Hiram Johnson: An Irreconcilable Progressive

Hiram Johnson - Wikipedia

On this day 155 years ago Hiram Johnson was born to Annie De Montfredy and 1 term representative Grove Lawrence Johnson. While Hiram spent a lot of his time in public life as a member of the Republican Party, he has a large impact on the minor party political sphere that should not be overlooked as well.

During the 1912 Republican Primaries, Hiram was an active supporter of former President Theodore Roosevelt. Despite the fact that Roosevelt had the overwhelming support of the Party’s Primary Base, incumbent President William Taft had a stranglehold over the party so he was given the nomination. While other Roosevelt Supporters had pressured him to support Taft, Johnson was one of the leading figures to pressure him to continue his bid under the banner of the Progressive Party. Johnson had not only chaired the creation of this new party, but also was chosen to be the VP candidate.

Johnson had also used his position as the popular Governor of California to mediate a hostile takeover of the California GOP, essentially booting Taft off the ballot in favor of a coalition under the Roosevelt/Johnson ticket. His affiliation would eventually grow the California Progressive Party so much so that it would not only take Johnson to a second term without the GOP ballot line but also lead the California Progressives to be a viable party long into the 1960s, way past Johnsons death.

That are his major contributions to the Minor Party sphere, if you want to learn more about him I have a video about him out on my YouTube channel that goes a bit more in depth.

10 thoughts on “Hiram Johnson: An Irreconcilable Progressive

  1. Gene Berkman

    Hiram Johnson has been in the news lately. As Governor of California in 1913, he signed the law authorizing recall elections to remove public officials from office.

    Today, progressive Democrats in California are attacking the recall, saying that it threatens Democracy. When Governor Johnson signed the law, he expressed the belief that it expanded Democracy, by making elected officials subject to the will of the voters even between regularly scheduled elections.

    The article here makes the claim that the California Progressives “a viable party long into the 1960s…”

    Actually, the Progressive Party formed in California in 1913 was active up through the 1916 election. In 1916 Gov. Johnson decided to run for the Senate, and he sought the Republican nomination, winning the primary; at the same time, he won the nomination of the Progressive Party under California’s “cross-filing” law. After his election, the Progressive Party petered out, with most active members returning to the Republican primary.

    In 1934, as Senator Johnson faced re-election, he worried that he might lose as a Republican, given the defeat of President Hoover by FDR two years earlier. So he sponsored a revival of the Progressive Party, and again sought both the Republican and Progressive nominations. He won both nominations, and also won the Democrat primary, and went on to defeat a Socialist candidate, winning 94% of the vote.

    In 1940 Sen. Johnson was again re-elected with Republican, Progressive and Democrat nominations. This time he won less than 83% of the vote, a Prohibition candidate and a Communist candidate taking the rest. After 1940 the Progressive Party disappeared. It had no connection with the Independent Progressive Party formed in 1948 to back Henry Wallace – and the IPP disappeared by 1954. There was no left wing third party activity until the formation of the Peace & Freedom Party in 1968.

  2. Anastasia Beaverhausen

    He wasn’t born to “1 term representative Grove Lawrence Johnson” because dad hadn’t yet served his term in the US House and wouldn’t for nearly three decades. At the time of Hiram’s birth, his father was clerk of the Sacramento County Board of Swamp Land Commissioners.

  3. Richard Winger

    William Shearer, founder of the American Independent Party of California and later national chair of the American Independent Party, and later a key leader in the US Taxpayers Party formed in 1992, was a great admirer of Hiram Johnson.

  4. Gene Berkman

    Sen. Hiram Johnson cast a couple votes that any pro-American right-winger would appreciate.

    In 1919 Sen. Johnson voted against and campaigned against America entering the League of Nations. He joined with Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge and another Senator in whistle stop speaking tour against joining the League.

    In 1946. Sen. Johnson was confined to a hospital bed as the Senate voted on joining the United Nations. Sen. Johnson was paired against the bill to join the UN. Two other Senators showed up to vote against Joining the U.N. – Sen. Henrik Shipstead of Minnesota, and Sen. William Langer of North Dakota. Shipstead and Langer were old time members of the Non-Partisan League and veterans of the same progressive movement that sent Hiram Johnson to the Senate.

  5. Aiden

    Few people apparently realize that the original “progressive” movement (which I call classical progressivism) actually is basically modern day national ism. Modern progressivism has little to nothing to do with classical progressivism, other than the fact that both reject a free-market and free-trade. Unions were and are a big component of both; and unions have always favored tariffs and limited trade to “protect” domestic jobs. Trump could be considered a “classical progressive”.

    See this video (basically classical vs modern progressivism):
    https://youtube.com/watch?v=Ev373c7wSRg

  6. Gene Berkman

    Theodore Roosevelt referred to his own viewpoint as “The New Nationalism” – it is unclear whether other Progressives were aligned with Roosevelt’s views on Nationalism.

    Roosevelt did support high tariffs to protect American manufacturers – this was a traditional Republican viewpoint which some Progressives adopted. Sen. LaFollette at first supported tariffs to protect the wages of American workers. Later he came to see international competition as a way to deal with American monopolistic companies, and so he came to support free trade.

    Theodore Roosevelt’s Nationalism was belligerent – other Progressives were antiwar.

    While other Progressives looked to protect workers and consumers from monopolistic big business, Roosevelt favored regulation that protected big businesses from competition, but allegedly regulated them in the national interest.

    So yes, Roosevelt was a nationalist, but few Progressives aligned themselves with Roosevelt on these issues. Progressive support for TR in 1912 was almost totally opportunistic, based on the belief that Roosevelt could carry the Progessive banner to victory when noone else could.

    More on Roosevelt’s New Nationalism @ https://theodoreroosevelt.org/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=991271&module_id=338365

  7. Fernando Mercado Post author

    Progressivism was more focused on Economic stuff like an income tax as well as electoral reforms like the direct election of Senators. Other issues like Tariffs and Foreign Policy would be diffrent between figures.

    EX: Roosevelt was a huge internationalist while all the other major Progressives would be more in line with Non-Interventionism

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