Americans for Democratic Action

Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) (1947-Present) 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.

Americans for Democratic Action
FormationJanuary 3, 1947
HeadquartersWashington D.C., U.S.
65,000 members
Lynn Woolsey


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.[1][2] It supported a strongly interventionist, internationalist foreign policy and a pro-union, liberal domestic policy. It was strongly anti-communist as well.[2][3] It undertook a major effort to support left-wing Democratic members of Congress in 1946, but this effort was an overwhelming failure.[3][4][5]

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. ADA cited Truman's lack of popular support. It also expressed fear of the candidacy of former US Vice President Henry A. Wallace, his opposition to the Marshall Plan, and his support for appeasement of the Soviet Union. Adolf A. Berle Jr. and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. expressed their belief that Eisenhower would accept the nomination.[6]

After November 2, 1948, ADA supported Truman after his victory.[7]

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.[8][9] The ADA was formed on January 3, 1947, and the UDA shuttered.[4][9][10][7]

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.[11]

In the early 1960s, ADA's influence peaked when a number of its key members (e.g., Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.) were picked to join the administration of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.[12]



Founding, prominent members included:

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).[6]

Chairs and presidents

Since 1947, ADA's organization leaders include:[16]

  • 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-Present: State Senator Daylin Leach

Voting records

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.[19]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ a b Brock, Americans for Democratic Action: Its Role in National Politics, 1962, p. 49.
  3. ^ a b Powers, Not Without Honor: The History of American Anticommunism, 1998, p. 200-201, ISBN 0-300-07470-0.
  4. ^ a b Davis, The Civil Rights Movement, 2000, p. 27, ISBN 0-631-22043-7.
  5. ^ Halpern, UAW Politics in the Cold War Era, 1988, p. 138-139, ISBN 0887066712.
  6. ^ a b "Democrats Urged to Run Eisenhower". New York Times. 4 April 1948. p. 45. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Teachings of Eleanor Roosevelt: Americans for Democratic Action". Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b Libros, Hard Core Liberals: A Sociological Analysis of the Philadelphia Americans for Democratic Action, 1975, p. 22, ISBN 0870731483.
  10. ^ Hambly, "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
  11. ^ George Washington University. "Americans for Democratic Action". Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  12. ^ "Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)". Encyclopedia Britannica. 20 July 1998. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)". World History. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Schlesinger Jr., Arthur M. (2002). A Life in the Twentieth Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950. Houghton Miffline. p. 457. ISBN 978-0618219254. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d e Lindley, Ernest (6 January 1947). "Rejecting The Reds: Regrouping Of Progressives". Washington Post. p. 5. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  16. ^ a b c d e "ADA History". Americans for Democratic Action. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  17. ^ Von Eschen, Penny M. (1997). Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0801482922. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  18. ^ Lucks, Daniel S. (19 March 2014). Selma to Saigon: The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813145099. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  19. ^ Americans for Democratic Action. "Voting Records". Retrieved 29 April 2015.

External links

Charles M. La Follette

Charles Marion La Follette (February 27, 1898, in New Albany, Indiana – June 27, 1974, in Trenton, New Jersey) was an American lawyer and politician from Indiana. His great-grandfather was William Heilman, who was in the United States House of Representatives from Indiana. He served as a Republican in the United States House of Representatives during the 1940s and took part in the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials.

During World War I, La Follette was in the United States Army from 1917 to 1919, where he served in the 151st Infantry Regiment of the 38th Infantry Division. After his military service, La Follette studied law at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and was admitted to the Indiana State Bar Association in 1925. He set up practice in Evansville, Indiana. La Follette served as a Republican in the Indiana House of Representatives from 1927 to 1929, and in the United States House of Representatives from 1943 to 1947. In 1947 he served as deputy chief of counsel for war crimes in the Nuremberg Trials. La Follette then served as the Director of Americans for Democratic Action from 1949 to 1950, and served on the Subversive Activities Control Board from 1950 to 1951.He was a third cousin of Robert M. La Follette, Jr. and Philip La Follette.He died in Trenton, New Jersey on June 27, 1974. His body was cremated and the ashes interred at Locust Hill Cemetery in Evansville, Indiana.

David Ginsburg (lawyer)

Charles David Ginsburg (April 20, 1912 – May 23, 2010) was an American political advisor and lawyer who was among the founders of Americans for Democratic Action and served as executive director of the Kerner Commission, which warned that the U.S. was "moving toward two societies—one black, one white, separate and unequal."

Dean M. Kelley

Dean M. Kelley (June 1, 1926 – May 11, 1997) was an American legal scholar, religious freedom advocate, author, and executive with the National Council of Churches (NCC), where his work was mainly concerned with religious liberty issues. He also served on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).Kelley opposed a constitutional amendment allowing organized prayer in public schools, doubting that anyone, no matter how well-intentioned, was capable of writing prayers that would be acceptable to everyone and still be meaningful. His 1972 book, Why Conservative Churches are Growing, is said by the Encyclopedia of Religion in American Politics to be seminal in the study of the relationship of religion and politics in the United States.In Why Conservative Churches are Growing, Kelley pointed out what he saw as the essential difference between liberal and conservative churches: conservative churches concentrated on spiritual needs, liberal churches on political causes, which causes were better promoted by political organizations such as the Democratic Party and the Americans for Democratic Action. He also predicted the ongoing decline of the liberal churches, based on his extensive research, and his conclusions earned him widespread opprobrium on the Left. The work contains a strong implied warning to those pastors on the right who would politicize their churches.

His 1977 study, Why Churches Should Not Pay Taxes, is considered "essential reading" for those who support tax exemptions for religious organizations, according to James Dunn, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. Strongly supporting the separation of church and state, he has said that the best thing government can do to help religion is "leave it alone."

Donald Hayworth

Donald Hayworth (January 13, 1898 – February 25, 1982) was a politician from the U.S. state of Michigan.

Hayworth was born in Toledo, Iowa, and attended a country school in Mahaska County, Iowa, and high school in New Sharon, Iowa. He graduated from Grinnell College in 1918. During the First World War, he served as a private in the United States Army. He earned an M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1921 and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1929. He worked as a teacher in Oskaloosa High School in Oskaloosa, Iowa, 1921–1923 and was a professor at Penn College in Oskaloosa, 1923-1927. He then became a professor at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, 1928–1937, and at Michigan State College in East Lansing, Michigan, 1937-1963. He was in charge of the speakers' bureau at the Office of Civil Defense in Washington, D.C., in 1942 and 1943 and in charge of relations with the States on fuel conservation for the Department of the Interior, 1944-1946. He was the owner of the Plastics Manufacturing Co., 1950–1963

In 1952, Hayworth was an unsuccessful candidate of the Democratic Party for election to the 83rd United States Congress from Michigan's 6th congressional district, losing to Republican Kit F. Clardy. In 1954, Hayworth defeated the incumbent Clardy for election to the 84th Congress, serving from January 3, 1955 to January 3, 1957. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1956, losing in the general election to Republican Charles E. Chamberlain. He was the Democratic Party candidate in 1958 and 1962, losing both times to Chamberlain.

Hayworth became a consultant, with the Department of Agriculture, 1963–1964, and with the Social Security Administration, 1965-1967. He was a member of Americans for Democratic Action and was a resident of Washington, D.C., until his death there. Hayworth's body was donated to the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences.

Emily W. Sunstein

Emily Weisberg Sunstein (April 28, 1924 - April 21, 2007) was an American campaigner, political activist and biographer.

Born Emily Weisberg in Dallas, Texas, and graduated from high school there. She married stockbroker Leon Sunstein, Jr. in 1943 a year before earning a bachelor's degree in Art History in 1944 from Vassar College. The couple then moved to Elkins Park before raising three children in Wyncote.

Before beginning her writing career, Sunstein was active in civic affairs. A charter member of Americans for Democratic Action (founded in 1947), she later became the first woman to serve as head of the Philadelphia chapter of the American Jewish Committee.She sat on the State Commission for Human Relations from 1970 to 1974, was the head of the state Conference on Women's Economics Issues and the head of the Philadelphia YWCA in 1975.

She and her husband built a sprawling modern cedar home overlooking Fairmount Park in the mid-1970s.

In 1989, her first book, Mary Shelley: Romance and Reality (Little, Brown and Co., 1989) was published to critical acclaim. She won the Modern Language Association Prize for Independent Scholars in 1989.

She moved away from politics and started to enjoy other passions such as writing, collecting art, entertaining and horticulture. She remained active in Jewish causes until she became ill in the mid-1990s.

Frederick Cleveland Smith

Frederick Cleveland Smith (July 29, 1884 – July 16, 1956) was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio.

Frederick C. Smith was born in Shanesville, Ohio. He graduated in osteopathic medicine at Kirksville, Missouri, and practiced there for several years. He went abroad and continued his study of medicine in Frankfurt, Germany, and in Vienna, Austria. In 1917 was licensed to practice medicine and surgery in the State of Ohio and commenced practice at Marion, Ohio. He was mayor of Marion, Ohio, from January 1936 until January 1, 1939, when he resigned.

Smith founded the Frederick C. Smith Clinic in Marion, which brought together doctors in various fields in a practice that benefited from each doctor's specialty. The original clinic was located on East Church Street. The concern continues in Marion, Ohio, and still bears the name of Dr. Smith.

Smith was elected as a Republican to the Seventy-sixth and to the five succeeding Congresses. While in Congress, Smith "would invariably draw 'zero' ratings from the Americans for Democratic Action and other leftist groups." He was not a candidate for renomination in 1950. He resumed his medical profession and died in Marion, Ohio, on July 16, 1956. Interment in Marion Cemetery.

James I. Loeb

James I. Loeb (1908–1992) was a 20th-century American politician and U.S. ambassador to Peru, who served as the first national executive secretary of Americans for Democratic Action and Equatorial Guineau.

Legislative scorecard

A legislative scorecard, in North American parlance, refers to any ranked balanced scorecard used by advocacy groups to rank sitting legislators or candidates for legislative office on their voting record. It is also used to refer to ranked indexes of introduced or ratified legislation on certain criteria.

Scorecards are usually aggregated on an annual basis, and are often composed by political advocacy groups as educative tools for voters in their decision-making at the ballot box. They are also useful for endorsement of candidates by other organizations.

Patsy Mink

Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink (竹本 まつ, Takemoto Matsu, December 6, 1927 – September 28, 2002) was an American lawyer and politician from the U.S. state of Hawaii. Mink was a third generation Japanese American and member of the Democratic Party. She also was the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Mink served in the U.S. House of Representatives for a total of 12 terms, representing Hawaii's at-large and second congressional districts. While in Congress she was noted for co-authoring the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act.Mink was the first non-white woman and the first Asian American woman elected to Congress. She was also the first woman elected to Congress from the state of Hawaii, and became the first Asian-American to seek the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party in the 1972 election, where she stood in the Oregon primary as an anti-war candidate. From 1978-81, Mink served as the president of Americans for Democratic Action.

On August 30, 2002, Mink was hospitalized in Honolulu's Straub Clinic and Hospital with complications from chickenpox. Her condition steadily worsened, and on September 28, 2002, Mink died in Honolulu of viral pneumonia, at age 74.

Progressive Citizens of America

Progressive Citizens of America (PCA) (1946-1948) was a left-liberal American political organization formed in December 1946 that advocated progressive policies, which worked with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and apparently also the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), as a precursor to the Progressive Party (United States, 1948). It also led to formation of a counter group called Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), formed in January 1947, that split Liberals and nearly cost Harry S. Truman the 1948 US Presidential Election.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) was an American Reformed theologian, ethicist, commentator on politics and public affairs, and professor at Union Theological Seminary for more than 30 years. Niebuhr was one of America's leading public intellectuals for several decades of the 20th century and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. A public theologian, he wrote and spoke frequently about the intersection of religion, politics, and public policy, with his most influential books including Moral Man and Immoral Society and The Nature and Destiny of Man. The latter is ranked number 18 of the top 100 non-fiction books of the twentieth century by Modern Library. Andrew Bacevich labelled Niebuhr's book The Irony of American History "the most important book ever written on U.S. foreign policy." The historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. described Niebuhr as "the most influential American theologian of the 20th century" and Time posthumously called Niebuhr "the greatest Protestant theologian in America since Jonathan Edwards."Starting as a minister with working-class sympathies in the 1920s and sharing with many other ministers a commitment to pacifism and socialism, his thinking evolved during the 1930s to neo-orthodox realist theology as he developed the philosophical perspective known as Christian realism. He attacked utopianism as ineffectual for dealing with reality, writing in The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (1944), "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." Niebuhr's realism deepened after 1945 and led him to support American efforts to confront Soviet communism around the world. A powerful speaker, he was one of the most influential thinkers of the 1940s and 1950s in public affairs. Niebuhr battled with religious liberals over what he called their naïve views of the contradictions of human nature and the optimism of the Social Gospel, and battled with the religious conservatives over what he viewed as their naïve view of scripture and their narrow definition of "true religion". During this time he was viewed by many as the intellectual rival of John Dewey.Niebuhr's contributions to political philosophy include utilizing the resources of theology to argue for political realism. His work has also significantly influenced international relations theory, leading many scholars to move away from idealism and embrace realism. A large number of scholars, including political scientists, political historians, and theologians, have noted his influence on their thinking. Aside from academics, numerous politicians, and activists such as former US Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter; Myles Horton, Martin Luther King Jr., Hillary Clinton, Hubert Humphrey, Dean Acheson, James Comey, Madeleine Albright, and John McCain have also cited his influence on their thought. Recent years have seen a renewed interest in Niebuhr's work, in part because of Obama's stated admiration for Niebuhr. In 2017, PBS released a documentary on Niebuhr, titled An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story.

Aside from his political commentary, Niebuhr is also known for having composed the Serenity Prayer, a widely recited prayer which was popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous. Niebuhr was also one of the founders of both Americans for Democratic Action and the International Rescue Committee and also spent time at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, while serving as a visiting professor at both Harvard and Princeton. He was also the brother of another prominent theologian, H. Richard Niebuhr.

Richard Parker (economist)

Richard Parker (born November 5, 1946) is an economist from the United States. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Oxford, and has worked for the United Nations Development Programme. Parker co-founded Mother Jones magazine and is on the editorial board of The Nation. He wrote the books The Myth of the Middle Class, Mixed Signals: the Future of Global Television News, and John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics.Parker has held Marshall, Rockefeller, Danforth, Goldsmith, and Bank of America fellowships; and is lecturer in public policy and senior fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, where he teaches courses on modern macroeconomic policy, as well as on the role of religion in American politics and public policy.

In June 2008, Parker was elected the 26th President of the liberal political advocacy group Americans for Democratic Action.

Robert R. Nathan

Robert R. Nathan (1908– September 4, 2001) was an American economist who was heavily involved in US industrial mobilization during World War II.

Nather grew up in Dayton, Ohio and attended the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a BA and MA. While in college, Nathan supported himself by factory work and selling silk stockings and telephone memo pads.

In 1933, Nathan joined US Commerce Department. When World War II started, Nathan frequently criticized the lack of industrial readiness in the United States if they entered the war.In 1942, he was appointed chair of the federal War Production Board's planning committee. That same year, Nathan was elected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.After the war. Nathan started a consultancy firm Robert R. Nathan Associates (now Nathan Associates, Inc.). In the 1950s he worked for a period as chair of Americans for Democratic Action. In this role, Nathan was openly critical of President Dwight Eisenhower's conservative policies.Nathan died on September 4, 2001, in Bethesda, Maryland.

Samuel Beer

Samuel Hutchison Beer (July 28, 1911 – April 7, 2009) was an American political scientist who specialized in the government and politics of the United Kingdom. He was a longtime professor at Harvard University and served as president of the Americans for Democratic Action in the early 1960s.

Splatter Up

Splatter Up is a T-ball toy released in 1988, designed by WET Design, under the Worlds of Wonder brand. The toy was later manufactured (marketed) by Buddy-L and Wham-O. The toy has been described as a "wet version of baseball" using a garden hose attached to a foot pedal to control the water pressure that funnels the water into a stream to push a wiffle ball up into the air so it can be hit with a plastic bat.In 1989, the Consumer Affairs Committee of Americans for Democratic Action recommended Splatter Up as a "safe and fun toy".

Timi Brown-Powers

Timi Brown-Powers (born 1967) is a therapist and a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, representing District 61. She was first elected to the chamber in 2014.

Union for Democratic Action

The Union for Democratic Action (UDA) was an American political organization advocating liberal policies and the preservation and extension of democratic values domestically and overseas. It existed from 1941 to 1947, and was the precursor organization to the group Americans for Democratic Action.

William Dufty

William Francis Dufty (February 2, 1916 – June 28, 2002) was an American writer, musician, and activist.

Dufty was a supporter of trade unionism. "Dufty was an organizer for the United Auto Workers, wrote speeches for former UAW President Walter Reuther, edited Michigan Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) News and handled publicity for Americans for Democratic Action."

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