Monday, September 26, 2016
Which founding father am I most like? I believe the answer to this question is a simple one for me: Ben Franklin. Here are some of the similarities between us: Unlike most founding fathers Franklin was poor and uneducated. He is a self-taught writer and scientist. Franklin also had an acute sense for running a business. Franklin owned a publishing business and wrote books (autobiography and investment) and newsletters (almanacs and newspaper). As a scientist and inventor, Franklin was not so much concerned about theory as the practicality of ideas and concepts. Franklin worked hard to retire young by using two basic philosophies to garner wealth. First, he was frugal (not cheap). He did not spend money on useless items such as materialistic things like fancy China and glassware. Secondly, he did not believe in get rich schemes. His motto was patience and hard work and wealth would accumulate over time. Franklin had a very conservative view on welfare. He believed in helping those in need but warned of people becoming lazy and dependent. Thus, a person who is not being useful to society should not garner any welfare. He was compassionate because he felt good, hard working people could fall on tough times and should gain some government assistance. But he did not feel that people should gain welfare for doing nothing to help society. Franklin was willing to hear both sides of an argument. He believed in civility. And he was never too old to adapt or change views. He would acknowledge if he made a mistake and correct it. Franklin was self-aware and admitted to having lots of faults and vices. But he worked hard over his lifetime to improve on his weaknesses. Franklin treated adversaries with respect. Franklin’s belief in God was strong, but his belief in religion(s) was weak. If a religious group helped its community he had no qualms or issues with the organization. However, he found religion to be rigid. For example, he believed being good and doing good onto others was what God intended for how people should behave. However, Puritans (Franklin was born a Puritan), do not believe in the free will of people since in their view God decides everything. Obviously, Franklin and I have many stark differences in our lives since he was a great man and I am not. Franklin was much more resourceful than myself. For instance, he created useful entities such as the first police and fire departments, and the first library. He also created the University of Pennsylvania. Or the fact he belonged to dozens of successful clubs and organizations that still remain today. Franklin certainly had some characteristics that were so much better than an average person like myself. Franklin was probably one of the best listeners ever placed on this planet. His observational skills were amazing. That being said, in some regards, I consider myself a better person than even the great Ben Franklin. Franklin seemed to treat others better than he did his own family and that was probably his biggest flaw. Politically, I would say Franklin and I would have differed on most subjects. Franklin was a Federalist believing in a strong central government with less power for the states. I would equate Franklin’s views closer to those of a liberal than conservative.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
So many Democrats believe that Thomas Jefferson was the founder of their political party. Is this true? I would say it is not even close to being the truth. In fact, I would say that Jefferson was closer aligned with the present day Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Jefferson was the antithesis of the present day Democratic Party meaning Federalists such as George Washington, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton would be better guesstimates of the founder of the Democratic Party. However, in actuality, I would say that Jefferson was the leader of a party that does not resemble anything we are familiar with today (same for Washington, Adams, and Hamilton). The only thing that Jefferson did that was a Democratic Party strategy was expanding the power of the executive branch while in office. But even Republicans such as George Bush are guilty of this. Probably the biggest power grab by Jefferson was when he got Congress to pass a trade embargo. No goods or services could leave or enter the country – that is an immense amount of power. All that being said, this was done at a time when America was on the brink of war of Britain (and to lesser extent France). Since this time the Supreme Court has issued the federal government increased powers in times of war over the next two centuries. So Jefferson’s power grab may not have been that big a deal since it was used to avoid war (although Jefferson was said to have wanted to go to war against Britain – not a Democratic Party strategy). Some point to Jefferson’s point of view on the separation of Church and State as being a democratic principal. I disagree completely, this is a small governance point of view. Besides, all presidents have followed the philosophy of separation of church and state while in office. Others point to Jefferson’s distain for a national bank paralleling Democrats distain for Wall Street. However, as president, Jefferson did nothing to reform or destroy the bank of the United States created just a few years early under George Washington. Jefferson did so many things that are Republican in nature: He paid down the national debt and decreased taxes; He tried, but failed to grow the army and navy; He pushed for a smaller central government with more power going to the states; He said “laziness is a sin” – hence, it is doubtful that he would be a proponent of many modern welfare schemes developed by democrats; He wanted to amend the constitution to place term limits on the presidency. Of course the only person to violate the two term tradition was FDR – a democrat; Jefferson fought Muslim pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. He understood the aggressive attitude Muslims held towards Christians and that action was the only way to stop their violence towards American citizens; And Jefferson was supported mostly by Southern farmers. Also, under Jefferson’s watch his grandchildren competed against each other for prizes and awards (there were winners and losers, not the democratic philosophy where everyone gets an award and is a winner). Due to the times, Jefferson did many things that are illegal and or taboo today. Jefferson owned slaves, but was much advanced in his thinking for emancipation of slaves for a Southerner. Jefferson firmly believed that free blacks could not live amongst whites and felt they should be deported to Africa. Jefferson impregnated one of his slaves, Sally Hemmings, several times including when she was just 15. Jefferson was also a firm believer in moving Indian tribes west of the Mississippi and freeing American colonies and territories of Indian inhabitants. Jefferson also had a personal nature of commonsense and civility. Commonsense and civility are no longer demonstrated in American politics regardless of Party. Jefferson had many political foes especially George Washington, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. Yet, his home had paintings and statues of these men. Jefferson not only respected his adversaries but he understood that they were doing what they thought was best for the country so he admired them. Can you see Obama or Pelosi having a bust of George W. Bush in their homes (or vice versa)? In fact, Jefferson treated everyone with respect and civility. He did not get mad or argue with others. He debated people respectfully and always filled his dining room with people who had opposing views. Jefferson is the only administration to perform commonsense measures to eliminate formal parties at the White House and instead held casual dress meetings. Like many founding fathers, Jefferson left office in more debt than when he entered office. That would never happen today. No modern president (or political party) has ever been able to pull off a bigger coup than Jefferson with the Louisiana Purchase. The purchase of the territory from the French for just 3 cents an acre more than doubled the size of the United States and it eliminated the threat of Napoleon and the French in the new world. The savvy Jefferson understood that France needed money to fight Britain in the Napoleonic Wars and acted quickly to get the deal done. Alexander Hamilton created the first Bank of the United States and believed strongly in maintaining a national debt and high taxes for citizens. He believed in a strong federal government and even led troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania (so much for freedom of speech). These are big Democratic Party principals today. For these reasons, I would put Hamilton as the head of the Democratic Party before Jefferson. How many Democrats or Republicans can claim to have had anything near the truly successful legacy of Thomas Jefferson: Author of the Declaration of Independence; foreign minister to France during the French revolution; two term president with its highlight being the Louisiana Purchase; and creator of the University of Virginia? These are huge accomplishments that live on centuries after his death.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Wendell Willkie was the first Presidential candidate who never held a political office (and was not a military general). Willkie, like Trump, was an astute businessman. Willkie was a lawyer who garnered some corporate experience representing Firestone Tire and Rubber Company early in his career. Harvey Firestone provided Willkie some interesting advice when he told him “he would never amount to anything because he was a Democrat.” Like Trump, Willkie originally identified as being a Democrat. In the 1924 Democratic National Convention Willkie was a delegate for Al Smith. During that convention Willkie was famous for trying to change the Democratic platform to condemn the Ku Klux Klan (it failed, the KKK had lots of support in the Democratic Party back in the 1920s and 1930s and it divided the Party). Willkie became a corporate executive for a utility company: Commonwealth and Southern Corporation (C&S). After the election of FDR as President in 1932, Willkie and FDR did not see eye to eye on his plan to create the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which was to provide cheap electricity to the region. The TVA was in direct competition with C&S subsidiaries in the region. Willkie did not believe that the government should be involved in national utilities or at best the government role should be limited. After many setbacks including losing before the Supreme Court, in 1939, C&S sold its assets to the TVA for nearly 80 million dollars (Making the TVA the government monopoly power company in the region). This is what led Willkie to consider changing political parties. It is unclear as to what specifically led Donald Trump to change political affiliation other than maybe an opportunity to win the White House as a Republican. If FDR did not run for a third term in 1940, many thought Willkie would be a favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Of course, FDR ran and Willkie became the surprise winner of the Republican nomination. Willkie wanted to stop a third FDR term, now Trump wants to stop what essentially amounts to a third term for Obama if Clinton wins. FDR defeated Willkie handily winning 38 of 48 states (55% to 45%, 449 – 82 in the Electoral College). Initially, Willkie’s political philosophy was as a WWII interventionist – he wanted the US to be more involved to stop Hitler – FDR wanted to remain neutral. Willkie would soon flip flop and become an isolationist on WWII policy. This sounds a lot like Trump’s ISIS policy. He declares isolationism in foreign affairs but says he will defeat ISIS. It is impossible to be an isolationist and still defeat ISIS. Like Trump, Willkie’s rise was a grassroots uprising throughout the country. Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter called Willkie’s rise “The grassroots of ten thousand country clubs”. Both Trump and Willkie received favorable press from major magazines such as Fortune and Time in their rise to prominence in business and politics. After FDR became the first Democratic president in history to win the African-American vote (1932 and 1936), Willkie strongly pushed for civil rights changes (as he did in the 1924 Democratic Convention). Although it did not work to win him a majority of the black vote in 1940, the NAACP named its headquarters after Willkie when he died in 1944. Trump may be the first Republican president to truly reach out for the African-American vote since Willkie. In recent years, Democrats have taken the black vote for granted and Republicans see any outreach as a losing proposition. Like Trump, Willkie has many liberal ideas and philosophies. For instance, Willkie said if elected he would “keep intact New Deal Social Programs and expand Social Security.” Trump recently released a policy plan for childcare which is essentially an expensive welfare entitlement expansion similar to ObamaCare. After his defeat, Willkie helped Roosevelt’s war effort by leading two wartime envoys to visit allies. In fact, Willkie was considered for many FDR cabinet positions and even the vice presidency for the 1944 ticket (Harry Truman was on the ticket). FDR was very fond of Willkie because he was one of the few Republicans that supported his New Deal. Although FDR liked Willkie, the same cannot be said of the Trump / Obama relationship. Although they may have more in common than most may think – Trump’s birther conspiracy and campaign fever has divided the two immensely. Willkie and Trump have a lot in common. But Trump is trying to prevent Willkie’s result in the 1940 election. If Trump can develop a temperament and humility anything near that of Willkie, then he just may pull out the 2016 Presidential election. Consider this, in 1942, in Schneiderman v. United States, Willkie defended a Communist whose U.S. citizenship was renounced. Although it was highly unpopular, Willkie won the case and Scheiderman’s citizenship was restored. Remember, this was during a time when internment of Japanese Americans was implemented in the American West. John Adams did a similar thing when he defended the British soldiers charged with murder during the Boston Massacre in the 1770s (it was unpopular but it did not stop him from gaining the Presidency). Would Trump do anything to protect a highly productive illegal alien or would he deport this person? Willkie had a legacy better than many Presidents. Willkie refused to play politics with WWII preparations made by FDR. He did not criticize the highly unpopular draft or aid to Britain. Willkie’s decisions may have saved Britain from falling to Germany and possibly changing the outcome of history in favor of Hitler. Willkie said he would rather lose the election than play politics especially over war issues. Very much unlike Trump, Willkie was a very unselfish politician (maybe because he was truly an outsider). Willkie was certainly more of a political outsider than Trump since Trump has used campaign donations as a lobbying tool with politicians.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
A few weeks back Hillary Clinton suggested the reason for all her ethical problems was because she was held to higher standard than other Americans. She should be held to higher standard, but we all know that is not true. If it were true, then Hillary would be in prison for a long time. So let’s define the true Clinton standard: Clinton placed confidential and national security information at risk. Was Clinton treated the same as General Petraeus? Of course not. Clinton destroyed government records and documents with bleachbit yet the FBI said she had no intent to cover up her email fiasco. The Clinton standard for prosecution seems to be higher than of everyday Americans. Clinton used her position as Secretary of State (SOS) for “pay for play” politics with the Clinton Foundation. Was Clinton treated similarly to Bob McDonnell for similar improprieties? Of course not. Clinton lied and covered up the motives behind the Benghazi attack. Not a single person was held accountable for this inexplicable behavior. Clinton has lied and covered up her health issues for selfish reasons – she wants to be President. Clinton called 25% of the voting population “deplorable racists, sexists, and homophobes.” A similar type statement cost Romney the 2012 election. Will such a statement cost Clinton anything? Doubtful. Clinton even called Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” racist. She says Trump is supported by the KKK and the Alt-right, but it is acceptable she is supported by Black Lives Matter, the Black Panther Party, and other anti-police groups. It is strange when Clinton says America is already great, yet she proclaims a huge portion of the populous is bigoted and racist. The Clinton Foundation accepts donations from rogue government around the globe whose politics include supporting terrorism, punishing gays, and demonizing women. As SOS, Clinton created a safe haven for terrorists in Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. Clinton and Obama botched the Arab Spring placing terrorists in charge of Egypt and did nothing when Syria used chemical weapons against its people. Iran and North Korea are on pace to not only have an atomic bomb in the next decade, but to have long range missiles to transport these weapons of mass destruction. Clinton hit the reset button with Russia and in turn they used her perceived weakness to invade Crimea and the Ukraine. Clinton helped restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Cuba is of course a country which fails to practice any basic human rights principles with its people. Clinton helped start the United States – Iran treaty which has provided them billions of dollars to sponsor terrorism while at the same time lifting economic sanctions. There are a few underlying themes of the Clinton Standard: Illegal activity, lying, and doing whatever is possible to make Americans less safe by failing to safeguard national security information to making deals that are helpful to rogue countries and terrorist groups such as Syria, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Libya, Cuba, and ISIS. The bottom line is that the Clinton standard is everything that is wrong with politics in America. The Clinton standard is corrupted by money and the quid pro quo process. The Clinton standard is corrupted by doing what is best for them and not the American public. The Clinton standard is to step on the little guy even if it means lying, cheating, or committing a crime.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Long declared his intentions to run for president in 1936. Of course, he would have more than likely failed to defeat FDR for the Democratic nomination. But his ploy was to gain national attention and traction to run as a third Party candidate (Some estimated he could have garnered well over 6 million votes nationwide and win Louisiana outright). A month after his declaration of presidential ambitions, Long was murdered by Carl Weiss who was a relative of a political rival whom Long defamed in a political speech. Over 200,000 people attended Long’s funeral procession and burial (more people than who attended any of FDR’s four inaugurations). Long originally supported FDR and his New Deal. In fact, Long handpicked hundreds of delegates to stack the deck to help FDR defeat Al Smith for the Democratic nomination in 1932. Al Smith worried that FDR and Long policies were dangerous because they divided and polarized the American electorate by pitting the rich versus the poor and the government versus corporations. Liberals have since adopted this philosophy to win elections. For instance, liberals created divisive slogans such as the “war on women” and using race baiting while debating political issues. And liberals would certainly argue that Trump is probably more polarizing than any Republican candidate in U.S. history with his statements about Muslims and Hispanics. After winning the presidency in 1932 there was quickly a fallout between FDR and Long. FDR called Long and General Douglas McArthur as “the most dangerous people in America”. Originally, Long agreed with most New Deal policies, but he soon began to oppose many aspects of the New Deal. It is hard to believe, but Long was much further Left than FDR. For instance, Long saw the National Recovery Act (NRA) as favoring big business. By 1933, FDR cut Long out of the decision process (funding, appointments, etc.) in his home state of Louisiana. And to add insult to injury, FDR had the IRS investigate Long and his cronies. Not one piece of legislation put forward by Long was passed despite huge Democratic majorities. Ironically, many of Long’s policies and ideas were not much different than FDR’s: the main difference was personal and it became a power struggle. FDR won that power struggle. Today, Trump and the establishment Republicans continue to fight a vicious battle for control of the Party. Trump is winning that battle, but he may have offended too many Republicans to win the general election. Despite his many flaws, a plurality of Long’s ideas were not just copied by FDR, but they were used by every Democratic administration that followed. For instance, Obama’s stimulus was modeled after Long and FDR infrastructure concepts. LBJ’s “War on Poverty” was modeled after Long’s “Share Our Wealth” concept. As bad as Trump has alienated many established Republicans and despite his glaring flaws – many of his ideas should be continued. For example, Trump’s outreach to minority communities should continue. Minority leaders and the media always argue we need to have a national discussion on race. Trump is trying to do exactly that: have a discussion – although it is not the discussion liberals want to hear. Trump is doing what other Republicans refused to do: reach out to minorities by offering Republican ideas instead of Liberal ideas that have failed them for over five decades. This approach may work over time: Especially if liberals continue to support groups such as Black Lives Matter who protest discrimination by proposing discrimination on other groups of people such as the police or Whites. Hopefully, when it comes to race, the voice of reason will win and not the voice of discrimination and retaliation. Remember, it was Long and FDR policies that first turned African-Americans from supporters of Republicans to Democrats. Trump’s Laissez Faire type foreign policy may also gain some traction with the Republican Party in the next few decades. It is no surprise that thousands of weapons used in foreign battles have ended up in the hands of terrorists and they are using this weaponry against the West. Denying weapons to terrorists is imperative to win that war.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
The Left hates Donald Trump, but when all things are considered, he is not much different than the father of modern day liberalism: Huey Long (In my opinion). Both men were (are) vulgar, inconsiderate, egotistical, loud, obnoxious and rude: you either love them or hate them. Both have (had) a huge following of millions of people across the nation and drew massive crowds for speeches. The main difference is that Trump is a Republican and Long was a Democrat. In 1876, a Yale professor, William Graham Sumner, wrote an essay called the “Forgotten Man”. Sumner surmised that the forgotten man in America was a hardworking person who always pays taxes but does not have a voice in government. Sumner said there were four groups of people in America society: Group A, Group B, Group C, and Group X. A typical scenario happens when Group A and Group B discuss what needs to be done to correct the poverty of Group X. The decision of A and B coerces Group C (the forgotten man) to pay more in taxes to correct the problems of X. Fifty years later, first Long, then FDR talked about the forgotten man in America as being Group X (those living in poverty needing assistance) in the Sumner equation. Almost a century later, Donald Trump, also talked about the forgotten man in American society. However, Trump has reverted back to the Sumner model calling Group C as the forgotten man. Group A in the Trump model are the government bureaucrats while Group B are Democratic groups or lobbyists such as environmentalists or anti-business organizations like Occupy Wall Street. The result of A and B coercion are massive regulations, more rights for illegal alien workers, and higher corporate taxes and wages. Therefore, the result on Group C is that jobs go away (energy sector – mining, oil, etc.), or jobs are taken away by illegal aliens, or jobs go overseas to tax friendly nations with less regulations. Trump is trying to bring back jobs for Group C because these people are proud Americans and do not want to be a burden on society as those people in Group X. Long was a Louisiana governor from 1928 to 1932 and a Louisiana senator from 1932 to 1935. All of Long’s policies followed his philosophy of “Share Our Wealth”. As governor Long accomplished massive infrastructure upgrades including new hospitals, new roads and bridges, paving dirt roads, upgrades in education and even healthcare for the poor. All of this was paid for primarily through increased corporate taxes especially on Long’s favorite scapegoat: Standard Oil Company. Of course all of this should sound familiar: it sounds a lot like FDR’s New Deal and modern liberal policies from LBJ’s War on Poverty to Obama’s Recovery Act and ObamaCare. And just like modern Democrats, Long insists his policies and ideas of higher taxes and wealth sharing were not socialism. However, it was no secret that Long and his best promoter – Father Coughlin (had a radio show that attracted millions nationwide with his goal to eradicate poverty), supported Upton Sinclair (former author and communist turned into Democratic political candidate) and his wacky communist ideas for governor of California in 1934. Of course, many believe Trump has wacky but vastly different ideas from those of Long and Sinclair. Long, FDR, and Trump also believe(d) that bigness is (was) bad. However, Long and FDR thought bigness was bad for corporations, but Trump thinks bigness is bad for government. This has been a stark difference between liberal and conservative policies since FDR. Long faced impeachment for a number of allegations ranging from bribery to attempted murder. He was acquitted of all chargers. Of course, Trump brags about buying favors from politicians. Long quickly became “dictator” of Louisiana by removing and firing hundreds of government officials who he considered adversaries. And we all know that FDR was the closest thing the U.S. has ever had to a dictator by winning four terms as president.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Arthur held no political offices over his lifetime other than President and Vice President. However, Arthur was deeply involved in politics and helped many Stalwarts win office in New York. Arthur was rewarded for his allegiance and loyalty to Conkling and he appointed him to head up the powerful New York Customs House. Arthur gave up his successful lawyer business to be one of Conking’s yes men. During his time as a lawyer Arthur’s claim to fame was winning several important civil rights cases before the New York Supreme Court. However, Garfield did not chose or want Arthur as his running mate but Arthur was part of a compromise ticket with the Stalwarts: The goal was for the Vice Presidency to include a Stalwart from the important strategic state of New York. Conkling was too controversial and several other candidates declined the position. Hence, Arthur was chosen. Many people feared that Arthur was just one person away from the White House. However, many did not think it was going to be a problem because Garfield was fit and still relatively young (49). However, the unthinkable happened just 4 months into the Garfield administration: he was shot by Charles Guiteau. Garfield would die from his wounds after a painful two month battle. Incidentally, Garfield’s injuries should not have been life threatening except for the fact that doctors and surgeons placed their germ laden fingers and instruments into the wound looking for the bullet. Hence, an infection took hold and of course there were no antibiotics to fight off the infection. Arthur was President! Arthur did not want the job. He lacked confidence to take over the Executive so much so he declined to run the office while Garfield was incapacitated for 2 months while he was fighting his wounds. The strife between Stalwarts and Half-breeds was so deep that conspiracy theories began to gain traction that Guiteau was hired by Conkling and Arthur to assassinate Garfield. Guiteau had ties to Arthur and was quoted as saying “I am a Stalwart and Arthur is President now” after shooting Garfield. However, Guiteau had ties to many politicians because he was seeking an appointment to be the American Ambassador to France (he was not qualified). Guiteau even met with Garfield and Secretary of State Blaine. Many thought the Arthur administration was doomed and it would be run by Conkling. However, to the surprise of many, the Arthur administration (although only 3.5 years long) was quite successful and highly underrated in American history. Arthur was able to get much more done than the overrated JFK administration did in 3 years. Part of the reason for Arthur’s success was the country united after the death of Garfield and the divisive politics that ravaged the political landscape ceased to exist. Arthur did not try to seek the Republican nomination in 1884 due to his failing health (he would die two years later in 1886). Many experts think Arthur would have defeated Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1884 had he run for reelection, instead Cleveland defeated Blaine. Arthur’s accomplishments include the long needed civil service reform. Ironically, Arthur was seen as benefiting from the corrupt civil service program when he was a politically appointee to head the New York Customs House. The reform called for civil service jobs to be appointed on merit instead of as political favors. Arthur rebuilt the old and outdated U.S. navy. Arthur worked hard to reform Southern disenfranchisement of blacks that continued long after the Civil War ended. Arthur gained Congressional monies used for the education of American-Indians (this was a huge change in political policy towards natives). He vetoed the unpopular and expensive Rivers and Harbors Act even though Congress overrode his veto. He signed into law popular protectionism tariffs. And Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act limiting Chinese immigration into the U.S. Arthur’s accomplishments sound very similar to some of the key Trump platform goals in this presidential election. Trump wants to limit immigration from Muslim countries (temporarily until the immigration vetting process is improved). Trump wants to rebuild our Navy (as well as the entire military). Trump wants to reform the political quid pro quo system in Washington similar to the Arthur Civil Service Reform Act. Trump has been actively asking for the support of minorities since liberal policies over the past 50 to 60 years has failed them (Trump is reaching out to minorities in a similar way that Arthur did). And Trump is all for bringing back protectionism tariffs against countries that do not play “fairly” in free trade by doing things such as manipulating currency. Protectionism is also viewed as a mechanism to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States instead of moving them overseas to countries that have cheaper costs (by practicing unfair labor laws). Trump, like Arthur, was a political outsider. Arthur was the least likely candidate to reform the Civil Service system which he previously took advantage of. Trump claims to want to reform the lobbying system which he openly admits to taking advantage of during his time as a real estate mogul. So, is Trump the next Chester Arthur to not only be an unlikely president but to be the effective and unlikely reformer?
Sunday, September 4, 2016
In my opinion, the unlikeliest President of all-time was Chester Arthur. If Trump wins (and that is a big if), he may be more unlikely to hold the office than Arthur. There are some other parallels between Trump and Arthur. After the Civil War and during the Grant administration, the Republican Party was split into two distinct factions: Stalwarts and Half-breeds. The Stalwarts wanted to punish the South for its part in starting the Civil War. The Half-breeds were more interested in restoring the Union and looking to future instead of dwelling on the past. Half-breeds did not want to seek revenge and Stalwarts wanted revenge. Trump supporters are like our present day Stalwarts (for instance they want to use religious profiling) while the Never Trump faction is more like the Half-breeds (against profiling and for religious freedom). Believe it or not, the division in the Republican Party was much worse in the 1870 – 1890 time frame then it is today. The Democrats were less of a threat than the split in the Republican Party in the late 1800s. The President elect in 1876 was Rutherford Hayes. Hayes was former Union General who barely won (and controversially) the election over Samuel Tilden. He lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College by one vote. One reason for the close election was due in part to the scandalous Grant administration. Grant was a Stalwart and his faction of the Republican Party yielded power to Hayes, who was a Half-breed. The Hayes administration was blocked and sabotaged by Stalwarts led by New York Senator Roscoe Conkling. Hayes was unable to accomplish anything tangible. Hence, Hayes who was so frustrated by Stalwart intervention, he declined to seek re-election in 1880. Conkling became the most powerful man in Washington because of both his control over the Hayes administration and the powerful position of the New York Customs House. Conkling appointed Chester Arthur to run the Customs House. Over 90% of all import monies collected in the United States came through New York. The position oversaw thousands of employees and millions of dollars and for this reason the New York Customs House was linked to racketeering and corruption. The 1880 Republican Convention was to be a contest between Grant (seeking a 3rd term) and Senator James Blaine (a Half-Breed). After days of ballots nobody could secure the necessary number of delegates to win the nomination. Suddenly, and slowly but surely, ballot after ballot, Ohio Representative James Garfield (Half-breed) garnered more and more votes until finally winning the nomination. Garfield did not seek the nomination and tried to stop delegates from voting for him, but to no avail. Garfield was a Union General who ran against Democrat and Union General Winfield Hancock. Hancock did not have any political experience but lost the election by few than 8,000 votes, although the Electoral College was a much more convincing win for the Republicans. The key to the Republican win was the fact Chester Arthur (Stalwart) was chosen as Garfield’s running mate. Arthur helped unite the Republican vote and win the rich Electoral state of New York (which voted Democrat in 1876). Garfield himself was an unlikely choice to be President. He was merely a House a Representative member from Ohio – he never served as a governor or Senator. Garfield grew up poor and his father died when he was two. Garfield’s mother kept James and his siblings alive through hard work while never accepting a handout. James ran away at age 16 to work on the Erie Canal, but a near death experience sent him back home. Although education was out of the question for his older siblings, the family saved enough money for James to go to school. He earned his way through college working as a janitor and then as a student assistant professor. Garfield would call education the great equalizer and anyone regardless of socioeconomic status could earn a good living with an education. Garfield’s 42nd regiment from Ohio defeated the Confederacy in Kentucky earning him a Generalship and fame during the Civil War. Shortly thereafter Garfield would go on to serve 18 years in Congress before winning the Republican nomination.