Americans for Democratic Action
|Formation||January 3, 1947|
|Headquarters||Washington D.C., U.S.|
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) is a liberal American political organization advocating progressive policies. ADA works for social and economic justice through lobbying, grassroots organizing, research, and supporting progressive candidates.
The ADA grew out of a predecessor group, the Union for Democratic Action (UDA). The UDA was formed by former members of the Socialist Party of America and Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies as well as labor union leaders, liberal politicians, theologians, and others who were opposed to the pacifism adopted by most left-wing political organizations in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It supported a strongly interventionist, internationalist foreign policy and a pro-union, liberal domestic policy. It was strongly anti-communist as well. It undertook a major effort to support left-wing Democratic members of Congress in 1946, but this effort was an overwhelming failure.
James Isaac Loeb (later an ambassador and diplomat in the John F. Kennedy administration), the UDA's executive director, advocated disbanding the UDA and forming a new, more broadly based, mass-membership organization. The ADA was formed on January 3, 1947, and the UDA shuttered.
Among ADA's founding members were leading anti-communist liberals from academic, political, and labor circles, including theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, labor organizer Walter Reuther, civil rights lawyer Joseph Rauh, and Hubert Humphrey. Its founders hoped to solidify a progressive, pragmatic, noncommunist “vital center” in mainstream politics, embodying Schlesinger's concept formulated in his 1949 book The Vital Center.
On April 3, 1948, ADA declared its decision to support a Democratic Party ticket of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Supreme Court Judge William O. Douglas over incumbent U.S. President Harry S. Truman. Leveraging Truman's lack of popular support, the ADA succeeded in pushing Truman leftward on issues such as civil rights. It also led a full-scale attack on Progressive Party candidate and former US vice president Henry A. Wallace because of his opposition to the Marshall Plan and support for appeasement of the Soviet Union. The ADA portrayed Wallace and his supporters as dupes of the Communist Party. Adolf A. Berle Jr. and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. expressed their belief that Eisenhower would accept the nomination.
After November 2, 1948, ADA supported Truman after his victory.
Though strongly anti-communist, unlike other contemporary liberal groups like the Progressive Citizens of America (PCA), which supported cooperation with the Soviet Union, the ADA was still subject to significant McCarthyist scrutiny. The plight of the ADA during that period prompted Eleanor Roosevelt to accept a position as honorary chair of the organization in 1953, and in doing so, put Senator McCarthy in a position in which he would have had to "call her a communist as well" to continue his inquiries into the activities of the group. Because of her actions, many ADA leaders credited her with "saving" the organization.
In the early 1960s, ADA's influence peaked when a number of its key members (e.g. James Loeb, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.) were picked to join the administration of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. While active in liberal causes ranging from civil rights to Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society reforms, by the mid-1960s the ADA's influence was on the wane. It was badly split over the Vietnam War: initially supporting Johnson's war policy, the ADA had come to oppose the war by early 1968. It endorsed founder Hubert Humphrey's presidential candidacy that year, but with “barely concealed ambivalence”. After Richard Nixon's victory, the ADA was pushed to the political margins, overshadowed by more centrist groups like the Trilateral Commission and Coalition for a Democratic Majority.
Founding, prominent members included:
- Elmer Davis
- John Kenneth Galbraith
- Leon Henderson
- Hubert Humphrey
- James I. Loeb
- Reinhold Niebuhr
- Joseph P. Lash
- Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.
- Walter Reuther
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr.
- Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
- John H. Sengstacke
- James Wechsler
- Walter White
- Wilson W. Wyatt
In April 1948 at New York state convention, ADA elected the following new officers: Jonathan Bingham of Scarborough as chairman with vice chairmen Dr. William Lehman of Syracuse, Benjamin Mc:Laurin of New York City, Howard Linsay of New York City, Jack Rubenstein (Textile Workers Union, CIO), and Charles Zimmerman (International Ladies' Garment Workers Union).
Chairs and presidents
Since 1947, ADA's organization leaders include:
- 1947-1948: Wilson Wyatt
- 1948-1949: Leon Henderson
- 1949-1950: Senator Hubert Humphrey
- 1950-1953: Francis Biddle
- 1954-1955: Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and James E. Doyle (co-chairs)
- 1955-1957: Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.
- 1957-1959: Robert R. Nathan
- 1959-1962: Samuel H. Beer
- 1961-1964: Paul Seabury
- 1962-1965: John P. Roche
- 1965-1967: Rep. Don Edwards
- 1967-1969: John Kenneth Galbraith
- 1970-1971: Joseph Duffey
- 1971-1973: Rep. Allard K. Lowenstein
- 1974-1976: Rep. Donald M. Fraser
- 1976-1978: Senator George McGovern
- 1978-1981: Rep. Patsy T. Mink
- 1981-1984: Rep. Robert F. Drinan, S.J.
- 1984-1986: Rep. Barney Frank
- 1986-1989: Rep. Ted Weiss
- 1989-1991: Rep. Charles B. Rangel
- 1991-1993: Senator Paul D. Wellstone
- 1993-1995: Rep. John Lewis
- 1995-1998: Jack Sheinkman
- 1998-2000: Rep. Jim Jontz
- 2000-2008: Rep. Jim McDermott
- 2008-2010: Richard Parker
- 2010-2016: Rep. Lynn Woolsey
- 2017-2018: State Senator Daylin Leach
- 2018-Present: State Senator Art Haywood
ADA ranks legislators, identifies key policy issues, and tracks how members of Congress vote on these issues. The annual ADA Voting Record gives each member a Liberal Quotient (LQ) rating from 0, meaning complete disagreement with ADA policies, to 100, meaning complete agreement with ADA policies. A score of 0 is considered conservative and a score 100 is considered liberal. The LQ is obtained by evaluating an elected official's votes on 20 key foreign and domestic social and economic issues chosen by the ADA's Legislative Committee. Each vote given a score of either 5 or 0 points, depending on whether the individual voted with or against the ADA's position, respectively. Absent voters are also given a score of 0 for the vote.
- Zuckerman, The Wine of Violence: An Anthology on Anti-Semitism, 1947, p. 220; Parmet, The Master of Seventh Avenue: David Dubinsky and the American Labor Movement, 2005, p. 214, ISBN 0-8147-6711-7; Boyle, The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945-1968, 1998, p. 49, ISBN 0-8014-8538-X; Brown, Niebuhr and His Age: Reinhold Niebuhr's Prophetic Role and Legacy, 2002, p. 102, ISBN 1563383756; Ceplair, "The Film Industry's Battle Against Left-Wing Influences, From the Russian Revolution to the Blacklist," Film History, 2008, 400-401; Libros, Hard Core Liberals: A Sociological Analysis of the Philadelphia Americans for Democratic Action, 1975, p. 13, ISBN 0870731483.
- Brock, Americans for Democratic Action: Its Role in National Politics, 1962, p. 49.
- Powers, Not Without Honor: The History of American Anticommunism, 1998, p. 200-201, ISBN 0-300-07470-0.
- Davis, The Civil Rights Movement, 2000, p. 27, ISBN 0-631-22043-7.
- Halpern, UAW Politics in the Cold War Era, 1988, p. 138-139, ISBN 0887066712.
- Beinart, The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again, 2007, p. 4, ISBN 9780522853834.
- Libros, Hard Core Liberals: A Sociological Analysis of the Philadelphia Americans for Democratic Action, 1975, p. 22, ISBN 0870731483.
- Hamby, "The Liberals, Truman, and the FDR as Symbol and Myth," The Journal of American History, March 1970; Heale, American Anticommunism: Combating the Enemy Within, 1830-1970, 1990, p. 140, ISBN 0-8018-4050-3
- "Teachings of Eleanor Roosevelt: Americans for Democratic Action". Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
- Mark L. Kleinman, “Americans for Democratic Action”, in The Oxford Companion to United States History, ed. Paul S. Boyer (Oxford/NY: Oxford UP, 2001), 34.
- "Democrats Urged to Run Eisenhower". New York Times. April 4, 1948. p. 45. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
- George Washington University. "Americans for Democratic Action". Retrieved April 29, 2015.
- "Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)". Encyclopedia Britannica. July 20, 1998. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
- "Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)". World History. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
- Schlesinger Jr., Arthur M. (2002). A Life in the Twentieth Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950. Houghton Miffline. p. 457. ISBN 978-0618219254. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
- Lindley, Ernest (January 6, 1947). "Rejecting The Reds: Regrouping Of Progressives". Washington Post. p. 5.
- "ADA History". Americans for Democratic Action. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
- Von Eschen, Penny M. (1997). Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0801482922. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
- Lucks, Daniel S. (March 19, 2014). Selma to Saigon: The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813145099. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
- Americans for Democratic Action. "Voting Records". Retrieved April 29, 2015.