Category Archives: US Elections

The state of the States

The current issue of The London Review of Books arrived this morning. So far I’ve picked at Francis Stonor Saunders’ essay on her father’s suitcase (been there myself) and James Lomax’s Diary of trying to get into and out of Turkmenistan (somewhere between dystopia and corrupt farce). So much more to come …

What stopped me in my tracks were the first thirteen paragraphs of Randall Kennedy’s review of Eric Foner’s Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (2019). This part of the review is, quite frankly, as neat a summary of how the United States failed to cope with its racial problem over a critical century.

From now on I shall cite, as I never have recognised before, this horrible truth:

The leaders of the Confederacy, explicitly repudiating Thomas Jefferson’s declaration that ‘all men are created equal,’ had committed themselves to racial hierarchy. ‘Our new government ... rests,’ the Confederate vice president, Alexander Stephens, observed, ‘upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.’

Kennedy then continues to explain who and how Lincoln failed to address that essential issue — because he couldn’t. He didn’t have the power, even as Commander-in-Chief to end slavery — except as a war measure, and in the territories controlled by the Confederacy. Hence the Emancipation Proclamation:

contained no criticism of slavery and did not free all slaves; the legal status of at least 800,000 slaves was not affected. The proclamation did not free those held in bondage in the four slave states that remained loyal to the Union: Missouri, Delaware, Kentucky and Maryland. Nor did it free the slaves in certain Southern territories already under Union control.

Then comes a pointed comparison:

The proclamation announced that freedmen would now be allowed to join the United States military. Many enlisted. By the end of the Civil War 180,000 had served – about a fifth of the country’s black male population aged between 18 and 45. In the Revolutionary War of 1775-83, when the 13 American colonies sought to secede from Britain, most African Americans who took up arms did so on behalf of King George III (having been promised emancipation for doing so). By contrast, in the Civil War, the overwhelming majority who took up arms fought for the United States (the Confederacy having stubbornly resisted proposals to arm slaves until the very eve of its collapse).

That balances, for me, the jokey treatment given Farmer George in Hamilton.

After that we are into the topic of Foner’s book: reconstruction, how it was misconceived, how it was wholly subverted, and how it was negated. Starting with:

Although Lincoln planned to readmit the Confederate states into the Union quickly, on generous terms, he also seemed open to granting the vote to some black men – ‘the very intelligent and ... those who serve our cause as soldiers’. When the actor John Wilkes Booth heard that remark he warned: ‘That means nigger citizenship! Now, by God, I’ll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make.’ Three days later, on Good Friday, Booth made good on his threat, shooting Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC.

Got that chaps? Lincoln’s notion of emancipation was severely limited. But then, again, the whole electoral system of the United States was, and remains, a restricted franchise. As long as large sections of the populace are denied equal and free opportunity to vote, ‘democracy’ is not complete. Gerrymandering? Inaccessible polling stations? Restrictions on voter registration? They are all there, to this day.

Moreover Wilkes Booth delivered:

Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, was a fierce racist who militantly opposed giving African Americans an equal legal status to whites. He supported the ending of slavery but wanted blacks to be confined to a subordinate caste. That is one of the reasons Radicals in the Republican Party – Lincoln’s party – despised Johnson, who was a Democrat, and attempted to remove him from office by impeachment.

Reconstruction failed:

Reconstruction was under attack from the outset. There was never a consensus on its legitimacy, and in the end it sank under the weight of racism, indifference, fatigue, administrative weakness, economic depression, the ebbing of idealism, and the toll exacted by terrorism, as its enemies resorted to rape, mutilation, beating and murder to intimidate blacks and their white allies. […]

By 1877 every Southern state had been ‘redeemed’ – that is, was under the control of people who aimed to reimpose the norms of white supremacy. Enemies of Reconstruction removed blacks as a factor in politics and consigned them to a degraded position within a rigid pigmentocracy. The constitutional amendments survived untouched. But, at least with respect to racial matters, they were narrowly construed, if not ignored altogether. By 1900 Reconstruction had been demolished, an experiment almost wholly repudiated.

It has taken the work of Foner (says Kennedy) and his followers, to reconstruct Reconstruction. He emphasises the positives of the three Constitutional amendments that changed the United States:

The Thirteenth Amendment ordered emancipation without compensation and was the first occasion on which the constitution expanded the power of the federal government, creating ‘a new fundamental right to personal freedom, applicable to all persons in the United States regardless of race, gender, class or citizenship status’. Few countries, Foner observes, ‘and certainly none with as large a slave population, have experienced so radical a form of abolition’. The Fourteenth Amendment’s creation of birthright citizenship, he writes, represents ‘an eloquent statement about the nature of American society, a powerful force for assimilation ... and a repudiation of a long history of racism’. […]

The Fifteenth Amendment bars states and the federal government from using race as a criterion for voting.

Here am I, reclining and meditating on this review.

In truth, I cannot believe that the intentions of the Reconstruction Amendments have yet been properly applied.

On 26 June 2013 the US Supreme Court:

issued one of the most consequential rulings in a generation in a case called Shelby county v Holder. In a 5-4 vote, the court struck down a formula at the heart of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 law that required certain states and localities with a history of discrimination against minority voters to get changes cleared by the federal government before they went into effect.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of this decision. The power of the Voting Rights Act was in the design that the supreme court gutted – discriminatory voting policies could be blocked before they harmed voters. The law placed the burden of proof on government officials to prove why the changes they were seeking were not discriminatory. Now, voters who are discriminated against now bear the burden of proving they are disenfranchised.

Immediately after the decision, Republican lawmakers in Texas and North Carolina – two states previously covered by the law – moved to enact new voter ID laws and other restrictions. A federal court would later strike down the North Carolina law, writing it was designed to target African Americans “with almost surgical precision”.

Clearly nothing will change as long as Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, remains a prime arbiter.

A good, thoughtful and provocative review. A major issue.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, London Review of Books, United States, US Elections, US politics

Summoning the ghost of oneself

Those drear post-WW2 years established the dire reputation of British food. One prime example was Camp coffee essence. Coffee in-so-far as the syrup contained all of 4% coffee.

The label haunted my childhood nightmares. Not because, in its original form, it epitomised the racist and imperialist elements of our society — as time went by, the turbaned servant’s complexion lightened, and he was finally allowed a seat beside the white sahib. No: because there on the original on the tray is a bottle of Camp coffee essence. So, logically, were it magnified, on the label of the bottle would be a diminutive replication of  … Oh! You get it! It’s the Siphonaptera:

So, Nat’ralists observe, a Flea
Hath smaller Fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller yet to bite ’em,
And so proceed ad infinitum:
Thus ev’ry Poet, in his Kind
Is bit by him that comes behind.

Thank you, Doctor Swift: don’t call us, we’ll call you! And … hey-ho! … I have been this way before.

Then, before the Derby Lightweight 79XXX DMUs put in an appearance on East Anglian by-lines, we eager students were conveyed to daily schooling on antiquated rolling stock, behind a Great Eastern Railways D17 4-4-0 .

And here’s another marvel!

Those carriages often had mirrors above the seats: two mirrors, each reflecting the one opposite. So one could see the back of one’s head. And beyond that, another image of one’s face. A whole tunnel of selfs disappearing into a cloudy distance. In truth, because the mirrors were never wholly aligned, the tunnel would swerve, and always to the left.

Meanwhile …

iuBack in real time, I’m re-reading Gore Vidal’s The Golden Age, the seventh and concluding episode of his account of Narratives of Empire.

When it appeared, in 2000, the book was seen as ‘controversial’ because it drove home the notion that FDR had connived, by acts of omission, at Pearl Harbour, and thereby bringing the USA into the War. The book is ‘of its time’: it covers the years episodically from 1939, through the War and post-war to 1954. Which is also the life of Vidal himself from later teenager to successful novelist.

Vidal, but of course, takes the opportunity to pay off a whole clutch of personal grievances. Here, two of the main characters, Peter Sanford and Clay Overbury are predicting the path of various papabili:

Clay stared at the photograph of himself and Truman. “Why now and not in two years? Because after Truman we’re going to have at least eight years of a Republican president. Probably Eisenhower or MacArthur. Then a Democrat. Someone new. Born in this century, not one of these old folks, these holdovers from the coach-and-buggy era. It’s all going to change. Well, for me to be ready in 1960, I’ll need at least eight years of national exposure in the Senate. So that’s what I mean to have.” […]

Clay was on his feet. He stretched. For an instant, Peter thought that Clay had actually arched his back. “Everything’s now in order for me to start the long march. There’s also no one else, which is a help.”

“Hubert Humphrey?”

“Too far to the left. The South won’t take him.”

“Lyndon Johnson?”

“Texas? A bribe-taker? Never.”

“Your fellow congressman Jack Kennedy? His father can outspend my father any day.”

“He’ll be dead by 1960. He’s got no adrenal function. ‘Yellow Jack,’ they call him. Just look at him. He’s a skeleton. No, the field is clear for me.”

“Ten years is a long time to keep any field clear.”

Ummm …

Somehow, Solon the Wise sneaks in here:

Call no man happy until he’s dead.

And here’s another wiseacre creeping into Vidal’s baggy plot:

Peter realized that they knew each other from Washington. Gene Vidal was several years younger than Peter. Each had been at St. Alban’s; each had attended Mrs. Shippen’s; then war had taken Vidal to the Pacific and Peter to the far more perilous corridors of the Pentagon. Now, to Peter’s bemusement, Vidal had dropped his Christian name and as Gore Vidal had published a first novel; a second novel was on the way. Although Peter would have preferred death to reading a book by a Washington contemporary even younger than himself, he had not realized that the book he had read about—some kind of war novel—was by the boy that he had known prewar.

“My mother insists that Gore writes just like Shakespeare,” said Cornelia, causing the young—twenty? twenty-one?—author to blush.

Peter nodded gravely. “With our new civilization we’ll certainly need a Shakespeare sooner or later. Why not you?”

Vidal shook his head sadly. “I could never manage those rhyming couplets at the end of scenes.”

That’s chutzpah. Wholly Vidal. Very Camp.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Gore Vidal, History, Norfolk, railways, reading, Uncategorized, United States, US Elections, US politics

Skinny

It’s not often the Oxford English Dictionary fails to trace an etymology, but in this case, it does:

skinny
slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.). With the. Detailed and esp. confidential information about a person or topic, ‘the low-down’; (also more generally) news, gossip.

Though I suspect the Senate vote on the “skinny” Health Care Bill was more about:

orig. U.S. A cup of coffee or a coffee-based beverage made with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk

Meaning: thin, unsustainting, not nutricious, less than stimulating, more for appearance than any real benefit.

Now to Nate Silver on fivethirtyeight.com. The vote has just gone down on the defection of Senators Collins, McCain and Murkowski. We knew two of those would be hold-outs, but we were meant to be surprised by John McCain. As if he hadn’t signalled already …

This is usually the time when FiveThirtyEight would say “let’s not get too carried away …” but, well, this is one of those times when you should maybe get carried away? It’s not really a surprise that the bill failed. It always had a lot of problems, and Republicans didn’t come close to passing straight repeal or BCRA in the Senate in earlier votes. But that it failed in a way that will be so embarrassing to both McConnell and Trump is noteworthy and will have all sorts of implications for Republicans.

Enough already.

But there were a couple of “issues”.

Lisa Ann Muskowski has been around some time — she’s been the Senator for Alaska since 2002. Go to that official web-page and find that she has established clearly her “red lines”:

… many provisions of the ACA that have worked for Alaska that Senator Murkowski believes should be retained. Those provisions are:

  • Prohibitions on the discrimination for pre-existing conditions

  • No annual or lifetime limits

  • Coverage up to age 26

  • Continuation of coverage afforded under Medicaid Expansion

  • Maintaining access to Planned Parenthood facilities

This is a lady who has seen off the Alaskan Republicans previously: they tried to elbow her out in the 2010 Primary, so she went for a write-in campaign, and took out the ‘official’ GOP nominee (a Tea Party and Palin face)  by four clear points. The sheer bone-headedness of the Trump Administration is — yet again — on show trying to rough up the lady. Or, as Silver has it:

the Interior Department’s threats to screw over Alaska — presumably ordered by the White House

See it here:

Another indicator was the way some republican Senators kept their powder dry. Heller (Rep, Nevada) and Sasse (Rep. Nebraska) held their votes back until it was clear they could vote with their party leadership without disturbing the outcome. Ah, c’mon! Done it myself in London Borough politics: once you know the party has the votes, a pointless show of principle becomes easier. In this case, it works the other way: a show of partisan loyalty would be cheap compared to putting the boot into the higher-ups.

So here we are, relishing the aggravation caused Trump and McConnell. It looks as if the weirdo fringes have been consigned back into their boxes. McConnell is begging Democratic input (and — as things stand — it’s only too easy to watch the GOP leadership swivelling in the wind).

But the real Democrat goodies are still there for the taking. This session has not produced the repeal of ObamaCare, and there is no reason to believe much will change. Effectively, then, we are half-way to the mid-terms. There’s something in The West Wing about the short windows of political opportunity in the American system. If a decision doesn’t get actioned in the first six or eight months of a term, it runs up against the next electoral cycle. So: strike one to the Dems.

Then there are 49 GOP Senators and over two hundred members of the House who bear the mark-of-Cain on TrumpCare. Short of actually dumping on twenty million or more suddenly deprived of health-care (and resentful about it) that can’t be bad party politics.

But above all, here’s another aggrieved citizen — but this one with a soapbox:

“Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski is declaring it “Failure Friday” for President Trump, saying that if you want to know what failure looks like, “just take a look at the last 36 hours of the Trump presidency.”

3 Comments

Filed under health, History, The West Wing, underclass, United States, US Elections, US politics

And we wonder about the phenomenon that is Trump?

As I understand:

  • Only 35% of American have passports.
  • Perhaps as few as 2-3% of Americans venture beyond their national boundaries in a year.
  • And, as Doonesbury reminds us (today from 1988):

1 Comment

Filed under Doonesbury, United States, US Elections, US politics

This is oh-so-poignant

As almost-always, The New Yorker gets the alternative view:

petrusich_katchadourianyw_3530-1200

Amanda Petrusich’s account is equally worth the visit:

High noon on the day after a Presidential election: historically, a moment in which political signs are dislodged from lawns in either satisfaction or disappointment, not freshly planted in them. And yet on Wednesday morning the artist Nina Katchadourian, known for her intelligent explorations of systems—sorting, mapping, charting, coding, arranging, translating—was preparing to complete her latest showing of “Monument to the Unelected,” a collection of fifty-eight lawn signs touting the campaigns of those who ran for the country’s executive office and lost, from John Adams (1796) to Mitt Romney (2012). The installation had gone on display on the front lawn of the Lefferts Historic House, in Prospect Park. Now Katchadourian had a new sign to add to the scrum, and it was not the one that many of those gathered with her in the park hoped it would be.

This side of the Atlantic, I have a very disappointed daughter. Her Hillary 2016 tee-shirt, proudly worn around London for the last couple of weeks, after undermining the US diktats against alien support, has to join the 20o8 iteration as another failed vaunt that gender equality was reaching presidential status.

hillary-2016-t-shirts-men-s-premium-t-shirt

The Pert Young Piece will be around in 2020, 2024 and so on. She’ll be proclaiming her same partisan allegiance, and — with luck and some sanity in the Democratic Party — a similar gender bias.

How does Elizabeth Ann Warren fit?

Failing which, I have an American-born grand-daughter — tough as old boots (you should see her as an inside forward on the soccer field) — who should be coming ripe about three decades on.

Leave a comment

Filed under US Elections, US politics

Meanwhile, a bit of American decency and good news

dfe98e-20161108-omar11Ilhan Omar is now a member of the Minnesota House of representatives, representing House District 60B.

None too many days ago, Donald Trump was telling the world how Somali immigration represented a threat to the State of Minnesota, and — by extension— to the entire United States.

The lasting success of the United States is the ability to nurture and integrate talent from around the world. Why, even the grandson of a Kallstadt draft-evader and  barber’s apprentice can make it to the White House. We’ve just got to become used to it.

Cue the coda of  The West Wing: Episode 4.01 — “20 Hours in America part 1″. Peter Lien, son of a Vietnamese refugee, has been elected to Congress.

BARTLET: Leo, meet Congressman Peter Lien, Texas 22nd. Peter, this is Leo McGarry, U.S. Air Force, 144th Fighter Wing.

LEO: Pleased to meet you, Congressman.

BARTLET: Peter’s family fishes in Galveston Bay, but they don’t catch marlin. It’s a sore spot, and he doesn’t like to talk about it. Peter’s 34 years old.

LEO: I’m sorry it’s been two months and we haven’t been able to get you up here until now.

LIEN: No, please. It’s a bust time. If there’s any help I can give you in Texas…

BARTLET: Ordinarily I would tell you that Jim Coor was a good public servant, and you’ve got big shoes to fill, and he was and you do, but obviously you have a bigger symbolic responsibilty then that.

LIEN: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: But you biggest responsibiltity isn’t symbolic, right?

LIEN: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: What is it?

LIEN: It’s my district, my country, and the Congress of the United States.

BARTLET: Welcome, my friend, to the show that never ends.

LIEN: Thank you, Mr. President.

Or, in real life, the real President lists the contributions made by Asian-Americans.

To cheer us up, there’s imminent mid-Terms on Tuesday, 6th November, 2018.

Leave a comment

Filed under The West Wing, United States, US Elections, US politics

Hillary and Trump beneath the Upas tree

The prolificly-mischievous George Steevens perpetrated one of his literary hoaxes, allegedly translated from the diary of a Dr Foersch, a (fictitious) Dutch surgeon, in Java. He invented  the upas-tree:

Erasmus Darwin, physician and scholar, a figure of some standing in botanical science and the author of several botanical works including The Loves of the Plants (1789), was another of Steevens’s victims. The London Magazine for December 1783 (pp. 511–17) carried Steevens’s description of the upas tree of Java which could kill all life within a distance of 15 to 18 miles, his source being an entirely fictitious Dutch traveller. Darwin was taken in and admitted the upas tree into his Loves of the Plants, from which Coleridge derived information…

That from the Dictionary of National Biography.

Once invented, the upas-tree had a life of its own, and became a metaphor for deadly power and influence. Southey had it, perhaps as the first, as the punch-line of Thalaba the Destroyer:

Enough the Island crimes had cried to Heaven,
The measure of their guilt was full,
The hour of wrath was come.
The poison burst the bowl,
It fell upon the earth.
The Sorceress shrieked and caught Mohareb’s robe
And called the whirlwind and away!
For lo! from that accursed venom springs,
The Upas Tree of Death.

Byron reckoned that Thalaba the Destroyer was one of Southey’sunsaleables, but that didn’t get in the way of borrowing the Southey reference in Childe Harold, Canto the Fourth (verse CXXVI):

Our life is a false nature — ’tis not in
The harmony of things, — this hard decree,
This uneradicable taint of sin,
This boundless upas, this all-blasting tree,
Whose root is earth, whose leaves and branches be
The skies which rain their plagues on men like dew —
Disease, death, bondage, all the woes we see —
And worse, the woes we see not — which throb through
The immedicable soul, with heart-aches ever new.

Our modern Upas

… is the toxic media.

  • We have it in the tabloid press (the British version might seem uniquely venomous, but — sadly — not).
  • We have in the shrill populist excess that is Fox News.
  • We have it, in excelsis, in the vowel evacuations of the shock-jocks.
  • Above all, it is the proliferation of web-sites and social media even further beyond the pale than Breitbart.

In this dispensation, anything short of vitriol is soft-soap.

How many times in recent weeks have we encountered hand-wringing despair such as this from Paul Waugh:

No one is pretending that either Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are perfect or all-wise, far from it. As the two candidates with the most negative poll ratings in history, the voters seem to be choosing which is their least worst option, via the least worst form of government. Here’s just one example: Trump’s repeated lies are well documented (a Newsweek reporter last night tweeted 100 of his worst ones, from business to politics to even fibbing about his golf score). And yet he polls ahead of Clinton for honesty. For many voters, their loathing of Hillary outweighs their distaste for Trump.

Today’s edition of The Guardian was a fine effort, with several articles of enduring worth. For now, I’ll stick with the First Leader:

… the only alternative to Mrs Clinton is Donald Trump. It needs to be said again, at this fateful moment, that Mr Trump is not a fit and proper person for the presidency. He is an irascible egomaniac. He is uninterested in the world. He has fought a campaign of abuse and nastiness, riddled with racism and misogyny. He offers slogans, not a programme. He propagates lies, ignorance and prejudice. He brings no sensibility to the contest except boundless self-admiration. He panders to everything that is worst in human nature and spurns all that is best.

Fear and Loathing revisited

Beyond the valid charges made by The Guardian, Trump is a prime example of a media creation, a thing spawned by his own monomania. Hillary Clinton is a lawyer and a politician.

And therein lies the difference.

Clinton still works within accepted patterns, professional disciplines, of behaviour. When use of a private email is a crime, we are all guilty. Every one — especially a successful, practising political operator — has their “private channels”.

Trump, though, is a fraud, a bully, a liar.

He is poison.

But he survives this far by anti-toxin imbibed from long sojourn under the Breitbart/Fox upas tree.

So I am reminded of the fable Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin generated from the upas tree:

Deep in the desert’s misery,
far in the fury of the sand,
there stands the awesome Upas Tree
lone watchman of a lifeless land.

The wilderness, a world of thirst,
in wrath engendered it and filled
its every root, every accursed
grey leafstalk with a sap that killed.

The king sends a slave to collect the poison:

He brought the deadly gum; with it
he brought some leaves, a withered bough,
while rivulets of icy sweat
ran slowly down his livid brow.

And, mission accomplished, the slave expires.

The king now uses the poison:

The king, he soaked his arrows true
in poison, and beyond the plains
dispatched those messengers and slew
his neighbors in their own domains.

If Trump beats the odds, he too is capable of such savagery.

Leave a comment

Filed under Byron, Comment is Free, Guardian, Literature, Oxford English Dictionary, United States, US Elections, US politics

“Estimate $4,000,000–6,000,000”

The art-work that Norman Rockwell did for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, edition date 4th November 1944, is up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York:

cwb8rfoxgaagj7u-jpg-large

There’s an essay on the subject, with consideration of other Rockwell comments on elections, by Lisa Pisano on line here. She says:

Occurring in the midst of the Second World War, the election dominated the national discourse as Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican governor of New York, challenged the longstanding Democratic incumbent president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for the office. Though the war had turned in favour of the United States by late 1944, Roosevelt faced considerable hostility from those who disapproved of his signature domestic and foreign policies. Rumors concerning the President’s failing health also surrounded his campaign. For the first time in over a decade, more Americans than ever had to ask themselves, “which one?” […]

In Which One?, Rockwell depicts a resident of Cedar Rapids, Iowa standing in a voting booth, poised to cast his vote for one of the two candidates. Indicated by the array of political pamphlets that line his pocket and the morning newspaper he holds, the voter has clearly attempted to educate himself on his choice, yet the bemused expression on his face reveals that he remains stymied by the task and he continues to weigh his options on this rainy November day.  

I’ve also just seen a piece by  for The New Yorker‘s Cultural Comment, niggling at Rockwell’s constant theme: little crises of American experience

Consider “Which One? (Undecided Voter; Man in Voting Booth),” from 1944—the last year, before the present one, in which a Presidential election was contested by two New Yorkers, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Thomas E. Dewey. […]

The undecided voter is a smartly dressed middle-aged gent, inviting demographic speculation. When younger, he must have been something of a dandy. When still younger, he may have come from nothing much—rising in the world, as Americans, or at least white Americans, frequently did back then. He likely works in upper-middle management somewhere—no higher, one suspects, given a self-conscious raffishness that’s a bit incongruous at his age. He holds out against conformism.

So: a cinch for F.D.R. in past elections. But now, in 1944, the man wonders whether Republicanism might be better styled for his enhanced station in life. (You know he belongs to the country club.) […]

Being conscientiously informed on “the issues,” as evidenced by the Cedar Rapids Gazette that the man holds and by the brochures that protrude from his coat pocket, doesn’t settle anything. Does it ever? Aren’t our votes always episodes of autobiography, not about what we know but about how, and as what, we opt to see ourselves?

In 1944, as today, once the Primaries are out of the way, Iowa receives minimal attention from Presidential candidate. That’s because the State has just six votes in the Electoral College, of the 270 to guarantee a victory. It was a whit more significant in 1944: ten Electoral College votes of the necessary 216 majority. It is, however, a “swing state”, going for the winner some three-quarters of the time: Obama in 2008 and 2012, Bush in 2004, but Al Gore in 2000.

Iowa went for the Dewey/Bricker ticket in 1944, one of the dozen states that defied the lat FDR steamroller.  It was a 547,267  (51.99%) to 499,876 (47.49%) split.

Leave a comment

Filed under Elections, New York City, New Yorker, Norman Rockwell, United States, US Elections, US politics

Serving us right

I have here one of those catch-penny “anthologies”, what more precisely could be a “bog book”.

51es1w31oplIt’s by Matthew Parris, and entitled: Scorn: The Wittiest and Wickedest Insults in Human History.

Like many of its kind, it disappoints more than it illuminates. You will already have knowledge of many — if not most — of the entries; and among the rest there are several that leave you puzzled. The best that can be said of it is that a purchase would ensure the continuing comfort of Mr Parris (a “national treasure” wannabe) and his llamas.

This was the point at which severe doubts arose in my mind:

Democracy has been served – the people have spoken, (sotto voce) the bastards.
Wendell Willkie on hearing of his defeat by President Roosevelt

The quotation is well-known enough. The attribution seems plain wrong.

A more proper, and credible attribution would be to Dick Tuck, the Democrat Party fixer and constant irritant to  Tricky Dicky Nixon:

It may be that Dick Tuck has angered Richard Nixon as much as any other man alive. As relentlessly as Inspector Javert trailed Jean Valjean, as doggedly as Caliban followed Prospero, as surely as a snowball seeks a top hat, Prankster Tuck stalked his quarry from one campaign to the next. “Keep that man away from me,” Nixon ordered his staff, who were seldom able to oblige. Ultimately, Nixon paid his adversary the highest compliment: in the 1972 campaign, the White House decided to employ a Dick Tuck of its own.

all_the_presidents_men_book_1974Since the Nixon White House’s “Dick Tuck of its own” was Donald Segretti (for more on whom, see the Woodstein masterpiece, All the President’s Men), I’d reckon Tuck won hands down.

Tuck had made many a play on Nixon until, in the 1966 mid-terms, he made a primary run for the Democrat nomination for the California Senate. He came third out of eight. Tuck was a favourite of the press reptiles, because he was ever-ready with a zinger. When he had lost the nomination he was asked his reaction. That was the cause of  “The people have spoken, the bastards.”

Willkie, by the way, might be seen as the prototype for the Donald Trump — as decent as the latter is nauseating. He was the previous time the GOP had put a businessman on the Presidential ticket. As FDR’s opposite number for the crunch election of 1940, he was almost a titular figure — but he did remarkably well, taking 45% of the vote (though only ten States for 82 votes in the Electoral College). Roosevelt obviously liked and respected Willkie, and used him as an unofficial ambassador to wartime London.

All that apart, I frequently nod along in agreement with Matthew Parris’s liberal Tory columns for The Times. Which is another reason why I find this book unworthy.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Matthew Parris, sleaze., Times, US Elections

Hung for a sheep as a goat?

ldRather enjoying the little spat (as reported on the BBC news web-site) arising from the Trump campaign’s claim to be “winning”. Obviously a meme borrowed from the Liberal Democrats here in the UK (heroes to zeroes on a single parliament).

To repeat the obvious, boy-wonder, chip of the old block, Eric Trump plucked a graphic out of the aether, to demonstrate the same phantasy that the all-winning Liberal Democrats have nurtured these many years. It demonstrated — but of course — how the Trump machine was steamrollering the American continent.

Unfortunately, the graphic he had chosen was lifted from fivethirtyeight.com to show how men were trending for Trump:

538

As compared to women:

538

Then the fun began: and it went quite silly. I was reckoning on “…if only goats voted” (based on USDA graphic for distribution of goats in the USA, showing a frightening concentration in Trumpish Texas), but then I recalled …

John Kennedy’s first outing as a Democrat politician wannabe was Massachusetts’s (then) 11th Congressional District. Patrician JFK worked his Irish-American patch assiduously, but was less-than-convincing with his accent and a hotel as his registered address, so he enrolled himself with the Knights of Columbus. The pay-off was candidates had to parade on St Patrick’s Day with a “relic” or token of Irish ancestry. Kennedy got landed with leading a goat. The JFK Presidential Library has the evidence:

goat

It was the goat what won it, and the rest — as they say — is history.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Elections, History, United States, US Elections, US politics