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Senate Madness - First Round: Seven vs. Ten seeds

19th Century Era

7. Thomas Hart Benton (19th), D/Jacksonian/D-R-Missouri:1782-1858: Thomas Hart Benton was one of the notable politicians in the Jacksonian Era. He fought a duel with a young Andrew Jackson – and Jackson carried Benton’s bullet in his body for the rest of life. Later, Benton would become of one Jackson’s biggest champions and defenders in the Senate. 

10. James G. Blaine (19th), R-Maine, 1830-1893: Blaine was one of the dominant political figures of the late 19th Century, having served in the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and Secretary of State. He ran for president in 1876 and 1880, but didn’t win his party’s nomination. He finally was the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 1884, but he lost the election to Grover Cleveland.

 

20th Century Era

7. Robert Taft (20th), R-Ohio, 1889-1953: Taft -- the son of former President (and Supreme Court Chief Justice) William Howard Taft -- was the most prominent Republican to emerge after the GOP’s political defeats during the Great Depression. He was a well-known isolationist during a time when Democrats became committed internationalists after World War II, and he co-authored the Taft-Hartley Act, which was a conservative revision of the earlier Wagner Act governing unionization and labor-management relations.

10. William J. Fulbright (20th), D-Arkansas, 1905-95: The longest-serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fulbright played a key role in turning the tide of public opinion against the Vietnam War. Though he supported the initial action, he held televised hearings on the country’s escalation of the war and unchecked presidential power. Fulbright became close to Lyndon Johnson, who helped engineer his ascendance to head of Foreign Relations. Johnson lobbied Kennedy to make Fulbright his secretary of state, but -- because of Fulbright’s complicated Southern politics being from Arkansas and signing onto the Southern Manifesto opposing the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Ed decision – Kennedy refused, labeling him a segregationist. Ironically, had Johnson’s lobbying of Kennedy won out, those Vietnam hearings, which fueled the anti-war movement may have never happened. Fulbright was also the only senator to vote against funding Joseph McCarthy’s subcommittee on investigations. His namesake legacy, of course, is the Fulbright Scholarship, established in 1946, which has become a highly competitive exchange program of American and international scholars to foster deeper understanding between countries. He supported a national center for the arts and his legislation led to the creation of the Kennedy Center.

 

Modern Era

7. Edmund Muskie (Modern), D-Maine, 1914-1996: Muskie was the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential nominee in 1968 and a presidential candidate in 1972. But he also served for more than 20 years in the Senate (1959-1980), writing some of the nation’s early environmental laws of the 1960s, as well as sponsoring the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act of the 1970s. On foreign affairs, he initially supported the Vietnam War but later opposed it. Muskie resigned his Senate seat in 1980 to become President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state.

10. Bob Dole (Modern), R-Kansas, 1923-current: The conservative Kansan war veteran is the self-proclaimed “Master of Political Compromise.” Dole served 27 years in the Senate and was longest-serving top Republican in the chamber (from 1985 until 1995 when he ran for president). The Medal of Freedom honoree believed in bipartisanship, governance, civility, and keeping his word. He also fought for social welfare items like food stamps (he lived through the Depression) and benefits for the disabled (he lost full use of his arm in WWII; he was also pivotal in the creation of the WWII Memorial), as well as civil rights.  things the GOP of today sees as anathema. Many of those are things that are anathemas to today’s GOP (see: the fact that his presence – in a wheelchair -- wasn’t enough to get the disabilities treaty passed.)

Mixed Era

7. Arthur Vandenberg (Mixed), R-Michigan, 1884-1951: Vandenberg, who used the phrase that “politics stops at the water’s edge," served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, working with the Democratic Truman administration on the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and the creation of NATO.

10. Gerald Nye (Mixed), R-North Dakota, 1892-1971: How many senators can get another so riled up they punch a desk so hard that they bleed? Nye was one such senator. The isolationist progressive Republican opposed U.S. involvement in wars, particularly World War I. He alleged there was a conspiracy among weapons-makers to lure America into wars for their profit. Nye held high-profile "Merchants of Death" hearings on the subject. He found no hard evidence of a conspiracy, and the hearings were cut off when he claimed Woodrow Wilson withheld key information from the American people before making the decision to go to war. Democratic appropriations Chairman Carter Glass of Virginia, was so infuriated that in a floor speech, he slammed his fist down so hard on his desk to rebuke Nye that blood ran from his knuckles. Nye’s hearings, however, did have a lasting impact, because they led to three neutrality acts of in the 1930s showing America's reticence to getting involved in wars.