Monday, Aug. 09, 2010

Upton Sinclair

The pioneering muckraker whose famous 1906 work The Jungle sought to expose the exploitation of immigrant workers, but simultaneously — and accidentally — showed the world the unsanitary conditions of the meatpacking industry, also had several political campaigns. He just never won. After having lost a bid for Congress in New Jersey, the Baltimore native moved to California in the 1920s and twice ran for Congress on the socialist ticket. No luck either time. Then after unsuccessfully campaigning for the state's governorship as a socialist, Sinclair formed the End Poverty in California movement in 1933 and ran as a Democrat. He touted this reform plan with a book called I, Governor of California and How I Ended Poverty: A True Story of the Future. In 1934 he told TIME, "I found I was not getting anywhere as a socialist, and so I decided to try to make progress with one of the two old parties."

He achieved great success in the primary, beating his Democratic opponent by 150,000 votes. But he was undone in part by his willingness to back President Roosevelt's plan for a national insurance system over his own. In the end, Sinclair proved not the shrewdest of politicians and lost the election. He followed that up by publishing I, Candidate for Governor and How I Got Licked. But thanks for the Pure Food and Drug Act, Upton.