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Jack Ranger

A Half-Baked Politician from Idaho

Senator Taylor: Wallace’s Running Mate

(12 April 1938)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 15, 12 April 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Henry Wallace’s running mate on the no-name third party ticket is a rather interesting Stalinoid liberal who will be, at least until 1951, the senior Senator from Idaho (population, 524,873). This man, Glen H. Taylor, rose in the United States Senate the other day and tossed off an amazing literary comment.

“One of the most serious complaints that Mr. Kravchenko has to make against Russia in his book I Choose Freedom is,” said the Senator, “that Russian government executives must work long hours trying to make their economy work ever better and thereby raise the standard of living of the Russian people.”

A man who could so distort the substance of Kravchenko’s exposé of the murderous bureaucracy has either (1) never read the book, (2) read the book but understood not one word, or (3) read the book and decided to misrepresent its contents, for the purpose of covering up for Stalinism. Senator Taylor’s recent history points unmistakably to the third interpretation.

The Evolution of a “Wallace Man”

Taylor was born April 12, 1904, in Portland, Oregon. His folks came from Texas, where they were active in Democratic Party politics. His father, Pleasant John Taylor, was the youngest Texas Ranger in history. Glen was the twelfth of thirteen children, all of whom have been actors. He was reared on a homestead near Kooskia, Idaho. A sign outside the town reads: “You Are Coming to Kooskia. Population, 411.”

Glen’s father had come to the Northwest for his health. He became a traveling sky pilot, preaching in mining camps and sawmills. This was the period when the IWW was a strong factor among the migratory workers of the West. The Wobblies had a certain attitude toward skypilots, summed up in Joe Hill’s song:

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right.
But when asked “How ’bout something to eat?”
They will answer in voices so sweet:
“You will eat, by and by,
In that golden land above the sky.
Work and play, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.”


Glen left school at the eighth grade to make his living. He herded sheep in the Bitterroots for a while. At the age of 13 he became manager of two theaters owned by his brother. A little later he moved to Santa Rosa, Calif., where another brother lived, and played in the stock company there. The two Taylor brothers formed their own company, the Taylor Players. When the depression of 1921 sank that enterprise, Glen switched to a job with the Slade Musical Comedy Company. In 1922 he married for the first time, in New Mexico. He separated from his wife in 1926, divorced her in 1929, married his present wife in 1931. From 1926 Glen was, in his own words, “owner and manager in various branches of the entertainment field.”

The 1929 depression meant tough times for the little theatrical troupes with which Taylor traveled. The depression, as it decreased Glen’s intake of vitamins, increased his receptivity to ideas, as it did with so many millions. Glen was particularly impressed, he has told interviewers,with two books – Stuart Chase’s A New Deal and a pamphlet written in 1924 by King Gillette entitled The People’s Corporation. Both books are pretty sorry things, but they represented the best sociological ideas that Taylor had run across.

There followed a period of unemployment. In 1935, Taylor (according to Current Biography, October 1947) tried to organize a Farmer-Labor Party in the mountains of Nevada and Montana. This was about the period when the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party was sending Howard Y. Williams around the West trying to extend the Minnesota organization into other states: It was also the period when the Stalinists, in the course of their switch from Third Period ultra-leftism to People’s Frontism, were also attempting to organize Farmer-Labor Parties. None of those who have written articles on Taylor has traced the influence which set him to organizing a Farmer-Labor Party. This was the closest Taylor ever came to the right political path for the masses.

A “Full-Blown Hummer” Enters The Senate

But building a Farmer-Labor Party requires stamina. It’s a hard job. Taylor soon gave up in disgust. According to The Nation (August 24, 1946), “his failure convinced him that the Democratic Party under Franklin D. Roosevelt was the only practical vehicle for the common people to ride.”

In the next few years, Taylor made his decision. If he couldn’t rise with the masses, he would rise above the masses. He entered Democratic Party politics to get himself elected to office, of course, and not to educate and organize the masses for their own self-emancipation. There followed, a series of unsuccessful attempts to gain office.

In 1938 he ran for Congress in Idaho, finishing fourth in a field of nine. In 1940 he ran for the U.S. Senate in a race to finish Borah’s unexpired term. He lost in the finals to Thomas. Taylor went to California, worked as a painter’s helper and in 1942 bought a horse and a big hat, returned to Idaho and campaigned on horseback, again for the Senate. Thomas again beat him. Taylor sold his horse, went to San Francisco and took a job in a war plant as a sheet metal worker. But his heart was back in Idaho politics.

In 1944 he returned to Pocatello. He wrote 3,000 letters in longhand to acquaintances and “names,” drumming up interest in his current campaign for the Senate. Taylor beat D. Worth Clark in the primaries by 216 votes. In the finals, his Republican opponent was Governor C.A. Bottolfson. Taylor beat him by 5,000 votes and headed for Washington.

Taylor has been a Wallace man for years. When he made his first speech in the U.S. Senate, wrote Kyle Crichton (in the June 30, 1945, Collier’s),he “spoke on behalf of Henry Wallace in such fine ringing tones that ancient solons ... looked up I npained surprise. What they were hearing was the voice of the musical tabloid show and the dramatic repertoire troupe. Mr. Taylor was the first full-blown mummer the U.S. has ever known.”

In Idaho, Taylor was known as the crooning cowboy. He conducted his first campaign at the head of his own theatrical company. With his wife Dora playing the trombone and he the banjo, the pair gathered a crowd, whereupon Glen launched into a speech.

Undoubtedly his stage training gave a certain form to his speeches. Vardis Fisher, the Idaho novelist, has said that “I listen to Glen every time I get a chance, not because he ever says anything but because he says nothing superbly.”

In his 1944 campaign he would wheel into town in a sound truck, yodel Oh, Susanna! and launch into a speech. His two main campaign issues were the need for federal aid to construct a Columbia Valley Authority modeled on the TVA and the need for a strong international organization to preserve peace. To this day, indeed, Taylor professes to believe that it is possible to have peace under capitalism.

Presenting: The Liberal Song-and-Dance Routine

Early in his political career, Taylor noted that a number of Southern demagogues were getting themselves elected by campaigning with hillbilly bands and similar shenanigans. He decided to use the same techniques. He justifies his clowning by claiming it is the only way he can get publicity. In the summer of 1947 he began a “Paul Revere” horseback ride from California to Washington to arouse the people against the Marshall Plan and the war danger. He had to cut his trek short when Truman called the special session of Congress.


Taylor lives in a $15,000 house in Washington. As is quite common with Congressmen, his wife is his secretary. He quickly joined the “liberal bloc” of the Democratic Party and received assignments to the following committees: banking and currency, Indian affairs, public lands, post offices and post roads, and claims.

Until his agreement to run on the Wallace ticket as vice-presidential candidate, Taylor was a fair-haired boy with both The Nation and New Republic. He has the liberal song-and-dance routine down pat.

Senator Taylor was one of the sponsors of the Murray-Wagner full-employment bill, and warned that jobs for all are necessary to the preservation of the private enterprise system. He has sought in the Senate to strengthen the United Nations, that tool of U.S. imperialism; has espoused the Zionist cause; has urged the nation to break relations with Franco Spain; has opposed Truman’s program for aid to Greece and Turkey as an “oil grab.”

Originally a supporter of the $4,000,000,000 loan to Britain, according to Current Biography, “he reversed his stand upon hearing that it might lead to an Anglo-American economic bloc competing with a Soviet bloc.”

Taylor supports Wallace’s farm program of planned scarcity. In January 1947, he told Secretary of Agriculture Anderson, the synthetic farmer, “about the need for potato dumping to maintain ‘support’ prices” for Idaho spuds.

In January, 1947, Taylor introduced Senate Resolution 1, to bar the seating of the late Senator Bilbo. Other bills he has introduced called for the coinage of $50 gold pieces; for a modified Townsend old-age pension plan. He endorsed the Capper bill to ban national liquor advertising. He joined in sponsoring the Pepper bill for federal aid to state maternal and child health services. With Vito Marcantonio, Taylor introduced an anti-filibuster measure. But in June he joined Pepper and Morse in filibustering against the overriding of Truman’s veto of the Taft-Hartley Act. The Southern Senators have always been successful in their reactionary use of the filibuster against bills which threaten Jim Crow practices. The Taylor-Pepper-Morse filibuster was not successful. The liberal trio pooped out in a few days.

Taylor has also introduced a resolution calling on Congress to publish at the end of each session a “tabulation of the voting records of all members on all roll-calls, together with a brief description of the issues voted against.”

This isn’t a bad idea, and the proposal so enraged a group of Senators that they complained to Pageant magazine that Taylor is “the least effective member of the Senate.”

“The Champ Is Dead but the Game Goes On”

Up until his recent defection to Wallace, Taylor has been an advocate of the policy of building up the Democratic Party. Taylor wrote a letter to The Nation, published in the issue of July 19, 1947, about “my last-ditch effort to block the Taft-Hartley Act.”

The Democratic Party in 1946, wrote Taylor

... had forthright and progressive candidates in the field. Throughout the country the Democratic primaries had resulted in a long string of victories for progressive pro-labor candidates who were connected by word and by deed to the continuation of the New Deal. Yet many people allowed themselves to be confused by the constant emphasis on petty wartime shortages and annoyances in the always pro-Republican press. Too many allowed themselves to forget the real issues,which had been classically stated and restated over the years by President Roosevelt. (There is a good rolling sentence in the style of Wallace, calculated to warm the cockles of liberal hearts everywhere. – J.R.) Indeed, ever since the death of President Roosevelt too many Americans, including union men, are like the baseball fans whose interest in the game dropped off after the retirement of Babe Ruth. But politics is much more serious (this from the banjo-playing, yodeling, horseback-riding ex-actor). Sure, the champ is dead, but the game goes on. The Democratic Party will be as progressive as you make it, but it is up to every union man, every farmer and every small businessman to do a real job.”

His warm praises for the progressive character of the Democratic Party just eight months ago hardly square with his current attacks on that party from Wallace’s third capitalist party platform.

And the Senator Presents His Ideas

A glimpse of the ideas which are currently coursing through the brain of the senior Senator from Idaho may be had by studying his 35,000-word speech presented March 9 and10 in the Senate, against the European Recovery Plan and in support of his own bill, the “peace and reconstruction act of 1948,” which provides that the U.S. shall contribute immediately to the United Nations $5,000,000,000 for that body to administer in financing a reconstruction and economic development program for Europe.

The underlying purpose of this nation’s foreign policy, began Senator Taylor with some show of obvious accuracy, “is the economic domination of as much of this world as we can possibly bring into our sphere of influence by the most extravagant expenditure of billions of dollars and a great show of military strength.”

Taylor still believes in the UN, he says. “It is our only hope,” he declared, charging that the Marshall Plan will undermine and eventually destroy the UN.

He explained the current war scare in a truly liberal way. Wars, as every liberal with penetrating eyes will agree, do not occur under capitalism because of the driving forces generated by the economy of each imperialist nation, but because the “wrong people” are in power. At the close of the recent war, he argued, the generals were afraid they would be out of work, and began a plot against the peace. In Taylor’s world, the military leaders tell big business what to do.

At every point in his speech Taylor “covered up” for Stalin. “I believe our recent publication of the secret documents (concerning the interesting history of the Stalin-Hitler pact) was the most senseless piece of war-mongering one can possibly imagine,” he said. Taylor would like to keep the documents secret and the masses of the world unenlightened as to the realities of power politics in the world.

Offers Hair-Raising Program for Germany

His program for Germany is positively hair-raising, the Senator still clinging at this late date to the essentials of the Morgenthau-Roosevelt plan of reducing Germany to a backward nation.

“Instead of dismantling any large number of German plants and turning them over to the people of the lands they devastated,” he complains, “we are breaking our word, and going to leave them in Germany where the boys can build them up with the help of their old friends who so recently were helping Adolf. We will build up Germany again. That will prevent the other European nations from ever becoming very prosperous, but we will have quite a war potential there for this party the boys are cooking up for Joe.”

As an economist, it can be seen that Taylor possesses not the slightest understanding of the key role that Germany must play if there is to be any industrial revival at all anywhere in Europe. As a politician, Taylor embraces the fallacy that the German people as a whole must be punished for the sins of the German imperialists and Hitler. As a Stalinist stooge, Taylor will use any argument to protect the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy. He hasn’t a trace of faith that the German workers themselves might possible decide that German industry shall be used neither to aid U.S. nor Russian imperialism. Very likely this thought would scare Taylor more than any other.

Questioned by Senator Cain of Washington, Taylor gave his own program for Germany:

“We should leave Germany just the minimum necessary to let her people have a decent standard of living, but not as good as their neighbors whom they have devastated. Just leave them a decent standard of living and remove the excess plants to the neighboring countries – the ones they overran and destroyed.”

As though there are any “excess plants” in Germany today, after the vultures from the U.S., Britain, France and Russia have got through lifting everything of value from that unhappy nation.

When one of the Wall Street puppets in the Senate questioned Taylor’s patriotism, Senator Pepper of Florida, the other Stalinoid in the upper house, rushed to Taylor’s defense, magnanimously proclaiming:“There is not a better American in the United States Senate, or in America, than the Senator from Idaho.”

In the course of his speech attacking the Marshall Plan, Taylor leveled extremely effective criticism at the plan. That is, it would have been effective if more than 90 of the 96 Senators hadn’t left the chamber when he began talking. He went round the world, country by country, beginning with the Philippines, showing how Washington’s reactionary foreign policies have alienated the masses everywhere, until today the people of all nations hate and fear the United States and would welcome the chance to oppose this nation in a war with Russia.

This is absolutely true. It is also true that the masses everywhere have reason to hate and fear the Stalinist bureaucracy and would combat it effectively were they presented with genuine socialist weapons. But Taylor didn’t say this, of course, because he is a Stalinoid. This is THE truth that capitalist and Stalinist politicians everywhere are conspiring to hide. The tragedy of world politics today is that nowhere, outside of a minority in the Trotskyist movement, is there a voice to proclaim it.


Taylor’s decision to string along with Wallace is a shrewd one. He retains his seat in the Senate, of course, and by the year 1950, he figures, the political situation in the nation will have so altered that his 1948 campaign will either have been forgotten, or will be a political asset. Taylor realizes that Truman is a dead duck, and that the chances are great that a Republican will be elected to the White House in November.

Wallace’s vice-presidential candidate has shown one dominating principle, which is to get elected to office. He recalls that in 1944 he got precious little support from the Democratic State Committee in Idaho, and that the Idaho Statesman and the Pocatello Tribune regard him as a clown. Still he got elected.

With all his clowning and his present support of Stalinism, one receives the sad impression that Taylor, had he come under the influence of the socialist movement at a certain stage, could possibly have contributed to the emancipation of the working class. He has considerable talents and energies. And if he hasn’t the right friends, he certainly has the right enemies and knows how to face up to them. Unlike almost all his colleagues in the Senate, Taylor has endured the seamy side of life and knows what it is like to work in a factory, if only for a few years.

As the Marxist movement grows in the United States and as the real Labor Party begins to form and take root in the unions, men like Taylor will gravitate to and take political direction from it, instead of from the tools of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the United States.

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