Skip to comments.Why we love American elections
Posted on 10/30/2004 6:27:21 PM PDT by conservative in nyc
WHATEVER you think about American politics, US presidential contests are more fun than British general elections. The iconic example is 1948 and the photograph of the victorious Democrat, Harry S Truman, holding up the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune with the errant headline, "Dewey Defeats Truman". The embarrassed editor was not the only one to get the result wrong. Months before polling day, Life magazine ran a cover of a picture of Dewey captioned "The Next President of the United States". Only Truman thought Truman would win.
How did the media get it wrong? Truman had split the Democrats by sending a civil rights bill to Congress in the February before the election. Racist southern Democrats bolted the party ticket and ran an independent, Dixicrat candidate for the White House, Strom Thurmond (who we now know had a secret love child with his black housemaid). It looked like a walkover for Thomas Dewey, the Republican candidate.
Not for the first time, the media and the pollsters failed to realise a good campaign changes voters minds. "Give Em Hell" Truman, whose folksy ways were denigrated by eastern intellectuals and New York urbanites, was brilliant on the stump. Meanwhile, the Dewey campaign grew lazy thinking it was all in the bag. Dewey also committed numerous mistakes: at one campaign stop, he declared it was nice to see so many children, and they should be happy he had got them a day off from school. But the kids roared back: "Its Saturday."
Some people did read the signs correctly. In Kansas City, an animal feed supply company conducted their own informal poll by putting pictures of donkeys (the Democratic symbol) and elephants (the Republican symbol) on the feed sacks, giving farmers the chance to register the preferences. By early September 1948, 20,000 farmers had been polled this way and 54 per cent had voted Democrat. When the election was over, Truman had beaten Dewey by more than two million votes.
One thing adding spice to US presidential elections is that voters are actually choosing not a candidate but an electoral college. The college electors, in turn, are pledged to vote for the presidential candidate who won the popular vote in their state. But what happens if a candidate dies between November and when the electoral college meets? It happened in 1872.
In that year, the Democratic candidate, Horace Greeley, a newspaper editor who had split from the Republicans, dropped dead on 29 November before his 66 electors could vote. Fortunately, Republican candidate, Ulysses S Grant, had a commanding majority in the college, but Greeleys electors were obviously free to vote for whom they liked, including folk not originally on the ballot, which they duly did.
The most politically corrupt presidential election of modern times was Kennedy v Nixon in 1960. Jack Kennedy won by a mere 118,000 votes out of more than 68 million cast. Allegations of vote-rigging were filed against Democrats in 11 states. The worst case of deliberate gerrymandering was in Illinois, where Kennedys patrician father, old Joe Kennedy, persuaded the Chicago crime syndicate, headed by Sam Giancana, to use the mob-controlled unions to get out the vote.
Even so, southern Democrats were taking no chances in trying to head off a Republican attack on white supremacy; arrangements were in place to personally bribe uncommitted members of the state electoral college in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia to cast their votes for Kennedy. A plane stuffed with dollar bills was waiting on the tarmac at Corpus Christi in Texas: had the Illinois gangsters not stuffed enough ballot boxes, it was to fly through the night to deliver bribes before dawn.
In the end, Kennedys good looks and charm may have won him the election, regardless. Nevertheless, he spent much of the campaign risking all by having blatant sex with a bewildering variety of women, including Marilyn Monroe. In todays political conditions, Kennedy would have been destroyed by the media. Instead, he survived due to the collusion of pro-Democratic journalists who knew what was going on.
For instance, a middle-aged Catholic housewife by the name of Florence Katter became outraged when she discovered an upstairs flat she had rented out to a Kennedy aide called Pamela Turnure was being used by Kennedy and Turnure to have noisy, recreational sex. Mrs Katter photographed Kennedy coming out of the flat and duly turned up at Kennedy rallies with a placard bearing the picture of the candidates disgrace. She sent out scores of letters to editors and reporters berating the candidates hypocrisy, but Kennedys secret stayed safe.
Later, Kennedy routinely went to Radcliffe, the girls college of Harvard University, on whose board he served, and had sex with a 19-year-old student. Kennedys car was noted picking her up and dropping her off at her dormitory. Imagine the outcry if George Bush or John Kerry tried that.
The most contentious presidential election was in 1876, and came perilously close to reopening the Civil War. With the Confederate States back in the Union, Democratic candidate, Samuel J Tilden, commanded a popular majority based on disgruntled southern whites and anti-Republican (and racist) white immigrants in the north.
But the Union military authorities still occupying the defeated southern states refused to ratify Tildens vote in three states - Florida (no surprise there), Louisiana and South Carolina. Instead, they approved rival college electors pledged to the Republican candidate, Rutherford B Hayes.
With no agreement on who were the legitimate college electors, Congress appointed a special commission to determine who was president.
At first, this commission looked reasonably unbiased, with five representatives each from the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court. But when it split 8-7 for Hayes, the Republican who had won a minority of the popular vote, the Democrats were outraged. For a time, it looked as if the Civil War would re-ignite.
Eventually, both sides backed down. Republicans agreed to end the military occupation of the south and the Democrats accepted President Hayes. Only the blacks lost out.
Are US elections an affront to democracy? The ultimate test is simple: in all those years, the occupier of the White House has always left when their allotted time was up.
Hmm. I knew JFK's people in IL made sure the state went for him - some of the vote fixers have since admitted their work.
But some of the other stuff mentioned here I had never heard of. How sold is the trolling for trollops at Radcliffe, for example?
sold = solid
"he spent much of the campaign risking all by having blatant sex with a bewildering variety of women"
Blatant sex? More like excellent sex. Bewildering variety of women? I'll wager it was not bewildering to JFK. Variety is the spice of life.
"he survived due to the collusion of pro-Democratic journalists who knew what was going on."
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Very interesting. Some of this stuff I certainly never heard before.
quidnunc, what do you think? at least it is not at all anti-republican for a change!
"Imagine the outcry if George Bush or John Kerry tried that."
Imagine the outcry JFK had been a traitor like Kerry.
Yeah but, every time I hear of somebody having multiple sex partners I always wonder how many venereal diseases they might have.
Nice little article from The Scottsman.
Glad to see the light being put on Kennedy.
Not many US papers will admit that 'Camelot' was built by bent-noses, bribe money and pecker power...lol.
We recently had a governor's wife who would not leave the executive residence after her husbands term was up. And the new governor was of the same party.
"Yeah but, every time I hear of somebody having multiple sex partners I always wonder how many venereal diseases they might have."
Depending on who they had sex with, many venereal diseases could be contracted by having sex with a single sex partner.
Lol...well...she must leave the residence sometime...change the locks...pack her bags and set them on the curb...have fun with it...lol.
I think the author was referring to the US Presidential office. So far, all of them have left at the appropriate time. Personally I favor a 1 term, 6 year Presidency. No re-elections. Let them sit out a term before coming up again. But that just my $.02 USD worth.
I've always heard that he lost his virginity in Havana and spoke fondly of the city for the rest of his life...
It's not every day that my home town gets mentioned in a foreign newspaper.
That's right. Exactly what I thought. The Scotsman has the concept about today's media wrong, however:
In todays political conditions, Kennedy would have been destroyed by the media. Instead, he survived due to the collusion of pro-Democratic journalists who knew what was going on.
The media TODAY will carry water for the Demokrat regardless of the scam or scandal. Their above statement would be true, however, were the philanderer a Republican.
The media today would go to the end of the earth to smear a Republican for ANYTHING or to COVER for a Demokrat (ex: Bush signed form 180 to release his military records, Kerry did not, and Dan Rather rolled out FAKE documents about Bush's Texas ANG service, etc., etc., etc.) .....
That has been my own view since I was old enough to have views on such things.
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