As a long-time resident of the incredibly conservative, nay; redneck state of Idaho, it is a wonder to contemplate the balls of Glen H. Taylor who, in 1944 was elected as a Democrat to the US Senate in Idaho. He ran, unabashedly, as an inexperienced, populist entertainer on a platform of federalism; national pacifism; abolition of the profit system; establishment of unemployment benefits, federal retirement funding, and civil rights for blacks, communists, and any other marginalized groups. That he was actually elected by Idahoans to the Senate is strange enough, but that he went on to risk his political career to run as vice-presidential candidate for the Progressive Party in 1948 squares that sense of wonder.
In the book Prophet Without Honor; Glen H. Taylor & the Fight for American Liberalism, historian, F. Ross Peterson, recounts the amazing tale of a solitary man with a huge ego and principles to match that ego. Taylor was unwavering in his support for what he thought was right and good for America and for the state of Idaho. His progressive ideals played directly into the hands of the growing “Commie-mania” of the late 1940s. His belief that Russia (and the Communist Party) was not the enemy, but that America’s heavy-handed clutch on global power was the force that would alienate us from the world and cause frivolous expense, both of lives and of dollars, played directly into the hands of the ring leaders of the red scare. His warnings about meddling in central Asia and the middle East sound prescient. It is sad to think that the balding little singing cowboy without a college pedigree could have called the future so accurately.
It is instructive to read this book depicting how a progression of divide-and-conquer, of fear-mongering and hate-building, lead to one of the darkest periods of our nation’s history. It is particularly sad to see us headed down the same path during this 2016 election cycle.
Articulating his stance on Communism, “Taylor warned, ‘while you are watching for Communists — look what happened over in Germany. The Nazis sneaked in the door while everyone had his head under the bed looking for a Communist; you better rig yourself up a little rear vision mirror to look over the shoulder and see what’s coming in that door.” (p. 187) Today we could replace the word Communist with Muslim, Arab, Syrian, Mexican, refugee . . .