had insulted him and he had thrown a punch but pulled back before he could harm him but then McKaig bloodied his nose, and then he threw the jaw-breaking punch. The following year, he was prominent in the push to exclude Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi from the Senate for inciting voter intimidation of blacks. He also was arrested in 1948 in Birmingham, Alabama for using the “colored” entrance to a hall in defiance of segregation laws. Taylor was sentenced to pay a $50 fine and had a 180-day suspended jail sentence.

On domestic issues, he had a flawless left-wing record, defending strong price controls and supporting continuing and expanding New Deal measures. Taylor was opposed to anti-communist politicking and in 1950 voted against the McCarran Internal Security Act. Taylor declined to criticize the USSR strongly and rationalized that ninety senators already did so. He became a strong critic, however, of President Truman’s anti-communist foreign policies, voting against the Greek-Turkish Aid Act and the Marshall Plan. Taylor toured the country, part of the way riding his horses Nugget and Chuck, speaking out against Truman’s foreign policies as he thought them too antagonistic to the USSR. This combined with his hard-left stances on domestic policy put him in alliance with the Progressive Party and in 1948 he was nominated for vice president on the ticket. Taylor’s presence in the Senate, it could be argued, was part of the rationale for the creation of Americans for Democratic Action, a lobbying organization which both fought for New Deal liberalism and opposed communism.

In 1950, Clark capitalized on Taylor’s reputation as a radical against him and defeated him for renomination. However, Clark himself would lose the election badly to Republican Herman Welker, who would become one of Joseph McCarthy’s most loyal allies. Taylor was subsequently head of the Coryell Construction Company but in 1952 he was forced to resign as apparently the government didn’t want to make contracts with the company given his political past. Taylor, however, didn’t give up easily on politics and tried twice to regain his seat in the Senate. In 1954, he was trounced by Republican incumbent Henry Dworshak and in 1956 he lost the Democratic nomination to 32-year old Frank Church, who went on to unseat Welker, whose reputation had sunk with McCarthy’s. Taylor quit politics after this and moved to Millbrae, California, where he lived the rest of his life and founded the Taylor Topper Company, the purpose of which was to provide quality toupees. The business still exists today, now known as Taylormade. He died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1984.

Taylor’s MC-Index score is a 5% on account of his votes against the Greek-Turkish Act and the Marshall Plan while his DW-Nominate score is a ludicrously low -0.999, making him the most left-wing senator in American history by that standard.


Collier, P. (April 1977). Remembering Glen Taylor: The Singing Cowboy Who Went to the Senate and Came Home to Sell Toupees… Mother Jones. 42-53.

Retrieved from

Flint, P.B. (1984, May 5). Glen H. Taylor of Idaho Dies; Wallace Running Mate in ’48. The New York Times.

Retrieved from

Langeveld, D. (2016, December 29). Glen H. Taylor: Civil Rights Cowboy. The Downfall Dictionary.  

Retrieved from

Simkin, J. (1997). Glen H. Taylor. Spartacus Educational.

Retrieved from

The Hartford Convention…Or the Death of America’s First Party

George Washington was the nation’s first and only president without a party affiliation. Although he officially eschewed parties and warned of the dangers of them, on policy he frequently sided with the Federalist Party, which had been formed in 1789. Among the members of the Federalist Party were Vice President John Adams and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. In 1796, Adams ran for president with Washington’s support and won decisively. However, the Alien and Sedition Acts as well as the administration’s pro-British policies proved unpopular and he was both the first president to lose reelection and the last Federalist president.

Thomas Jefferson proved a popular president for most of his time in office despite Federalist Party propaganda claiming he was a radical. After all, Jefferson had engaged in the most dramatic purchase of land in American history, the Louisiana Purchase. The voters happily elected James Madison, or the Father of the Constitution, to the presidency in 1808 with 64.7% of the vote, with Federalist Charles Pinckney only winning New England states and Delaware. The Federalist Party seemed to continue to decline and its members made the fateful decision to oppose the War of 1812. This time, the Federalist Party did better on the popular vote, albeit not through the Federalist candidate, but rather DeWitt Clinton, a Democratic-Republican who had courted the support of Federalists and came within three points of defeating Madison. Although the Federalists were at a distinct disadvantage, it was still possible for them to have a chance and some relevance, that is until December 1814.

On December 15, 1814, twenty-six Federalists met in Hartford, Connecticut to discuss their concerns with the current state of the United States. It was presided over by George Cabot, who had been a senator from Massachusetts. At the start of the convention it wasn’t necessarily clear that the War of 1812 was coming to an end and what’s more, the New England Federalists didn’t want to be taxed for a war they didn’t support to pay off war debt. Thus far, only one president had not been from Virginia (John Adams) and this New England centered party thought their region’s interests were not being best served. Worse yet, the system at this time seemed to benefit the South and Jeffersonian Republicans as the 12th Amendment had prevented the possibility of the candidate with the most votes being elected president while the one with the second was vice president and made it less likely Congress would decide who was president. Gouverneur Morris, the author of the final draft of the Constitution, was now calling for the creation of a New England Confederacy to avoid taxes from war debt. Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts, who had served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War under Washington, called for secession in order to negotiate New England’s reentry into the union under more favorable terms. However, cooler heads prevailed and the convention rejected secession. By the end of the convention on January 5, 1815, they had written seven constitutional amendments designed to further states’ rights. Despite the secrecy of the meeting, which itself was regarded as suspicious, the press got wind that Morris, Pickering, and other Federalists had voiced support for secession. This brought terrible press on the Federalists and led many people who might otherwise vote for them to move to the Democratic-Republicans out of a sense of patriotism.  The convention was also the victim of bad timing as the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, had been ratified during the convention.
Cartoon lambasting the Hartford Convention as disloyal to the United States and favorable to Britain.

In 1816, the Federalist Party tried one last time to run a presidential candidate, but the reputation of the party had largely been wrecked nationwide due to the entertaining of secession by the Hartford Convention. The Federalist Party candidate, Senator Rufus King of New York, only won 30.9% of the vote and the states of Delaware, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. From that point the party’s presence in Congress shrank until 1825, when the Federalist Party was no longer a presence. The party lingered on until 1834. At the time of its demise it was irrelevant and overshadowed by other opposition parties that could fulfill the aims of the Federalists minus the baggage of a convention that entertained secession.


Bailey, J.D. The Hartford Convention. Bill of Rights Institute.

Retrieved from

Hartford Convention. Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Retrieved from

Janis, M. (2014, December 14). The Hartford Convention and the Specter of Secession. UConn Today.

Retrieved from

Silvio Conte: The Last of the Massachusetts Republican Legacy

Silvio O. Conte - Wikipedia

Massachusetts was getting more and more liberal and Democratic after World War II and this helped propel John F. Kennedy to the national scene. The Bay State had a long history of Republican leadership, including abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner, Senators George Frisbie Hoar, Henry Cabot Lodge Sr., and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., as well as Speakers of the House Frederick Gillett and Joe Martin. Calvin Coolidge had been Governor of Massachusetts when tapped for the vice presidency in 1920. Democrats used to mostly be elected from Boston in the state. In 1936, Massachusetts had been FDR’s worst performing state that still voted for him. However, as the politics of the state grew more liberal, so did the Republicans in turn. Lodge Jr. was far more moderate than his grandfather Lodge Sr., Martin’s voting record began to shift to the center in the 1950s and starting in the 1940s Republicans who succeeded previous Republican incumbents were as a rule more liberal. Massachusetts’ 1st district, for instance, had been represented by the anti-New Deal Allen Treadway during the Roosevelt Administration, but his successor was the Rockefeller Republican John W. Heselton. His successor, Silvio Ottavio Conte (1921-1991), would prove even more liberal and would ultimately be the last Republican representative from a district that had been represented by them since 1857. In his first run in 1958, he was elected by over ten points over historian James MacGregor Burns, who would later write a Pulitzer prize winning biography of FDR, Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom (1971).

Although Conte initially was an Eisenhower Republican as he often voted to uphold his vetoes based on spending concerns while supporting increases in foreign aid, his record shifted more to liberalism in the 1960s and he backed many Great Society programs, including the Social Security bill that included Medicare and Medicaid and the War on Poverty’s flagship legislation, the Economic Opportunity Act. He was also a strong supporter of civil rights legislation, federal aid to education, and a strong minimum wage. Conte also differed from President Richard Nixon and the Republicans on their Vietnam War policies. One issue, however, that he was distinctly conservative on was abortion. As a devout Catholic Conte routinely voted to restrict it.

At the start of the Reagan Administration, he decided to back Reagan’s budget and tax cuts but he would later clash with him on many issues, including budget cuts. This was troublesome for the Reagan Administration as Conte was the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, and he came to call Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, “The Young Slasher” (Hunter). On September 9, 1982, Conte played a central role in persuading 80 Republicans to vote to override President Reagan’s veto of the supplemental appropriations bill, which had included aid to the Caribbean that Reagan had pushed him to include. His MC-Index (Mike’s Conservative Index) average score during the Reagan years was a mere 18%, indicating solid liberalism in this period. On October 6, 1983, Conte made headlines by wearing a pig mask in Congress in protest of pork barrel spending, his reaction to the House approving $119 million for 43 new water development projects. Although he often fought pork barrel spending, Conte brought home a good deal of federal money to his district. As Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said of him, he was opposed to such projects “unless Massachusetts gets 50 percent” (Diamond). And O’Neill knew Conte better than anybody in the House, as he was his best friend in Congress and they and their wives would have a weekly bridge game. As his time in Congress continued, his district changed from a Republican stronghold to a solidly Democratic area, but Conte could always count on reelection.

On January 12, 1991, a dying Silvio Conte cast one of his last votes against the use of military force in Iraq, being one of only three House Republicans to do so. He died of complications of prostate cancer on February 8th at the age of 69. His lifetime MC-Index score was a 28%, with him having scored the highest in his first session at a 63% with his lowest being during the 99th Congress with a 10%. Conte’s DW-Nominate score is a -0.023, indicating a centrist record by that standard but quite liberal for a Republican. The district on the Cook Partisan Voter Index is D+12, which happens to be the same as the state of Massachusetts itself. This final departure you might say was the true end of the old Republican legacy in the state, as when Conte first took office in 1959, the state had one Republican senator and Republicans held six of fourteen House seats. By his death, he had for eight years been the only Republican representing the Bay State, making this the first time since 1857 that no Republicans represented the state. Since Conte’s death thirty years ago, Massachusetts’ delegation to Congress has been entirely Democratic for all but seven years.


Diamond, J. (1991, February 8). Long-Time Congressman Silvio Conte Dies. Associated Press.

Retrieved from

Hunter, M. (1982, September 29). Bay State Republican With an Independent Streak. The New York Times.


Kenworthy, T. (1991, February 10). Popular Massachusetts Rep. Silvio Conte Dies. The Washington Post.

Retrieved from

Photos: Today in History, October 6. (2018, October 6). The Metro West News.

Retrieved from

Rating Congress in the Age of “Camelot”

87th United States Congress - Wikipedia

Today I am posting the MC-Index for the 87th Congress, or the Congress of sixty years ago. At this time, John F. Kennedy was the new president and the image of Camelot for that administration was at its height and this was the very last Congress of the legendary Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas, who would die of pancreatic cancer on November 16, 1961. In this session we see efforts at programs much in the vein of the Great Society, in this case known as the “New Frontier”. Some proposals were quite controversial like an accelerated public works program and an increased minimum wage while others like college aid and educational TV got far more consensus. President Kennedy rather unusually took a stance on the organization of the legislative branch as Rules Committee Chairman Howard W. Smith of Virginia, who scored a 93% in this session, was against the liberal agenda of the Kennedy Administration. Foreign aid was passed on a bipartisan basis as usual and in this day and age it was possible for Democrats to score a 100% on the MC-Index, including Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who would in 1964 switch to Republican. The lowest scoring Republicans were Senator Jacob Javits of New York and Representative Seymour Halpern of Queens, New York, who got a mere 15%. With the exception of a single vote in the Senate, civil rights didn’t figure on the ideological scale in this session. The largest issue, the constitutional amendment banning the poll tax, doesn’t figure as a liberal/conservative issue. Neither the ADA (Americans for Democratic Action) nor the ACA (Americans for Constitutional Action) regarded it as a telling vote for ideology and neither do I.

The following legislators scored a 100%:


Smith, R-Calif., Hiestand, R-Calif., Lipscomb, R-Calif., Rousselot, R-Calif., Hoffman, R-Ill., Findley, R-Ill., Bruce, R-Ind., Waggonner, D-La., Johansen, R-Mich., Williams, D-Miss., Beermann, R-Neb., Ray, R-N.Y., Scherer, R-Ohio, Ashbrook, R-Ohio, and Alger, R-Tex.


Goldwater, R-Ariz., Thurmond, D-S.C., Bottum, R-S.D., Tower, R-Tex., Byrd, D-Va., and Robertson, D-Va.

Click on the first link below for the grades of Congress and the second link below for descriptions of the 54 votes, 27 for the House and 27 for the Senate, that were used as the basis for these ratings.

The Original Dr. No: Durward G. Hall of Missouri

Durward Hall.png

1960 was a very close election year and in some ways reminiscent of 2020: a Catholic Democrat defeated a Republican for the presidency and Republicans made gains in the House. One of these gains was from the traditionally Republican district centered in Springfield, Missouri. In 1956, longtime Representative Dewey Short had lost reelection due to a drought and this came along with Eisenhower losing the state, but in 1960 Republicans won back the district for good and their man was Dr. Durward G. Hall (1910-2001).

Hall quickly became known as one of the most conservative men in Congress, with Senator Barry Goldwater thinking of him as the only person more conservative than himself. He accumulated sky-high yearly scores from Americans for Constitutional Action and bottom-of-the-barrel ones from Americans for Democratic Action. His lifetime MC-Index score is a 99%, while his DW-Nominate score is a 0.796, only being outdone on conservatism on this scale during his time in Congress by H.R. Gross of Iowa and John G. Schmitz of California. In 1971, he was one of only seven representatives to have had a “perfect” voting record by Americans for Constitutional Action’s standards. As he was a doctor by profession, his colleagues called him “Dr. No” for his unwavering opposition to spending bills. Like his ideological ally H.R. Gross of Iowa, Hall was a strong critic of what he deemed “wasteful spending”. On his target list were pork barrel projects and he found no use for government funding of the arts. Hall voted against arts funding and in 1967 he criticized the government for funding a study of comic strips and in response to a defense of such funding he stated that he liked comic strips, and added in a commentary about crime, “If more members of the Supreme Court read Dick Tracy regularly, and became aware of the growing crime rate in America, perhaps we would not have some of the decisions which have created such a flourishing climate for the rising crime rate” (Science 1967).  In 1965, he led the opposition to Medicare with fellow Missouri Republican Thomas B. Curtis, with Hall stating, “at no time during the week this bill was drafted, were the Nation’s doctors asked to contribute to the deliberations” and considered this to be “the most brazen act of omission ever committed on a piece of major legislation” (Twight, 331).

On civil rights, Hall backed the 24th Amendment which banned the poll tax, supported the final version of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after voting against the original version, and voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1967, which was aimed primarily at stopping racial violence. However, in accordance to his limited government views, he opposed measures that covered the private sector, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. He voted for the Equal Rights Amendment after voting for an amendment that would exempt sex-specific labor protections from its coverage. Hall also was a strong backer of the Vietnam War and as a member of the Armed Services Committee he sided with hawkish chair Mendel Rivers (D-S.C.) as well as his equally hawkish successor F. Edward Hebert (D-La.).

Hall’s conservatism didn’t let up for President Richard Nixon as it did quite a few Republicans, as he opposed continuations of Great Society programs and opposed the administration’s Family Assistance Plan, which would have provided guaranteed minimum income for working families. He decided not to run for reelection in 1972, but he has successors for the honorary title of “Dr. No” including former Representative Ron Paul of Texas and the late Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.


Bresee, J. (2001). Ashcroft? The Road to Theocracy? Against the Current.

Retrieved from

Conservative Group Says 9 in Congress Score 100%. (1972, February 7). The New York Times.

Rosenbaum, D.A. (1971, April 13). A Cooking Timer Replaces the Iron Hand on Key House Panel. The New York Times.

Retrieved from

Science (1967, March 10). Funnies on Capitol Hill, Vol. 155, Issue 3767, pp. 1222.

Twight, C. (1997). Medicare’s Origin: The Economics and Politics of Dependency. Cato Journal, 309-338.

Retrieved from

The Oddities of DW-Nominate Scoring

Back on October 23, 2019, I published “The Problems of Interest Group Ratings” and in the process I mentioned a scale called DW-Nominate which is supposed to represent polarization but also ideology. Members who score closest to 1 are “conservative” while members who score closest to -1 are “liberal”. This scale does indeed hold up quite well for contemporary scoring and most certainly for scoring during and after the New Deal. However, this scaling system has some curiosities that make it in some cases not ideal. I present the major examples I have found of when DW-Nominate seems at least a bit off.

Senator Huey P. Long

Huey Long of Louisiana is often thought of as a New Deal critic to FDR’s left, but what if I told you his DW-Nominate score was very high for a Democrat? It is in fact 0.251. There are only six Democrats in the 20th century who pulled off a higher score on this scale. These were Senators Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Rush Dew Holt of West Virginia as well as Representatives Bob Stump of Arizona, Larry McDonald of Georgia, John Rarick of Louisiana, and Dave Satterfield III of Virginia. Thurmond, Holt, and Stump would eventually switch to the GOP, with Thurmond’s and Stump’s records becoming even more conservative on the scale as Republicans. The plethora of some types of votes may push Long in a “right” direction, such as the sheer volume of votes on the Reciprocal Trade Act in 1934 (he was a protectionist, a position that was held by all conservative Republicans in that time) as well as his non-interventionist views best represented by his complete and utter opposition to US membership in the World Court in 1935. For a more balanced scale, perhaps the Reciprocal Trade Act in its final passage gets a vote along with one or maybe two key votes surrounding amendments to the act. The same goes for the World Court. Long may do well on sheer volume, but if key votes are more balanced for ideology, he still does better than you’d expect given his record, but not as one of the most right-wing Democrats in American history by the MC-Index.  

The Socialists

While the members of the Socialist Party did vote independently quite often, this translates into some bizarre outcomes and their true place on the spectrum would likely be better defined by a measurement that emphasizes key ideological issues. Meyer London of New York, for instance, scores a -0.026. This is more liberal than most Republicans, to be sure, but it is also more conservative than most Democrats. It is in fact more conservative than any Democrat currently serving. This goes even more so for Victor Berger of Wisconsin, who scores a 0.176. This is higher than most segregationist Democrats. It is also higher than the following people not commonly thought of as socialists:

Martin Dies Jr., D-Texas, chair of House Un-American Activities Committee, was considerably more conservative in his second go at Congress from 1953 to 1959 than his first, from 1931 to 1945. Focused a lot on anti-communism. – 0.003.

John E. Rankin, D-Miss., notorious bigot who had a dramatic switch from liberalism to conservatism in his career.  – 0.006.

Howard W. Smith, D-Va. – Famously obstructive chair of the House Rules Committee, used his post to block liberal and civil rights legislation. – 0.035.

Richard M. Nixon, R-Calif. – You know who he is! – 0.162.

Pat McCarran, D-Nevada – A staunch Senate anti-communist, non-interventionist, and sometimes friend sometimes foe of the New Deal. – 0.06.

Warren R. Austin, R-Vt. – Senator who voted against most of the New Deal, including Social Security. His support for FDR’s foreign policy helps shift his score into the more moderate column, but regarding him as less conservative than Berger is…well…off. – 0.106.

I think this represents one of the problems with counting all the partisan procedural votes, as the socialists of the day could go with Republicans on those. Bear in mind, however, both Berger and London did cast some votes that were legitimately in the conservative direction, but 0.176 and -0.026 respectively seem like odd places for them, and it puts most Democrats in the historically uncomfortable position of being to the left of the members of the Socialist Party!

Jack Edwards of Alabama and Charles Mosher of Ohio

These two are some of the best examples I have seen where interest groups and DW-Nominate depart on scoring protocol, and where a major issues scoring system might be better representative. Republicans Jack Edwards of Alabama and Charles Mosher of Ohio were commonly known as being from different wings of the party…Edwards conservative and Mosher of the liberal wing. Edwards was strongly supportive of the Nixon Administration on Vietnam while Mosher was a critic, Edwards was an opponent of the Great Society while Mosher supported some of those programs and shifted further left during the Nixon years. However, both score a 0.177. This is not only right above Victor Berger of Wisconsin and below Huey Long of Louisiana, but these two are scored exceedingly differently by ACU (American Conservative Union), ACA (Americans for Constitutional Action), ADA (Americans for Democratic Action), and my scoring system. As you can see below:

Life Score880858755234645

For ADA scores I have adjusted them to not count non-votes against the legislator. I have written in “The Problems of Interest Group Ratings” why I can’t abide this practice. For the MC-Index, it is counted by legislative session rather than year, thus the same scores two years straight. But as you can see, the conservative scoring systems agree that Edwards is in the 80s (solid conservative) while the ADA holds that he is ultra-conservative based on his low score of 8%. Save for the ACU, which starts counting in 1971, ADA, ACA, and the MC-Index all agree that by life score Mosher is a moderate, with this early career being moderately conservative while moving to moderate liberalism during the Nixon Administration. Edwards only has something of a drop-off in conservatism during the Reagan Administration, which the ADA doesn’t even register. That’s it for tonight. I’m sure there are more examples but these are the ones I can think of for now.

The Rise and Fall of the Fairness Doctrine

On February 17, 2021, an oak in conservative talk radio fell. Rush Limbaugh died of lung cancer after a year-long battle. His rising influence contributed to the Republican Revolution in 1994 and helped others, such as Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Michael Medved, and Glenn Beck move into the medium. Limbaugh’s ascendancy, however, may have not been possible had a policy change regarding radio not occurred in 1987, the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine.

Image result for Rush Limbaugh

During the late 1930s the Federal Communications Commission under chairman Larry Fly grew concerned that with radio business-approved conservative messaging would dominate the radio airwaves. In 1941, they created the Mayflower Doctrine, which required a “full and equal opportunity for the presentation to the public of all sides of public issues” and in the process prohibited editorializing. A justification cited was the limited radio frequencies. This was yet another move the Roosevelt Administration used against conservative critics of the New Deal and politicians who supported it. For instance, Senator Hugo Black of Alabama had pushed for curbs on lobbying in 1936 after an extensive campaign against the Public Utilities Holding Company Act but an effort to pass legislation to regulate lobbying ultimately failed. Although there was controversy surrounding First Amendment implications with this rule, the wartime censorship that came with World War II postponed further discussion. In 1948, however, the Mayflower Doctrine was again reviewed and it was replaced the following year with a successor doctrine, what we know as the “Fairness Doctrine” the following year. This required a balance of political perspectives by stations on the air. The goal was to permit political debate on radio while curbing owners who would want to make their stations reflect only their views. In 1969, the Supreme Court upheld the Fairness Doctrine unanimously in Red Lion v. FCC and cited the limited availability of airwaves as a justification for such a rule, whereas such a rule would be unconstitutional with newspapers as there were no such limitations. However, the court also ruled that if the Fairness Doctrine should serve to suppress speech then its constitutionality would have to be reconsidered. Justice Byron White wrote what the Supreme Court was prioritizing in the decision, that it was “the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcaster, which is paramount” (McCraw).

In the 1970s, opinions and impacts of the Fairness Doctrine were not always favorable to liberals. The doctrine, for instance, helped kill the Equal Rights Amendment as Phyllis Schlafly and her STOP ERA organization got equal time with the amendment’s advocates, who had started with tremendous momentum. Some conservatives thought it was needed as the only counterweight to the “liberal media”, while others saw it as a way to suppress conservatives. There was indeed a case in 1973 in which a conservative Christian broadcaster, Minister Carl McIntire, was denied a license renewal on Fairness Doctrine grounds.
In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed Mark S. Fowler to the Federal Communications Commission, an opponent of the Fairness Doctrine. Advances in technology were undermining traditional arguments for the Fairness Doctrine on scarcity grounds and the deregulatory politics of the late 1970s and the 1980s were being applied to radio as well.

In 1987 the FCC voted 4-0 to bring it to an end, an action that President Reagan heartily agreed with. The Democratic Congress, however, did not. Passed in the House and Senate were resolutions overturning the FCC ruling, but Reagan was quick with the veto pen and Congress failed to override. What is striking about the votes is how divided Republican opinion was on the subject. On one hand, you had Dick Armey and Bob Dole siding with the Reagan Administration, but on the other you had Jesse Helms and Newt Gingrich thinking the Fairness Doctrine was worth upholding. The following year, the Rush Limbaugh Show premiered and for a time he was he single most effective voice in conservative media. The incoming Republican Congress in 1995 gave him a lot of credit for having control of the House for the first time in forty years and even unofficially regarded him as an honorary member of the Congress.

The Fairness Doctrine will not return even if the occasional liberal here or there thinks it a good idea. Radio is not, however, the medium it used to be and there’s been a growing attention on cable TV news shows, social media, and podcasts as more prominent mediums of communication, with the latter two growing among the young. With the death of Limbaugh as well as the recent departure of Michael Savage from the radio, it just isn’t the future of what will be prominent. These other mediums wouldn’t have been covered by the Fairness Doctrine in the first place. Its aim made some sense in its time, when radio was of great prominence in the transmission of opinion and there were limited spots, but no longer. Also, there are some disturbing implications about having a Fairness Doctrine return…would the scientists who know the Earth is round have to be counter-balanced by flat-earthers? Would supporters of vaccinations have to be counter-balanced by anti-vaxxers? Under the Fairness Doctrine, such groups may very well win court cases about getting equal representation.


McCraw, S.K. (2009). Right to Respond and Right of Reply. The First Amendment Encyclopedia.

Retrieved from

Perry, A. (2017). Fairness Doctrine. The First Amendment Encyclopedia.

Retrieved from

Pickard, V. (2018). The Strange Life and Death of the Fairness Doctrine: Tracing the Decline of Positive Freedoms in American Policy Discourse. International Journal of Communication, 12 3434-3453.

Retrieved from

The Mayflower Doctrine Scuttled. The Yale Law Journal, 59 759-769.

Retrieved from

George Frisbie Hoar: An Honorable Senator

See the source image

On March 11, 1874, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts lay on his deathbed and he supposedly instructed one of his last visitors thrice, “You must take care of the civil rights bill – my bill, the civil rights bill – don’t let it fail!” (U.S. House of Representatives). This man was his protégé, Congressman George Frisbie Hoar (1826-1904) of Massachusetts, and he would valiantly try to continue Sumner’s legacy and succeed in getting the Civil Rights Act of 1875 passed albeit in a weak form.

Hoar was a grandson of Founding Father Roger Sherman, and saw it as his imperative to stick with the Constitution as Sherman and other founders intended. This included a belief that slavery was meant to be eventually abolished and in the early 1850s he joined the Free Soil Party and he subsequently joined the Republican Party. Elected to Congress in 1868, Hoar was a Radical Republican, strongly supporting Reconstruction efforts. He, like Sumner, maintained a lifelong commitment to opposing racial discrimination. On economics, Hoar was decidedly conservative, opposing inflationary policies such as increasing the money supply, maintaining the use of greenbacks unbacked by gold after the war, and free coinage of silver. Hoar stated on the matter in 1893 that “A sound currency is to the affairs of this life what a pure religion and a sound system of morals are to the affairs of the spiritual life” and regarded silver as an “inferior metal” (Kazin, 73). He also embraced the orthodox Republican position favorable to the protective tariff.

Hoar and Discrimination

In 1877, Hoar was appointed a member of the Electoral Commission to determine the outcome of the election, which narrowly went to Hayes. That same year he was elected to the Senate. As the 19th century progressed, the push for restricting immigration grew and grew. Pressure especially was building up for it in California and Oregon against Chinese immigrants. This resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act, which although vetoed by Rutherford B. Hayes, a compromise version would be signed by Chester A. Arthur in 1882. Hoar voted against both versions as he regarded America as a land that ought to be free of legal distinctions based on race and color. Yet, he was not the sort we would think of as favoring “open borders” either; in 1897 he voted for the Lodge Immigration Bill that if enacted would have had a literacy test as a prerequisite for immigration. This bill was vetoed by President Cleveland but a literacy test would ultimately be incorporated into the Immigration Act of 1917.

In 1886, he was one of the first members of the Senate to openly call for women’s suffrage and four years later he was the Senate sponsor of the Lodge Federal Elections Bill, which if enacted would have provided for effective enforcement of the 15th Amendment in the South. Unfortunately, Democratic resistance to it, in the North and South, combined with several Republican defections in the Senate resulted in the bill’s demise. The Republican Party would undertake no serious and coordinated efforts for civil rights legislation until 1922.

Maintaining the Senate

For much of Hoar’s Senate tenure, he served as chair of the Judiciary Committee and drafted the Presidential Succession Act in 1886. Given his direct family link to the Founding Fathers, he saw it as his duty to preserve the Senate as Roger Sherman and people like him intended. He thus was a leading opponent of the direct election of senators and in 1897 he wrote an article, “Has the Senate Degenerated?” Most notable in the article was the following, “The Senate . . . was created that the deliberate will, the sober second thought of the people might find expression. It was intended that it should resist the hasty, intemperate, passionate desire of the people. This hasty passion and intemperance is frequently found in the best men as in the worst. But so long as the political management of the country excites eager interest, so long these feelings will be excited; and when they are excited the body whose function it is to resist them will be, for the time being, an object of dislike and attack. It has, therefore, always been true, is true now, and always will be true, that the Senate is an object of bitter denunciation by those persons whose purposes are thwarted or delayed. That will be especially true when the House and Executive, the popular majority, are of one way of thinking and the Senate, representing the will of the majority of the States, is of another way. It is fair, therefore, that the Senate should be judged not by considering its conduct or its composition at the time when the judgment is to be expressed, but by a review of a whole century of its history.

. . . The President represents the majority of the whole people; the House of Representatives, the present and immediate popular desire of the constituencies. But the Senate stands also for the will of the American people. It stands for its deliberate, permanent, settled desire,—its sober, second thought” (United States Senate).

Hoar also feared that the adoption of this amendment would result in other proposals he thought destructive to the constitutional system, including the abolition of the Electoral College and popular election of judges. In 1902, a brawl broke out between Senators Benjamin Tillman and John McLaurin of South Carolina over their increasing political differences. Hoar in response successfully pushed for the adoption of a Senate rule that banned senators from denigrating each other on the floor.

Hoar and Imperialism

In 1870, Senator Charles Sumner had crossed the Grant Administration when his opposition to the annexation of Santo Domingo proved critical in its defeat, and Hoar likewise crossed the McKinley and Roosevelt Administrations in opposition to American imperialism, unlike Henry Cabot Lodge, the junior senator from Massachusetts. On February 6, 1899, he along with Eugene Hale of Maine and Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania were the only three Republican senators to vote against the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War and granted the US control over the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam while surrendering control of Cuba. As Republican critics of imperialism, they were later joined by William Mason of Illinois and George Wellington of Maryland. Hoar also called for the independence of the Philippines, which would not happen until 1946. Although he was unpopular with some of the younger Republicans for this, his reputation in Massachusetts was such that he remained politically safe unlike Sumner, who had been penalized for his opposition by loss of his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Hoar wrote a few works, including the introduction to Charles Sumner; His Complete Works and his autobiography, Autobiography of Seventy Years (1903). After enjoying a life of good health, Hoar fell ill in June 1904 and declined until his death on September 30th. His MC-Index life score is an 89%, with his score from 1869 to 1897 being a 96% while his 1897 to 1904 score was 66%, reflecting his increasing dissent with conservative Republican policies. He had been a much revered senator given his direct ties to the Founding Fathers and despite his frequent partisanship he placed the institutional integrity of the Senate above it.


Civil Rights Act of 1875. U.S. House of Representatives.

Retrieved from

Kazin, M. (2006). A Godly hero: The life of William Jennings Bryan. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

The Idea of the Senate: A Place of “Sober Second Thought”. United States Senate.

Retrieved from

To Agree to the Conference Report on H.R. 7864, The Immigration Laws Bill Amending the Immigration Laws of the United States. Govtrack.

Retrieved from

To Pass H.R. 5804 (Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882). Govtrack.

Retrieved from

To Pass the Resolution to Ratify the Treaty of Peace Between the United States and Spain Signed at the city of Paris on December 10, 1898. Govtrack.

Retrieved from

The Politics of the Personal: The Defeats of President Cleveland’s Supreme Court Nominees

I previously wrote about Richard Nixon suffering the embarrassment of having two justices he nominated in a row be voted down for confirmation to the Supreme Court. He is not alone in having suffered such an embarrassment. It wasn’t liberals that did this president’s nominees in, rather a party rival who was apt at forming political coalitions, in New York and nationally.
Grover Cleveland was known as a Bourbon Democrat but above all his focus as a president was on honesty and integrity in government, and this meant opposition to bossism. Tammany Hall in New York, however, sure didn’t appreciate Cleveland’s emphasis on reform. Enter the antagonist of our story, Senator David B. Hill. Hill was a Tammany Hall Democrat through and through and had been lieutenant governor while Cleveland was governor of New York from 1883 to 1885. Although Hill was something of a Bourbon Democrat as well, he had differences with him on currency policy, stressing bimetallism while Cleveland supported the gold standard. Hill was also the only Democratic senator to vote against the Wilson-Gorman Tariff in 1894 and was a royal pain for the president on the Supreme Court as well.

See the source image

Round One: William B. Hornblower

On September 20, 1893, Cleveland nominated William Butler Hornblower, a prominent corporate attorney from New York, to succeed the late Samuel Blatchford on the Supreme Court. He was a solid pick, but Senator Hill along with his New York colleague Edward Murphy Jr. thought otherwise. Despite Hill having appointed Hornblower to a commission on state constitutional amendments as New York’s governor in 1890, he had crossed Hill when he participated in a committee investigating his ally Deputy Attorney General Isaac H. Maynard for alleged ballot tampering. Hill and Murphy invoked senatorial courtesy, a custom in which the Senate refrains from confirming nominees who are objectionable to the senators of the state they are from. This is especially the case if it is the most senior senator from the president’s party, which Hill was. Hill officially objected because Hornblower was at 42 relatively young for the court. Cleveland chose to proceed with the nomination, but the Senate saw fit to reaffirm custom: the nomination was defeated on January 15, 1894, on a vote of 24-30. Democrats split 18-13 in favor while Republicans voted 6-13 on the matter. The other votes against were from third party members. Cleveland tried again with another person with an even more distinctive name: Wheeler Hazard Peckham.

Round Two: Wheeler Hazard Peckham

See the source image

Wheeler Hazard Peckham (I love this name) was another prominent New York jurist and as special prosecutor he had successfully prosecuted William M. “Boss” Tweed of Tammany Hall and had unsuccessfully done so for New York City Mayor A. Oakey Hall. However, like Hornblower, Peckham had crossed Hill. In 1888, he had so strongly disliked Hill as a candidate for governor that he voted for the Republican candidate, Warner Miller. He had also been even more responsible than Hornblower for the investigation into Maynard as he had appointed the committee as President of the New York State Bar. He also could be blunt in his feelings towards those he disliked, which didn’t help him politically. Hill and Murphy again invoked senatorial courtesy and again Cleveland proceeded with the nomination. Curiously, Hill suggested a substitute for Peckham: his younger brother, Rufus Wheeler. His brother was not of a different political persuasion but rather was in Hill’s way where he was, on the New York Court of Appeals. Hill wanted to replace Peckham with his own man. Officially, however, Hill found Wheeler Hazard to be too old at 60. His nomination went down 32-41. Democrats voted for 23-15 while Republicans opposed 8-23. In 1895, Justice Howell Jackson died and Cleveland nominated Rufus Wheeler Peckham, who with the support this time of Senator Hill was confirmed unanimously.

Round Three: Edward Douglass White

See the source image

Since Hill and the Senate were being so truculent, President Cleveland decided to make a pick the Senate couldn’t refuse: one of their own, Edward Douglass White of Louisiana. White, a Democrat who had not offended Senator Hill nor being from his state, was easily confirmed. He would eventually serve as chief justice from 1910 to 1921.

Hill’s career in Washington would end alongside Cleveland’s as he lost the 1897 Senate election to Republican political boss Thomas C. Platt, as Republicans had taken control of the New York State Legislature.


William Butler Hornblower. Historical Society of the New York Courts.

Retrieved from

Pomerance, B. (2017). Justices Denied: The Peculiar History of Rejected United States Supreme Court Nominees. Albany Law Review, 80(2).

Retrieved from

Rufus Wheeler Peckham (1838-1909). Albany Rural Cemetery Explorer.

Retrieved from

The Washburns: A Most Influential Family

The Washburn family of Massachusetts and later Maine made more than their share of contributions to the United States in politics as well as in business. Israel Washburn Sr., a Massachusetts politician and farmer, had a whopping eleven children with his wife Patty, ten of whom survived into adulthood and four who served in elective office. These were Israel Jr. (1813-1883), Elihu (1816-1887), Cadwallader (1818-1882), and William (1831-1912). In addition, Charles (1822-1889) was a diplomat. This family was, despite, Washburn Sr. holding office as a younger man, not wealthy and they worked hard farming the land and running a general store. There was little opportunity for play for the Washburn children. They were raised to be strongly anti-slavery through religious conviction and would carry these convictions into their politics.

In 1850, Washburn Jr. was elected to Congress from Maine as a Whig, serving until 1861. In 1852, Elihu joined his older brother, being elected from Illinois also as a Whig. In 1854, Cadwallader was elected from Wisconsin. On June 2nd,  1854, Israel Jr. delivered a speech in Bangor, Maine, in which he used the term “Republican” regarding the new party, possibly the first member of Congress to do so. All brothers joined the Republican Party upon its formation. While in Congress they fought against slavery and even did so physically. In 1856, Laurence Kiett of South Carolina attacked Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania after an exchange of insults, attempting to choke him, and a brawl erupted in the House. Cadwallader and Elihu participated, with the brawl ending after the former attempted to deck William Barksdale of Mississippi, but had grabbed his hairpiece first and the embarrassed Barksdale put the wig on backwards, resulting in hysterical laughter throughout the House.

Israel Washburn Jr. was elected Governor of Maine in 1860 and served two years in this position. He proved very popular and was effective at raising troops and supplies for the war effort. Opting not to run again in 1863, he was appointed by President Lincoln to be the Collector of the Port of Portland, serving in this post until 1877.

Israel Washburn, Jr. - Brady-Handy.jpg

Elihu Washburne (he added an e to his last name) was known for his strong support of President Lincoln as well as his frequent bucking of his party on railroad land grants. He thought of them as corrupt giveaways of public land and regularly voted against them. Washburne was also a supporter of President Grant and served briefly as his Secretary of State and as Ambassador to France from 1869 to 1877. His support continued despite his strong disapproval of the corruption that occurred under his administration. Although he told his supporters not to do so, they put his name up for the presidential nomination in 1880 instead of Ulysses S. Grant, leading Grant to believe that he had sabotaged his effort at the nomination, and this ended their friendship. His MC-Index score is a 59%.

Cadwallader Washburn served as a general in the War of the Rebellion and was unlike other politicians who served in command roles: he proved an excellent administrative leader and was highly recommended by Ulysses S. Grant. He took over the Minneapolis Milling Company along with John Crosby, and in 1866 formed General Mills from it. He served in Congress again from 1867 to 1871, and successfully ran for governor in 1871, serving a single term. His MC-Index score is a 95%.

Image result for Cadwallader Washburn

William Washburn served in the House from Minnesota from 1879 to 1885, having prevailed over former Republican Ignatius Donnelly for the seat and served in the Senate from 1889 to 1895. He had assisted his older brother Cadwallader with General Mills and founded what later became known as the Pillsbury Company. Washburn also formed what would become known as the Soo Line Railroad. In 1895, he was shocked to lose reelection to fellow Republican Knute Nelson, who had been conducting a secret campaign for the seat. He had been coy, even deceptive about his ambitions, not being straightforward with Washburn on his intentions until his announcement to run on January 3, 1895. Nelson even told the state legislature to “elect your Republican legislative ticket, so as to send my friend Washburn back to the United States senate or if you do not like him, send some other good Republican”.  He also had assistance from James J. Hill, a rival of Washburn’s in the railroad business who Washburn had recently angered by running his railroad between two of Hill’s. The campaign in the state legislature was bitter and the dejected Washburn called for a popular vote to elect senators. A popular vote may not have made a difference as Nelson was popular with politicians and the public alike and his Scandinavian origins helped him in Minnesota while Washburn’s perceived status as an elite from Maine worked against him. His MC-Index score is an 88%.


About the Washburns. Washburn Norlands Living History Center.

Retrieved from

Adams, E.E. The Washburn-Nelson Senatorial Campaign of 1894-1895. Minnesota Legal History Project.

Retrieved from

Emery, T. (2017, July 1). C.C Washburn founded General Mills; studied law in Rock Island. Dispatch Argus.

Retrieved from

Hess, S. (1967). An American In Paris. American Heritage, 18(2).

Retrieved from

Israel Washburn Jr.: Maine’s Little Giant of the Civil War. Maine Memory Network.

Retrieved from