Subversive Historian – 03/04/09

Victor Berger: The First Socialist Congressman

Back in the day on March 4th, 1910, Victor Berger became the first socialist ever elected to the House of Representatives. Coming from the socialist stronghold Milwaukee, Wisconsin – must have been the something in the cheese – Berger’s first term in office was characterized most notably by his calls to establish a pension system for the elderly. He ultimately lost his seat in 1912 but returned to win in 1918. As a socialist who upheld his party’s opposition to World War I, the House of Representatives refused to seat him, however, as his anti-war views collided with the notorious Espionage Act. On appeal from a twenty year prison sentence, Berger won his seat back the very next year in a special election only to be refused once more.

In time, the socialist congressman would run again after his Espionage Act conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court and win terms during the 1920’s. His campaign for a senate seat included the slogan – “tax the profiteers” – not bad advice in these current times.

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