Thursday, October 4, 2012

Abe in 1860, Gabe in 1960


Here, in the United States, we are now a little over a month away from the Presidential Election...

To celebrate the not-too-distant end of this election cycle's political hyperbole, we look at memorabilia from political campaigns in America past-- some serious, some frivolous.  Some candidates won their elections, others lost theirs...

But, at the beginning, we note real change may be effected not so much by politicians but by individuals committed to a cause...
Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets
unseen by all save God and Peeping Tom.
Alive at the time of the Norman Conquest,
Godiva was among the few Saxon nobles not
to lose her properties and title.

Here we travel across the ocean and through time to find a case in point and remember the Lady Godiva (whose name means "God's gift") and a legend that she tired of her husband's oppressive taxation policies and the burdens they imposed upon the poor folk of Coventry in the days before Duke William crossed the Channel.  Hard-hearted Leofric jokingly agreed to ease the tax load upon his peasants if his lovely wife would ride naked through the streets.  How little did he know that she truly cared for those so weary and overworked...

What a raucous and lovely thing is the democracy which took root in a former colony of Godiva's Saxon lands: a constant feud between those who say the rich live only to soak the poor of their life's blood and those who say the poor are shiftless bums whose sole ambition is to suck at the public teat.  But, on rare and shining occasions, it is a debate between men and women of principle concerned with the bettering of life in this land of cowboys and fishermen and oil magnates and shopkeepers...
Republican Theodore Roosevelt, like his cousin Franklin, a
Democrat, championed the vast resources and power of the
federal government as a tool to create a better life for all

Theodore Roosevelt, elected governor of New York in 1898, had been a sickly, wealthy child who earned a reputation for being a serious historian with his The Naval War of 1812.  A state assemblyman in 1884, Roosevelt suffered the almost unimaginable pain of losing both mother and wife on the same day.  He left politics and New York to deal with his grief and found himself ranching in the Dakota Badlands.  Roosevelt returned to the East and became the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, resigning his post to form his famous "Rough Riders" and fight in the Spanish-American War...

Chosen to run as William McKinley's running mate in 1900, he became the youngest US President when an assassin killed the nation's 25th President.  Historians consistently rank Theodore Roosevelt as one of our best leaders-- fearless and reform-minded, TR fought big business monopolies and championed conservation of our natural resources.  He saw America as a force for good throughout the world, promoting the Panama Canal and using his negotiator's skills to end the Russo-Japanese War (and winning the Nobel Peace Prize for the latter feat).  After Roosevelt left politics, he continued a lifelong love of exploring and trekked through the barely known Amazon River basin country of South America...
Progressive Theodore Roosevelt was added to the ticket to make
the very conservative policies of William McKinley attractive to
voters.  McKinley's assassination threw a panic into the very men
who wanted Roosevelt on the ticket solely to get votes.  The moral
of the story: Vice Presidents can become President.

The years just before World War One to the beginning of World War Two saw America wrestling with the question of its political identity.  Would it embrace the staid policies of Calvin Coolidge, a taciturn man said to have been weaned on a pickle, or progressive ideas espoused by the intellectual Woodrow Wilson who lived in the White House in the decade before Coolidge took the nation's helm upon Warren Harding's death.  Would Eugene V Debs and his Socialist policies take hold in the United States?  Debs had not always been so-left leaning but, after being called an "enemy of the human race" by the New York Times and sent to prison for refusing to end a strike, Debs tended to suspect governments that would send armed soldiers to kill striking railroad workers might need a bit of reforming...
Tried for sedition and sentenced to prison for opposing the
draft during World War I, Debs (one of the founders of the
International Workers of the World union) addressed the court
following his conviction: "Your Honor, years ago I recognized
my kinship with all living beings... while there is a lower class,
I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it,
and while there is soul in prison, I am not free."

Woodrow Wilson's vision of a "League of Nations" to prevent
future World Wars and promote peaceful solutions to armed
conflict was rejected by the United States Senate.

Or it would be an America with "Every Man A King" and Louisiana Senator Huey P Long as the kingiest man of all.  Politics, the observation goes, makes for strange bedfellows.  They certainly did in the case of Long, a leftist populist who broke with Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Teddy's fifth cousin) and promptly allied himself with the fiery Father Charles Coughlin, an anti-Semitic radio preacher who loudly praised Hitler and Mussolini and thought a fascist America couldn't be all that bad.  Long, incidentally, would inspire the character of crude, rapacious Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren's All The King's Men...

Franklin Roosevelt was the only man to be elected President more than twice, dying in office early in his fourth term.  FDR ranks among our truly Great Presidents despite the controversy still attached to his policies: stricken and crippled by polio as a young man, Roosevelt preserved American democracy through a time of unprecedented economic collapse and worldwide battles against totalitarian dictatorships...

Had Louisiana Senator Huey Long lived to challenge Franklin
Roosevelt for the Presidency in 1936, the American polical
landscape might be a vastly diffent place today.  Some estimates
suggest Long was in a position to win one-third of the popular vote
nationwide and the electoral votes of the Deep South.
Wealthy and aristocratic, Franklin Roosevelt was simultaneously
despised as a traitor to his class and hailed as a champion of the
working man. 
Nostalgists today paint the 1950s Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, one of Roosevelt's top generals during World War II, as a Golden Era of middle-class conformity when Dad knew best and poor Mom could always count on her rambunctious Beaver to liven things up when they got too dull.  Yep, it was a time when the worst thing that happened was the newspaper boy tossing the Daily Republican-Democrat on the roof.  Everyone sat down to dinner at the same time and the milkman and postman made their rounds without fail.  No black people ever got lynched, no synagogues ever got bombed on the television screens that slowly but surely reshaped American culture just as radio had during the 1920s.  But despite this idyllic world, there were Iron Curtains drawn tight in the Eastern Hemisphere and a persistent little man in Indochina who called himself Ho Chi Minh.  He didn't like colonialism and he remembered being treated like an unsavory ignorant animal when he sought a meeting with Woodrow Wilson...
"Silent Cal" Coolidge won election as President
in his own right in 1924.  He was Warren G
Harding's vice-president.  The Ku Klux Klan
attributed the sudden demise of Harding to
deadly telepathic"brain rays" sent by Jesuits
intent on destroying Protestantism in America.
Another theory claims Florence Harding poisoned
her philandering husband.  In one version of this
theory, Mrs Harding then poisoned the family's
doctor who had assisted her in committing the
nefarious murder.

Adlain Stevenson attempted to link Dwight Eisenhower
to the homelessness and breadlines of Herbert Hoover's
Presidency.  Stevenson ran against the war hero twice--
in 1952 and 1956-- and lost twice.  His final attempt to
win the Presidency came in 1960 when he lost the
Democratic Party nomination to John F Kennedy.

Candidates for the American Presidency come from all walks of life.  Some twenty-two of those who won the nation's highest elective office served in the nation's military, nine as general officers.  One was a mining engineer.  Several were farmers or planters.  We've had a historian or two in the White House.  Two saw themselves as educators.  Several were planters or farmers.  Twenty-nine were lawyers...

When John Kennedy and Richard Nixon wrestled for the Presidency in 1960, neither man seems to have addressed the challenge offered by a write-in candidate from the Golden State of California... 
Gabriel Green's write-in candidacy for President
used magazine and newspaper ads with clip-out
and mail signature forms in his attempt to be
the first President who admitted to speaking with
space aliens on a regular basis

The slight from Nixon was particularly rude since Gabriel Green was born in the burg of Whittier where Nixon attended college.  Running unsuccessfully on the AFSCA (Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America) ticket, Green would run again in 1972 and gather 200 votes in Iowa.  Mr Green assured the voters that he was in constant telepathic communication with space aliens who would help him create a "united world universal economics" system.  He also informed his supporters that he had a PhD from Berkeley in physics and had helped developed the Standard Model for elementary particles.  Investigative reporters could only find records of his attendance at Woodbury Business College.  His work as a physicist seems to have been done after hours from his day job as a school yearbook photographer...
Catchy campaign slogans don't always

One can only wonder how the nation would have fared had the voters been awake to the possibility of real change in Washington in1964...

Jayne Mansfield's candidacy for the White House in 1964, the year Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater squared off, was, alas, a publicity stunt to ramp up the career of the actress often called Hollywood's "smartest dumb blonde".  (Reportedly, Mansfield had an IQ of 163-- a number placing her solidly in genius territory.  Audiences were generally more interested in three other numbers-- 40-21-35-- than knowing Jayne spoke five languages and played classical piano respectably...

There have been other candidates for political office from the world of show business-- President Ronald Reagan being among the best known.  Comedian Pat Paulsen also ran for the White House in a series of mock campaigns from 1968 through 1992, deftly using the opportunities to keep his career going while reassuring voters that "If elected, I will win."  Paulsen also noted most of America's problems could be traced to the fact that Native Americans were much too tolerant when it came to permitting immigration...

Attempts to estimate Presidential IQ usually devolve
into partisan bickering.  In 2006, the journal Political
Psychology offered objective guesses that Presidential
"smarts" range from genius (John Quincy Adams with
an estimated IQ of 165) to slightly above average
(Warren G Harding with an estimated IQ of 107).  Jayne
Mansfield, with an IQ of 163, would have been a
contender for the most intelligent U S President.




Prints and greeting cards by Louis R Nugent available through Fine Art America.  Choose from nearly two hundred unique ideas for home and office decor or holiday and birthday cards for someone who deserves something out of the ordinary.  Individual cards can be purchased for under $5.  High quality print prices start at $22.

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Fine Art America now features painting, drawings, and photographs by eleven artists who celebrate the majestic and uncompromising landscapes, settlements, people, plants, and animals of West Texas.  Claim your part of a rugged, beautiful and dry corner of America's Southwest:


Fine Arts America now features  work celebrating the mysterious and lovely Bayou State of Louisiana and its unique lifestyle:




Note: All photographs for this essay were located through Google Images or Wikipedia, without authoritative source or ownership information except as noted: Lady Godiva sculpture by Sir William Reid Dick, 1949 from cmglee; Col Theodore Roosevelt for Governor, 1898, from; McKinley-Roosevelt campaign poster, 1900, from; Woodrow Wilson campaign pin, 1916, from; Calvin Coolidge, 1924, from; Franklin Roosevelt campaign button, 1940, from; Gabriel Green memorabilia from Ron Schuler rsparlourtricks.blogs; Jayne Mansfield for President, 1964, from

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