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Random Thoughts On A Time-Pressed Day

Hello blog readers. I had a plan for what I wanted to post today, but life got in the way and I’ll not have the time to do what I wanted. (Below–The sun rises and sets and time passes by.)

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So please allow just a few random thoughts.

I wonder sometimes if the ease of keeping up with old friends via e-mail and Facebook makes it less likely we will try hard to make new friends. A new person seems a much less sure bet when the old people seem always near.

A dispute here in Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, is about why Hispanic turnout was relatively low on Election Day. The best information I’ve seen on the subject can be found in this blog post at Para Justicia y Libertad

New leadership seems needed for Harris County Hispanics. The old leadership has made little progress over the years. Also, the Harris County Democratic Party is not willing to do what’s needed to gain more minority voters beyond those most easy to get to the polls. The party has an idea of the voters it is willing to try and win. What it’s not willing to do is address questions of social justice when it can rely on, with mixed success, traffic congestion and hurricane preparedness as standard campaign issues.  

I think you can find this type of situation in big cities across the nation.

I read a few days ago that the unsettled frontier democracy we associate today with Andrew Jackson, was always doomed to fall to the more middle-class and settled frontier vision of Henry Clay. We know that Jackson won the White House while Clay tried many times but failed. Yet you often never know until long after the heated battles of the day are over, as to who has really won the issues at the core of the fight.  

Sorry for the absence of links. I’m on the fly today. Thanks for reading the blog and please visit often.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Houston, Politics, Relationships | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who I Would Have Supported For President—1824-1852

This is the second entry of my Who I Would Have Supported For President series. The first part covered 1788-1820. This entry will consider 1824-1852.

In these years, I would have been looking for support of abolition, an active federal government that unified the country with roads and canals, and just treatment of Native Americans.

1824 marked a turning point away from the so-called Era of Good Feelings of almost non-existent political competition for the White House, and the awarding of electoral votes by state legislatures. What replaced these things was much greater partisanship, and the awarding of electoral votes based on the legitimacy of the popular vote.

Here is how I would have voted 1824-1852—

1824—This election might have been the first time I would have been very enthusiastic for my pick. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams  was an advocate of internal improvements and a foe of slavery.

Adams won the race in the House of Representatives in what’s termed the “Corrupt Bargain.” Campaign rival Henry Clay of Kentucky gave Adams his support after no candidate won an Electoral Vote majority on Election Day. Adams later appointed Clay as his Secretary of State. This enraged Andrew Jackson of Tennessee who had won the most popular votes in the four-way race of 1824.

Adams was at one time a man of the future in his views and policies, while also a man of the past as a son of John Adams and a former Federalist.

1828—I would have supported President Adams for reelection. Sadly, he never had a chance. Andrew Jackson was the easy winner. This was a triumph of the average man and as such a kind of progress. It was also a victory for small and inadequate government in the expanding nation, for the interests of slaveholders and, for many Native Americans, a death sentence.

1832—With hesitation, I would have backed Henry Clay against Jackson. Though President Jackson would have scored some points for his slapping down of John Calhoun (above) and South Carolina in the Nullification Crisis. This was an assertion of national government at the expense of states rights. It was not, however, a blow against slavery. Clay was a champion of more helpful and active federal government with his “American System.” He offered little on the other issues I would have liked to have seen addressed. Jackson won the election.

1836—There was little to be be glad about in 1836. Vice President Martin Van Buren of New York offered, somewhat implausibly , more Jacksonian empowerment of the everyman. The Whig opposition was divided between three regional candidates in the hope of denying Van Buren an Electoral College win and forcing the election into the House.  It was an ineffective strategy that offered little hope. Van Buren won. ( Van Buren was both a political organizer and thinker who played a large role in the development of political parties in the United States. He is worth further study.)

1840—This election offered the choice of another term for the states rights Democrat Van Buren, or accepting the notion that Whig William Henry Harrison (Tomb below. I’ve been there many times.) of Ohio was for common back woodsman. The Panic of 1837 left Van Buren vulnerable and he lost. Since in an effort to keep Southern support Whigs had done nothing on slavery,  I would not have been with Harrison.

1844— This election would be first time I’d have the chance to support a third-party candidate in protest of the inaction of the two major parties on slavery. Liberty Party nominee James Birney of New York would have won my vote over both Democrat James K. Polk of Tennessee and Whig Henry Clay. Birney ended up with 2.3% of the vote.

Some might have argued that Polk’s support for the annexation of Texas and extension of slavery this implied should have been reason enough to vote for Clay. Clay opposed annexation. But by this point I would have had been more than tired of waiting on slavery.

Polk won the election and started the unnesscary Mexican-American War. Would I have been wiser to have gone with Clay? These type questions would extend all the way up to Ralph Nader’s day.

1848—Again I would have voted on the issue of slavery. Martin Van Buren, of all people, was the nominee of the Free Soil Party. His running mate was Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts. Adams was the son of J.Q. Adams.

Van Buren was on whatever side of the a question that would keep him in the political game. I’m sure I would seen him for what he was. Yet by 1848 slavery was the only question left. ( Indian Removal should have been on the same level. But it was not.)

Whig Zachary Taylor of Louisiana won the election. The Free Soil ticket won 10%.

The Liberty party was better on slavery that the Free Soil party. I would have been disappointed by the step backwards. The Liberty party was for abolition while Free Soilers focused on stopping the expansion of slavery.

1852—By 1852 the nation was dividing strongly along sectional lines. The Compromise of 1850 was the leading issue. But whatever side of the Compromise you were on in the conventional sense, you still supporting slavery. Abolition was not on the table for the major parties.

I would have voted for Free Soil candidate John Hale of New Hampshire. Mr. Hale won just under 5%. The winner was Democrat Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire. Mr. Pierce was a terrible President.

What Hath God Wrought–The Transformation of America, 1815-1848is a Pulitzer Prize winning account of most of the period covered in this post.

David Leip’s Atlas of U.S Presidential Elections is a great source to see how the people voted in the elections referenced above.

(Slavery was the biggest issue in the United States in 1852.)

Next up will be my picks for President 1856-1876.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Who I Would Have Supported For President | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Many Presidents Have Died Early In Their Terms—President Palin

When a President has died in office, it has often been quite early in his term. This has often made a big difference in American history.

This is the Texas Liberal Election Fact of the Day.

The first President to die in office, William Henry Harrison, expired just a month into his term. Harrison died in 1841. President Harrison, at 68 the oldest President to that point, was a Whig. His Vice President, John Tyler, was a representative of the Southern planter class picked to help balance the ticket and not in full agreement with the Whig mainstream. As President, Tyler pursued policies, such a veto of a national bank, that greatly distressed Whig leaders such as Henry Clay.

President Zachary Taylor passed on in 1850 after serving just 17 months of his term. He was succeeded by Millard Filmore

Abe Lincoln’s (above)1865 assassination occurred just a month into his second term. His Vice President, Andrew Johnson (below), who had not been Lincoln’s first term VP, had very different views than Lincoln on Reconstruction, and how the South and Southerners should be handled after the Civil War.

Here is a stark difference between the person elected President and the person elected Vice President. The United States got one month of a great President and just under four years of a terrible President. And black folks got a century of Jim Crow.  

James Garfield was shot in the first year of his term in 1881. He died a few months later. Garfield’s successor, Chester Arthur, might well have been an improvement. President Arthur sought Civil Service reform and was surprisingly independeant despite a reputation as a machine politician.

William McKinley was shot and killed in the first year of his second term in 1901. McKinley’s Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, who like Andrew Johnson had not been the first term VP, was a very different man than McKinley.

Franklin Roosevelt was shot at in 1933 in the time between his election and inauguration. Roosevelt’s Vice President-elect, John Nance Garner was far more conservative than F.D.R. You might never of had a New Deal if Garner had become President instead of Roosevelt.

Roosevelt would later die in the first weeks of his fourth term. Vice President Harry Truman who had not been VP in the first three F.D.R terms, took the White House and did a pretty good job.  

Also, Ronald Reagan was shot and seriously wounded in his first year as President in 1981.

Let’s say you are less than a hardcore Republican, yet are still considering voting for 72 year old John McCain. American history shows us that you may feel you’re voting for Mr. McCain, but that what you really may get is President Sarah Palin.

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Election Fact Of The Day, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

John Q. Adams Won Presidency With 31% Of Vote in 1824—In My Darker Moments About Democracy, This Warms My Heart

In the famous “corrupt bargain” election of 1824, John Quincy Adams won the election even though he won only 30.9% of the popular vote.

This is the Texas Liberal Election Fact of the Day.

In a four-way race, Mr. Adams (photo above) finished second to Andrew Jackson in the popular vote total.

Final popular results were Mr. Jackson of Tennessee 41%, Mr. Adams of Massachusetts 31%, Henry Clay of Kentucky 13%, and William Crawford of Georgia 11%.

31% is the lowest popular percentage ever received by a successful candidate for the Presidency. 

Because no candidate won a majority of the electoral college, the race went to the House of Representatives. ( Here is information about the Electoral College including what happens when no candidate wins an electoral vote majority.)

In the House, Mr. Jackson’s arch-rival, Henry Clay, gave his support to Mr. Adams. This allowed Mr. Adams to win the election in the House. Mr. Clay was subsequently selected by Mr. Adams to serve as Secretary of State. The position of Secretary of State was seen then as a stepping stone to the Presidency.

The charge was made, denied by both President Adams and Secretary Clay of a “Corrupt Bargain.” The allegation was that a deal had been cut exchanging Mr. Clay’s support for the Secreatry of State’s office.

Corrupt Bargain or not, Andrew Jackson easily defeated President Adams in 1828 by a margin 0f 56%-44%.

Some days, when I am down on the people, I take a small measure of satisfaction from this 31% President. He made all those Indian-hating, slave-keeping Jacksonians wait another four years. 

Abe Lincoln won the White House with 39.9% of the vote in his 1860 four-way race. Mr. Lincoln ,however, won enough electoral votes on Election Day. Mr. Lincoln’s total is the second lowest percentage total for a winning candidate.

I believe in democracy, but sometimes, as we all realize, the majority gets it wrong.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Election Fact Of The Day, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Signed Up For Obama Text Message—A First Use Of Telegraph Was Coverage Of 1844 Democratic Convention

I signed up to get the text message from the Obama campaign that will announce his Vice Presidential selection. I did so after reading today about use of the telegraph at the 1844 Democratic Convention in the book What Hath God Wrought—The Transformation America, 1815-1848. This book, by Daniel Walker Howe, is the most recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history.

The 1844 Democratic Convention was held in Baltimore and nominated James K. Polk of Tennessee for President and George M. Dallas of Pennsylvania for Vice President. Dallas, Texas is named after Mr. Dallas.  

Here is information about the 1844 Election. Mr. Polk and Mr. Dallas won the election over Henry Clay of Kentucky.

The telegraph was invented by Samuel F.B. Morse and was first demonstrated in 1844.  

From the book— “ within a few days of the initial demonstration…Morse was keeping members of Congress in Washington abreast of developments at the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore as they happened….The first practical application of Morse’s invention—to report a political party convention—was no accident. The formation of mass political parties, their organization on local, state and national levels, the application of government patronage to knit them together, their espousal of rival political programs, and the ability to command the attention of the public all combined to give this period in American history its distinctive politicized quality. The rise of mass parties has often been traced to extending the franchise…to include virtually all white males. However, no parties with mass following could have come into existence without a revolution in communication. …Newspapers quickly enlisted the telegraph in their quest to gather and distribute information….”  

It’s silly I suppose to have signed up for the text message. Yet reading about first political use of a new type of communication in 1844, made me want to be part of the first mass political use of a relatively new form of communication in 2008.

Here is information about the telegraph and the history of the telegraph.

August 19, 2008 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Terrible—Jim Bunning Sits At Same Senate Desk Used By Henry Clay

 

I read recently that the terrible far-right Senator from Kentucky, Jim Bunning, now sits at the desk used by the great Kentucky Senator Henry Clay.  Clay was also Speaker of the House and Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams.

This is a travesty.

It would be as if George W. Bush lived in same White House as did Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

This happens you say?

Well…It’s awful.

Senator Bunning once said about himself—“Let me explain something. I don’t watch the national news, and I don’t read the paper. I haven’t done that for the last six weeks. I watch Fox News to get my information.”

Time Magazine said about Bunning, a former baseball pitcher—“Bunning shows little interest in policy unless it involves baseball.” 

Time rated Mr. Bunning as one of the five worst senators.

Some member of the Senate should come around when nobody is looking and hide the Clay desk so it cannot be used by Mr. Bunning.

Henry Clay lived from 1777 until 1852. He is considered one of the greatest of all United States Senators.

The best book I am aware of about Clay is Robert Remini’s Henry Clay–Statesman For The Union.

Here is the link to Clay’s home Ashland in Lexington, Kentucky.     

Here is a good link for a history of Clay’s life in public affairs.

Texas Liberal is leading the way in political history blogging in 2008.

February 11, 2008 Posted by | Books, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Senator Ted Stevens’ Conception Of Earmarks Mirrors An Aspect Of Henry Clay’s “American System”

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is known as a champion of Congressional earmarks for his home state of Alaska. He has been criticized for what is often termed “pork ” by those who oppose his appropriations.

Senator Stevens is unrepentant.

According to The 2008 Almanac of American Politics, Mr. Stevens said this about the federal money to Alaska—

Congress has not awakened to the fact that we’ve got a state with one-fifth the land in this country. My mission is to try to make Congress understand that the promise of statehood is that we should have the ability to establish a workable private-enterprise economy in the areas that want it. And that’s basically 90% of the state.” 

This argument mirrors one aspect of the “American System” championed by Henry Clay of Kentucky in the first half of the 19th Century.

Clay advocated public money for roads, canals and other improvements to help build the American economy. One can see an analogy between Clay’s America, still a frontier in many respects, and Stevens’ Alaska in 2007.   

Click here to read about what the Erie Canal did for New York State.

I favor the idea of earmarks. While no doubt some are wasteful, I support the expansion of the role of the federal government and the allocation of government money into local communities across the country. This is a core mission of American liberalism and we should be proud of the fact that people are being helped and jobs are being created. That is what tax money is for.

November 14, 2007 Posted by | Books, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment