The Election of 1888

The election of 1888 was all about tariffs. There were other issues, to be sure, and the usual amount of mudslinging, but it was mostly about tariffs. Tariffs may not seem to be an issue to get especially excited about, but in those days before the income tax, tariffs were the major source of revenue for the federal government. Moreover, many people believe that high tariffs were essential to protect American industry for foreign, particularly British, competition. President Grover Cleveland had come out in favor of lower tariffs in his message to Congress in December 1887, arguing that the high tariff was an excessive and unjust level of taxation that hurt consumers. Some of the president’s advisors had fretted that his stand on lowering the tariff would hurt his chance of reelection, But Cleveland simply replied, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?”

The Democrats held their national convention in St. Louis, Missouri from June 5-7. Grover Cleveland was nominated for a second term by acclamation, the first Democratic president nominated to run for a second term since Martin Van Buren back in 1840. Since President Cleveland’s Vice-President, Thomas A. Hendricks had died on November 25, 1885, the Democrats needed to select a new Vice-Presidential nominee. They picked Allen G. Thurman from Ohio after only one ballot. Allen G Thurman had had a long and distinguished career in politics, serving in the House of Representatives from 1845 to 1847 and was the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court from 1854 to 1856. Thurman was a Senator from Ohio from 1869 to 1881 and was on the commission to resolve the contentious election of 1876. Thurman was also known for opposing land grants to railroad companies and was said to have left the Senate as poor as when he had entered it.

The Republicans met in Chicago from June 19-25. James G Blaine was the front runner, but he withdrew, deciding that he was too controversial to defeat Grover Cleveland. Instead, the Republicans nominate Benjamin Harrison from Indiana on the seventh ballot. Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of President William Henry Harrison. He had fought in the Civil War helping to raise a regiment and rising to the rank of brevet brigadier general. After the war Harrison worked as a lawyer and became involved in Indiana politics, serving as a senator from 1881 to 1887. The Republicans went on to nominate Levi P. Morton from New York for the Vice-Presidency. Levi P. Morton had served in the House of Representatives from1879 to 1881, as Minister to France from 1881 to 1885 and the Governor of New York from 1895 to 1896. As the American Minister to France, Levi Morton had officially accepted the gift of the Statue of Liberty and had placed the first rivet in the statue.

 

The Greenback Party had faded away, but there were some minor party candidates. There was the Prohibition Party nominated Brigadier General Clinton B. Fisk for president and John A. Brooks for Vice-President and ended up getting 249,819 (2.2%) votes.

 

The Union Labor Party nominated Alson Streeter and Charles E. Cunningham and got just 146,602 (1.31%) votes.

 

The campaign was mostly about the tariff question with Cleveland and the Democrats supporting lower tariffs and Harrison and the Republicans in favor of higher protective tariffs. It wouldn’t have been an American election, however, if there weren’t at least some personal attacks. The Republicans accused Cleveland of abusing his young wife, Frances Folsom who he had married in the White House in 1886. She denied the story, assuring everyone that Grover was a kind and considerate husband. The Democrats retaliated by accusing Benjamin Harrison of being anti-Catholic, anti-labor, and wanting increased immigration from China to force wages down. The Republicans accused Cleveland of being pro-British and wanting to adopt the British system of free trade to assist British manufacturers at the expense of American industry.

The Murchison Letter was an election dirty trick worth mentioning. “Murchison” was a California Republican named Charles Osgoodby who wrote a letter to the British Minister to the United States, Sir Lionel Sackville-West. In this letter, he pretended to be a former British citizen named Charles F. Murchison, who wanted to know which candidate would be better for his old homeland. Sackville-West was imprudent enough to reply that, in his opinion, Cleveland would be the better candidate for British interests. The Republicans gleefully published “Murchison’s” correspondence with Sir Sackville-West, probably costing Cleveland the Irish vote and the state of New York. Sir Sackville-West ended up getting fired for his interference in American politics.

The Murchison Letter

It was a close election, but in the end, the Republicans turned out to be better organized and better funded than the Democrats. Cleveland won the popular vote with 5,534,488 votes (48.6%) to Harrison’s 5,443,892 votes (47.8%), but Harrison won in the electoral college with 233 votes to Cleveland’s 186. As the election of 1884, the results were regional with the Republicans sweeping the North and the Democrat winning the South, along with Massachusetts. Only two states switched sides from 1884, New York and Indiana. If Cleveland had won those two states he would have been reelected.

The Election of 1888

So, Grover Cleveland left the White House in March 1889, but he would be back.

Former Trump Supporter

I would have thought that John Hawkins of Right Wing News would have had more sense than to ever be a fan of Donald Trump, but we are all subject of the delusions and follies of the popular mood and at least Hawkins was able to see through Trump and change his mind, as he writes in this column at Townhall.com.

I understand why people like Donald Trump because I was a big fan of his as well.

I loved the fact that he’s a charismatic, politically incorrect fighter and a successful businessman. I am also genuinely grateful to him for changing the debate on immigration and starting a conversation about Muslim immigration that we should have had a long time ago. I don’t believe a ban on Muslim immigrants would ever pass

Congress nor do I think it’s practical (How would you realistically implement it?), but I do think blocking future refugees and immigrants from countries where Al-Qaeda and ISIS hold sway is more doable because of Trump. That’s a little ironic because he was initially in favor of bringing in Syrian refugees, but it’s true. Additionally, after years of being ignored, scorned and poorly represented by Republican leaders in Congress, it’s nice to have a politician who actually goes overboard to pander to conservatives.

So far, I agree with what Hawkins has to say. I can understand the appeal of Trump too. He is saying all the right things, including a good deal that needs to be said. The problem is that when I look over Trump’s past history, I get the impression that he is willing to say anything his audience wants to hear. I don’t think Trump is for anybody but himself and if he is elected, a lot of his current supporters are going to be very disappointed in what he actually does.

And there is this.

When you have genuine affection for someone, it’s easy to block out his faults. In Trump’s case, this is being taken to such an extreme that it’s starting to feel like we’re in Jonestown a few days before the Kool-Aid is handed out. Tell me I’m wrong if you like, but even Trump made reference to that when he said,

“And you know what else they say about my people? The polls! They say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters. It’s incredible.”

Since when do conservatives engage in this type of blind loyalty towards ANY politician?

I did not like the creepy cult of personality that some of President Obama’s supporters seemed to be following. Trump’s supporters haven’t gone quite so far in hailing him as their messiah, but I don’t think that the sort of blind faith some of them seem to have in this man is a good idea.

But here is where I start to disagree with Hawkins.

Similarly, Donald Trump talks incessantly about polls that are favorable to him, but the polls have also nconsistently shown that he loses to Hillary Clinton. Worse yet, his favorable/unfavorable ratings are 33/58. That’s the same as Jimmy Carter in early 1980. It’s WORSE than Walter Mondale. Trump even has a higher unfavorable rating with the general public than Nixon AFTER Watergate. It would be easier to rehabilitate Enron’s image than to make Trump President with those poll numbers.

Saying that a candidate with those poll numbers couldn’t win an election without a miracle is something that anyone who knows something about elections would normally agree on.  Yet, with Trump, many people seem unfazed. Basically, they think he’s going to use some kind of “Trump magic” that will guarantee a victory.

I am not so sure this polling matters so much anymore. Trump is very good at getting what he wants and if he really wants to be president, I think that he will be president. He is not playing by the same rules as regular politicians and he has shown extraordinary skill in managing the media to promote himself. Most politicians are afraid to say or do anything that might lead to negative coverage. Trump seems to realize that it doesn’t matter what the reporters and pundits are saying about him, whether positive or negative, so long as they are talking about Trump. The outrageous things that he sometimes says do not hurt him because they keep him in the public eye.

Trump is not a fool. I am sure that he is aware of his high unfavorability in the polls and he is undoubtedly considering ways to win over the people who currently view him negatively. Whether he is successful or not is unknown, but it would be unwise to underestimate him.

The problem with that is that successful though Donald Trump may be, he fails all the time. He’s had four bankruptcies. Then there’s Trump steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump the Game, Trump Magazine, Trump Mortgage, Trump Airlines, Trump University, Trump Casinos, the New Jersey Generals and happily, he also lost a lawsuit and was unable to take a widow’s home via eminent domain so he could build a limo parking lot. Trump has been a successful businessman, but an awful lot of investors who put money into his ill-advised projects because they just assumed he’d find a way to win have gotten burned doing business deals with him.

Trump’s failures could actually be spun as a point in his favor. Notice that despite the many unsuccessful ventures he has been in, Trump is still one of the richest men in America. Trump has learned to manage his failures in a way that leads to greater success, at least for himself. We learn more from our failures than our successes and this ability to manage failure is more impressive than an unbroken string of successes.  The fact that Trump doesn’t give up but keeps on trying new things speaks well of his character  and determination.

I am still against a Trump presidency though, for much the same reasons as Hawkins.

Since Trump is first and foremost a dealmaker, what makes you think you’d like the deals someone who doesn’t share your principles would cut on your behalf any more than you liked the deals John Boehner made? What makes you think Trump would be any different than another celebrity like Arnold Schwarzenegger who talked a good game and then ended up governing from the left-of-center once he was in office?

Also, as entertaining and successful as Trump may be, he doesn’t have the right temperament to be President. It’s a serious, sober job and even if you like him, you have to admit that he’s crude, mean-spirited, narcissistic, unpredictable and conspiratorial. Would you consider any other candidate who trashed POWs, “I like people that weren’t captured,” made fun of the disabled (He’s done this more than once), said he never asked God for forgiveness and keeps making creepy comments about how he’d like to date his daughter, “(Ivanka) does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her?”Even if you’re willing to overlook those comments because you love Trump so much, people who aren’t Trump fans will not give him a pass. That will be doubly true after the Democrats hammer him with a billion dollars’ worth of negative ads that he won’t be able to effectively respond to because even Trump admits that hedoesn’t know how he would finance his campaign in a general election.

If we nominate Trump, we’ll have our third straight lose/lose election where most conservatives will have a candidate who doesn’t truly represent their views as the GOP nominee. Of course, if Trump is our nominee, I will vote for him and I will try to do what I can to help him win, but it would be easier to ski uphill than to get a wildly unpopular Rockefeller Republican like Trump into the White House.

I will not vote for Trump. If he is the Republican nominee, I will either not vote for president at all, or vote for the Libertarian candidate, which amounts to the same thing.