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Leo Isacson: Bronx Laborite

Leo Isacson.jpg

On this day 112 Years ago, Leo Isacson was born to a Jewish family in the Manhattan area. After graduating from public schools, Isacson would pursue higher education: graduating from New York University in 1931 and New York University School of Law in 1933. Isacson would be admitted to the bar later that year, focusing his attention to labor and tenant rights cases, which is where he would begin to become more politically involved, becoming a founding member of the American Labor Party.

For those who need a refresher, The American Labor Party was a political party formed in New York by a faction of the Socialist Party who wanted to support the re-election bids of Franklin Roosevelt. Not only did they intend to support him, but also likeminded officials in down-ballot races within the major parties. Their strategy would be one that is repeated in the modern day with the Working Families Party. Isacson would do the same by running for the New York Assembly representing the 13th District of Bronx, where he would serve for one term. But he would later seek a higher office in 1948.

In 1948  Incumbent Democratic Representative Benjamin J. Rabin resigned to be part of the New York Supreme Court, that triggered a special election to fill in his seat for the remainder of his term. Isacson would decide to run as the ALP candidate. Around the same time the US Presidential Election was happening, and two of FDR’s running mates were running against each other. The ALP had already given their ballot line to Henry Wallace, and Wallace had returned the favor by vocally rallying for Isacson. Due to Wallace’s support, many Prominent Democrats: including Eleanor Roosevelt and New York City Mayor William O’Dwyer extended their support for the Democratic nominee Karl Propper. Effectively turning the race into a proxy war of Wallace and Truman; which did not bode well when Isacson emerged victorious in that endeavor,

Isacson’s term would be an interesting one, becoming the second furthest left member of Congress during the 1937-2002 period according to VoteView. He opposed the Marshall Plan, opposed a peacetime draft, opposed increasing the size of the Air Force, and supported recognizing the newly formed State Of Israel. During his House Term he attempted to go to Paris and attend a conference by the American Council for a Democratic Greece, a communist organization, however Isacson was denied a passport under the Passport Act of 1926. Despite the target on Isacson’s back due to his views, he would later decide to seek a full term in the US House: but would end up losing to Democrat Isidore Dollinger. Isacson would return to private life, passing away in 1996.

While Leo’s tenure was less notable than his American Laborite comrade Vito Marcantonio, it should not be forgotten.

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E Pluribus Unum

The host of the Socialist YouTube Channel E Pluribus Unum, which has the main focus of educating people on Minor Parties, their history, and their candidates alongside the latest political news of the day.

One Comment

  1. Gene Berkman Gene Berkman April 22, 2022

    As noted, the American Labor Party was formed by Socialists who wanted to support President Franklin D Roosevelt and the New Deal. Under New York law, a candidate can accept the nominations of more than one party in an election, and the votes cast for that candidate on all party tickets are added together, with the additional party lines often providing the margin of victory.

    When Leo Isacson ran for New York State Assembly in 1944, he was elected with Republican support – indeed, he received more votes on the Republican line than on the American Labor Party ticket.

    When Leo Isacson won the special election in 1948, it was the only time that an American Labor Party candidate for Congress received a majority vote on the ALP ticket – he received almost 56% of the vote, with 9.5% going to Liberal Party candidate Dean Alfange.

    In the general election, the multiple nomination system worked against Leo Isacson. The Republican and Liberal Parties both gave their nominations to the Democrat candidate, who received 63% on three ballot lines, with Leo Isacson taking 37%.

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