George W. Scott - "Scandinavians in Washington Politics"

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SIE 4-105

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George W. Scott - "Scandinavians in Washington Politics"


  • 1990 (Creation)


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A typed research paper by George W. Scott entitled, "Scandinavians in Washington's Politics Research Paper," likely written for a Pacific Lutheran University course. Inlcuded is an extensive bibliography.

The paper is a narrative history describing the political achievements of notable Scandinavian politicians and political organizations since the 1880s. This history also gives an account of the scope of larger, national politics and trends. At the end is a brief summary of political movements in which Scandinavian-Americans were especially involved, data related to geographic distribution and political affiliation of Scandinavian political leaders, as well as a list of bibliographic sources listed as endnotes, and a map of Western Washington and Spokane congressional districts.

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      This paper is an historical account of the first Scandinavians involved in U.S. politics, starting with involvement in Midwestern states such as Minnesota and Iowa, and eventually Scandinavian influences in the Pacific Northwest, and specifically in Washington State. Although an early political goal among Scandinavian immigrants rested on assimilation into mainstream American culture and politics, since its early days, there were many news publications started by Scandinavian Americans, including the Norwegian language Washington Posten in Seattle and the Tacoma Tidende, and the Swedish language Vestra Posten that incorporated all of the Pacific Northwest. Early in their history, the Scandinavian politicians had a vested interest in agriculture and fishing, including promoting the silver standard, as well as in the prohibition movement. By the 1920s, the Scandinavian political movement also incorporated a strong sympathy for the labor movement, a trend that continued into the Great Depression, with the establishment of many Scandinavian political organizations (both partisan and non-partisan) being established in the meantime. However, it was during the New Deal era that Scandinavian politicians, who generally sympathized with Roosevelt's policies to a large degree, were found on few of the political rosters, because foreign language publishers questioned the "pedigrees" of Scandinavian candidates, and especially those whose politics were most left-wing. However, once the policies started to take root, so also did the Scandinavian clout rise, and in some cases peaking in the mid 1930s. This included Grays Harbor's Scandinavian-American Democratic Club as led by Andrew "Andy" Winberg, which was considered to be the largest of its kind in the region.

      Leading up to and during World War II, Monrad C, Wallgren served as the only person to hold all three of Washington State's highest offices, as he was first elected to the House of Representatives from the Second ("Scandinavian") District, and later appointed to the U.S. Senate, and from there ousted Governor Langlie in 1944. Wallgren is remembered for triggering the state's longest environmental clash in 1939, with a bill creating a "Mount Olympus National Park". As well as for introducing legislation allowing the War Department authority to relocate Japanese-Americans; and as governor in 1945, showed "perturbance" over their return home from the internment camps before the end of the war. Wallgren's successsor for the Second District, Martin "Scoop" Jackson, had been an especially successful Scandinavian politician, known for his opposition to the 1940 Lend Lease Act. He was remembered for a strong anti-Soviet stance during the Cold War, as he justified his position through his dual Washington-Norwegian roots, citing Norway as "one of the great spiritual arsenals of democracy" and an example of political governance to constrast with the Soviet Union.

      The article elaborates on the political legacy of Scoop Jackson, including his "survival" as sole Democratic Party member in major political office by 1946, his environmental, energy, and resource development policy contributions, and his leadership in the Armed Service's Arms Control Subcommittee wherein he was criticized for overly representing the interest of the Boeing Corporation by the 1960s and supporting President Nixon's ABM Missile Program. By 1960, Jackson became the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

      Another Scandinavian-American described in detail is Senator Warren Grant Magnuson of Swedish descent, born in Moorhead, Minnesota in 1905, whose most notable legislative work included charing the Commerce Committee from 1955-1978, which included writing legislation regarding flammable childrens'clothing and the National Science Foundation, authoring the Public Accomodations Sectino of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and battling Scoop Jackson over a Columbia Valley Authority and Hells Canyon Dam, and working to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act. He also was one of the members joining in censuring Senator Joe McCarthy after previously avoiding the Army-McCarthy dispute while signing a resulution urging the comittee chair to press pursuit of Communists. Before his 1980 defeat, Magnuson also served as President Pro Temporary in the United States Senate.

      Representing the Republican wing of Scandinavian Americans in the mid 20th Century was Arthur Langlie, who was Washington's leading Republican for twenty years, serving as the state's youngest governor at the age of 38. His career was especially opposed to Roosevelt's New Deal policies and in favor of isolationism. He also innitiated the first State Board Against Discrimination, legislated for a welfare reform and a corporate income tax, a takeover of the Washington State ferry system (at that time the largest in the world), and Initiative 178. Other notable Scandinavian Republicans include Don Eastvold, president of then Pacific Lutheran College, and Thor Tollefson.

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