David McReynolds

David McReynolds
David McReynolds
David McReynolds
at the 2009 Left Forum in New York City
Personal details
Born January 10, 1929 (1929-25-10) (age 81)
Los Angeles, California
Political party Socialist
Other political
Green (affiliated non-member)
Alma mater University of California Los Angeles
Occupation Activist, Politician
Religion None (Atheist)

David McReynolds (born October 25, 1929) is an American democratic socialist and pacifist activist who described himself as "a peace movement bureaucrat" during his 40-year career with Liberation magazine and the War Resisters League.[1] He was the first openly gay man to run for President of the United States.[2]


Early life

He was born in Los Angeles to Charles and Elizabeth McReynolds. In 1951 he joined the Socialist Party of America (SPA) and in 1953 he graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science. Between 1957 and 1960, McReynolds worked for the editorial board of the left-wing magazine Liberation. McReynolds is openly gay and wrote his first article about living as a gay man in 1969.[3]

Career with War Resisters League

He was staunchly anti-war and a draft resister, and in 1960 joined the staff of the War Resisters League (WRL), where he remained until his retirement in 1999. On November 6, 1965, he was one of five men who publicly burned their draft cards at an anti-war demonstration at Union Square in New York. This was one of the first public draft-card burnings after U.S. law was changed on August 30, 1965 to make such actions a felony, punishable by up to five years' imprisonment. He was close friends with Bayard Rustin[4] and other prominent peace activists, as well literary figures like Quentin Crisp.[5] In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[6]

McReynolds was particularly active internationally, both in War Resisters' International of which he was chairperson for the term 1986–88, and in the International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace which eventually merged into the International Peace Bureau.

Leader with Socialist Party USA

The SPA was renamed the Social Democrats USA by a majority vote at the 1972 convention. Michael Harrington resigned and then formed the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (now the Democratic Socialists of America, DSA) with the purpose of "realignment" strengthening the role of labor unions and other progressive organizations in the Democratic Party to pull it to the left. The smallest and the most left wing of the SPA, known as the Debs Caucus, including McReynolds, formed the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA). McReynolds has long been a member of both DSA and SPUSA.

McReynolds' primary theoretical contribution to socialism comes from his blending of a pacifist world-view with a commitment to re-distributive socialist economics. Politically, McReynolds has been a staunch anti-authoritarian and has collaborated with a diverse set of political formations on the democratic left. His widely read pamphlet, The Philosophy of Nonviolence, provides a unique window into the mind of a life-long activist wrestling with the contradictions and pitfalls which plagued the political left in the 20th century. He concludes that "...there is no living, vital philosophy which does not have 'holes' in it." Consequently, he maps out a pluralistic approach which is, on the one hand, socialist, yet is entirely engaged with thought systems as seemingly contradictory as Hindu philosophy. McReynolds concludes that a brand of pacifist-socialism is best suited for future socialist experiments since it offers the greatest opportunity to prefigure the kinds of democratic relations necessary to create a functional and free society.[clarification needed]

In his political career, McReynolds ran for Congress from Lower Manhattan twice and for President twice. In 1958 he ran as a write-in SPA candidate and then in 1968 as a Peace and Freedom Party candidate for Congress in the 19th district pulling in 4.7% of the vote (3,969 votes).[7] In 1980, he ran for President of the United States as the SPUSA candidate, with Diane Drufenbrock as vice presidential candidate, receiving 6,994 votes (0.01%)[8] and also becoming the first openly gay man to run for President in U.S. history.[9] Upon the request of fellow Socialists, McReynolds ran again for President as the SPUSA candidate in 2000, with Mary Cal Hollis as his running mate, receiving 5,602 votes. In both 1980 and 2000, McReynolds received the endorsement and ballot line of the Liberty Union Party in Vermont.[10]

After the 2000 election, the Palm Beach Post speculated that 2,908 voters, "mostly in elderly Jewish districts," had mistakenly voted for both Al Gore, running for President on the Democratic ticket, and for McReynolds on a "confusing butterfly ballot," thereby resulting in voided votes, helping to cost Gore the state's crucial electoral votes.[11][12]

2004 Senate Campaign

On July 10, 2004, David McReynolds announced his candidacy running on the Green Party ticket for one of the New York seats in the Senate, running an anti-war campaign against Democratic incumbent Chuck Schumer, where he pulled in 36,942 votes for 0.5% of total.[2]:239[13]


  1. ^ David McReynolds, "Thinking About Retirement", Nonviolent Activist, March–April 1999, p. 7.
  2. ^ a b Martin Duberman, A Saving Remnant: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds, New York: The New Press (2011):221
  3. ^ Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism. Edited By David De Leon Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994 ISBN 0313274142 pp.215-219
  4. ^ John D'Emilio. READING THE SILENCES IN A GAY LIFE The Case of Bayard Rustin pp. 59–68 in The Seductions of Biography. Edited: Mary Rhiel, David Suchoff, David Bruce Suchoff. Routledge, 1996 ISBN 0415910897
    "Rustin's only defender was Dave McReynolds, a younger gay staffer at the War Resisters League, whom Rustin had mentored over the years"
  5. ^ Dave McReynolds. NOTES ON KNOWING QUENTIN. and QUENTIN CRISP: THE RADICAL, Quentin Crisp Archives (2005)
  6. ^ “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  7. ^ "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 5, 1968". http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/1968election.pdf. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  8. ^ "1980 Presidential General Election Results". http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=1980&off=0. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  9. ^ Kari Lydersen. David vs. Goliath. In These Times. Vol. 24, No. 10 (2000).
    On his 1980 presidential run: "He was among the first openly gay political candidates for any office, having come out in WIN magazine in 1969, and though he doesn't see himself as a "gay and lesbian candidate," he has continued to work for gay rights."
  10. ^ "Vermont November 2000 General Election". Thegreenpapers.com. http://www.thegreenpapers.com/G00/VT.html#Pre. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  11. ^ "Joel Engelhardt and Scott McCabe, "Over-votes cost Gore the election in Florida," ''Palm Beach Post,'' undated website". Palmbeachpost.com. http://www.palmbeachpost.com/politics/content/news/election2000/election2000_overvote_gore.html. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  12. ^ "Kevin Phillips, "The GOP's control of Congress and the White House can last only so long," ''Los Angeles Times,'' April 15, 2001, page M-1". Proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.lapl.org. http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.lapl.org/pqdweb?did=71339648&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=13322&RQT=309&VName=PQD. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  13. ^ "C:\Documents and Settings\hhardwick\Desktop\WEBSITE\EOU\2006 STATEWIDE JD GOV BY AD.qpw" (PDF). http://www.elections.state.ny.us/NYSBOE/elections/2006/general/2006_ussen.pdf. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 


  • David McReynolds. We Have Been Invaded by the 21st Century. Praeger (1970) ISBN 129915879x
  • David McReynolds. "Thinking About Retirement". Nonviolent Activist, March–April 1999.
  • David McReynolds. Queer Reflections. New Politics, Vol XII, no. 1 2008.
  • Paul Buhle. "David McReynolds:Socialist Peacemaker". Nonviolent Activist, March–April 1999.
  • Bennett, Scott H. Radical Pacifism: The War Resisters League and Gandhian Nonviolence in America, 1915-1963. (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2003). ISBN 0-8156-3028-X.
  • Dan Vera. "Being Peaceful: An Interview with David McReynolds." White Crane, Summer 2003, Issue 57, p4-10.
  • Stern, Keith (2009), "Alvin Ailey", Queers in History, BenBella Books, Inc.; Dallas, Texas, ISBN 978-1933771-87-8 

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank Zeidler
Socialist Party Presidential candidate
1980 (lost)
Succeeded by
Willa Kenoyer
Preceded by
Mary Cal Hollis
Socialist Party Presidential candidate
2000 (lost)
Succeeded by
Walt Brown
Preceded by
Mark Dunau
Green Party Candidate for United States Senator from New York
2004 (lost)
Succeeded by
Howie Hawkins

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