Newstalgia Reference Room - Hiram Johnson - The Man Who Gave California Recall - 1941

Newstalgia Reference Room - Sen. Hiram Johnson. Former Governor of California, former Bullmoose, former Progressive, former New Dealer, current (as of 1941) isolationist. Address on behalf of America First -1941

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Aside from receiving accolades by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003 for his introduction of Recall legislation in California during his term as Governor in 1911, not a whole lot is remembered about Hiram Johnson, whose career in the Senate extended some 30 years and whose position went from Progressive to Bullmoose to Liberal Republican to New Dealer to Isolationist over that period of time. His political career went from 1910 until his death on August 6, 1945. While Governor of California he was also responsible for introducing the Alien Land Law of 1913 which prohibited "aliens ineligible for citizenship" the right to own land or property in California, aimed primarily at immigrant farmers (it was overturned in 1952 so don't go racing to the books, touting this one). Johnson was also the only Senator voting against the League of Nations and the United Nations. At least he was consistent in that area.

With war looming for U.S. involvement in 1941 Johnson, as a staunch isolationist, embraced the America First Committee and delivered many impassioned addresses on behalf of the group, including this one, delivered in May of 1941.

Sen. Hiram Johnson: “In his speech on Tuesday night the President, in my opinion, first himself declared war, and told the terms on which he would wage it. Secondly, he agreed he would convoy, or otherwise take to Britain the goods ammunition and guns intended for them. Again, he revived what he himself eliminated; the Doctrine of the Freedom of the Seas. And lastly, he went blithely on his way with his Four Freedoms, and is going to enthrone them upon the whole world. How he’s going to do it is a deep dark mystery. But he speaks as if it were easy of accomplishment. And gives never a thought to the agony and the anguish and the blood letting that’ll have to accomplish it.”

Ironically, this came from a man who crossed party lines to support FDR in both the 1932 and 1936 elections. He agreed with Roosevelt in domestic matters (as a vigorous New Deal supporter), but it didn't extend to Foreign Policy. He also broke with FDR during the Supreme Court episode.

But it is interesting to note how politics in history have become distorted in retrospect. That it was possible to be a Liberal Republican, cross party lines on occasion, vote with your conscience and not be hung in effigy as the result.

Times have changed.

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