Kevin M. Kruse @KevinMKruse Historian. Author/editor of White Flight; The New Suburban History; Spaces of the Modern City; Fog of War; One Nation Under God; Fault Lines. Mar. 11, 2019 2 min read

No, when historians classify John F. Kennedy as a liberal, it's precisely because we're judging him "on many issues by the standards of his day."

Let's roll the tape.

I've already outlined JFK's liberal stances during his presidency:

While that record of liberalism is clear, we can also look at his longer congressional record from 1947-1960 and see how leading liberal organizations rated it

And guess what? "By the standards of the day," he was clearly seen by liberals as a liberal.

The liberal organization Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), for instance, rated every member of Congress, weighing each of their votes on a series of key measures.

Throughout his career in the House and Senate, the ADA rated John F. Kennedy as liberal year after year.

Here are the ADA ratings for the votes Kennedy made during his first four years in the House (1947-1950).

1947: 92% liberal
1948: 92%
1949: 90%
1950: 85%

Here are the ADA ratings for the votes Kennedy took during his last two years in the House (1951-1952) and first two years in the Senate (1953-1954).

1951: 91% liberal
1952: 100%

1953: 77%
1954: 85%

Here are the ADA ratings for the votes Kennedy took during his next four years in the Senate (1955-1958).

1955: 66% liberal (due largely to a number of absences makred "A")
1956: 86%
1957: 83%
1958: 100%

Here are the ADA ratings for the votes Kennedy took during his final two years in the Senate (1959-1960)

1959: 85% liberal
1960: 100%

Other liberal outlets -- again, judging Kennedy "by the standards of the day" -- likewise saw his record as overwhelmingly liberal.

The @newrepublic, for instance, looked over Kennedy's congressional career from 1947-1958 and gave him a 91% liberal rating.

That was a highbrow liberal magazine. How about working-class labor organizations?

Well, for one example, the AFL-CIO thought he had voted the liberal position on 94% of their key issues in 1960.

By informal measures, too, Kennedy was regarded as a liberal by liberals.

Liberal professors who had backed "egghead" Adlai Stevenson claimed him as a fellow liberal.

Moving beyond liberal groups, seasoned reporters clearly saw him as a liberal too.

Here's Robert Novak, for instance:

I could go on and on, but the record is quite clear.

You're welcome to judge him by your own standards, but "by the standards of his day," JFK was absolutely *not* seen as a "conservative Democrat." He was rightly recognized as a liberal.

And here's the ... well, I guess technically it's a response. Unbelievable.

Those "numerical ratings" he's dismissing are *precisely* based on the issues.

Here's the 1960 ADA scorecard counting votes on civil rights, taxes, medical care for the aged, minimum wage, public housing, education, etc.

JFK voted the liberal position on every single one!

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