Dinesh D’Souza: Where Were the Democrats in the Human Betterment Foundation?

In his book The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, Dinesh D’Souza attempts to draw a link between the Democratic party and the eugenics movement in the United States and Nazi Germany. In the 2017 book D’Souza wrote, “Progressives in America founded a plethora of eugenic organizations.”(p. 135) He then listed leading eugenicists including, “Eugene Gosney (sic), director of the Human Betterment Foundation.” (p. 136). (Note: Gosney’s first name was Ezra).

As I pointed out in a post earlier today, Gosney was a registered Republican. He also supported the Boy Scouts and Paul Popenoe’s American Institute for Family Relations, the organization which gave James Dobson his start. While those are good things, that’s not the point. The point is that these guys were not progressives in the manner D’Souza depicts. They were Republicans and in many ways, they were socially conservative.

The Human Betterment Foundation Charter Members Were Republicans

Now to follow up on today’s post, I want to report that when the Human Betterment Foundation opened for business, none of the founding members described themselves as members of the Democratic party. I checked all of the voter registrations and other sources and found no Democrats.* There was only one person I couldn’t find any information about (A.D. Shamel), but all others were or became Republicans during their service to the organization. One member (George Dock) was a Democrat in 1924 but by 1928, he had joined his wife as a registered Republican and remained that way according to available records. Another HBF founding member (William Munro) did not state his affiliation until 1936 but when he did, it was Republican to match his wife.

So in short, in 1928, Republican philanthropist E.S. Gosney brought together 24 people, none of whom were Democrats, to form an organization that Dinesh D’Souza claims was influenced by the Democratic party.

Dinesh D’Souza is probably correct to say that the Human Betterment Foundation had an influence on the Nazis. At least HBF board member Charles Goethe said so when he wrote Gosney in 1934 after a trip to Germany:

You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought and particularly by the work of the Human Betterment Foundation. I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people.

D’Souza claims that eugenics groups like the Human Betterment Foundation are part of the “disgraceful legacy of the Democratic left.” In the light of history, the HBF is disgraceful but how can it be the legacy of the Democratic left when no Democrats were involved in it?


*Voter registrations were checked via Ancestry.com.

32 thoughts on “Dinesh D’Souza: Where Were the Democrats in the Human Betterment Foundation?”

  1. Slightly off-topic:

    “He also supported the Boy Scouts and Paul Popenoe’s American Institute for Family Relations, the organization which gave James Dobson his start. While those are good things. . .”

    I have trouble reconciling supporting the Boy Scouts with supporting any organization that created the career of James Dobson. Dobson is definitely not a good thing. Any man who glories in winning a war of wills with his elderly, 12-pound dachshund–a war which involved forcing the dog to sleep in a cold room in its bed, rather than in a warm bathroom, using a belt to enforce his commands–then connecting that battle to parents spanking their children, has no business being a child psychologist. The story can be found in Dobson’s book, _The Strong-Willed Child_.

  2. Wouldn’t this have been before the two parties functionally switched left and right leanings (around the 70’s and 80’s if I’m remembering correctly)? So the Republicans of that time would be Democrats today.

    1. Is there any historical evidence that the conservative Southern Democrats (who you are talking about as switching parties) were dramatically opposed to family planning or abortion? George H. W. Bush as a representative from Texas was strongly supportive of Planned Parenthood. So much so that his congressional nickname was “rubbers”.

      1. bluetah: There’s a good bit of material out there about the Republican Party supporting big government and Democrats advocating smaller, and the parties swapping these (and several other) positions. I’m reading an article now identifying the time of the swap around the 1930’s and naming William Jennings Bryan (apparently from the famous Scopes trial) played a large part in blurring the line between these party positions, which facilitated switching.

        Try searching for “democrat republican switch” for more.

        1. I don;t find any references to abortion or Planned Parenthood as an identified cause of Southern Democrats- only southern Republicans like George H. W. Bush and his Dad Senator Prescott Bush. Try looking for that- since that’s what we are supposed to be discussing.

          1. bluetah: Well, around that time it would’ve been called the American Birth Control League… but my concern was that any discussions might be incorrectly assuming these “plank positions” of each party were historically the same as today’s party arrangements. Similar to discussing Germany and Japan of the late 1930’s as if they held the same structure and ideologies as their modern form, which would obviously confuse the point of any conversation based on that assumption.

          2. bluetah: Are you unaware of governments being profoundly different from their historical structures and functions?

          3. Can you competently describe in real terms (not muddled metaphor) what you are trying to write about? Does what you seem to be puzzling about relate to this topic?

          4. bluetah: Sorry if you’re having comprehension issues. I can’t do all of the work for you.

    2. That would be some great “head I win tales you lose” spin. Founded by Democrats: Shameful history of the Democratic party. Founded by Republicans: That was before all the Republican became Democrats. Shameful history of the Democratic party.

      That could be the one thing that would get D’Souza to accept the Southern Realignment.

      1. MyPetSlug: @lex_lata:disqus correctly pointed out that not all issues were realigned, and I was way off on the gradual transition of the plank issues that I was thinking of. For this specific topic, it’s entirely possible that the parties have held true to them throughout.

  3. I have little doubt there were Democrats in favor of the then-new field of eugenics, just as there were Republicans. But it is dicey at best when we try to judge the past by the standards of the present. Thomas Jefferson is just one of the more prominent examples of the ills this practice can produce. I am in my ’60s, and almost none of the humor popular when I was growing up would be tolerated today, particularly the sexual stereotypes. I don’t say this with nostalgia (well, maybe a little nostalgia). We believe we have progressed since then and, for the most part, I think we’re right. But we have to understand that much of what we believe today might be viewed as monstrous fifty years from now.

    D’Souza and Barton specialize in the creation of false history and tropes for the simpleminded. Their stock in trade is the formulation of what are conceived as “gotcha” arguments, glib factoids devoid of context and, often, truth. They are party favors, designed to impress your friends when you’re on your fifth beer and arguing with some “snowflake”. D’Souza and Barton aren’t talking to serious people. They couldn’t, because they would be immediately condemned for what they are.

    But they should never be ignored. And they should be exposed every single time they purvey their poison. People of goodwill do not act this way.

    1. “D’Souza and Barton aren’t talking to serious people.”
      They are talking to the ill-informed FOX “News” addicts who elected the Tangerine Traitor in the Oval Office.

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