The Greatest Liberals In American History And What They Did For Our Country
Republicans have villainized liberals for three decades now. They have made efforts over that period of time to tear apart the policies that liberals instituted since the founding of America. Many liberals sought to make this country the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, and now Republicans are destroying what they built. Here is a list of the greatest liberals in American history and what they did to make our nation great.
1. George Washington) The Father of Our Country was a liberal, as were most of the founding fathers. Washington became the first President to serve under the newly formed Constitution that gave more powers to the federal government. And contrary to what most conservatives believe of Washington today, he did not support war.
2. John Adams) Adams, like Washington, also did not care for war. Adams signed into law the first health care mandate in American history. This health insurance was for sailors and it allowed them to get care provided by the federal government paid for through a tax.
3. Thomas Jefferson) Jefferson believed in separation of church and state and purchased the Louisiana Territory even though the Constitution says nothing about buying land. He was also a big proponent of a free press. He believed in human rights and he did not try to repeal the mandatory health insurance mandate instituted by John Adams. Jefferson was also a big cheerleader for France and believed corporations should be restricted from having too much power. Jefferson also supported a system of national infrastructure, and approved funding of the National Road.
4. James Madison) The Father of The Constitution was also a liberal. By conservative logic, anyone who grows government power is a liberal. Madison virtually wrote the Constitution himself, which by itself created a stronger more powerful federal government. Madison also believed in separation of church and state and kept the health mandate instituted by John Adams.
5. Benjamin Franklin) Franklin was a journalist who believed in a free press, and he was a scientist. He also instituted the first public fire house in Philadelphia, and believed in a government run postal service.
The founding generation abhorred corporate power and broke away from the most powerful nation of the time. If they were conservatives, the break would never have occurred. The five Founding Fathers listed above knew that slavery was wrong and hoped it would die out over time. The founders created a powerful federal government when they wrote the Constitution. If they hated government power so much, they would have kept the Articles of Confederation that kept the government powerless and weak. But they didn’t. Because they were liberals.
6. John Quincy Adams) As president, Adams proposed a program of modernization and educational advancement which was intended to achieve national greatness through economic growth and a strong federal government. He was able to enact part of his agenda, while paying off much of the national debt. Animated by his growing revulsion against slavery, Adams became a leading opponent of the Slave Power and argued that if a civil war ever broke out the president could abolish slavery by using his war powers, a correct prediction of Abraham Lincoln’s use of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Adams strongly opposed American military intervention in independence movements but supported moral support for such movements as American policy. He took the oath of office on a book of laws, instead of the more traditional Bible, to preserve the separation of church and state. He also supported internal improvements (roads, ports and canals), a national university, and federal support for the arts and sciences.
7. Abraham Lincoln) Lincoln, like most Republicans of his era, was a liberal. He was the first President to pass an income tax into law. He ended slavery. And he saved the Union from being destroyed by Civil War. He also signed the Homestead Act in 1862, making millions of acres of government-held land in the West available for purchase at very low cost. The Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, also signed in 1862, provided government grants for agricultural colleges in each state. The Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864 granted federal support for the construction of the United States’ First Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed in 1869. He also modernized America’s economic, communications, and financial infrastructure.
8. Jane Addams) She was the most prominent reformer of the Progressive Era and helped turn the nation to issues of concern to mothers, such as the needs of children, public health and world peace. She emphasized that women have a special responsibility to clean up their communities and make them better places to live, arguing they needed the vote to be effective.
9. Elizabeth Cady Stanton) The founder and one of the leaders of the women’s suffrage and women’s rights movement, Stanton addressed various issues pertaining to women beyond voting rights. Her concerns included women’s parental and custody rights, property rights, education, employment and income rights, divorce laws, the economic health of the family, and birth control. She supported interracial marriage and freedom for African Americans. Stanton believed organized Christianity relegated women to an unacceptable position in society and sought to correct the fundamental sexism she believed was inherent to organized Christianity.
10. Susan B. Anthony) A prominent American civil rights leader, Anthony supported freedom and civil rights for African-Americans and played a pivotal role in the women’s rights movement to introduce women’s suffrage into the United States which was a lifetime cause.
11. Florence Kelly) Her work during the Progressive Era against sweatshops and for the minimum wage, eight-hour workdays, and children’s rights is widely regarded today. She fought for the right of women to vote, fought for government inspection of factories, lobbied against child labor, sought the improvement of conditions for the working class, and crusaded for civil rights.
12. Theodore Roosevelt) Theodore Roosevelt is considered the greatest progressive in American history. He supported the Meat Inspection Act, worker’s rights, breaking up corporate monopolies to spur competition and lower prices, and later on he was an advocate for national health care. In the social sphere his New Nationalism platform of 1912 called for a National Health Service to include all existing government medical agencies, social insurance, to provide for the elderly, the unemployed, and the disabled, limited injunctions in strikes, minimum wage law for women, an eight hour workday, a federal securities commission, farm relief, workers’ compensation for work-related injuries, an inheritance tax, and a Constitutional amendment to allow a Federal income tax. The political reforms proposed included women’s suffrage, direct election of Senators, and primary elections for state and federal nominations.
13. Samuel Gompers) An American labor leader who created the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which later merged with the CIO to become the AFL-CIO, Gompers’ philosophy of labor unions centered on economic ends for workers, such as higher wages, shorter hours, and safe working conditions so that they could enjoy an “American” standard of living—a decent home, decent food and clothing, and money enough to educate their children. He thought economic organization was the most direct way to achieve these improvements, but he did encourage union members to participate in politics and to vote with their economic interests in mind. His belief led to the development of procedures for collective bargaining and contracts between labor and management which are still in use today.
14. Woodrow Wilson) Under Wilson’s New Freedom, voting rights were extended to women, anti-trust legislation was created to outline what businesses could not do, the Federal Reserve was created to regulate the banking system and the beginnings of the 8 hour work day, pensions, housing, and child labor laws were pushed. Wilson also believed in international cooperation and created the League of Nations, thus inspiring the United Nations.
15. Franklin Roosevelt) The New Deal marked an increased role for the federal government in addressing the nation’s economic and social problems. Among FDR’s achievements are Social Security, FDIC insurance, giant infrastructure projects to spur jobs (WPA), rural electrification, minimum wage laws, the United Nations, banking reform, and a progressive tax code. The programs of the New Deal were extremely popular, as they improved the life of the common citizen, by providing jobs for the unemployed, legal protection for labor unionists, modern utilities for rural America, living wages for the working poor, and price stability for the family farmer.
16. Eleanor Roosevelt) The former First Lady and wife of FDR is a celebrated liberal. She supported the New Deal, and even before her husband ascended to the White House, she fought for minimum wage, a shorter work week, the abolition of child labor, and supported labor unions. She especially supported more opportunities for women and African-Americans, notably the Tuskegee Airmen in their successful effort to become the first black combat pilots. After the death of her husband in 1945, Harry Truman appointed Eleanor as part of the first delegation to the United Nations which she fully supported and helped draft what would become the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
17. Harry S Truman) Truman ordered an end to segregation of the United States military, formed the Department of Defense, signed the Housing Act of 1949, approved the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and chose the first American delegation to the United Nations. He also cut defense spending to fund domestic programs. Truman also issued an order making it illegal to discriminate against persons applying for civil service positions based on race. Another executive order, in 1951, established the Committee on Government Contract Compliance, ensuring that defense contractors to the armed forces could not discriminate against a person because of their race.
18. John F. Kennedy) JFK inspired the race to the moon, negotiated the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and created the Peace Corps. Legislation passed by Congress during the Kennedy administration included an expansion of unemployment benefits, aid was provided to cities to improve housing and transportation, funds were allocated to continue the construction of a national highway system started under Eisenhower, a water pollution control act was passed to protect the country’s rivers and streams, soil conservation, and an agricultural act to raise farmers’ incomes was made law. A significant amount of anti-poverty legislation was passed by Congress, including increases in social security benefits and in the minimum wage, several housing bills, and aid to economically distressed areas.
19. Lyndon Johnson) LBJ secured congressional passage of his Great Society programs, including civil rights, the end of segregation, Medicare, extension of welfare, federal aid to education at all levels, subsidies for the arts and humanities, environmental activism, and a series of programs designed to wipe out poverty. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Right Act of 1965, Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans Act and federal education spending continue to this day.
20. Robert F. Kennedy) An icon of the modern liberal movement, RFK saw voting as the key to racial justice, and collaborated with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to create the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which helped bring an end to Jim Crow laws. Kennedy supported desegregation of busing, integration of all public facilities, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and anti-poverty social programs to increase education, offer opportunities for employment, and provide health care for African-Americans. When he campaigned for the Presidency in 1968, Kennedy stood on a platform of racial and economic justice, non-aggression in foreign policy, and decentralization of power and social improvement. A crucial element to his campaign was an engagement with the young, whom he identified as being the future of a reinvigorated American society based on partnership and equality.
21.Martin Luther King, Jr) Leader of the Civil Rights Movement that climaxed in the “March on Washington” in August, 1963, where King gave his dramatic “I Have a Dream” speech. The activism put civil rights at the very top of the liberal political agenda and led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which permanently ended segregation in the United States, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which guaranteed blacks the right to vote.
22. César Chávez) An American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist, Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. A Mexican American, Chávez became the best known Latino civil rights activist, and was strongly promoted by the American labor movement. He fought to secure higher wages and worker’s rights for farm workers and was instrumental in securing collective bargaining rights for them in California. He also played a key role in getting the amnesty provisions into the 1986 federal immigration act which granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
23. Hubert Humphrey) Known for his support of labor unions and his advocacy of liberal causes such as civil rights, arms control, a nuclear test ban, food stamps, and humanitarian foreign aid, and for his long and witty speeches. During the period of McCarthyism (1950–1954), Humphrey was accused of being “soft on Communism,” despite having been one of the founders of the anti-communist liberal organization Americans for Democratic Action, having been a staunch supporter of the Truman Administration’s efforts to combat the growth of the Soviet Union, and having fought Communist political activities in Minnesota and elsewhere.
24. Richard Nixon) Although hated by most liberals, Noam Chomsky (himself on Nixon’s enemies list) has called Nixon, “in many respects the last liberal president.” Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency by executive order, expanded the national endowments for the arts and the humanities, began affirmative action policies, started the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks to reduce ballistic missile availability, and largely continued the programs of FDR, JFK, and LBJ.
25. Edward Kennedy) Kennedy championed an interventionist government emphasizing economic and social justice, but was also known for working with Republicans to find compromises between senators with differing views. Kennedy played a major role in passing many laws, including laws addressing immigration, cancer research, health insurance, apartheid, disability discrimination, AIDS care, civil rights, mental health benefits, children’s health insurance, education and volunteering. In the 2000s, he led several unsuccessful immigration reform efforts. Over the course of his Senate career and continuing into the Obama administration, Kennedy continued his efforts to enact universal health care, which he called the “cause of my life.”
The United States of America was the first country to be founded on the liberal ideas of John Locke and other philosophers of the Enlightenment, with no monarchy, no hereditary aristocracy, and no established religion. The American Bill of Rights guarantees every citizen the freedoms advocated by the liberal philosophers: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to gather in peaceful assembly, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, and the right to bear arms, among other freedoms and rights. In this sense, virtually all Americans are liberals. Many liberals have rose to prominence to shape American history. These great liberals took on the causes of the poor, the disenfranchised, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, and the jobless and molded America into a place where they too could thrive and have opportunities. Because of American liberalism, the United States became a nation of compassion, innovation, freedom, opportunity, ideas, wealth, equality, and respect envied throughout the world.
But America is now under assault by a political philosophy known as conservatism. Conservatism has never been successful in this country. It has only led to some of the darkest periods in American history. The Civil War, the Great Depression, and now this last decade are all due to rampant conservatism. The cause of the situation today can be traced all the way back to a day in January 1981, when a man named Ronald Reagan took office and began a slow and systematic purge of liberal policies and programs that built this nation. For the last thirty years, the infrastructure and foundation of America has been taken apart brick by brick. And now, conservatives are poised to use a wrecking ball to bring the remainder of the house down. America needs a strong liberal President once again to rebuild what the conservatives have torn down to suit their own personal and monetary interests. Being liberal is an American tradition. Liberals have always looked forward. They are men and women of vision who seek to make the government work for everyone. Liberals give a voice to those who previously had none. They give people hope and dare to dream of things that could be. And it’s time to return to that tradition before all is lost.