Thursday, September 15, 2016

Think This Is A Wild Election?

This is a rough, tough election. No doubt about it, but there have been crazier ones in U.S. History.
by Charlie Leck

A Washington Post editorial (15 September 2016) calls Donald Trump a scam artist. I don’t think any presidential candidate in the last one hundred years, has been described so harshly as Donald Trump is being pictured by many leading news organizations.

What I think we need to look at is why so many, many potential voters continue to favor Donald Trump for this job. Is that a reflection on the America we live in and the character of its people?

I wonder how so many people can buy into such irrational promises from any candidate. Do they actually know that the promises are impossible to fulfill and just want to go with the guy because he is such a radical change from traditional candidates?

There are many questions like that in my mind. I am hoping that some of the investigations by both news organizations and legal authorities will make serious progress in the next 30 days in order to answer some of the dizzying questions about candidate Trump. It appears his family foundation is something of a hoax. This foundation received donations from other charitable givers and gave it away as if it were from Trump’s personal fortune. It also purchased, for $20,000, a six-foot painting of Mr. Trump. The foundation also bid $12,000 on a football helmet autographed by Tim Tebow. And, there is much more we don’t know about Trump’s rental policies in many of his New York City apartment facilities. And, former students of Trump University are coming out of the wood work every day, drawing vivid depictions of the fraud that went on in that Trump program.

There are so many things we can’t quite figure out about Mr. Trump without a close look at his federal income tax filings. It certainly appears that Mr. Trump is never going to give us the right to do that.

There is so much “evidence” of possible fraud about Mr. Trump’s activities over the last three decades; and yet, it is Hillary Clinton that Donald Trump keeps calling crooked and fraudulent.

What a campaigner the man is! He’s like a boxer throwing the wildest of punches, hoping one or two of them will land. He makes stuff up like the best of fiction writers.

I’d like to say this is the weirdest campaign for the office in American History. That wouldn’t be true. Prior to the twentieth century there were a number of very crude and rude campaigns. The first campaign of Abe Lincoln is a good example. Lincoln was falsely called all kinds of vile things by the opposing press and the opposing candidate.

The second campaign of John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson in 1828 is a good example of enormous political sleaze. Though Jackson’s party was called “The Democrats,” it much more closely resembled today’s Republican Party because they had a strong commitment to individual liberties, very limited government and heavily favored strong states’ rights. Jackson was known as “Old Hickory” He was a southern man of humble means and he was orphaned early in life. He was, however, a military hero.

John Quincy Adams was the complete opposite of that; for he was the son of one of the nation’s founders and, as a man of wealth and privilege, he had traveled the world and spoke a number of languages. “Erudite” is the word that comes to mind when trying to describe JQA.

Adams had won the 1824 election battle against Jackson by the slimmest of margins, actually losing the popular vote but winning when the electoral votes were in his favor.
Adams had little trouble exploiting a rather questionable reputation that Jackson carried. An extraordinarily strong temper was one of Jackson’s weakness (remember, he was the man of a number of duels). Jackson had also disobeyed direct military orders in 1819 and had invaded Spanish Florida in spite of the orders not to. Jackson also had to fight charges that he was an adulterer.

But, Jackson fought hard and called Adams a man of corruption and pointed to a number of possible examples. Of course, the south hated Adams and loved Jackson. The good church-going people of the south also accused Adams of owning a pool table and of gambling at card games! It seemed, Jackson claimed, that the pool table had been paid for with government money.

The pressure in that campaign was so intense that Adams withdrew from actual appearances, but many northern newspapers took up the campaign for him. One newspaper reported that Jackson’s mother was “a common prostitute!” The paper also claimed that the woman ended up marring “a mulatto man” and Jackson was one of the children of that marriage.

In the end, Jackson took 56 percent of the vote in 1828 and 178 electoral votes were tallied for him; while Adams received only 83 such votes. Jackson was so angered by Adams that he refused to make the traditional visit to the outgoing president on the day of his inauguration.

One of my favorite stories about early political campaigns comes from the Lincoln/Douglas fights and debates in 1860. Out on the campaign trail, Douglas was to call Lincoln one of the ugliest men of all time – “horrid-looking… sooty and scoundrelly… a cross between a nutmeg dealer, the horse-swapper and the nightman.” Stephen Douglas had no room to talk – himself being 5’4’’ tall and the same measurement wide.

Smithsonian Magazine listed the 1876 election campaign between Samuel Jones Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes as one of the dirtiest campaigns ever. Tilden was boldly called, over and over, “a briber, a thief,” and “a drunken syphilitic.” It was documented that southern Democrats prevented thousands of eligible blacks from casting votes all across the southern states. Neither candidate got enough electoral votes to win and a constitutional crisis developed. It wasn’t until early in 1877 that a compromise took place – it gave Hayes the presidency in exchange for removing all federal troops from the South (and that, in essence, ended Reconstruction.)

When I first read, many years ago, about the history of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, I was completely taken by this remarkable comment by Abraham Lincoln. I wrote it down carefully and tucked it in a special “quotation notebook” that I keep. This if what Abe Lincoln said in one of those debates:
“That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and wrong—throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, ‘You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.’ No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.”                                                                                                        [in the debate at Alton, Ill on Oct 15, 1858]


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