IT'S A JUNGLE OUT THERE
Upton Sinclair v. Frank Merriam, Governor, California, 1934
This is the question that's thinning my hair,
What'll I do about Upton Sinclair?
If I embrace him the slams will be hot,
And I'll be roasted if I do not.
Choosing a course is not such a snap,
Why did they put that guy in my lap?
—a ditty by humor columnist H. I. Phillips, poking
fun at Franklin Roosevelt's dilemma
The casual observer of politics might be surprised to learn that the muckraking columnist and author Upton Sinclair once ran for governor of California. Although it might be one of America's "forgotten" elections, it shouldn't be, because coming at the height of the Great Depression and the early stages of the New Deal, it almost caused a civil war in California.
Sinclair's 1934 campaign also earned a place in political lore as one of the most savage and brutal election campaigns in American history. He had a legion of enemies—including Hollywood moguls; California business associations; the real estate industry; and, of course, the state Republican Party—that threw everything at him, including the kitchen sink.
Sinclair is best known for his 1906 novel The Jungle, which exposed the horrible working conditions and sanitary procedures in meatpacking houses and food distribution centers in Chicago. The book became a sensation,