Adam J. Eisler was born in 1924 to Benjamin Hyman Eisler (1899-1970) and Susanna Roth Eisler (1902-1970) in Park Springs, Pennsylvania. The family moved to Pittsburgh when he was three and his father worked in a steel mill while his mother raised their only child. Eisler attended South Pittsburgh High School and graduated a year early, entering Pennsylvania State University at the age of seventeen in 1941.
At Penn State, Eisler was a member of the Delta Kappa fraternity as well as the Young Democrats Club, where he was friends with future Governor of Pennsylvania Howard Kroomb (1979-1987). He completed his bachelors degree in 1944 and finished his doctorate in political science at Penn in 1949. While in college, Eisler learned to speak Greek and Latin, took an interest in Jewish mysticism, led a campus protest against the Kennedy administration's support for Emperor Edmond in the French Civil War, and edited the Penn newspaper while working on his doctorate. One of his professors, Martin Harris, commented that Eisler was "one of the brightest minds I have encountered in my career."
Eisler was married twice - his first wife, Sharon Rosslyn, he met while working on his doctorate at Penn. They married in 1949 to the protests of Eisler's family due to Sharon's Catholic faith, and were divorced shortly after he achieved his doctorate degree in 1951.
He met his second wife, Liah, in 1955 after he moved permanently to Philadelphia at the synagogue he started attending. In 1958 they were married at the Grand Synagogue of Philadelphia, at the time the largest synagogue in America. He had two children with Liah, Jacob (b. 1964) and Delilah (b. 1966). Both of Eisler's parents died in 1970, shortly before his victory in the Governor's race.
While Eisler was raised as an Orthodox Jew, he joined a Reform Judaism congregation in 1954 upon moving to Philadelphia and from 1964 to 1967 was a national spokesman for the Reform Judaism movement in America. Eisler commented that he found the relaxed guidelines of the Reform branch to be more compatible with modern American life and also said during his campaign for Governor that it likely made him less of "a funny Jew" to the voters. Eisler said shortly before his assassination that he feared that his only legacy would be as a Jewish President instead of as a good or bad President.
Professor Tenure and Congress
Eisler began teaching undergraduate political theory and political law at Temple University in 1953. He was tenured in 1956 for "excellence in teaching." Reportedly, the Temple board at one time considered offering Eisler the chairmanship of his department, but learned that he would have declined that post, and so never extended the invitation. Eisler came to be a notable figure in his Jewish community in Philadelphia and was encouraged to run for Congress in 1958. Shortly before running for Congress, he taught a class that had future civil rights leader Bill Cosby in it.
Eisler won his election as a Democratic party boss favorite, well-liked by the establishment as a guarantor of the traditionally Nationalist Jewish vote in Philadelphia, over Nationalist challenger Robert Hurt. Eisler represented the 5th District in the United States House of Representatives for six years, from 1959 to 1965, a period in which he became one of the first Democrats to break party ranks and support John Hoover's denationalization of natural gas resources. Eisler was, however, fundamentally opposed to many policies enacted during the Bomb Scare and voted against every single one of Hoover's national defense policies.
In 1964, Eisler was disillusioned with Congress, feeling like he couldn't really help the people of Philadelphia from Washington, D.C. as he had anticipated.
Mayor of Philadelphia
Eisler continued teaching at Temple University after his term in Congress expired until he was encouraged by his friends and Democratic leaders to run for Mayor of Philadelphia in the 1967 Mayoral election. Although his personality was very mild, academic and professorial, Eisler's political persona was that of a tough-talking, blue-collar everyman. Helping his campaign was longtime Philadelphia machine boss Roger R. Rowland, a traditional Catholic, union-allied Democratic figurehead. Eisler campaigned vigorously throughout the city and won his election in the fall of 1967 by a narrow margin over Nationalist challenger James Bookman.
As Mayor, Eisler instilled a sense of pride and purpose in the people of Philadelphia, expanding the police force to cut down on rising crime rates in the late 1960's. Eisler was also mayor when the city's notorious crime boss, Doug Rugen, was caught and captured with prostitutes and jailed for ten years, a major victory for him.
Eisler began mulling a run for the Governorship in 1970, as no major Democratic candidate had emerged to challenge the unpopular Nationalist incumbent David Raymond. However, just as he entered the race, the Philadelphia Race Riots began, and Eisler was forced to divert his attention to restoring order in the city. He demanded the resignation of Chief of Police Earl Snooker and managed to restore peace after three days. Despite this apparent sebtack, Eisler wound up winning the Governorship by a comfortable but not overwhelming margin, once again largely thanks to Rowland's efforts and his appeal to blue-collar laborers in working-class cities around the state.
Governor of Pennsylvania
1976 Presidential Election
Adam Eisler was inaugurated on January 20, 1977. In his speech, he praised his defeated opponent, Clyde Dawley, for his work and then outlined his visions for his newly elected government:
"We have seen in the past seven years an America of prosperity, a prosperity driven by its people and by its character. We must now guarantee our children and grandchildren that the prosperity we enjoy today is the prosperity we enjoy tomorrow."
"Prosperity Tomorrow" Program
Social Security Reform
The Eisler administration entered office only weeks after the nuclear strikes against Burmese rebels by the Chinese government and also came to power as the border conflict between Colombia and Brazil was rapidly escalating. As such, they inherited from the previous administration one of the most volatile foreign policy situations in recent US history, with signs that the detente policy towards France of the past four and a half years was crumbling with the ambitious young Albert II on the throne in Paris.
Eisler's first goal once in office was to make good on his campaign promise to withdraw American soldiers from Ceylon. While he authorized a significant decrease in the troop levels stationed in Ceylon, the "drawdown strategy" only wound up removing 15,000 soldiers as opposed to the total removal of the total 100,000 still stationed in Ceylon in the fall of 1976. After a year in office, in January of 1978, Eisler had still only reduced the troop levels to 30,000 - a fifth of the 1974 peak of 150,000 soldiers.
Administration and Cabinet Appointments
The legacy of Eisler is somewhat disputed among historians. Due to his sudden death and assassination, he was martyred in the eyes of many Americans; also, due to the anti-Semitic nature of his death, he has been somewhat deified by the Jewish-American community. His death was cited as an inspiration for Bill Cosby to push his civil rights platform in earnest into the 1980's and a major factor in the cultural upheavals of the succeeding decade.
However, despite the strong opinion of him among many Americans, most historians point to the fact that Eisler's approval rating in the summer of 1978 was surprisingly low, at around 41%. For a man who polled around 77% at the beginning of his term, it had been an abysmal fall. His ineffectiveness in getting his promised reforms through Congress despite a Democratic majority in both houses, his foreign policy gaffes in South America and Indochina and the clear signs that the economic boom of the 1970's were drawing to an end all helped sour popular opinion of Eisler. That, coupled with the perceived attitude that Eisler was indifferent to the public and cared more about the long-subdued liberal Democratic agenda, made the voting base feel like he was a detached President, unlike the incompetent but sympathetic Dawley.
Historians have argued that Eisler's assassination may be the reason he is so highly regarded in public opinion. A book, If Adam Lived, was written by Clark Bering in 2002 which was an exhaustive speculative history about what would have happened had Earl Lee Jordan not attended the speech in Bloomington on September 1st, 1978. The book argued that the Democrats would have most likely lost the House as early as '78 and been set up to lose the Senate in 1980, as in real life. Bering also suggested that Eisler's expansion of the Brazilian War, along with the draft entailed, would have been smaller than Wallace's war, but the Meltdown of 1979 would still have crushed Eisler's strength among the voting public. The 1980 election would have been a smaller landslide, but Eisler was projected to have lost to Hugh Veinklasser by triple-digit electoral votes.
Eisler's martyr status led to the Adam Eisler Center in New York, meant to encourage world peace. His family, while initially encouraging his reverence, has in recent years scaled back on their role in his legacy, feeling that many, especially Nationalists, have corrupted his message and life to fit their own political agenda.