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Anthony Citrano @acitrano
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As the good people of America continue our desperate hunt for Republican courage, I thought it would be a good time to share a (very long) thread about one of my Republican heroes, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith. /1
This is especially timely in light of the President’s mention of Joseph McCarthy, because Margaret Chase Smith dealt the first blow in what would be the death of McCarthyism. Read on; it’s long, but I promise it’s worth it. /2
Along the way, keep this quote (that Mark Twain likely never said) in mind: “History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” /3
Margaret Chase Smith was from a small town in central Maine that the Abenaki people named “Skowhegan”, which roughly translates to “watching place”. /4
Given the area is very rich, fertile, and wet (it sits on a big bend in the Kennebec River w/ two big waterfalls), they probably meant it in terms of watching for fish.¹

Senator Smith was a “watcher”, but not for fish. She watched for bullshit.

And when she saw it, /5
she called it out. Passionately, directly, politely. One might be tempted to say “like a lady” in the vernacular of that time, but one would be wrong.

Because in Senator Smith's time, ladies were expected to shut the fuck up and do the ironing, cleaning, and child-rearing. /6
Business and politics were for men. In fact, when Margaret Chase Smith reached voting age, you know what she did on Election Day? Jack shit is what she did, because women weren't allowed to vote. That didn't happen until she was in her 20s. /7
Don't get me wrong, she was busy: at 20, she was already the first female executive at the Maine Telephone and Telegraph Company².

To condense: her husband Clyde Smith was elected to Congress in ‘36. She went with him to DC. Then he got sick – very sick. /8
He told the people of Maine's 2nd Congressional district (after receiving her permission) that he knew of no person better qualified to replace him than she.

He died shortly thereafter, and a special election was held to replace him.

She won. /9
“But she was a widow running unopposed,” you say? OK, fine.

But a few months later, she had to run again in the regular mid-terms, against the popular mayor of one of Maine’s largest cities, a guy named Ed Beauchamp. /10
She beat Beauchamp by a 2:1 margin, and was re-elected 3 more times, consistently by ~2:1 margins!

In 1948, she announced her candidacy for the seat of retiring Senator Wallace White. Her first hurdle? A 4-way GOP primary. Three men and her. /11
She earned more votes than all three of the men COMBINED. That's right, bitches – like a girl!

In the fall, she faced a Democratic opponent in the form of a big-city (Portland) doctor named Adrian Scolten. /12
Scolten didn't run a great campaign, but Smith treated it like a tight race, campaigning vigorously right up until Election Day.

She absolutely DEMOLISHED Scolten, earning 71% of the vote! /13
This was the largest Senate victory margin in Maine history, and would remain so until 1988³. When she was sworn into the 81st US Congress, she was already headed for a well-earned place in the annals of American politics. /14
But what she did in 1950 took it to a new level, and should serve as a reminder of what it looks like when our elected representatives have vertebrae. /15
A reminder of what happens when they stand up for ideals, for America, and not just blindly, cravenly playing along with a team, a tribe, a label, a party, with no regard for the toll it takes on our Republic. /16
What was it? Well, there was this guy named Joseph McCarthy, a Senator from Wisconsin and a fellow Republican to Senator Smith.

In early 1950, he gave a speech commemorating Lincoln's birthday at the Women's Republican Club in Wheeling, West Virginia. /17
In the speech, he alleged that he had a list of Communists who had infiltrated the US State Department and were acting as a ring of Soviet spies.

She was no dove, so Senator Smith's initial reaction was along the lines of “wait, wut? omfg!” /18
Like any patriot, she was as eager as anyone to get to the bottom of the assertion and root out any such persons.

But something smelled fishy to the Gentlewoman from [Skowhegan!] Maine. /19
In Wheeling, McCarthy had actually held up a piece of paper, claiming it was a list of 200+ Communist infiltrators.

A few days later, he said 57.

When he took to the floor of the Senate a few weeks later, and SPOKE FOR FIVE HOURS, he said 81.

He hadn't yet provided his "list" to anyone, which seemed a little weird to Senator Smith, since this ought to be rather urgent, no?

A committee was formed to investigate, and was marred by partisan fighting. /21
The Committee was chaired by Democratic Senator Willard Tydings (the Ds were in the majority). Tydings was skeptical, eventually saying the allegations were bullshit, meant to “confuse and divide the American people”.

Republicans responded by accusing him of whitewashing. /22
It would turn out that McCarthy's list was really just a list of people he didn't agree with politically, and he didn't like them being in positions of power within the US diplomatic apparatus. Accusations came down to stuff like drinking too much & cheating on their wives. /23
But the Senate was paralyzed with fear. Plenty of secrets to go around, I'm sure. These men - yes, men - were afraid McCarthy might expose their dirty laundry if they spoke up. They all knew it was BS, but no one would say it, not even any Democrats. /24
Emperor's clothes – so purty!

These men were basically saying, “Screw America, screw principles. What if this nutjob says something bad about me?!” /25
But one person had had enough.

On June 1, 1950, the Gentlewoman from Maine (Skowhegan, the “watching place”!) entered the Senate chamber. /26
The Gentlewoman from Maine – WHO WASN'T EVEN ALLOWED TO VOTE WHEN SHE WAS 18 – asked to be recognized, and was given the floor of the United States Senate.

Over the next fifteen minutes, she would show these men what courage looked like. /27
She delivered a speech that would come to be known as the "Declaration of Conscience” [which you should read right now] in which she was the FIRST member of Congress to condemn McCarthy's witch hunt.…

GUYS, GUYS — here is one of the first female members of Congress, speaking out against a member of her own party, when that party is in the minority and can hardly afford the appearance of disunity. /29
She didn't care. This was about America.

She wanted Republicans to succeed, she said, but not if it meant “riding to political victory on the four horseman of calumny—fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear”. /30
She denounced "the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from my side of the aisle.”

She said her fellow Republican had “debased” the Senate to “a forum of hate and character assassination”. /31
She said that at the core of the American experiment was the right of every American “to criticize”, “to hold unpopular beliefs”, “to protest” and “the right of independent thought”. /32
Many thought it would spell the end for the Gentlewoman from Maine. Quite the contrary; instead, it marked the beginning of the end of McCarthy's witch hunt. Many joined her. /33
McCarthy called her “Snow White” (huh?!) and peddled conspiracy theories for a couple more years as his star and reputation faded, with him ultimately being “condemned” by the Senate (67-22).

Ruined, chasing ghosts, he drank himself to death at 48.

The Gentlewoman from Maine, who ironically had to show almost 100 men what testicular fortitude was all about, would go on to become the first woman placed in nomination for President at the convention of a major political party. /35
She was re-elected to the Senate handily. Her Declaration of Conscience speech is commonly found on lists of the greatest political speeches in American history. /36
Bernard Baruch, the stock tycoon and Presidential advisor, said that if a man had given that speech, he would have been elected President. /37
Many people in Congress - in America - could learn lessons from Senator Smith. /38
When I was a young lad working for @SenAngusKing (when he was Governor), I was lucky to meet her.

I told her how awesome I thought she was. I told her she was a hero of mine. She was genuinely touched by this and was so kind and gracious and humble. /39
A true patriot, a Great American, and a servant of the Republic: Maine Republican Margaret Chase Smith. I say, with great confidence, she would be heartbroken and mortified to see her party today. /40
Sources: Wikipedia; "This Splendid Game" by Christian Potholm; "History and Description of New England" by Coolidge & Mansfield.

For those who may not know this: her seat is now held by @SenatorCollins. I know Senator Collins and - while we don't agree on everything - she is a good person who wants the best for her constituents and shares my admiration for her predecessor.
This all seems tremendously relevant in light of the situation with #Kavanaugh.
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