Historic Liberal Republicans: Mark Hatfield

Mark Odom Hatfield (July 12, 1922 – August 7, 2011) was a Republican politician from Oregon. Hatfield served two terms as Governor of Oregon before being elected to the United States Senate, an office he held for 30 years.

hatfieldHatfield was one of the most openly religious men in American politics at that time but, unlike most other evangelical Baptists, his faith led him toward a generally progressive philosophy. For example, during the Vietnam War (even in an election year and at a time that the war was supported by 75 percent of the public) Hatfield was the only person to vote against a resolution by a Governors’ conference that expressed support for the U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam.

Later, in 1970, along with Senator George McGovern (D-South Dakota), Hatfield co-sponsored the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, which called for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. The American bombing of North Vietnam struck him as especially immoral. “Terroristic or indiscriminate bombing must involve the deaths of non-combatant men, women, and children and merits the general condemnation of humanity,” he insisted. “It cannot be justified as an instrument for the fulfillment of United States foreign policy.”

Although a prominent evangelical Christian, Hatfield opposed government-sponsored school prayer and supported civil rights for minorities. Hatfield frequently broke with his party on issues of national defense and foreign policy, such as military spending and the ban on travel to Cuba. In the 1980s, Hatfield co-sponsored nuclear freeze legislation with Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy. He was the lone Republican to vote against the appropriations bill for the Department of Defense in fiscal year 1981. In 1990, Hatfield voted against authorizing military action against Iraq in the Gulf War, one of only two members of the Republican Party to do so in the Senate.

Hatfield was rated as the sixth most respected Senator in a 1987 survey of fellow senators. Sometimes referred to as “Saint Mark”, Hatfield enjoyed warm relations with members of both the Republican and the Democratic parties.

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