After four years of political histrionics, the model for Republicans seeking to lead their party out of the wilderness should be the man chosen as one of the five senators to be commemorated by a portrait in the capital and one of John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage," Senator Robert Alfonso Taft (1889-1953) of Ohio.
The oldest son of William Howard Taft, our nation's 27th president and 10th Chief Justice, Robert Taft graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School.
After working for Herbert Hoover in Paris for the American Relief Administration, Taft went on to serve in both Houses of the Ohio State Legislature between 1921 and 1933.
Elected in 1938 to the first of three terms to the United States Senate, Taft's intelligence, honesty and dedication to the principles of order, freedom and justice, and his expertise in government fiscal matters, catapulted him to the post of Republican "Wise Man."
As for Taft the man, the eminent conservative intellectual, Russell Kirk, described him this way: "Taft was a good, shy, honorable man, innocent of eccentricities or of any tragic flair; although he spoke lucidly and carefully, he possessed no high eloquence. The significance of his life must be found in the courage and the sound political sense which he displayed during his fourteen years in the United States Senate."
Taft was a critic of New Dealers who promoted "despotic socialism." It is, he argued, "absolutely contrary to the whole American theory on which the country was founded. ..."
While a leading member of the loyal opposition, he did not oppose all New Deal proposals intended to rebuild the nation's economic system. "I think no one," he declared, "can question the wisdom of government loaning money to businesses and individuals to tide them over a depression, when the private machinery of lending broke down. Home Owners' Loan Corporation, and the farm loan boards have … prevented sales and liquidation which would … have caused greatly increased social problems."
But he opposed social engineering and the redistribution of wealth. Such ideas "advanced strenuously" by many New Dealers, he concluded, "will lead not to recovery nor to reform, but to revolution."
Taft's most lasting achievement was the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 over President Truman's veto. The Act redressed the balance between management and unions, limited some of the unions powers and spelled out the rights of management in industrial disputes. The Act also abolished the "closed shop," permitted employees to sue unions for damages due to broken contracts, required a 60-day "cooling off period" before striking, and required unions to publish their financial statements.
Retaliating, America's labor union leaders went after Taft in 1950. Despite spending millions to defeat him, 58% of Ohio voters cast their votes to re-elect him.
Coming off that landslide victory, Taft sought his Party's presidential nomination in 1952. Unable to stop the Draft Eisenhower movement sponsored by the Eastern Establishment elitist wing of the Party, Taft graciously endorsed Ike and worked for his election.
To help Eisenhower navigate legislation, Taft took on the role of Senate Majority Leader. But in June of 1953, he gave up his leadership duties due to a hip problem that was later diagnosed as cancerous.
Despite his rapidly declining health, he told President Eisenhower in July, "I have just one ambition — to come back and help you make this administration completely successful."
Robert A. Taft died on July 31, 1953. Reflecting on the life of his former political opponent, Eisenhower said:
I could not help feeling that with the loss of Senator Taft — with his dedication to the principles of the Republican Party, his determination that the Republicans would act virtually as a unit under the leadership of the President, his towering stature in the Senate—the party and, more importantly, the nation had suffered a blow which would be felt for a long time, a loss which possibly could never be made good."
Taft's biographer, James T. Patterson, summed up the great man thusly: "Taft affirmed individual freedom, equality of opportunity, and the rule of law. He fought hard against the spread of federal bureaucracy, high government spending and Big Labor. But he was also flexible … by battling for public housing and federal aid for education. His capacity for work and his quick and retentive mind established him as the congressional leader in many successful struggles against the proposals of [F.D.R. and Truman]. In 1953, he rose above disappointment to serve loyally as President Eisenhower's Senate leader."
Robert "Mr. Republican" Taft was a man of integrity and the most thoughtful Republican of his time.
In the post-Trump era, the Republican Party must find a person as noble as Robert A. Taft to lead them in pursuing policies that actually enhance Main Street, suburban and working-class Americans, and that restores America's credibility and confidence.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
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