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Chapter VIII: The Disastrous Third Term


My father's third term in office was a political disaster for several reasons. The first and most important was a division of the old 12th District, as a result of reapportionment, California gained three new House Districts, and the Republican-dominated State Legislature saw an opportunity to create a potentially Republican 12th District by separating its Democratic southwestern corner and making that part of a brand new solidly Democratic House District. My father's good friend and local campaign manager in Montebello, Chet Hollifield, became the Democratic Congressman from this new District, Hollifield served uninterruptedly in the House until his 1974 retirement. Hollifield was an adept legislator who eventually became Chairman of the House Atomic Energy Committee. My father opted to remain in San Dimas and represent the new smaller and more Republican 12th District. The new District had few Democratic strongholds. They were, in order of importance: Monterey Park, which at that time was heavily Hispanic; El Monte; San Gabriel; and tiny Baldwin Park. Virtually all of these communities had largely Hispanic and/or Roman Catholic populations. They were strongly Democratic, although San Gabriel voted for Nixon in 1946. Several communities such as Pomona, Aihambra, and San Dimas voted for my father most of the time, but they were usually Republican; in 1946 they all voted for Nixon. A number of towns in the new 12th District, however, were Republican bastions.

These included San Marino, South Pasadena, and Whittier. My father had a good relationship with farmers and growers throughout the District, but after 1940 many of these rural voters became disenchanted with both my father and the Democratic Party because of wartime controls, fear of organized labor, taxes, and some of my father's more radical, or at least strongly pro-Roosevelt stands on income taxes, rationing, and price controls. My father would have an uphill battle in this new District in 1942 and 1944. His margins of victory in these two elections were far below what they were throughout the larger 12th District in 1938 and 1940. Of course, after 1944, the new 12th District voted against him and all other Democratic Congressional candidates until it was divided up even further after 1950.

The second disaster which affected my father during his third term was America's involvement in the Second World War. As late as August 1941, he and over 200 Congressmen voted against extension of the Selective Service Act, mainly because they believed that there was no immediate danger to the United States. To a certain extent, there were reasons for this false sense of security. During the summer of 1941, Germany and her allies were invading the Soviet Union. This took the pressure off Great Britain, and it looked as though the planned German invasion of England would not take place. Japan had conquered much of China, but the southern and western parts of that country were still under the control of either Kuomintang or Communist armies. The wars in Europe and Asia seemed far away, especially during this period of time when both oceans were a real protection for America. At that time there were no intercontinental ballistic missiles or transcontinental jet bombers. With a strong Navy, which my father advocated, the United States seemed invulnerable to attack. This sense of security was belied by several developments which often went unnoticed by the American public, or by almost anyone outside of the State, Navy and War Departments. By the summer of 1941, U. S. troops occupied both Greenland and Iceland in the North Atlantic. The U. S. occupation of Greenland was arranged through an agreement between the United States government and a rebellious Danish Ambassador in Washington. This Danish Ambassador refused to recognize or obey the Danish government in Copenhagen after the German occupation of Denmark, which began in April of 1940. The Greenland Agreement, signed in April of 1941, encountered vigorous protests from both the Danish government and the German Embassy in Washington.

By July 1941, U. S. marines were occupying Iceland, which was much closer to Europe. This came about mainly because of an arrangement between the U.S. government and the British, who had stationed troops on that island from May 1940 until the summer of 1941. The British occupation forces left Iceland after the agreement with Washington, to be deployed by London in other theaters of the war. Naturally, Berlin vigorously opposed this cozy arrangement between Britain and the United States. Finally, by the summer of 1941, the Roosevelt Administration had ordered the closing down of German and Italian consulates, and the President openly called on the French to disobey orders from the Vichy government. After passage of the Lend-Lease law, American warships in the North Atlantic protected British and other merchant vessels that were convoying vital war material to Britain.

During September and October of 1941, several incidents took place, including the German torpedoing of two American merchant men and the firing on a German U-boat by an American destroyer. In October, one American destroyer was damaged while attacking German submarines. Another U.S. destroyer was sunk by German torpedoes off the Iceland coast while convoying ships bound for Britain. Lend-Lease, the U.S. occupation of Greenland and Iceland, and the deployment of U.S. warships in the North Atlantic were totally non-neutral acts. They were obviously designed to help the British, and they pushed America dangerously close to war in the North Atlantic, well before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. By November of 1941, the United States became a virtual ally of Britain when U.S. merchant vessels were allowed to arm themselves and carry supplies directly to Britain.

After the Japanese occupation of Indochina in July of 1941, U.S. policy toward Japan became provocative and belligerent. Japanese assets in the United States were frozen, bringing trade between the United States and Japan to a halt. Shipments of petroleum, aviation fuel, scrap iron, and other strategic material to Japan were embargoed by order of the United States government. last, but not least, shortly before Pearl Harbor the U.S. State Department was demanding that Japan give up its conquests or gains in China and Indochina and retreat to Korea and Manchuria. This demand for a Japanese withdrawal from ~ was not matched with any corresponding demand for a German withdrawal from France, the low countries or the Soviet Union, and certainly not by a demand that the Italians get out of Ethiopia or that the British get out of India. To the Japanese, it appeared as if the United States was following a double standard in its relations with Japan and making demands on her that it would never make on a Western power like Germany or Britain.

This menacing drift toward war, both in the Atlantic and in Asia, was lost on a majority of the American public and much of Congress. These points of conflict among Washington, Berlin, and Tokyo involved areas of the world that were remote and almost unknown as far as most Americans were concerned.

America's sense of security was blasted on December 7, 1941, when Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor. Almost simultaneously, Japanese forces easily occupied or conquered Guam, Hong Kong, and the Island of Luzon in the Philippines. By March of 1942, just four months after Pearl Harbor, Japanese troops were occupying Singapore, much of Indonesia, most of the Philippines, and Thailand.

Perhaps Pearl Harbor should not have been a shock to America, given the nature of U.S. foreign policy during 1941. However, it was a shock, and it took half a year for the United States, and especially California, to recover from it.

Southern California was particularly shaken after Pearl Harbor. There were rumors of imminent Japanese air raids, submarine attacks, or a possible invasion of the California coast. One night in February 1942, the sky above Los Angeles was lit up for hours by anti-aircraft batteries because of a rumored Japanese air raid. A great deal of ammunition was wasted on non-existent enemy aircraft. This showed that the overconfidence which characterized the American commands at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines and the British High Command at Singapore before December 7th, was now giving way to full-scale panic.

Panic had a companion during the first months of 1942: racism. Newspapers in Southern California and through the Pacific Coast region carried headlines with the word Jap in them. The Japanese were caricatured in r cartoons as demonic, buck-toothed, grotesque imperialists, out to conquer every square inch of the Pacific Rim. Frequently, the Japanese Empire was portrayed as an octopus with menacing tentacles. There were many hints and even outright statements in the press that the Japanese were subhuman.

Racist stereotyping did a kind of flip-flop throughout the United States and the British Empire after Pearl Harbor. Before Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were portrayed as being physically and intellectually inferior to the Anglo-Saxons, and therefore not to be taken seriously. For example, the Japanese were often described as having hereditary poor eyesight, and therefore they L would be ineffective as pilots if they attempted aerial attacks on Singapore or Pearl Harbor. Very few Westerners believed the Japanese capable of defeating a European power or the United States. These Westerners should have consulted their history books about the Russo-Japanese War.

The contemptuous racism of the pre-Pearl Harbor days suddenly gave way to alarmist racial stereotyping after the Japanese successfully conquered Malaya and Singapore, most of the Philippines and parts of Indonesia by March of 1942. Now the Japanese were pictured as fanatic maniacs, bent on spreading death and destruction wherever they went. They were still looked upon as subhuman or grotesque by most racists, but now they were dangerous.

By March 1942, the internment of virtually all people of Japanese descent had begun on the West Coast. This included not just Japanese aliens, but also Japanese-Americans who had been born and brought up in the United States. During the Second World War in California and the rest of the United States, a large number of Italian and German aliens, as well as hundreds of Italian and German-Americans were also interned, both in the United States and Canada. However, internment of Italian and German-Americans was not on so massive and universal a scale as was the detention of Japanese-Americans Throughout the Pacific Coast states, almost all people of Japanese descent had been removed from populated areas and relocated in detainment camps, like Manzanar in the remote Owens Valley, or in camps as far to the east as Arkansas. They were virtual prisoners in their own country.

My father was horrified by the racist hysteria which broke out after Pearl Harbor, and by the treatment which Japanese-Americans were receiving from the U.S. government and their non-Japanese neighbors. One thing that must have grated on him considerably was the fact that the main location for processing and internment of Japanese-Americans was the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia. Santa Anita and Arcadia were within my father's Congressional District at that time. He, Sheridan Downey, and John Coffee were the only three critics of Japanese detention among Congressmen from the West Coast. What my father also objected to was the lack of concern for American property rights by U.S. government authorities. During their internment, the Japanese-Americans either lost much of their property through outright confiscation or theft, or they were pressured into selling their real and personal property at ridiculously low prices. Non-Japanese real estate speculators grew rich on land bought from Japanese-Americans for next to nothing and sold later at sky-high wartime or post-war prices.

During 1942, my father advocated the appointment of a government official whose sole duty would be that of custodian, or protector, of Japanese-American property rights. If this had been done, the massive legal thefts which occurred would not have taken place. However, my father did support their removal from vulnerable spots on the West Coast, -like the Long Beach or Oakland Naval Yards. This may have been a mistake on his part, but in the racially charged and hysterical atmosphere of 1942 -and the subsequent war years, my father genuinely feared that Japanese-Americans would be lynched, if not massacred, by the hundreds were they allowed to remain in militarily sensitive areas. The history of California, especially Southern California, is replete with cases of ugly racial violence on a large scale, from the anti-Chinese campaign of the late 1870s, to the zoot suit incidents of ~s Angeles during 1943 and culminating in the riots of 1965 and 1992.

In 1924, Congress passed the Japanese Exclusion Act, patterned after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that prohibited all but a trickle of immigrants from China. The Japanese Exclusion Act, motivated solely by race prejudice, played into the hands of the imperialists in Japan, and it may have directly contributed to Pearl Harbor. Japanese imperialists and militarists could point to the Japanese Exclusion Act as an example of the futility of the more liberal and internalist policies that were pursued by Japanese governments in the mid-1920s. The imperialists could also argue that the only logical outlet for Japan's surplus population was a Japanese Empire in Asia, since immigration to countries like the United States was now out of the question.

Finally, my father favored a policy of giving Japanese-Americans useful work in non-military areas, rather than confining them to idleness and despair in remote detention camps. The motivations for his relatively pro-Japanese-American policies were several. First, my father was a great admirer of the Japanese cooperative movement, and especially the world-famous Japanese cooperator and moral philosopher Kagawa The very last meeting which my father attended shortly before his death was a seminar on the work of Kagawa, conducted by the consumer cooperatives in Berkeley, California. My father never looked upon Japan as a monolith, as did many of his more racially prejudiced Congressional colleagues. He hated the policies of imperial Japan, just as he detested German Nazism and Italian Fascism. But he knew that not all Japanese were imperialists, just as he knew that not all Germans or Italians were Nazis or Fascists.

His second motivation came from the fact that he personally knew many Japanese-Americans. Several of the students at the Voorhis School were of Japanese descent. He knew that the vast majority of Japanese-Americans were loyal to the United States. He also believed that only a minority of the interned Japanese aliens were spies or imperialists. Partly because of his repugnance at what was happening to the Japanese Americans, my father voted in favor of the successful repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which passed Congress in October of 1943.

World War II, Japanese interment, and the racism which pervaded California during the war years, tended to radicalize my father's thinking, just as the First World War had done. During the war years, my father changed his attitude toward the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, Primarily because of the war. While America was still neutral, he believed that both H.U.A.C. and the Voorhis Act could play an important role in keeping America out of war. By investigating organizations which were under the control of foreign governments, my father believed that the Committee could isolate these groups and prevent them from involving the United States in the world conflict. However, once the United States had been plunged into war, the worst had already happened, as far as my father was concerned. He believed the need for H.U.A.C. was far less great than it was when the United States was neutral. Also, in the repressive and paranoid atmosphere which the war unleashed, my father thought that H.U.A.C. investigations would only fan the flames of race hatred and Xenophobia. Finally, he believed that investigation of saboteurs, enemy spies, and traitors would be carried out more effectively by the military or the FBI than by a committee of Congress. Consequently, he resigned from H.U.A.C. on February 16, 1943, slightly more than a year after Pearl Harbor.

Also during the war, my father once again became an economic populist, this time out of a deep desire to prevent anyone from profiting from the war. He believed that while young Americans were dying on foreign battlefields, Americans on the home front Should not be getting rich at their expense. This populism would express itself in the all-important area of taxation

On the issue of income taxes, my father disagreed with his Congressional colleagues from California, just as he did on the issue of Japanese interment. In both 1941 and 1942, the Roosevelt Administration, desperate for funds, advocated mandatory joint returns for federal income taxpayers in every state. This defied California's long established tradition of community property. Under the Community property system, which is based on Spanish and Roman law, Property and household income was to be divided equally on a fifty-fifty basis between husband and wife. This meant that in the eight community property states, which were located for the most part in the Southwest, separate tax returns could be filed by the husband and his wife even though their income might be entirely earned by only one Spouse. Under such a system, higher income couples could file separate returns and the tax rate on each of their separate incomes would be lower than the rate on their much larger joint income. The Roosevelt Administration introduced legislation in Congress to do away with special consideration for community property states, and to require joint federal tax returns for couples in all states and not just the forty states which did not have the community property system. My father supported the Administration proposal out of a sense of fairness and equity, because he believed the separate return allowance put taxpayers in community property states at a distinct advantage over those in other states. He also believed that the provision favored rich taxpayers at the expense of middle-class and lower-income taxpayers who tended to file joint returns even in community property states like California. My father's position was honest, fair-minded, and just. But it was disastrous politically.

My father was the only member of the California Congressional delegation who supported the mandatory joint return proposal. California Democrats and Republicans alike supported separate returns for a number of practical political reasons. First of all, feminists tended to oppose joint returns. They supported the separate return idea as being a step in the direction toward economic equality between husband and wife. Secondly, many Hispanics in California tended to support separate returns, both for economic reasons and on cultural grounds. Mandatory joint returns looked to them like an attempt by the Federal Government to compel Californians to forget their Spanish legal heritage, and adopt English common law, which placed more power and responsibility in the hands of the husband. Finally, separate returns were not only a decided boon to wealthy or upper-middle-class taxpayers who contribute most of the money to political campaigns, they were also an economic advantage to California in that wealthy individuals or entrepreneurs could be enticed to settle in California because of the lower federal income taxes. By his advocacy of the joint tax return, in one fell swoop my father incurred the wrath of feminists, upper-middle-class Hispanics, and California's business community.

Finally, my father was critical of businesmen in Washington who were not full-time government employees and who, as dollar-a-year men were more interested in securing favors for their businesses than anything else. He also was critical of potentially excessive war profits and of the tendency for government contracts to be allotted to large corporations rather than to smaller businesses. He expressed public fears that wartime mobilization would stifle small business under a maze of controls and favor larger concerns on the grounds of efficiency.

As the election of 1942 approached, my father had a mountain of obstacles to contend with. First, the district had become much more Republican, thanks to redistricting. Also, the 12th District's Republican population was increasing, largely because of the influx of war industries, which had a high percentage of well-paid, technical and clerical employees who tended to vote Republican. Secondly, 1942 was an off-year election that turned out well for the GOP. In the November elections, the number of Republican House seats increased from 162 to 209. The number of GOP Senate seats went up from 28 to 38. Nineteen forty-two spelled the end of any attempts to forge a liberal or progressive coalition in Congress like the one that passed the Fair Labor Standards Act. From 1943 until 1959, both Houses of Congress would be dominated by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Southern Democrats.

Nineteen forty-two proved to be an excellent year for California Republicans. GOP State' Attorney General Earl warren thoroughly defeated the incumbent Democratic Governor Culbert Olson. warren received 57% of all the ballots cast, compared to Olson's 42%. Also, Feed Houser easily replaced Democrat Ellis Patterson in the race for Lieutenant Governor.

After 942, all major State offices were held by Republicans, except for Sheridan Downey's Senate seat, which was not contested. Finally, the GOP captured control of the State Assembly in 1942. 50 by 1943, both the executive and legislative branches off the State government were Republican.

Actually, GOP victories at the State level were a blessing to my father. His strongest potential opponent in the 12th District, Fred Houser, was elected Lieutenant Governor. This produced a power vacuum within the District's Republican Party that led to a confused and divisive GOP primary. Seven Candidates entered the 12th District's Republican primary during 1942. One of those seven candidates was my father, who cross-filed in the GOP primary, hoping against hope to get the Republican nomination. This highly fragmented primary produced a victory for radio evangelist and dedicated Prohibitionist Robert Shuler. Many Republicans were suspicious of Shuler and considered him too eccentric to merit their support. However, Shuler also managed to get nominated in the Prohibitionist primary. The Prohibitionist Party was a potent force in 12th District politics. During the First World War, the area encompassed by the 12th District was represented in Congress by a Prohibitionist, who interestingly enough opposed the Declaration of War against Germany.

In addition to increased Republican strength throughout the new 12th District, my father had to contend with the alienation of many conservative Democratic and Independent voters, who disagreed with his taxation and overall economic policies. My father 's advocacy of mandatory joint returns had been denounced by the highly influential Democratic Congressman Frank Buck from Northern California, who was at that time a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Buck represented California's powerful wine industry. This did not bode well for my father's reelection chances. For the first time during his long Congressional career, my father was at odds with the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives.

My father's criticism of H.U.A.C. and his apparent desire to resign from the Committee alienated still more conservative voters, who had cast their ballots for him in 1940 when he was an active supporter of the Committee. Finally, anti-Japanese backlash had an additional impact on the drastic reduction of my father's vote total which occurred in 1942.

When the ballots were counted in November, my father received 53,705 votes, compared to Shuler's 40,780. My father's vote total in 1942 was only slightly more than half of the number of ballots which he received in 1940. During that Presidential year he garnered 99,494 votes. The disappearance of more than 45,000 Democratic Congressional ballots can be explained partly by redistricting and the loss of the heavily Democratic Southwestern corner of the District, which included East Los Angeles. Also, 1942 was not a Presidential election year, and the tremendous Democratic turnouts that occurred in 1940 and 1944 when FDR was running for reelection, did not materialize in 1942. These two factors, off-year apathy and the loss of the most Democratic part of the old 12th District, account for almost all of the erosion of my father's vote totals. However, perhaps two or three thousand voters who cast their ballots for my father in 1940 refused to vote for him during 1942 because of his taxation policies and his shift to the left following Pearl Harbor.

Lastly, 1942 saw an increase of two GOP House seats from a total of nine to eleven, mainly due to reapportionment. However, California Democrats were able to increase the number of their House seats by only one. California's three new House seats, which were primarily suburban, were two-to-one Republican in 1942. This pattern would hold except for a brief interruption during 1944, until well into the 1950s. California's newcomers were overwhelmingly Republican and California's new Congressional Districts tended also to be largely Republican. During the 1940s, instead of being flooded with migrants from the Dust Bowl, who were Democratic, California was being inundated with upper-middle-class people from the urban Midwest and Northeast. This demographic change would be particularly obvious within the 12th District by 1944 and 1946.

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