When we think of Illinois politicians today we are reminded of those who are currently serving prison sentences — 4 of the last 7 Governors were residents of the old graybar hotel. And too many of those who aren’t in jail are flitting about in ecstatic confusion doing errands for Wall Street.
But there was a day not so very long ago when Illinois produced honest men who labored in the public’s interest. Adlai Stevenson was the name of three such public servants — a Vice President in 1893-1897 who was Adlai I, the Democratic nominee for President in 1952 and 1956 later Ambassador to the UN was Adlai II, and Adlai III who served as a U.S. Senator 1970-1981. Good men, honest and true.
Another servant of the people hailing from the State of Illinois was PAUL DOUGLAS who was born on this date in 1892 one-hundred twenty-two years ago. Douglas served his State and the Nation as a Senator for 18 years until retiring in 1967.
Paul Douglas became politically active in Chicago where he taught at the University of Chicago have earned a Ph.D. in economics. He helped the Legislature draft pioneering bills for old age pensions and unemployment compensation. He sought to build a new political party modeled on the British Labour Party and when that failed to transpire joined the Farmer-Labor Party in the 1930s.*
When the war broke out although he was 50 years old, Douglas joined the U.S. Marines as a private. Working his way up the ranks, he fought in the Pacific theater earning two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star (makes you wonder about the Republicans who continually disparage Democrats as soft and weak). Douglas left the service as a Lieutenant Colonel.
When Douglas returned to civilian life he renewed his commitment to politics and ran as the Democratic candidate for Senate in 1948. Although discounted by most, including pros in his own party, he gained 55% of the vote for an electoral victory. An early advocate for fair housing, environmental conservation and consumer protection, he was one of the Senators at the core of the Liberal Coalition which dominated Democratic politics through the 1960s.
Today, we honor a good man, a good Marine, a good Senator and a good Democrat.
* The FARMER-LABOR PARTY was an active, and successful political party in the Twenties and Thirties. In 1946, the Party merged with the Democratic Party in Minnesota to become the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL). The DFL remains one of two State affiliates of the Democrats which were formed by uniting with local Socialist parties. The Democrats in North Dakota merged with the Nonpartisan League, a Socialist organization which also crossed the border into Canada becoming first the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and now the New Democratic Party of Canada.