A Pioneer Woman in the U.S. Senate

As a record number of women entered the U.S. Congress this year and women participate in Congressional leadership positions in unprecedented ways, I thought it would be a good time to repost our short biography of one of the pioneers, Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith. Efforts are also currently underway to increase the number of Republican women in Congress. Check out gopwomenforprogress.org. and their upcoming workshop on political campaigning with the Women’s Campaign School at Yale.

margaret chases smith

Margaret Madeline Chase Smith (December 14, 1897 – May 29, 1995) was a member of the Republican Party and served as a U.S Representative (1940-1949) and a U.S. Senator (1949-1973) from Maine. She was the first woman to serve in both houses of the United States Congress.

Smith is best remembered for her 1950 speech, “Declaration of Conscience,” in which she criticized the tactics of McCarthyism.

Smith earned a reputation as a moderate Republican who often broke ranks with her party. For example, she supported much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. Congresswoman Smith was also a strong supporter of women in the armed services. Smith was sworn into the Senate on January 3, 1949. After less than a year in office, she gained national attention when she became the first member of Congress to condemn the anti-Communist witch hunt led by her fellow Republican Senator, Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.

In a well-publicized speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, four months earlier, McCarthy claimed to possess the names of 205 card-carrying Communists in the State Department. Smith, like many of her colleagues, shared McCarthy’s concerns about Communist subversion, but she grew skeptical when McCarthy repeatedly ignored her requests for evidence to back up his accusations.

On June 1, 1950, Smith delivered a fifteen-minute speech on the Senate floor, known as the “Declaration of Conscience,” in which she refused to name McCarthy directly (bowing to Senate rules on comity) but denounced “the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle.” She said McCarthyism had “debased” the Senate to “the level of a forum of hate and character assassination.” While acknowledging her desire for Republicans’ political success, Smith said, “I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horseman of calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear.” Six other moderate Senate Republicans signed onto her Declaration, including Wayne Morse of Oregon, George Aiken of Vermont, Edward Thye of Minnesota, Irving Ives of New York, Charles Tobey of New Hampshire, and Robert C. Hendrickson of New Jersey.

Smith’s speech triggered a public explosion of support and criticism. “This cool breeze of honesty from Maine can blow the whole miasma out of the nation’s soul,” stated the Hartford Courant. “By one act of political courage, [Smith has] justified a lifetime in politics,” commented another. Newsweek magazine ran a cover story entitled “Senator Smith: A Woman Vice President?” But critics called her “Moscow-loving,” and much worse. McCarthy dismissed her and her supporters as “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs.”

In the 1952 election, Smith was widely mentioned as a Vice-Presidential candidate to run with General Dwight D. Eisenhower. When asked by a reporter what she would do if she woke up one morning and found herself in the White House, she replied: “I’d go straight to Mrs. Truman and apologize. Then I’d go home.”

Smith was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1964 presidential election.
Nonetheless she was the first woman to be placed in nomination for the United States Presidency at a major Party’s convention. Upon leaving office, she was the longest-serving female Senator in history.

Smith was the first (and as yet only) woman to serve as chair of the Senate Republican Conference, serving from 1967 to 1972. She voted against President Nixon’s unsuccessful nominees to the Supreme Court, Clement Haynsworth in 1969 and G. Harrold Carswell in 1970.

Smith was a strong supporter of the space program. NASA administrator James E. Webb once commented that the United States never would have placed a man on the Moon if it were not for Smith. She also supported increased educational funding, civil rights, and Medicare.

Recently retired Republican Maine Senator Olympia Snowe was asked what Senator Smith would think of today’s Republican Party. Snowe responded, “Oh my gosh! She’d be appalled. I don’t think she could conceive of how it’s all evolved today. Even in my own experience, it’s hard to comprehend.”

Listen to Senator Susan Collins’s tribute to Senator Smith to learn more about her life here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QHLlYUgEgo

Congress opened and Alabama plays Clemson for the national championship

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the senior Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, stated at the opening of the 116th Congress last week that there is one core principle on which Republicans will not compromise. He stated that “Republicans will always choose personal freedom over government control.” What did he mean by that? If he meant the plain simple reading of the sentence, I know no American, Republican or Democrat, who would choose government control over personal freedom. It is in fact a very American and liberal statement. But if he means some variant of “all government is bad”, which I believe is what some listeners think he meant, it is a ludicrous position for any politician who truly wants America to be strong and successful.

Saying that all government is bad is a bit like saying that only football players whose last names start with the letters A through K can play for our team. Our team will be weaker than if we used all the players available to us. For example, in 1970 the University of Southern California’s football team, a fully-integrated team, traveled to play Alabama, a still segregated team. USC won the game 42 to 21. Sam Cunningham, a USC running back, had twelve carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone. This thrashing convinced Alabama of the need to integrate, and, in 1971 Alabama recruited its first Black player. The Crimson Tide’s wins, losses and ties in the years before integrating and after speak for themselves.

Year   W    L    T

Pre Integration

1967   8    2    1
1968   8    3    0
1969   6    5    0
1970   6    5    1

Post Integration

1971   11    1    0
1972   10    2    0
1973   11    1    1
1974   11    1    0
1975   11    1    0

Disagreeing about whether the private sector does various things better or the public sector does (or a combination thereof) is rational. But demonizing all government is just as ludicrous as demonizing all business, or only allowing players whose names begin with the letters A to K on the field. The results are perfectly foreseeable, and they are not good. (For more on the subject click here)

We Are All in This Together

Reposting one of our most popular posts during this season of “peace on Earth, goodwill towards men ( and women).” Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year to you and yours.

The cartoon shown below by Joseph Keppler entitled “Looking Backwards,” hangs in the museum on Ellis Island. The caption at the museum reads: “In a Puck cartoon entitled “looking backward,” the shadows of their immigrant origins loom over the rich and powerful who wanted to deny the “new” immigrants from central and southern Europe admission to America. The caption on the cartoon reads, ‘They would close to the newcomer the bridge that carried them and their fathers over.’”

In the book ‘The Disuniting of America,’ the late historian Arthur Schlesinger asks what is it that holds a diverse nation together. His answer is acculturation and integration–and he advocates for the continuation of one of America’s founding principles, “E Pluribus Unum.”

Trying to advocate for “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of Many, One”) is no easy task in America today. I hope that if you are reading this post you will do so in the spirit in which it is written–to make E Pluribus Unum more real for more people in America than ever before–not to subsume anyone’s identities in anyone else’s, but to create an inclusive nation of opportunity for all, that is accepting and respectful of our differences.

Sadly, at the moment America is moving in the opposite direction, with more people on both sides of the political aisle questioning the worth of loyalty to common values and ideals. Thankfully the majority of us, of all races, ethnicities and religions, still recognize that we are all in this together.‎

To read more, click here.

“I am rooting hard for you.”

What’s going on in Wisconsin is the very definition of illiberal government — government where “might makes right”. Outgoing Republican Governor Scott Walker is working with the Republican legislature in Wisconsin to rush through a bill to significantly reduce the powers of Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers and the Democratic Attorney General. And without any material explanation of a civic purpose for these proposals. Rather, it’s simply about increasing the influence of the Republican legislative branch at the expense of the soon-to-be Democratic executive branch…and after having done the opposite when Republican Governor Walker was elected. It’s about changing the legal rules when it’s to your advantage (and you have the power) to do so. It’s about having no tolerance for the other side.

This politics-as-blood-sport is the opposite of the note Republican President George H.W.Bush left Democratic President-elect Bill Clinton when President Bush vacated the White House: “Your success now is our country’s success”, wrote President Bush. “I am rooting hard for you.”

bush and clinton.jpg

Today’s “might makes right” approach to politics is also the opposite of how George Washington governed, relinquishing power twice when he didn’t have to, as described by Garry Wills in his book Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment . (Washington’s actions led his enemy King George III of England to say that Washington would be “the greatest man in the world” for doing so.) [https://bit.ly/2rmCfGz]

‎This “might makes right” approach to politics is also the opposite of Federalist Party President John Adams relinquishing power peacefully to Democratic-Republican Party President-Elect Thomas Jefferson, the first time an American political party different than the one then in power had been elected. (Fifty years to the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, both Jefferson and Adams passed. Adams’ last words were supposedly “Thomas Jefferson lives.” I don’t think that Scott Walker will ever be saying that about Tony Evers.)

It is tragic that Americans on the political left didn’t choose the word “Progressive” to describe their politics long ago. Perhaps Republicans would have demonized the word “Progressive” instead of the word “Liberal”, and a couple of decades later Democrats wouldn’t also have run away from the term. Perhaps then Americans of all political stripes would have continued to embrace the word “Liberal”–with its belief in constitutional government and the rule of law; hostility to concentrated economic, political and religious power; a belief in tolerance; respect for people’s individual rights; and a faith in progress. (This is Edmund Fawcett’s definition of liberalism from his book Liberalism: The Life of an Idea and I truly believe that the overwhelming majority of Americans embrace these values, if not the “Liberal” label.) And perhaps then we as a nation would have been inoculated from the election of the illiberal President Trump (or, if elected, his illiberal instincts would be less), as well as what is now happening in Wisconsin (and apparently in Michigan, and the illiberal power grab that already happened in North Carolina and is currently being litigated).

I hope that some of the stories about President Bush this week will help people focus on what has been lost since his time, and how our historic heritage is to act more like him, not like too many of our politicians act today. It would be fitting for someone with President Bush’s character to be able to continue to give to his country even at the age of ninety-four, even in his passing.

Green Shoots of Moderation

This is how Geoffrey Kabaservice, the author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and The Destruction of the Republican Party, describes what is happening in America. See his op-ed, “Moderate Republicans aren’t dead. They’re hiding in plain sight.” in the November 9 Washington Post [here].‎

I am so glad that there is FINALLY some press about moderate Republicans and their popularity. For most of us, such press generates hope, rather than more fear and polarization. America certainly doesn’t need any more fear or polarization.

A couple of weeks before this month’s elections, I was writing friends and folks engaging with the Lone Liberal Republican website and Facebook page that there is no better evidence of the discord the media sows than FiveThirtyEight’s recent poll of the most popular governors in America, their party affiliation and the political demographics of the state they govern [here]. Number one most popular governor in America was Republican Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.  At the time Massachusetts was a +24 Blue State by FiveThirtyEight’s reckoning. The number two most popular governor in America was Larry Hogan of Maryland, also a Republican in a +24 Blue State. Both were reelected by large margins last week. There are also important signs of Republican Party moderation coming out of states like Oklahoma and Kansas. Last time I looked Oklahoma and Kansas were neither on the East Coast nor traditional bastions of liberalism…

Neither my politically-engaged university student friends nor my politically-engaged contemporaries had any awareness of these facts or, by and large, had even heard of Governors Charlie Baker or Larry Hogan. Yet every bit of Trump nonsense blazes onto their radar and then their social media feeds, just like ridiculous left-wing stuff lights up the media (mainstream and social) of people on the political right.

For years the media has stoked people’s fears and anger, rather than highlight consensus where it exists. Too mundane I guess…doesn’t build readership or sell ads. But it’s gasoline on a fire that is dangerously close to ripping America apart, and it should stop. In the words of the late Senator John McCain, “Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.”

In addition to Geoffrey Kabaservice’s Washington Post op-ed mentioned above, there have been several other pieces regarding moderate Republicans published in the last month. These include a couple of Atlantic pieces by David Frum [here] and Parker Richards [here], and a piece by George Packer in the New Yorker [here].‎ It’s a start…”

I Really, Really Want My Politics Back

I thought American politics were divisive when I was young. Which they were. (Just watch a short video about civil unrest in America in 1968, like this one here)

But if you look at a Liberal Republican from those times like Senator Edward Brooke (the subject of this week’s repost of leading Liberal Republican politicians), or a conservative Republican of that time like President Ronald Reagan (see the entry about Reagan in W.H. Brands’ Reagan: A Life in the Bibliography With Commentary section), you realize how much more extreme and uncivil American politicians have gotten since those days.Shrek.jpg

Most of us, as passionate as we might be about politics today, really, really don’t want to continue on our current political trajectory. Because like it did in the USSR (Russia) and Nazi Germany, such politics often ends really, really badly for millions of people. And while we thankfully aren’t likely to end up in either of those places–though there are dozens of commentators on this website from both ends of the political spectrum who think we will–we could end up living in a nation of disgruntled pessimists. Which is an utterly un-American world view…and a terrible future to bequeath to our children and grandchildren. Really really.

Click here to read about Edward Brooke.

George Romney–Speaking Truth To Power

As we get close to the November elections, it is important to remember that there are some politicians who have the courage and principles to speak truth to power. Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, was one of them.
George Wilcken Romney (July 8, 1907 – July 26, 1995) was an American businessman and Republican Party politician. He was chairman and president of the American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962, the 43rd Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, and the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1969 to 1973.

romney_georgeRomney ran for Governor of Michigan in 1962 as an independent-minded reformer defending the individual against the power of “Big Labor, Big Industry, and Big Government.” He was elected and then subsequently re-elected in 1964 and 1966 with increasingly large support. He succeeded in attracting businesses to the state and in cutting unemployment to below the national average. Romney had also inherited a substantial budget deficit, but he left office with a surplus. Romney also led the way for a large increase in state spending on education, and Michigan thereby began to develop one of the nation’s most comprehensive systems of higher education. (I went to the University of Michigan — Go Blue.)

In the 1964 U.S. presidential election, Senator Barry Goldwater quickly became the likely Republican Party nominee. Goldwater represented a new wave of American conservatism, of which the moderate Romney was not a part. Romney declared, “If [Goldwater’s] views deviate as indicated from the heritage of our Party, I will do everything within my power to keep him from becoming the Party’s Presidential nominee.” During the Fall 1964 general election, Romney cut himself off from the national ticket, refusing to appear on the same stage with Goldwater. When pressed at campaign appearances about whether he was supporting Goldwater, he replied, “You know darn well I’m not!” Romney was re-elected as Governor of Michigan in 1964 by a large margin, despite Goldwater’s landslide defeat to President Lyndon B. Johnson that swept away many other Republican candidates.

We need more politicians like George Romney in both parties, and we need them to work with each other to produce the kinds of results that George Romney produced in Michigan.

Click here to read more about George Romney and other historic Liberal Republicans.

We Are All In This Together (Including Around the Thanksgiving Dinner Table)

The www.theloneliberalrepublican.com website and associated Lone Liberal Republican Facebook page are intended to make Americans aware that liberals and moderates are as much a part of the Republican Party’s heritage as conservatives‎–prominent as recently as the 1970’s and for most of the party’s history, starting with Abraham Lincoln. Such an awareness is a first step towards enabling Americans to believe that such politicians could play a significant role in the party again. If, like me, you believe that such a rebalancing could stop the increasing polarization in this country–and we are increasingly divided not only by politics, but by race and now by gender too–you might welcome this, even if your personal political beliefs are more conservative or progressive. (I have toyed with adopting as a motto for the Lone Liberal Republican project, “I could live with that.”)


To this end, as the holiday season approaches, I will be reposting weekly one of the seven biographies of liberal Republicans that I posted this Summer, as well as a few new ones. And, for the first time in the history of this website, I have a request of readers. Please share these biographies with your children, grandchildren, students and friends. Help build awareness of what the Republican Party has been, and can be again. Perhaps sharing these biographies will generate some less-heated political discussions around the Thanksgiving dinner table, some discussions around the concept of “I could live with that.”

Thanks much and all the best for the holiday season.


Circus Maximus

Ludi–public games in Ancient Rome’s Circus Maximus, were sometimes sponsored by politicians competing for divine and popular support. Horse and chariot racing, beast hunts, gladiator fights, public executions–all took place in Ancient Rome’s Circus Maximus.
circus maximuss

Today in America, television, talk radio, sensationalized print media (even the traditionally not-so-sensationalized print media) and social media ‎have created a gigantic, twenty-four hour Circus Maximus that increasingly envelops us all. And it is tearing at America’s social fabric in increasingly problematic ways, dividing us not only by politics, but by gender and race. If it continues, it’s hard to imagine things ending well.

I am not a hundred years old, but old enough to remember when American heroes were astronauts. Our most famous astronauts comported themselves as unlike most of today’s leading public figures as imaginable. Rather than grabbing attention, they deflected it. Rather than creating the atmosphere among their followers of a Circus Maximus, they endeavored to “maintain an even strain.”

Click here to read more.

No value to reaching across the aisle?

Senator Flake stated on 60 Minutes that “There’s no value to reaching across the aisle.” And that if he were running for reelection there was “no way” he could have successfully called for further investigation of Judge Kavanaugh. This has got to change if we are to be governed effectively.

Journalists should encourage readers and watchers to ask their elected officials about successfully sponsored bipartisan legislation. If the answer is “none”, send them home. Because in such case the elected officials have conclusively evidenced that their focus is on their own re-election, not on any of our or America’s welfare.

To read more on the subject click here.