Irvine Lenroot: A Man Who Could Have Been President

On October 21, 1917, Senator Paul Husting of Wisconsin is duck hunting with his brother. Spotting one, he tells his brother Gustave to fire. However, Husting rises in his rowboat and his brother accidentally shoots him in the back. He slips into a coma and dies later that day. Husting, a Democrat, had been one of the most pro-Wilson senators, and his death is politically consequential. His elected successor in the special election the next year is Republican Representative Irvine Lenroot (1869-1949), and in the next Congress Republicans hold a 49-47 majority. Had Husting lived, the Democrats would have had a majority through the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Thomas Marshall.

Lenroot got his start in Wisconsin state politics as a strong ally of Governor Robert La Follette in the Assembly. From 1903 to 1906 he was the Assembly’s speaker and was key in getting La Follette’s reforms through, including a primary election law and a railway tax. In 1906, Lenroot and La Follette backed each other’s bids for higher office. La Follette won his Senate bid, but Lenroot lost the Republican primary for governor. In 1908, with the support of La Follette, he defeated Congressman John J. Jenkins for renomination to the House. Jenkins was a conservative supporter of Speaker Joe Cannon and had been backed by President Roosevelt. In the House, he would often vote against legislation supported by President Taft including the Aldrich-Payne Tariff and he backed the 1910 revolt against Speaker Joe Cannon. In 1912, Lenroot sided with Theodore Roosevelt in the Republican split and tried to get an alliance between La Follette and Roosevelt, but neither man liked each other. Roosevelt thought La Follette too progressive and La Follette saw Roosevelt as compromising too much to business interests. Although the two patched up their relations, this was the beginning of a political separation between La Follette and Lenroot. He was also growing more conservative during the Wilson years and the split between the two was complete in 1917 when La Follette voted against American entry into World War I while Lenroot voted for. Among Republicans from the Wisconsin delegation, he was joined only by Representative David Classon in support of war. To get the Republican nomination for the Senate, Lenroot had defeated La Follette-backed James Thompson on a platform of patriotism. This was bitter for La Follette, who was accused of being “pro-German” and was even subject to a campaign to get him expelled from the Senate.

La Follette was not pleased with his former lieutenant as a senator, thinking of him as having compromsied too much, like he thought Roosevelt. In 1920, as Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio won the nomination for president, party bosses selected Lenroot as their choice for vice president. Harding was a staunch conservative while he was a moderate, including on the Versailles Treaty, being one of the mild reservationists. They supported the Versailles Treaty with only modest alterations and such figures would be the precursors of the post-World War II internationalists in the GOP. This would have been a solid ticket balance, but there was a popular cry at the Republican National Convention for Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts to get the nod as he had been popular for his calling in troops to stop a Boston police strike in 1919. Coolidge won 674 delegate votes to Lenroot’s 146. Lenroot remained in the Senate, and both Republicans on the presidential ticket were conservatives. Had the delegates gone along with party bosses, Irvine Lenroot would have been our 30th president. He would be considerably more supportive of Republican presidents Harding and Coolidge than he was of Taft, voting for the Mellon tax cuts. However, he retained his general opposition to high tariffs. In his final term in Congress, Lenroot’s MC-Index score reached an 82%, and many Republicans in the state were not pleased with his conservative turn. In 1926, they picked Governor John J. Blaine, a Republican of the La Follette mold. Lenroot’s lifetime MC-Index score was a 58%, indicating a moderate record. He was subsequently nominated by President Hoover to the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. Confirmed by the Senate, he served until his retirement in 1944.


Husting is Killed By Brother In Hunt. (1917, October 22). The New York Times.

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Jenkins Defeated In Wisconsin Fight. (1908, September 3). The New York Times.

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Lenroot, Irvine Luther. Wisconsin Historical Society.

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Marguiles, H.F. (1977). Irvine L. Lenroot and the Republican Vice-Presidential Nomination of 1920. The Wisconsin Magazine of History, 61(1), 21-31.

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Americans for Constitutional Action Project: An Update III

The 93rd Congress constitutes President Nixon’s second term, and he is considerably more conservative. His ACA-Index scores stand for 1973 and 1974 as 100% and 89% respectively in the Senate, while his House scores for 1973 and 1974 are 80% and 60% respectively. Nixon opposed the minimum wage, postcard voter registration, and campaign finance legislation and unlike in the first term, he does not compromise on busing. He also supported the reinstatement of the death penalty and opposed price controls on oil. Nixon’s left turns include his support for continuing price controls, his opposition to restricting exports to communist countries, and support for foreign aid. Some Republican senators reach all-time lows on conservatism, including Senators Charles Mathias (R-Md.), Clifford Case (R-N.J.), and Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) scoring 0% in 1974. Mathias and Case would only vote for the conservative position a single time by ACA standards in 1973. Very few elected officials get a 0% or a 100% in both sessions of Congress. Only Representatives Sam Steiger (R-Ariz.) and Delwin Clawson (R-Calif.) as well as Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) were always right by ACA standards in the 93rd Congress. For people who did all wrong by ACA’s standards, the number is also quite low. Hugh Carey (D-N.Y.), Jonathan Bingham (D-N.Y.), William J. Green Jr. (D-Penn.), and William Moorhead (D-Penn.) are the four in the House. Senators Ed Muskie (D-Me.), Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.), and Harrison Williams (D-N.J.) are the three senators who did no right by ACA in the 93rd Congress.

The Basis for ACA’s Scoring:

1973 House:

1973 Senate:

1974 House:

1974 Senate:

Americans for Constitutional Action: An Update Part II

This post covers the 92nd Congress, and there’s a bit more stabilization than in the last edition. Some whose scores were depressed in the last session have gone a bit back up. This includes Minority Leader Gerald Ford. In the Senate, only Carl Curtis (R-Neb.) had a perfect 100% in both years. In the House, only seven representatives scored a 100% in 1971, and thirty received this score in 1972. Del Clawson (R-Calif.), Durward G. Hall (R-Mo.), Samuel Devine (R-Ohio), George Goodling (R-Penn.), and Bill Archer (R-Tex.) received a 100% in both years.

Part of the difficulty in getting people 100% scores was ACA’s counting of the bailout of Lockheed Martin, an issue that saw liberals and conservatives on both sides of the debate. Likewise, with the railroad strike matter in the House, opposition to settlement came from both liberals and conservatives.

The Basis for ACA’s Scoring:

1971 House:

1971 Senate:

1972 House:

1972 Senate:

Americans for Constitutional Action Project: An Update Part I

For some time, I have been working on what you might call “deciphering” Americans for Constitutional Action vote criterion for the scores the organization released. While we know what liberals thought was important at least back to 1947 based on Americans for Democratic Action scores, what of conservatives? Americans for Constitutional Action provides scores for the House dating back to 1957 and for the Senate dating back to 1955. The good news is that I have deciphered the entire Nixon Administration period. That means the 91st, 92nd, and 93rd Congresses are all revealed. This post will contain the criterion for the 91st Congress.

The ACA could be strict graders, and this is no more apparent than in the 91st Congress, especially 1969. Numerous Republicans who were previously thought of as conservatives see their scores plummet as opposed to during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, and this is in part following Nixon who started his presidency by appealing more often to the Rockefeller wing of the party. Republican legislators who demonstrated conservatism during the Johnson Administration demonstrated increased liberalism. Some notable examples based on altered ACA-Index scores (meaning including paired votes and certain announced positions) include:

James B. Utt (R-Calif.)
1968 – 95%
1969 – 75%

Charles M. Teague (R-Calif.)
1968 – 78%
1969 – 50%

Gerald Ford (R-Mich.)
1968 – 74%
1969 – 53%

Al Quie (R-Minn.)
1968 – 70%
1969 – 53%

Howard W. Robison (R-N.Y.)
1968 – 61%
1969 – 35%

William M. McCulloch (R-Ohio)
1968 – 63%
1969 – 33%

Thomas Pelly (R-Wash.)
1968 – 70%
1969 – 47%

Catherine May (R-Wash.)
1968 – 73%
1969 – 40%

John W. Byrnes (R-Wis.)
1968 – 86%
1969 – 56%

For 1969, ACA judged the House based on 17 votes and the Senate based on 16 votes. Zero senators and seven representatives score a 100%. Based on official positions, President Richard Nixon himself scores a mere 30% in the House and a 22% in the Senate. For 1970, ACA judged the House based on 19 votes and the Senate based on 24 votes. Zero senators and nine representatives score 100%. Of these, however, three did not serve for the entirety of 1970. President Richard Nixon scores a 67% in the House and a 75% in the Senate, a marked improvement, although not enough to dampen conservative criticism.

The basis is below, and I have provided descriptions of the votes scored:

Additionally, the scores themselves:

1969 House:

1969 Senate:

1970 House:

1970 Senate:

The Strange Career of Mike Gravel

Mike Gravel, 1977

On August 7, 1964, one of Alaska’s first two senators, Ernest Gruening, was one of only two senators to cast a vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The other was the famously stubborn and principled Wayne Morse of Oregon. His anti-war vote caught him a lot of flak, and this combined with his age of 81 in 1968 didn’t help him for reelection. Although Gruening was the presumptive favorite, real estate developer and former Alaska House Speaker Maurice Robert (“Mike”) Gravel (1930-2021) stepped up to challenge him. He was 43 years younger and he emphasized his youth and good looks throughout the campaign while keeping his stance on Vietnam ambiguous, asserting that he was “more in the mainstream of American thought on Vietnam” than Gruening, and later admitted he did this to win the election (Power). This led people to think that Gravel was to Gruening’s right on the subject, when in fact he was on his left. Gruening, who had been one of Alaska’s leading figures for decades before statehood, was defeated in an upset. Although he ran for reelection through a write-in campaign, Gravel won the election in a plurality.

First Term

Although Gravel had a well-grounded reputation as a staunch liberal in his first four years in office, he nonetheless could be independent in his voting. For instance, in 1969 he was the only Democrat not from a Southern or Border state to vote for the nomination of South Carolina’s Clement Haynsworth to the Supreme Court, a man attacked by liberals for his record on labor and civil rights as well as for ethics questions. He would not do the same for G. Harrold Carswell. Gravel presaged the modern era of politics in his propensity for showboating, rather than relying on traditional methods of moving up in the Senate. His most notable attention-getting incident was when he inserted 4,100 pages of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed a pattern of systematic lying by the Johnson Administration on Vietnam to the public and Congress, into the Congressional Record, making them a part of public record. Gravel also unsuccessfully filibustered a proposal to extend the draft for two years in 1971 before a planned end in 1973. He would in his 2008 campaign take credit for stopping or shortening the draft despite 1973 having already been the planned end date. Gravel’s staunch and vocal advocacy against the Vietnam War led to him going on numerous speaking tours, which resulted in a high absentee record. He did, however, defend the status quo on the Senate filibuster, a sore spot for liberals in his record. “Loose cannon is a good description of Gravel’s Senate career. He was an off-the-wall guy, and you weren’t really ever sure what he would do” (Westphal). In 1971, both he and Senator Ted Stevens came out against the Milrow and Cannikin nuclear tests, to be detonated under the unpopulated Amchitka Island. They and environmentalist groups feared that the detonations would cause major earthquakes and tsunamis. The tests ultimately were conducted, and no major earthquakes or tsunamis occurred with only minor earthquakes occurring in the aftermath (TIME). Similar to his treatment of his efforts against the draft, Gravel would later claim that his efforts had been responsible for cutting short the tests. He would be a frequent foe of other forms of military spending and would also oppose nuclear anything. Gravel came out against the Anti-Ballistic Missile system in 1971 and opposed continuing construction of nuclear power plants.

In 1972, Gravel, who was French-Canadian by birth, endorsed Senator Edmund Muskie for the presidential nomination, hoping his endorsement would help him among people of French-Canadian extraction in the New Hampshire primary. While Muskie did win the New Hampshire primary, his campaign floundered after. He also made a bid for the vice president nomination, but ultimately Sargent Shriver would be the nominee.

Trans-Alaska Pipeline: Gravel vs. Environmentalists

While Gravel had won praise from environmentalists for his opposition to the Cannikin nuclear test near Alaska, he crossed them in his advocacy for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Gravel won a major victory when his proposal to bar judicial review of the pipeline on environmental grounds, supported by the Nixon Administration, passed by a single vote on July 17, 1973. This halted numerous environmental lawsuits against the pipeline and enabled its construction, crucial to growth in Alaska. Gravel was also a consistent supporter of the oil industry as Alaska was and is an oil state. This would not be the last time he crossed environmentalists.

1974 Reelection

Although Mike Gravel was thought to be in a tough spot for reelection or even renomination in 1974, there were three factors that helped him win reelection. First, he was able to secure key endorsements from organized labor. Second, his victories for Alaska such as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. And third, the Republicans nominated State Senator C.R. Lewis, who was a leading member of the John Birch Society. Gravel prevailed by over 16 points on Election Day.

Second Term

Allegation of Sex for Votes

In 1976, Gravel was investigated by the federal government over allegations that Rep. Kenneth J. Gray (D-Ill.) had instructed his staff clerk Elizabeth Ray in 1972 to help secure funding for the National Visitor Center in Washington (which was under both men’s subcommittee jurisdictions) by sleeping with him on his houseboat and that he had changed his vote over it (Crewdson). The investigation didn’t prove any such arrangement occurred, and Gravel would many years later admit that he had slept with her, but that it didn’t change any of his votes. He at the time was married to his first wife, and they would divorce in 1981.

The Alaska Lands Bill: Gravel Refuses to Compromise

Jimmy Carter in many ways appealed to environmentalists despite his mixed record. One of the ways he appealed to environmentalists was through his extensive conservation program that strongly impacted the west and resulted in the Sagebrush Rebellion. Gravel was part of this rebellion in his resistance to conservation in Alaska. In 1978, he filibustered to death a compromise Alaska Lands Bill pushed by his Republican colleague Ted Stevens that would open some mining lands and expand ANWR but leaving the coastal plain open to oil development and adding wilderness protections. Gravel did so on his belief that the bill didn’t go far enough in securing routes for transportation corridors for oil (Alaska Historical Society). As a consequence, President Carter would on December 1st issue an executive order using restrictive national monument designations of 56 million acres of land into 17 national monuments and an additional 40 million were withdrawn until the issue of Alaska land development and conservation got a compromise resolution in 1980 (Cole). The land restrictions were incredibly unpopular in Alaska, resulting in protests and acts of civil disobedience. Alaska voters blamed both Carter and Gravel for this outcome. Gravel also lost a key financial backer when he voted for selling F-15 fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia and spoke passionately against opponents of the sale. The key backer, Barney Gottstein, had been a staunch advocate of Israel. Gravel would later accuse his primary opponent Clark Gruening of receiving funds from “a special interest group”, meaning Jews, as he thought them a special interest group on foreign policy (Greely). Gruening had previously promised not to seek funds from outside interest groups.

The 1980 Election

Senator Gravel’s bid for renomination was complicated by the fact that he had never been a popular figure among the Alaska Democratic establishment due to his defeat of Ernest Gruening as well as his approach on the Alaska land bill. He lost renomination by 11 points on August 26th to Clark Gruening, the former senator’s grandson. Gravel had ultimately lost due to alienating numerous groups as well as his unconstructive approach to Alaska lands legislation. However, even without Gravel’s personal difficulties Alaska was becoming an increasingly Republican state and President Jimmy Carter was deeply unpopular there (he only won 26% of the vote!), resulting in Republican banker Frank Murkowski winning the election. Gravel’s MC-Index score was a 14%. Although on most issues he was left-wing, he proved that on certain issues that were regarded as in the interests of the state of Alaska he was flexible.

Return to Politics

Mike Gravel in 2019

While most former senators tend to go into lobbying or only occasionally speak on political matters, that was not for Gravel. The Iraq War motivated him to return to national politics. In 2003, he spoke on direct democracy at an event hosted by American Free Press and cosponsored by the Holocaust denying journal The Barnes Review, both run by the pro-Nazi Willis Carto. Gravel subsequently apologized for his appearance, stating that he didn’t know they were Holocaust deniers and affirmed that six million Jews were murdered. This would not be the last time he would associate with fringe groups. In 2013, Gravel would attend a conference by the Iranian government on “Hollywoodism” to discuss Iran’s negative portrayals in American media (Botwin). He would also associate himself with Lyndon LaRouche organizations. LaRouche was a conspiracy theorist who maintained a cult of personality through his LaRouche movement, which had both strongly left and right swings.

Run for President

On April 17, 2006, he announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president. His platform included a push for more direct democracy through the creation of a fourth branch of government that would be a legislature in which citizens would vote directly, an immediate pullout from Iraq, a single-payer health care system with coverage for homeopathy and acupuncture, repealing the income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax, term limits, and legalization of same-sex marriage. Gravel would also call for another investigation into 9/11. His participation in the Democratic primary debates resulted in heated moments. When the subject of the possibility of using nuclear weapons in Iran was discussed, Gravel asked Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill)., “Tell me, Barack, who do you want to nuke?” to which Obama replied, “I’m not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike” (ABC News). He was not permitted to attend the debates after the third one.

Despite his consistently bottom-barrel poll numbers in the Democratic primary, he was one of only three remaining candidates by January 2008. On March 26th, Gravel announced his departure from the Democratic primary, opting instead to seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party. He wrote in an email to his supporters on his decision that the Democratic Party “no longer represents my vision for a great country. It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism – all of which I find anathema to my views” (ABC News). Gravel attracted a bit more support, but ultimately came in fourth. After his defeat, he stated, “I just ended my political career. From 15 years old to now, my political career is over, and it’s no big deal. I’m a writer, I’m a lecturer, I’m going to push the issues of freedom and liberty. I’m going to push those issues until the day I die” (Fox News). Despite Gravel’s statements about the Democratic Party, he returned to the fold in 2010.

Criticism of American Foreign Policy and 2020 Run (Sorta)

Gravel had been a critic of American foreign policy since the start of the “War on Terror” and he regarded American actions as amounting to imperialism. Although he had for years associated himself with 9/11 truthers, in 2016 he confirmed his beliefs on the subject when he stated, “There’s no question in my mind that 9/11 was an inside job. We killed 58,000 American servicemen in the Vietnam War and all they did was die in vain. What’s so unusual about killing 3,000 more in order to develop the grist for the mill to empower into infinity the military industrial complex?” (Cheadle)

In 2019, although Gravel had previously concluded that he had “ended” his political career, he was urged by two teenagers to make yet another run for the Democratic nomination despite his advanced age. However, this bid was in truth a symbolic effort to communicate his views nationwide by appearing at the Democratic debates and he would not travel unless it was to the debates. Gravel’s campaign manager was 18-year-old senior David Oks, one of the teenagers who had convinced him to run. He dropped out after it became clear that he wouldn’t make the debate stage given that he didn’t attract enough donor support. He didn’t even endorse himself for president, rather endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. After he concluded his campaign, Gravel established The Gravel Institute with remaining money he had raised for the campaign, intended to be the left-wing answer to PragerU. This organization has attracted staunchly left-wing figures, including Senator Bernie Sanders and Professor Cornel West. Gravel died on June 26, 2021.


Botwin, N. (2019, March 21). Mike Gravel’s Unseemly Associations. Jewish Worker.

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Cheadle, H. (2019, March 21). Mike Gravel, the Online Left-Wing Sensation, Is Also a 9/11 Truther. Vice.

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Cole, D. (2016, July 7). Thirty-five years ago, Carter drew wrath of many Alaskans. Anchorage Daily News.

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Crewdson, J.M. (1976, June 12). U.S. Studies Charge Of Sex-for-Vote Bid. The New York Times.

Graham, D.A. (2019, April 10). Mike Gravel’s Plan to Rock the Democratic Primary. The Atlantic.

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Greely, J.S. (1980, August 26). Gravel Raps Rival on Jewish Donors. The Washington Post.

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Libertarians Pick Barr as Presidential Nominee. (2008, May 25). FOX News.

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Mike Gravel, Filibusterer. Alaska Historical Society.

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Mike Gravel, former US senator for Alaska, dies at 91. (2021, June 27). ABC News.

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Power, C. (2021, June 27). Mike Gravel, gadfly senator from Alaska with flair for the theatrical, dies at 91. The Washington Post.

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The Amchitka Bomb Goes Off. (1971, November 15). TIME.

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Westphal, D. (2008, January 13). Gravel the Firebrand. The Miami Herald.

Jim Jones and Politics

When you consider what happened at Jonestown, this is a most haunting picture.

I have recently recalled a most irritating discussion I had with a person I no longer know about eight years ago, in which she said, despite a heap of evidence to the contrary, that Jim Jones was an evangelical Christian and that he was NOT a communist or in fact an atheist because her professor said so and that professors cannot lie. She was in truth what we would be called an “SJW” nowadays. Her professor was not alone among staunch left-wingers in this denial of a deeply uncomfortable truth, especially in California. It is the truth that not only was Jim Jones a communist and an atheist, but how close-knit he was to the political powers that were in San Francisco in the 1970s. It reminds me of the late Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church and their extensive ties to the American right (including ownership of The Washington Times for years through his company, New World Communications), although unlike Jones, Moon never killed anyone.

James Warren Jones (1931-1978) would make his greatest political mark in the California Bay Area, but his start would be in the state of his birth, Indiana, and would engage in his earliest political activities in Indianapolis. He went to church with his parents from a young age but there were already troubling signs of where he would eventually go. Jones was obsessed with Pentecostalism and death and claimed that he had special powers, including the ability to fly, which he attempted and broke his arm in the failure. It didn’t help that his mother told him that she had a vision that he would be a great religious leader one day. Jones also came to idolize Adolf Hitler as an adolescent and would even play a game of “dictator” in which he would have kids goosestep and hit them if they disobeyed him, but he later expanded his influences to communists such as Stalin, Mao, and Marx. He also admired the fact that Hitler committed suicide rather than be captured. As a teenager, Jones became disturbed by society’s treatment of black Americans, including his own father’s. By 1948, he considered himself a communist and three years later, he moved to Indianapolis and attended his first Communist Party meeting. The following year, Jones opted to join the church and reflected back on the matter, “I decided, how can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church”, and he went on to say, “The early years, I’d approached Christendom from a communalist standpoint, with only intermittent mention of my um, Marxist views. However, in later years, there wasn’t a person that attended any of my meetings that did not hear me say, at some time, that I was a communist, and that is what is very strange, that all these years, I have survived without being exposed” (Jones). In 1977, Jones’ wife Marceline admitted “Jim used religion to try to get some people out of the opiate of religion” and had slammed the Bible on the table yelling, “I’ve got to destroy this paper idol!” (Lindsey) Disturbingly, he also claimed to his followers that he was God, but did not do so outside of Peoples Temple meetings. This was an odd proclamation given that he was quoted as saying, “Off the record, I don’t believe in any loving God. Our people, I would say, are ninety percent atheist” (Jones, Q622). This tendency to seeing himself as God was confirmed by the testimonies of former members. Former member Hue Fortson Jr. reported that he said, “What you need to believe in is what you can see…If you see me as your friend, I’ll be your friend. As you see me as your father, I’ll be your father, for those of you that don’t have a father…If you see me as your savior, I’ll be your savior. If you see me as your God, I’ll be your God” (PBS).

Civil Rights Leader in Indianapolis

In 1961, Jones was named by conservative Democrat Indianapolis Mayor Charles Boswell as director of the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission. He had been interviewed by a priest, a rabbi, and a black judge without investigating his background. What they knew was that Jones was an advocate for civil rights and an advocate for poor people. Boswell had appointed him as he was in truth the only candidate, and despite being advised to keep a low profile and minimize antagonism to the business community, he drew a lot of attention to himself and engaged in militant rhetoric, although in practice Jones’ actions were more moderate (Alternative Considerations, 2013). He was credited with pushing certain business owners to be more open to black customers. In a life otherwise filled with darkness, this is the bright spot. This was brief, however, as in the following year Jones moved to Brazil with his family, trying to get a Peoples Temple foothold there, but was unsuccessful and moved back to Indianapolis in 1963.

Jones and California Democratic Politicians

In 1965, Jones moved the People’s Temple to Redwood Valley, California, a few miles outside Ukiah after he read in Esquire Magazine that Ukiah would be an area that would likely survive a nuclear war. He declared that there would in the future be a nuclear war and that from the ashes would spring a socialist utopia. In 1971, Jones bought an abandoned synagogue in San Francisco and set up the new headquarters of the Peoples Temple. The Temple would also have locations in Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Fresno, Bakersfield, and Los Angeles. He spread money around for charitable causes in the city to gain support, including a fund for policemen’s widows and the local NAACP. Jones also curried favor with the media by speaking in defense of Fresno reporters imprisoned for refusing to reveal their sources. Jones’ newspaper, Peoples Forum, in practice according to a 1977 expose, “regularly exalts socialism, praises Huey Newton and Angela Davis and forecasts a government takeover by American Nazis” (Kilduff & Tracy).

Jim Jones had numerous ties with prominent Democratic politicians in California, especially ones in the Burton machine in San Francisco. They either looked approvingly at his Marxism or did not care, as they could be characterized as “anti-anti-communists”; Burton and his ilk were the staunchest of foes of the Vietnam War and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. They also ignored any signs of trouble from him as they saw him as a useful supporter given all the people he could bring to campaign events and canvass for them. Future San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown praised Jones as “What you should see every day when you look in the mirror” and that he was a combination of Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Albert Einstein, and Mao (Reiterman & Jacobs, 308). Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles visited the Los Angeles Temple, and Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally visited Jones’s Guyana agricultural location. As Kilduff and Marshall (1977) wrote, “The source of Jones’s political clout is not very difficult to divine. As one politically astute executive puts it: “He controls votes.” And voters. During San Francisco’s run-off election for mayor in December of 1975, some 150 temple members walked precincts to get out the vote for George Moscone, who won by a slim 4,000 votes. “They’re well-dressed, polite and they’re all registered to vote,” said one Moscone campaign official.

Can you win office in San Francisco without Jones? “In a tight race like the ones that George or Freitas or Hongisto had, forget it without Jones,” said State Assemblyman Willie Brown, who describes himself as an admirer of Jones’s”.

In a San Francisco rally for First Lady Rosalynn Carter, 600 of 750 people in the crowd were members of the People’s Temple. Jones also met with Mrs. Carter as well as Jimmy Carter’s running mate, Walter Mondale. Harvey Milk attended his rallies and considered him a partner in the struggle for liberation.
Kilduff and Tracy (1977) wrote this in their expose on Jones, “Finally, something must be said about the numerous public officials and political figures who openly courted and befriended Jim Jones. While it appears that none of the public officials from Governor Brown on down knew about the inner world of the Peoples Temple, they have left the impression that they used Jones to deliver votes at election time, and never asked any questions. They never asked about the bodyguards. Never asked about the church’s locked doors. Never asked why Jones’s followers were so obsessively protective of him. And apparently, some never asked because they didn’t want to know”.

The 1975 San Francisco Mayoral Election

Jim Jones saw value in cultivating support from Moscone, so he rallied his followers to work for the mayoral candidate, sending them out walking precincts. The 1975 mayoral election was close and it ultimately set San Francisco on the course to where it is today politically. In opposition was John Barbagelata, a conservative Republican member of the San Francisco City Council, who ran on a platform of bringing the city back to the values of decades past. However, come election day Moscone prevailed by 4,400 votes, but was the election legit?

Former Temple members would later state that “busloads” of members were taken from Redwood Valley to San Francisco to vote and that refusal would be met with physical violence (Fund). Jones required his followers to produce ballot stubs proving they had voted. Although there was an investigation by the city government into allegations of voter fraud, the man assigned to lead the investigation was Timothy Stoen, who at the time was chief legal adviser to…you guessed it…Jim Jones (Fund). As expected, Stoen found no wrongdoing by Jones or his Peoples Temple. Jones would be appointed to the San Francisco Housing Authority by Moscone and then made head of it. Additionally, Supervisor Harvey Milk was strongly supportive of Jones as he was pro-gay rights, had provided his campaigns with “volunteers”, positive press in his newspaper, and had his followers send him condolence letters after his lover committed suicide (Dreher).

Exposure, Stoen’s Defection, and Jonestown

Although Jones had managed to gain the support of many Democratic politicians and that of the local media, reporter Marshall Kilduff of the San Francisco Chronicle, which had refused to print his stories of former members speaking out, published an expose through an independent paper, New West, in August 1977. These revelations included how Jones controlled his followers through psychological manipulation, regimentation, fear, humiliation, and violence.

One family who left the Peoples Temple, the Mertles, reported that when they first joined they were first treated with great love by Jones and his followers, but this gave way to discipline for minor infractions which started as denouncing and humiliation of the person in front of the entire congregation and then spankings with wooden paddles in front of the congregation. These would end with the punished person saying, “Thank you Father” and Jones would praise how much better they had become (Kilduff & Tracy). These beatings escalated in their severity. One day, one of their daughters, Linda Mertle, was disciplined for hugging and kissing a female friend who was reputed to be a lesbian, and was swatted on the buttocks 75 times (Kilduff & Tracy). Elmer and Deanna Mertle subsequently left the Peoples Temple and changed their names to Al and Jeanne Mills to void the power of attorney had given Jones. Jones also controlled people by making them write false confessions of crimes and indecent acts and having people give the church their money and property.

Jim Jones would also trick his followers into believing that he had healing powers. Wayne Pietila and Jim and Terri Cobb reported that a people purportedly ill with cancer would be taken into a restroom with Jones and his wife and they would come out apparently healed with the cancer cupped in a napkin. One time, Terri managed to get a look at a bag full of the cancers, and reported, “It was full of napkins and small bits of meat, individually wrapped. They looked like chicken gizzards. I was shocked” (Kilduff & Tracy). He also faked multiple assassination attempts on himself as a demonstration of his ability to heal himself and as a demonstration that the Peoples Temple and Jones had dangerous enemies.

Another issue that arose for Jones was the custody battle over John Victor Stoen, son of Tim and Grace Stoen. However, Grace was also having relations with Jim Jones and the couple had signed the child over to Jones. However, Stoen broke with the group after the 1975 election and he joined forces with the Mertles to provide support for people getting out of the Peoples Temple.

New West magazine editor Rosalie Wright had informed Jones about the publication ahead of time and read him the story over the phone because of the numerous letters of support she had received from numerous California politicians, including Governor Jerry Brown (Layton, 113). After the revelations, Jones and around a thousand followers fled to Guyana. Despite this expose, Mayor George Moscone refused to investigate the Temple, and Councilman Harvey Milk remained a supporter of the Peoples Temple. The latter even wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter accusing Timothy Stoen of lying about Jones and the group.

Support for Communist Dictators and The Kim Connection

Jones’ publication wrote in support of the Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong and the North Korea regime of Kim Il Sung. As early as the 1950s, Jones criticized the American role in the Korean War, holding that Kim Il Sung’s invasion was a liberation of South Korea, holding, “The south is a living example of all that socialism in the north has overcome” (Thayer). In the case of the latter, support went beyond favorable coverage; North Korea initiated contact with the Peoples Temple. In March 1978, Jones went to a meeting in the North Korean embassy of Guyana and on over a dozen occasions he and his family met with the North Korean ambassador and other officials in Georgetown, Guyana, and he and the North Koreans exchanged propaganda materials. Jones would indoctrinate his members with North Korean propaganda and extol Kim Il Sung. The North Korean government would in turn praise Jones in its propaganda. He viewed North Korea’s effort and his effort at Jonestown as similar in their pursuit of a socialist utopia. As Jones said, in reaffirmation of his atheist and utopian views, “There is no Heaven up there, so we are going to have to make Heaven down here” (Thayer).

Psychological Deterioration, Jonestown

Jim Jones’ evil obsession with power and death grew worse as he was increasingly dependent on amphetamines and tranquilizers. This caused the whites of his eyes to be constantly red, thus his wearing of sunglasses. He would hold practice sessions for suicide, conditioning his adult followers for what would eventually come. Jones also lied about the conditions of the United States to his followers, telling them that blacks were being rounded up into concentration camps and that the Americans would come for them next. Upon Leo Ryan’s visit to investigate conditions at Jonestown and after he took some people who wanted to leave with him, Jones ordered his assassination. The purpose of this was to bring about the American troops that he had warned his followers of, thus fulfilling his own prophecy. Jones proceeded to direct his followers to commit suicide on November 18, 1978, through the consumption of grape “Flavor Aid” laced with cyanide, with the children first being murdered. He had managed to accrue a major supply of cyanide over several years as he had obtained a jeweler’s license, the cyanide officially being purchased in bulk to clean gold (Polk). Disturbingly an audio recording exists of this event. Among the disturbing and haunting content in it, Jones implores dissenters among his followers to commit suicide, “Stop these hysterics. This is not the way for people who are socialists or communists to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity” (The “Death Tape”). Although Jonestown is often thought of as mass suicide, it can more accurately be thought of as mass murder. Those who did so “willingly” did so under brainwashing and many did so unwillingly, at gunpoint. And it cannot be said that any of the 276 children (including John Victor Stoen) chose to end their lives. Although Jones was commonly thought of as a champion for black people, most of his victims were black. His political allies Moscone and Milk would be assassinated by disgruntled former supervisor Dan White only nine days later.

The literature of Jonestown scattered on the floor discovered after the massacre.

Post-Jonestown Massacre Spin: The Mainstream Media Disassociates Jones from Marxism

After the Jonestown Massacre, those who had praised him before as a partner in social justice, “liberation”, or whatnot, were quick to distance themselves from him, not just on a personal level, but also to deny his ideology. Comedian Mort Sahl, for instance, cooked up a fine “no true Scotsman” fallacy with, “The exercise in Guyana was a fascist exercise, no matter what the label on the can. Socialists don’t do that” (Irvine). The legendary Walter Cronkite (a man who hid his really left-wing politics well for a time) retconned him, holding that he was a “power-hungry fascist” when in truth he hadn’t been fond of fascists since his teenage years and The New York Times labeled his philosophy “fundamentalist Christianity” (Dreher). The media’s immediate reports on Jones were that he was a fundamentalist Bible-thumping preacher, thereby buying the image Jones had presented to the public. One source that quickly reported the truth on him was none other than the left-wing magazine The Nation. The Nation wrote in the aftermath that, “The temple was as much a left-wing political crusade as a church. In the course of the 1970s, its program grew steadily more disaffected from what Jim Jones came to regard as a ‘Fascist America’ and drifted rapidly toward outspoken Communist sympathies” (Dreher). Yet, many Americans still believe the initial story the media told us, just like they grabbed onto “drinking the Kool-Aid” as a synonym for suicide or becoming brainwashed, even though what Jones’ followers were manipulated and forced into consuming was “Flavor Aid”.

Why Did People Follow Jones?

Part of why people followed Jones was because of the legitimacy he was lent by the press and politicians. As author Daniel J. Flynn stated in an interview with Rod Dreher (2018), “People lied. People died. People died. People lied. Jim Jones could not have killed 918 people without politicians, journalists, and activists running interference for him. They mistook ideology for ethics, a mistake common to fanatics of all stripes. Rather than learn from this mistake, they compounded it by portraying Jones posthumously as someone he was not to protect their ideology, shield their political skullduggery, and absolve themselves from the journalistic sin of performing PR instead of real reporting”. Another part of it was that Jones was a charismatic figure, stood for numerous liberal causes, and stood as a figure of hope for people who were vulnerable and looking for answers. As community activist Hannibal Williams observed, urban renewal specialist Justin Herman had “literally destroyed the neighborhood…people were desperate for solutions, something to follow. Jim Jones was another solution. He had a charismatic personality that won the hearts and souls of people. And people followed him to hell. That’s where Jim Jones went. That’s where he took the people who followed him” (Talbot). Jones himself represents what happens with a raw exercise of power in the promise of utopia. Even after his demise, there were still people who looked back with some positivity on their experiences following him, and more disturbingly, there were several murders of defectors after Jonestown. Not all of Jones’ followers had gone to Guyana. For instance, on February 26, 1980, Al and Jeannie Mills were murdered along with their daughter Daphne, execution style. While it is a significant possibility it was their son Eddie Mills, the case has remained officially unsolved.


I found that the more I read about Jones the more disturbed I got, and yes, found him to be even worse than people already think he is. Jones’ false dream of a utopia on earth is one that has in truth never died. Humanity has never created heaven on earth, but many, many times has created hell on earth and has sometimes done so in the pursuit of the former as happened with Jonestown. If you don’t believe in heaven, that’s your cross to bear, and the creation of it is not your cause to impose on humanity.


Crewdson, J.M. (1978, December 24). Defector Says Jones Used 2 Methods to Control Cult. The New York Times.

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Dreher, R. (2018, October 15). Jim Jones & Harvey Milk: The Secret History. The American Conservative.

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Fund, J. (2013, December 19). Someone Remind Podesta: Jim Jones Was a Democratic Vote Fraudster. National Review.

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Horrible Photos From the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, the Worst Mass Murder-Suicide in U.S. History. (2018, November 19). Vintage Everyday.

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Indianapolis to Guyana: a Jim Jones Chronology. (1978, November 22). The Washington Post.

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Irvine, R. (1978, December). Jones: Christian or Communist? Accuracy in Media.

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Jones Appointment to Indianapolis Human Rights Commission. (2013, February 17). Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple.

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Jones, J. (1999). “Q134 Transcript”. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple.

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Jones, J. (1999). “Q622 Transcript”. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple.

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Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple. (2007). PBS American Experience.

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Kilduff, M. & Tracy, P. (1977, August 1). Inside Peoples Temple. New West Magazine, 30-38.

Layton, D. (1999). Seductive poison: a Jonestown survivor’s story of life and death in the Peoples Temple. New York, NY: Knopf Doubleday.

Lindsey, R. (1978, November 26). Jim Jones – From Poverty to Power of Life and Death. The New York Times.

Mitchell, D. (2013, November 18). Retro Indy: Jim Jones and the People’s temple in Indianapolis. IndyStar.

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Polk, J. (2008, November 12). Jones plotted cyanide deaths years before Jonestown. CNN.

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Reiterman, T. & Jacobs, J. (1982). Raven: the untold story of Rev. Jim Jones and his people. Boston, MA: E.P. Dutton.

Ryckman, L.L. (1988, November 17). How Jonestown Snared a Child. Los Angeles Times.

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Talbot, D. (2012, May 1). Jim Jones’ sinister grip on San Francisco. Salon.

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Thayer, N. (2017, November 18). Comrades in Mass Murder: The Secret Alliance Between Suicide Cult Leader Jim Jones and North Korea. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple.

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The “Death Tape”. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple.

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The People’s Temple in California. PBS.

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Mitch McConnell’s Mentor

Marlow Cook (left) and Mitch McConnell (right)

On July 27, 2015, Vice President Joe Biden called a former senator to wish him a happy birthday, one that would be his last. Although Marlow Webster Cook (1926-2016) only served with Biden for two years in the Senate, the man made such a good impression on him as to warrant birthday phone calls. He also mentored Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative John Yarmuth (a Rockefeller Republican at the time, but now a staunchly liberal Democrat) who served as his aides.

In 1962, Cook was elected Jefferson County Judge (equivalent to County Executive) in an election that brought Republicans to power on a reform ticket. Part of this reform was making the city the first major one to have a public accommodations law south of the Mason-Dixon line. The Republicans elected on the reform ticket were not die-hard conservatives, rather moderate to moderate conservative. In 1967, he ran for the Republican nomination for Kentucky governor, but narrowly lost to the more conservative Barren County Judge Louie B. Nunn, whose campaign negatively capitalized on Cook’s Catholicism. He would, however, secure the endorsement of Republican Senator Thruston B. Morton to succeed him to public office and won in 1968 by nearly four points. Cook had campaigned for an escalation in the Vietnam War to win the votes of Wallace Democrats and he was in his victory the first Catholic to win an election statewide.

Although he had postured to the right for the Senate, he proved a moderate, especially in his first two years. Cook backed social welfare measures that the conservative wing opposed, such as food stamp expansion and enhanced unemployment insurance legislation. He also took a moderate course on busing, embracing a 1969 compromise on the subject whilst voting a preference to limit the practice. In 1969, Cook led the support for President Nixon’s nomination of Clement Haynsworth Jr. to the Supreme Court and defended him against claims of impropriety. However, he would join liberal Republicans in not backing Nixon’s next nominee, G. Harrold Carswell. True to his campaign message on Vietnam, he would oppose the Cooper-Church Amendment to stop funding for troops in Cambodia in 1970. However, Cook would later turn against continuing efforts in Vietnam. In 1973, he voted to override President Nixon’s veto of the War Powers Resolution.

As a senator from a tobacco producing state, he was a staunch supporter of the tobacco industry and after his time in the Senate he would represent the Tobacco Institute. In 1973, Cook voted against barring importation of Rhodesian chrome, as the only feasible substitute would be the USSR. The following year, he voted against the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. These votes were part of Cook’s usually anti-communist politics on foreign policy in his voting record, as with the latter anti-communists in the United States feared that the USSR would launch baseless claims against the US alleging genocide for propaganda purposes. Indeed, they could look back to the communist front Civil Rights Congress’ “We Charge Genocide” petition before the United Nations in December 1951, accusing the US of genocide over the treatment of American blacks by government and society.

Cook was highly popular with his colleagues and made friends with many, including as mentioned before Joe Biden. He would have easily won another term save for two things: Governor Wendell Ford was really popular and Richard Nixon was deeply unpopular in Kentucky in the wake of Watergate. Indeed, polling of the 1974 race indicated that Ford was the only Democrat who could beat Cook, and that he did by about 10 points. Cook’s MC-Index score was a 62%, indicating a moderate record. The next Republican senator from Kentucky would be none other than Mitch McConnell.

In his later years, Cook would dissent from his party on multiple notable occasions: in 1984, Cook endorsed his close friend Democrat Walter “Dee” Huddleston in his bid for reelection rather than McConnell. He likewise befriended the man who beat him, Wendell Ford. In 2004, Cook endorsed John Kerry over George W. Bush primarily over the Iraq War and in 2014, he criticized his former aide McConnell for his opposition to Obamacare, holding that McConnell should not focus on repealing Obamacare, rather on correcting flaws in the legislation (Courier Journal).

Upon Cook’s death, McConnell said of him, “Marlow Cook gave me my first real opportunity in politics, as state youth chairman for his successful Senate campaign. He gave me an important opportunity in government too, as chief legislative assistant – basically what we now call legislative director – in his Senate office. I worked there for two years. I recall that time fondly. I remain very grateful for it” (Courier Journal).


Marlow Cook, former senator, county judge, dies. (2016, February 4). The Courier-Journal.

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A Most Controversial Nominee: Louis Brandeis

Although Ketanji Brown Jackson is a first, she will not be approved by the Senate on similar lines to the Thurgood Marshall nomination in 1967, in which he was confirmed 69-11 with opposition limited to opponents of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I wrote not too long ago on why this is, but her nomination in how the vote will break down bears much more resemblance to another first, that of the first Jewish justice in American history, Louis Brandeis.

The People’s Lawyer

Brandeis was a game changer pick for the Supreme Court, and his first of being Jewish was not even the half of it. He also was known as “The People’s Lawyer” for his progressive advocacy and his battling of big business. Of President Wilson’s three picks for the Supreme Court, Brandeis would prove to be his most notable and celebrated pick. Early in his adult life, he represented business clients and his thinking was within that of the Republican Party. However, in the 1890s he grew increasingly progressive in his views, similar to the journey that Robert La Follette took. In 1890, Brandeis drafted with Samuel Warren a Harvard Law Review article articulating a “right to privacy” which would be adopted by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) in an opinion written by one of his many admirers, William O. Douglas. He ultimately switched to the Democratic Party in 1912 in support of Woodrow Wilson’s progressivism.

The Brandeis Brief

Louis Brandeis won a major victory in the Supreme Court when he presented what became known as the “Brandeis Brief” in the 1908 case Muller v. Oregon, which was revolutionary as he relied far more on scientific evidence and testimony from experts than legal argument, to the order of two pages for legal arguments and 110 pages for evidence and testimony (100). This approach got the praise of none other than Justice David J. Brewer, who had a well-founded reputation as a conservative. The approach of evidence being presented for segregation being unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) was based on the Brandeis Brief.

The Controversial Confirmation

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson aimed for a double-hitter in his pick to the Supreme Court to succeed Charles Evans Hughes: he wanted a likeminded progressive and the first Jewish person to sit on the court. This nomination was deeply controversial both for his radicalism and that he was Jewish. Conservative senators denounced Brandeis as a radical for his views against big business and remembered bitterly his role against President Taft in the Ballinger-Pinchot controversy. Unlike today with Jackson, both The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal came out against him and denounced him as a “radical”, with the former holding “The Supreme Court, by its very nature, must be a conservative body; it is the conservator of our institutions, it protects the people against the errors of their legislative servants, it is the defender of the Constitution itself. To place upon the Supreme Bench judges who hold a different view of the function of the court, to supplant conservatism by radicalism, would be to undo the work of John Marshall and strip the Constitution of its defenses” (Constitution Center). Former President William Howard Taft as well as former Senator Elihu Root publicly opposed his nomination, regarding him as unfit to serve on the court. Taft went as far as to call the nomination “an evil and a disgrace” and six former presidents of the American Bar Association came out against the nomination (Constitution Center). The former president would ironically develop a good working relationship with Brandeis on the court. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass.), de facto leader of the Senate Republicans, was of the opinion that he was picked only because he was Jewish and was not qualified for the court. Some opponents of Brown Jackson have echoed this argument regarding her being a black woman because of Biden’s promise to pick a black woman beforehand. Senator George Sutherland (R-Utah) repeated a rumor that Brandeis had acted as counsel for United Drug Company, supposedly considered by the Justice Department as an illegal trust (Campbell). In another twist of irony, Sutherland too would join Brandeis on the Supreme Court. He faced multiple accusations about professional conduct largely based on hearsay, but these were either refuted or unproven.

Brandeis was one of two radicals that Wilson appointed to the Supreme Court, the other being John Hessin Clarke. It should be noted that although Brandeis’ nomination was controversial, the similarly progressive (although perhaps not as notoriously so) Clarke got a unanimous confirmation. This can be viewed as Clarke having had a history as an effective federal justice (while Brandeis was a trial lawyer) and possibly due to the fact that he was not Jewish. Louis Brandeis was confirmed 47-22 on a largely partisan basis, with Senators George Norris of Nebraska, Miles Poindexter of Washington, and Robert La Follette of Wisconsin voting for on the Republican side while only Nevada’s Francis Newlands voted against on the Democratic side. Republican Senators Moses Clapp of Minnesota and Asle Gronna of North Dakota paired for. The five Republicans who approved of Brandeis’ nomination were all on the progressive wing of the party. It is a testament to the influence of Wilson over Southern Democrats that there was not a single “nay” vote among them.

Brandeis would serve on the court for 23 years, and in he would stand as one of the most influential members in the history of the court as well as one of the more progressive members. He was one of the justices more inclined to defend the Roosevelt Administration’s laws (The Three Musketeers), but he had his limits: he voted to strike down the Frazier-Lemke Farm Mortgage Act and joined the unanimous court in striking down the National Industrial Recovery Act. As a classic progressive, Brandeis feared bigness in business and thought that it was possible for government to go too far in this direction as well. His influence on the law was such, however, that conservatives of the day were correct to fear his impact: he made possible the broad right to privacy adoption in the Constitution that Roe v. Wade (1973) has basis in, among other things. Justice William O. Douglas (1964) would later write on the confirmation battle, “Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible … [and] the fears of the Establishment were greater because Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the Court”.

P.S.: I think Jackson will be confirmed 52-48, with Democrats being unanimous and Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joining them. I believe this because only three Republican senators voted for her to be on the D.C. Circuit, and those were Murkowski, Collins, and Graham, and the latter will not be voting for her for this one.


Atwell, M.W. (2009). Louis Brandeis. The First Amendment Encyclopedia.

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Campbell, S. (2020, August 4). A Timeline of Louis D. Brandeis’s Confirmation – Part 1. Brandeis and Harlan Watch.

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Douglas, W.O. (1964, July 5). Louis Brandeis: Dangerous Because Incorruptible. The New York Times.

Hall, K.L., Ely, J.W., & Grossman, J.B. (ed.) (2005). The Oxford companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

On this day, Louis D. Brandeis confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. (2021, June 1). National Constitution Center.

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To Confirm the Nomination of Louis D. Brandeis, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Voteview.

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Politics of Biden’s Day: A Guessing Game

Biden being sworn into for his first Senate term.

Modern American politics have been characterized by polarization. The least liberal Democrat is less conservative than the least conservative Republican in the present Congress. However, when President Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, things were not that way. Not at all. The parties had developed distinct wings, and even among those wings was a significant diversity of thought. To illustrate this, I’ve decided to play a game with my readers. That is, can you spot the Democrat and the Republican in the Senate Biden started in? I have provided the senators free of party identification at the bottom along with their modified (meaning pairs on legislation are counted towards their score) Americans for Constitutional Action scores for 1973 and 1974. These scores are based on 29 key votes from 1973 and 19 key votes from 1974, with 100 being most conservative. I’ll provide two freebies here because you will not guess them: James L. Buckley of New York is a Conservative-Republican, and Harry F. Byrd Jr. of Virginia is an Independent. I have also added President Nixon’s score based on votes in which his positions were recorded. The rest are either Democrats or Republicans. Some names might be recognizable, others not at all. Also, please don’t be a filthy cheater and look up these senators’ political parties before doing this. This is meant to educate how different politics has become and I’m interested in what people come up with for this! Also, to illustrate just how far back Biden’s career goes.


Opposition to Biden Nominees in First Year

Today’s post is going to be of some really recent history, as this regards nominations by President Biden. When Josh Hawley of Missouri was one of only two senators to vote against Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense at the start of Biden’s presidency and then voted against Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation, I was wondering if this would be his thing now, being the senator who votes against all of his nominees as a talking point for the 2024 GOP presidential primary. I decided to explore my curiosity here by examining confirmation votes of 145 Biden nominees in 2021, and I discovered a greater picture than Hawley’s opposition.

Least to Most Supportive of Biden Nominees, Republicans…

Republicans: Hawley (4%), Tuberville, Scott of Florida, and Cruz (6%), Cotton (9%), Paul (10%), Shelby (11%), Braun (12%), Blackburn (13%), Lankford (14%), Marshall (15%), Boozman, Rubio, and Hagerty (16%), Lee (18%), Kennedy and Scott of South Carolina (20%), Daines, Sasse, and Lummis (21%), Barrasso (22%), Ernst, Cassidy, and Hoeven (24%), Inhofe and Johnson (25%), Risch and Thune (26%), Sullivan (27%), Crapo and Cramer (28%), Hyde-Smith (30%), Wicker (31%), Moran and Toomey (32%), McConnell and Fischer (35%), Young (37%), Tillis and Cornyn (42%), Blunt (45%), Grassley and Capito (48%), Burr (49%), Romney (50%), Rounds (51%), Portman (52%), Graham (68%), Murkowski (81%), and Collins (88%).

As I thought, the senator who has stood out most in opposition to President Biden’s nominees is Josh Hawley. While he didn’t vote against ALL of Biden’s nominees, he only voted for his nominees 4% of the time in 2021. Runner-ups are Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Rick Scott of Florida, and Ted Cruz of Texas at 6%. Hawley and Cruz are thought to have their eye on the presidency in the future, and their high levels of opposition seem geared at least in part at winning over Republican primary voters. The four men all voted to sustain the electoral count objection to Pennsylvania and with the exception of Scott voted to sustain the Arizona objection. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has voted 35% of the time for Biden’s nominees, and Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota has done so 26% of the time.

The Middle-of-the-Roaders and Supporters

Several Republicans with less partisan reputations voted over 40% of the time for Biden’s nominees. Fromer presidential candidate Mitt Romney of Utah, often reviled by conservatives as he often highlights his dissents with other Republicans for the press, voted for Biden’s nominees 50% of the time in 2021. This, however, is not the highest support level among Republicans. There are five who exceed Romney: Rounds of South Dakota (51%), Portman of Ohio (52%), Graham of South Carolina (68%), Murkowski of Alaska (81%) and Collins of Maine (88%). While support and opposition to nominees among Republicans certainly is correlated with ideological conservatism, it seems more a matter of how strong partisanship is among Republicans.

The reason I focus more on Republican opposition than what Democrats did is that what Democrats have done with nominees is pretty boring, but in this boredom lies a key point of interest. Namely, that there was almost no dissent, and the leading dissenter who wasn’t a Republican was none other than Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who voted for Biden’s nominees a mere 98% of the time!

Least to Most Supportive of Biden Nominees, Democrats…

All 100% except Markey, Warren, Menendez, Merkley, and Manchin (99%).

Independents (who caucus with the Democrats and are counted as Democrats in the chart):

Sanders (98%) and King (100%).

As you can see, no Democratic senator on more than one occasion voted against a Biden nominee in 2021. Interestingly enough, the people who opted to dissent once mostly came from the left pole of the party. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, while being reviled by many Democrats for some critical dissents (living wage, filibuster), voted for Biden nominees 100% of the time. While I could say that this is evidence of Democratic partisanship, I would be interested in investigating in a later post how Republicans and Democrats addressed Trump nominees in 2017 to compare to this post. I get the sense that there’s more unity generally in support of presidential nominees among the president’s party than there is opposition among the opposing party as a norm. Nominee support/opposition I think of as a measure of partisanship from the opposing party more than anything else.