Tilting at Windmills

May/June 2012 The liberal Republicanosaurus

By Charles Peters

For those too young to recall that there were once more than one or two liberal Republicans, I can assure that they actually existed in considerably greater number. When I arrived in Washington in the 1960s there were five Republicans who, more often than not, voted on the liberal side: Jacob Javits, Kenneth Keating, Clifford Case, Hugh Scott, and Thomas Kuchel. And there were seven other Republicans, like Margaret Chase Smith and John Sherman Cooper, who occasionally voted with the liberals. When Robert Kennedy, who had replaced Keating in the Senate, was shot in 1968, Nelson Rockefeller appointed a liberal Republican House member, Charles Goodell, to succeed him. Goodell would later marry my neighbor, Patricia Goldman, who in the 1970s happened to be the executive director of the Wednesday Club, a group that included about thirty liberal House Republicans. There was also a Wednesday Club in the Senate. When Olympia Snowe retires at the end of this year, Susan Collins will be the only remaining member.

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.


  • Old Uncle Dave on May 27, 2012 7:56 PM:

    The liberal (and centrist) Republicans did not leave the party, the party left them.

  • Ebenezer Scrooge on June 11, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Are Edward Brooke and Mac Mathias chopped liver? Both liberal Rs; both elected in the 1960's. When I was a lad in the Great State of Maryland, I enjoyed voting for the local Republicans, possibly as an act of youthful rebellion. They were just as liberal as the Democrats with a certain noblesse oblige that only a Republican could carry off.