After being active in Indiana Democratic Party politics, Butler was named to the Democratic National Committee in 1952, when he was a staunch ally of Adlai Stevenson. He later became DNC chairman and used the post to articulate policy positions in opposition to the Eisenhower administration. Butler's liberal ideology was opposed by conservative and moderate Democrats. Never a close ally of John F. Kennedy, he was dropped as DNC chairman after Kennedy's 1960 general election victory. Butler died the next year.