Tis the Fall Season: A year ago we were experiencing record heat in the 90’s. It’s not going to be that hot but its also not much of a fall so far. We’ve had a couple of cool days but generally we’ve had cool nights and warm afternoons in the 80’s and that trend will continue through the weekend. It will be fabulous.
Tis the Political Season: So much for George H. W. Bush’s attempt in 1992 to become “kinder and gentler.” Our political discourse on the surface seems to have gone down the tubes.
There is the story of the Sheriff in Florida who got on stage and referred to Senator Obama by his legal full name. That sheriff is now under Federal Investigation for violation of the Hatch Act which prohibits public officials from using their position to influence an election. Seems the Feds are reacting to a bunch of negative phone calls. He could lose his job and the county could lose up to $300,000 in funding.
There is the story that Governor Palin accusing her of using racist verbiage in her stump speeches.
Then there is the story of children allegedly being “indoctrinated” into the Obama camp by a teacher who had the kids line up in t’shirts and camouflaged pants while chanting words that allegedly sing the praises of Senator Obama. The teacher has been suspended.
All of this might make one think that this is unprecedented. Well, it’s not. In the cartoon to the left, Thomas Jefferson is portrayed as attempting to burn the Constitution in fire fed “by the flames of radical writings” before the altar of Gallic despotism. The American eagle and God are attempting to prevent him from doing so. Abraham Lincoln was often referred to as a “Baboon” as he was seen by his rivals as a simpleton and also they made reference to his long and lanky physical appearance. In an event that may bring to mind current circumstance, President Tyler vetoed a measure to re-establish the Bank of the United States and on August 16, 1841, President Tyler was burned in effigy outside the White House….and it was mostly members of his own party who did the burning! Of course, who can forget my old buddy Grover Cleveland? As part of the campaign against him, the charge was that he fathered an illegitimate child and that too made it into the cartoon pages. A topic of lampooning is always the subject of presidential vacations. Teddy Roosevelt (at top) was mocked for going on vacaton to Pine Knot, Virginia during a big coal strike. The list goes on all the way through President Clinton to President GW Bush. The point here is that this type of harsh political discourse is not new. It’s just that now, instead of pamphlets and drawings or actual effigy burnings, we have the internet and video to do the job.
We also hear about lack of voter turn out. Well, in the 1824 election, only 16% of eligible voters turned out to vote for President. Election participation increased though after that. However, curiously, the 1860 presidential election only turned out 72% of the vote, which seems odd since it was an election that would determine secession. It was during Reconstruction that voter turn out topped the 80% mark and then declined thereafter to the 50% to 65% range In the 20th Century, it appears that several states did not have such a high turnout. Alabama, for instance, did not have a 50% turn out in the 1900’s until the 1980’s. Prior that it was often the case that turnout was way less. From 1904 to 1960, average turnout in Alabama averaged about 25% with a lowpoint in 1924 of 13.3%. There are other examples from other states that were similar. Here is a list of tables regarding voter turnout.
In this time of economic unrest and political electioneering turmoil, don’t fall into despair. It can be considered the American way. I told you before about a financial situation in 1907 that had some similarities to today. The market fell 40% over that year of turmoil and from the Dow Peak of Oct 9, 2007 to Oct 9, 2008 the Dow has fallen about 35%. We got the ship righted then and probably will again. There will be change. Back then the 1907 “bailout” led to the creation of the Federal Reserve. Who knows what will happen this time? But in all probability, we will emerge stronger. Politically, we are not hanging Presidents in effigy and the discourse is tough, but not really much different than the past. Hang in there, we will press on.