Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Do We Want to Pay the Health Insurance Bill?

In 1917, the concept of health insurance was so new that it was referred to in quotes.

More than 20 state legislatures that year proposed bills to get government and taxpayers involved in health insurance, an innovative and bold idea at the time even though it’s considered commonplace now. (Even most anti-Obamacare Republicans generally want to maintain — or in some cases even increase — federal spending on such programs as Medicare, if not as much on Medicaid.) Here’s how the new ideas were described to the American public in 1917:

“Their arguments may be summarized as follows: That there is a wage loss due to sickness of six hundred millions of dollars annually; that the great majority of wage earners are living so close to the poverty line that they cannot bear this loss themselves nor can they provide against it through the present channels of protection — benefit societies, lodges, trade unions and the like; that the most important duty of society today is better to distribute this loss through compulsory sickness insurance; that the operation of compulsory sickness insurance will prevent disease and improve the health and general well-being of the nation, and that, therefore, society as a whole should help pay the insurance bill.

[All manual workers or anybody earning less than $100 per month would receive two-thirds of their wages in case of illness or accident, medical attention for the whole duration of the disability, and a $50 benefit in case of death.] The cost of all this shall be paid one-fifth by the State, two-fifths by the employers, and two-fifths by the wage earner, the latter’s contribution being deducted from his weekly pay by his employer.”

Today, disability insurance exists, but this article goes to show that health care was one of the most controversial and volatile political debates in 1917 just as it was today. Vox ran a terrific feature on why Vermont’s attempt to become the first state to institute single-payer universal health care ultimately failed to get off the ground.

Do We Want to Pay the Health Insurance Bill?: Frank F. Dresser Says Proposed Measure Would Give Country a Small Return in Bettered Health for a Tremendous Outlay (PDF)

From Sunday, March 11, 1917

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Written by Jesse

March 17th, 2017 at 7:40 am

Posted in Debate,Politics

Your Pet Cat May Have to Have a License Soon

This is notable for being by far the most “clickbait” style headline the New York Times Sunday Magazine ever featured on this blog. This is perhaps the only headline yet featured that would be written word-for-word the exact same way today.

A New York state bill was debated in 1917 that would license all pet cats and kill all others in the state. (The verb used in the article is the even more horrific “destroyed.”) The reason was not due to visceral hatred of the cute kittens, but for economic purposes:

“The high cost of living is largely due to the fact that not enough foodstuff is produced by the farmers; the shortage of crop is, in turn, partly due to the ravages of insects, and the only effective check on the insects is the birds. But the birds are destroyed by the cats. Every link in this chain between the cat and the cost of food is backed up and proved by scientific demonstration and statistics and the totals all along the line are enormous.

“For example, Frank M. Chapman of the American Museum of Natural History figures that there are at least 25,000,000 cats in the United States, and the country’s annual loss in crops from the depredations of insects alone is estimated at $1,200,000,000.

The license fee for a pet cat would have been 50 cents and 25 cents for each subsequent reissue.

Shockingly, the most common argument against the bill — and in favor of cats — was not from animal lovers or PETA (which would not be founded until 1980), but “The one argument most frequently heard in behalf of the cat is that it kills rats and mice.”

Did the bill pass? While I found that in the same year of 1917 New York state began requiring dogs to be licensed, I was unable to determine whether cats were too. If anybody knows the answer, please comment below.

Your Pet Cat May Have to Have a License Soon: Otherwise It Will Be Killed as a Public Nuisance If Bill Now Before Legislature Passes — An Effort to Protect Birds and Crops (PDF)

From Sunday, March 11, 1917

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Written by Jesse

March 16th, 2017 at 7:40 am

Monroe Inaugurated 100 Years Ago Today

Even 100 years ago, people were writing “100 years ago” articles.

President James Monroe was inaugurated in 1817, with a presidency defined by the so-called Monroe Doctrine. 1917’s President Woodrow Wilson advocated much the same policy, referring to Monroe in a speech to the Senate:

“I am proposing, as it were, that the nations should with one accord adopt the doctrine of President Monroe as the doctrine of the world: That no nation should seek to extend its policy over any other nation or people, but that every people should be left free to determine its own policy, its own way of development, unhindered, unthreatened, unafraid, the little along with the great and powerful.

“I am proposing that all nations henceforth avoid entangling alliances which would draw them into competition of power, catch them in a net of intrigue and selfish rivalry, and disturb their own affairs with influences intruded from without.”

Wilson was arguably one of the last presidents to largely obey the Monroe Doctrine. Since then the U.S. has entangled itself in Vietnam, Iraq, and helped remove the democratically-elected leader of Iran, among numerous other foreign adventures and misadventures. We’ve seen similar foreign policy doctrines named after subsequent presidents too, such as the [George W.] Bush Doctrine stating that the U.S. had the right to launch preemptive strikes in the name of national security.

President Trump, who criticized the Iraq War once public opinion turned against it but was on record as supporting the mission at the outset, does not appear to be a big fan of the Monroe Doctrine either — but only time will tell for sure.

Monroe Inaugurated 100 Years Ago Today: President Wilson, Who Takes Oath of Office Today, Would Make Doctrine of His Predecessor of Century Ago Doctrine of World (PDF)

From Sunday, March 4, 1917

 

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Written by Jesse

March 11th, 2017 at 6:56 am

Posted in Politics

Library of Congress Sends Books to Any Town

Did you know that the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. is a lending library? It remains so to this day, sending (almost) any item in their collection completely free of charge for two months at a time, so long as you live in the 50 states or Puerto Rico. Then all you have to do is return the item by FedEx or UPS. In this 1917 article on the subject, Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam explained the specifics.

“And we find that people all over the country are eager to take advantage of this service. We are constantly sending out books to borrowers sometimes as far distant as San Francisco and Cuba. During the year ended June 30, 1914, we sent out 2,030 volumes. During the year ended June 30, 1915, we sent out 2,258 volumes, and during the year ended June 30, 1916, we sent out as interlibrary loans 3,460 volumes to 393 different libraries in forty-eight States and in Canada.

“We lend music on the same condition as books. We do not, however, allow musical scores so lent to be used for public performances.”

Strangely, the number of items that the Library of Congress loans today is curiously difficult to find. Their website features a number of statistics in their annual report, but that’s not one of them. But with both the U.S. population and the library’s collection far larger than they were a century ago, the number of loans is surely much greater than the 3,460 volumes it comprised in 1916.

Library of Congress Sends Books to Any Town: If You Want a Rare Work of Reference Your Home Library Will Get It for You from the Great Washington Institution (PDF)

From Sunday, February 25, 1917

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Written by Jesse

March 10th, 2017 at 6:56 am

Posted in Literature,Politics

Have Women’s Votes Helped Make States Dry?

In February 1917, 27 states at least partially or fully banned alcohol, while 12 states allowed women to vote. Both movements were sweeping the country. So this article asked: since it was believed that women were the primary anti-alcohol demographic, how much were those two developments correlated?

The findings:

“With one exception, the seven dry States and one dry Territory in which women vote declared for women suffrage before they declared for prohibition.

Alaska adopted woman suffrage three years before it became dry; Arizona, two years before; Colorado, twenty-one years before; Idaho, nineteen years before; Montana, two years before; Oregon, two years before; Washington, four years before.

It has taken an average of thirteen years and two and two-thirds months under woman suffrage for six States and one Territory to become dry by constitutional or statutory prohibition, for one State to become partly dry by local option, and for another State to be promised dry by legislative action. On the other hand, there is Kansas, which was dry thirty-one years before women had the franchise in that State.

Overall, the correlation might have existed, but was weak at best. However, it seem to closely tie together on a federal level, as the Constitution banned alcohol nationally in January 1919 and legalized women’s suffrage nationally only a year and a half later in August 1920.

Have Women’s Votes Helped Make States Dry?: Interesting Deductions Obtained from an Analytical Study of States That Have Adopted Prohibition in Some Form or Other (PDF)

From Sunday, February 25, 1917

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Written by Jesse

March 8th, 2017 at 6:56 am

Posted in Development,Politics

Portraits in Independence Hall Under Suspicion

Philadelphia’s Independence Hall used to feature 342 portraits of America’s founders and most important early contributors. Then in 1917, the Philadelphia City Council created a new body with jurisdiction over all the paintings there, giving more control to politicians rather than artists or historians. At the time of this article’s writing, the new body had already spurned more than 30 paintings for display, calling the works “spurious or otherwise unfit.”

“Somebody said it would be a fine thing to have all the signers [of the Declaration of Independence]. Great idea! And the portraits of signers poured in and were welcomed, regardless of credentials, and so on through various other groups of American worthies. Sometimes a silhouette, supposed to be that of somebody’s distinguished great-grandfather, would be the basis of a manufactured portrait labeled with that great-grandfather’s name and sent down to the hall. It would be taken in and given a place on the wall.”

My research couldn’t determine the number of paintings hanging in Independence Hall today, but it’s reasonable to assume that the number is now lower than 342.

Portraits in Independence Hall Under Suspicion: About Thirty Already Have Been Thrown out as Spurious by the Philadelphia Art Jury Which Is Investigating Them (PDF)

From Sunday, February 25, 1917

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Written by Jesse

March 6th, 2017 at 6:56 am

Posted in Art,Politics

The Real Reasons California Went For Wilson

Less than 4,000 votes. That was the margin by which California voted for incumbent Democratic President Woodrow Wilson on Election Day 1916. If California’s 13 electoral votes had swung the other way, Republican challenger and Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes would have won. And considering that U.S. involvement in World War I would begin in April 1917, who knows just how consequential California’s decision was to the fate of civilization.

The article details the reasons why California voted the way it did. Pro-Wilson reasons included his policy of American neutrality in the war unfurling on the other side of the globe. Anti-Hughes reasons included a major gaffe in which Hughes refused to meet with California’s popular Republican governor Hiram Johnson while campaigning in the state.

Ah, the days when California was a state where presidential candidates campaign for votes and not just for campaign dollars.

Also the days when California made up a mere 13 out of the then-531 Electoral College votes, or just 2.4 percent. Today it makes up 55 out of 538 Electoral College votes, or 10.2 percent of the total. Although even that is actually a lower percentage than the 12.1 percent it makes up of the U.S. population.

The Real Reasons California Went for Wilson: Western Authority Says His Mexican Policy and the Support Women Gave Him Placed the State in the Democratic Column (PDF)

From Sunday, February 18, 1917

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Written by Jesse

February 18th, 2017 at 9:07 am

Posted in Politics

Lincoln Greater, Says Ida M. Tarbell, Each Passing Year

President Abraham Lincoln’s renown has only great since his already-legendary stature described here in 1917. The Lincoln Memorial would not open for another five years until 1922, Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning biopic starring Daniel Day-Lewis wouldn’t open for another 95 years until 2012.

The best sentence in the article describes a silver lining of the dark cloud that was the Civil War:

“Possibly the best thing we can say of the scheme [the Civil War] is that it gave us Lincoln. It is very unlikely that any other form of government that the world has yet tried could by peaceful means have developed his particular genius; that is, it would not have been fully available, except possibly through a great war, under any other form of government. His talent would not have had the peculiar kind of training which he had and which made him so fit for the tasks thrust upon him.”

Lincoln Greater, Says Ida M. Tarbell, Each Passing Year: He Is Today the Source to Which Statesmen of All Lands Look for Understanding of Democracy (PDF)

From Sunday, February 11, 1917

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Written by Jesse

February 13th, 2017 at 7:34 am

Posted in Politics

Spirit of the Nobler American Now Awake

Less than two months before the United States would formally enter World War I, the drumbeat of imminent entry was uniting the country. James M. Beck, author of “The Evidence in the Case,” was previously a critic of President Woodrow Wilson’s policies, but he come around after Wilson ceased diplomatic relations with Germany in early 1917, shortly before ultimately declaring war that April. In February, Beck wrote:

“The value of this action to the United States is immeasurable. It saves it from a possible abyss of disaster. Had America failed to act and show a willingness to make sacrifices for the basic principles of civilization, the hand of every nation might hereafter have been against her. President Wilson’s action has saved for the United States the respect of the world (including Germany, which overestimated America’s willingness to fight for its rights), the leadership of the neutral nations, and the good-will of our sister democracies in Europe, with whose final triumph the interests of America are so vitally concerned.”

One wonders whether a similar near-unanimity of public support is possible for any policy position in the modern era.

Spirit of the Nobler American Now Awake: Former Critic of the President Says There Are Practically No Dissenters From President Wilson’s Clarion Call to Duty (PDF)

From Sunday, February 11, 1917

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Written by Jesse

February 12th, 2017 at 7:34 am

Posted in Politics,War

Democracy Doomed, Asserts Dr. Oscar Levy of Germany, Noted Nietzschean

The fear that democracy was doomed turned out to be short-lived. According to Our World In Data, back in 1917, 14 percent of the world’s population lived in democracy. By 2015, that had increased substantially to 56 percent. Meanwhile, 0 percent lived in a colony, compared to 36 percent back in 1917.

However, we currently appear to be in a period of de-democratization. The percent of the world’s population living in democracy has yet to regain its early/mid 2000s peak of 57 percent, and has fallen since that time. According to the Electoral Integrity Project, as of 2016, even North Carolina can no longer be classified as a democracy.

Democracy Doomed, Asserts Dr. Oscar Levy of Germany, Noted Nietzschean: Scholar Who Translated Into English Entire Works of the Philosopher Says “Future Belongs to Nietzsche” (PDF)

From Sunday, February 4, 1917

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Written by Jesse

February 5th, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

Analysis of Woman Vote in 1916 Upsets Theories

Analysis of Woman Vote in 1916 Upsets Theories

Can you believe there was a presidential election that countered prevailing political theories? Good thing that doesn’t happen anymore.

In 1916, there were 12 states where women could vote for president.  J.S. Eichelberger analyzed the vote in those states and determined that relative to their share of the voting-eligible population, eligible women voted at a rate 20 to 30 percent lower than eligible men, for a male-female ratio in the states with suffrage of 1.73 to 1. Numbers are just numbers, but it was the stunningly misogynistic writing that truly bears note a century later:

“The woman’s vote is a duplicate vote; a miniature, an echo, of man’s vote, possessing no independent political power, and unable to rewards its friends or punish its foes.

While it cannot be used as a level to effect to ’emancipation of woman,’ it may be used as a tool for the enslavement of men by other men…

In a count at the polls the women’s vote cannot do anything independent of the men’s vote; its political effect appears only when dominated by a group of men who can get a larger proportion of their women to vote than any other group of men can.”

Today, the reverse is true. Women voted at higher rates than men in every presidential election since 1980. In 2012, those numbers were 63.7 percent of women compared to 59.8 percent of men. (2016 data is still preliminary at this point.) And the vote of women was not merely “an echo” of men’s vote: with women preferring Hillary Clinton by 12 points and men preferring Donald Trump by an equal 12 points, the 24-point gap between women’s and men’s voting preference was the largest since polls began measuring in 1972:

 

Analysis of Woman Vote in 1916 Upsets Theories: Figures of Last Election Prove That It Possesses No Independent Political Power and Was Merely an Echo of Man’s Vote (PDF)

From Sunday, January 21, 1917

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Written by Jesse

January 21st, 2017 at 7:32 am

Posted in Politics

“U.S. Dry Within Ten Years”

'U.S. Dry Within Ten Years'

When this article was published in January 1917, 23 of the then-48 states banned liquor. That included four states adopting such a measure two months prior on Election Day alone: Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana. It was clear which way momentum was swinging. But the idea that the U.S. would be dry within the decade was underestimating just how much momentum was swinging, as the 18th Amendment was was passed a mere two years after this article in January 1919, with the amendment taking effect in January 1920.

However, it became the only constitutional amendment ever repealed 13 years later in December 1933. Now Americans are free to consume alcohol once again, as will be proven — for better or for worse — on Super Bowl Sunday in a few weeks… and more imminently on Inauguration Day Friday.

“U.S. Dry Within Ten Years”: So Say Prohibitionists After Webb-Kenyon Decision – Liquor Dealers Say It Will React in Their Favor (PDF)

From Sunday, January 14, 1917

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January 15th, 2017 at 7:16 pm

‘America Faces Its Most Momentous Year’

 

america-faces-its-most-momentous-year

At the close of 1916, George MacAdam predicted that 1917 would be the most important year in American history. Although historians differ on precisely what was the most important year in American history, virtually nobody selects 1917. Among the most common selections are: 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed, 1789 when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were were ratified, 1861 when the Civil War started, 1865 when the Civil War ended and the slaves were freed despite Lincoln getting assassinated, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was Attacked and the U.S. entered World War II, 1945 when World War II ended and the U.S. became the first and only country to deploy nuclear weapons, 1968 when a bunch of crazy stuff happened, 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed and the U.S. became the world’s one true superpower, and 2001 when the September 11 attacks occurred.

“America Faces Its Most Momentous Year”: President of Princeton University Says Crisis of the Present Day Is Greater Than That of the Revolution or the Civil War (PDF)

From December 31, 1916

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Written by Jesse

January 2nd, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Porto Ricans to Have a New Constitution

porto-ricans-to-have-a-new-constitution

In 1916, “Porto” Rico — apparently not yet spelled as “Puerto Rico” — began its current political status, in which its residents are U.S. citizens but Puerto Rico is not itself a state. If it were, Puerto Rico would rank as the 30th-largest state by population, between Connecticut and Iowa. Its complicated relationship with the U.S. government continues to this day, as I wrote about in my 2015 article for Huffington Post Politics: Could The Federal Government Remove The Governor Of Puerto Rico?

Porto Ricans to Have a New Constitution: Organic Act Pending in Senate Will Make Islanders Citizens of United States and Give Them larger Measure of Home Rule (PDF)

From December 24, 1916

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December 22nd, 2016 at 7:12 am

Posted in Development,Politics

Immigration After War Will Break All Records

immigration-after-war-will-break-all-records

Did the immigrant population spike after World War I ended, as this Harvard professor predicted? The answer is: it went up slightly. As the below graphic from the Center for Immigration Studies shows, U.S. immigrants living in the U.S. went up slightly from the 1900-10 decade to the 1910-20 decade in pure numbers, from 13.5 million immigrants to 13.9 million, then up again to 14.2 million in from 1920-30. However, the percentage of immigrants as a percentage of the U.S population actually declined during that time, from 14.7 percent in 1910 to 13.2 percent in 1920 to 11.6 percent in 1930.

The 2010 percentage was 12.9 percent. That was originally estimated by the Center for Immigration Studies to reach a near-high of 14.3 percent in 2020 and a new high of 15.8 percent in 2030. It will be interesting to see what effect a President Trump will have on those projections. On the one hand, he could curtail immigration, for example Syrian refugees. On the other hand, if the economy expands due to lower income and corporate taxes, perhaps more people from other countries would want to come here for the economic opportunities, the true “American dream” Trump promises to resuscitate.

Image result for immigration by year 1900

Immigration After War Will Break All Records: Prof. Foerster of Harvard Expects More than a Million a Year and Thinks United States Should Adopt Restrictive Measures (PDF)

From December 17, 1916

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December 13th, 2016 at 7:12 am

Compulsory Insurance Help to Medical Science

compulsory-insurance-help-to-medical-science

Should we have universal health insurance? The American public in 2016 is divided but leans towards yes, with a Gallup poll in May finding that 56 percent support a federally funded healthcare system for all. Vermont was about to become the first state to implement that policy on a statewide level, but their governor (a Democrat, no less) scrapped Vermont’s plan over its exorbitant costs.

The same issue was being debated back in 1916. In this piece, the anonymous author advocates for universal health insurance:

“Health insurance would give new impetus to the most important work of medical science — the prevention of disease. We all know that it is cheaper to be well than to be sick, and we would gladly pay to prevent disease from attacking us and those dear to us. But when the illness of a man we never heard of costs us an extra penny, we are a little more keen than pure humanity or disinterested science can make us to have that man made well and kept well.”

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would agree. President-Elect Donald Trump’s newly-announced Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, would not.

Compulsory Insurance Help to Medical Science: It Would, the Writer Says, Give New Impetus to That Most Important Work in Medicine, the Prevention of Disease (PDF)

From December 3, 1916

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Written by Jesse

December 1st, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics,Science

Wilson’s Triumph Greater Than Fully Realized

wilsons-triumph-greater-than-fully-realized

The map showing which states voted for which candidate in 1916 is almost indecipherable, given the black-and-white newspapers of the time. Today we are so used to red states representing Republicans and blue states representing Democrats, even though that color scheme only truly began in 2000.

Another huge difference is this sentence, mentioning that the list of states in the sidebar was ranked by election result, “with rock-ribbed Republican Vermont at the top and ends with the most intensely Democratic South Carolina at the bottom.”

But one similarity is in the subheadline, which notes that “Progressives Decided the Election.” Indeed they likely did in 2016 as well, albeit through their combination of votes for Green Party candidate Jill Stein or complete abstention from voting this time, the one-two combination of which probably prevented Hillary Clinton from securing an Electoral College victory in addition to her popular vote win.

Wilson’s Triumph Greater Than Fully Realized: Extent of Total Shift Toward Wilson Was the Largest, with One Exception, Since 1876 — Progressives Decided the Election (PDF)

From November 26, 1916

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November 30th, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Politics

Farm Vote Shows Breaking of Old Party Lines

farm-vote-shows-breaking-of-old-party-lines

The 1916 election delivered reelection for incumbent President Woodrow Wilson, and this analysis article says that result was in no small part because of “the farm vote.” Of course, farms and agriculture employed a much larger share of the U.S. population at the time, comprising about 31 percent of the labor force compared to just 2 percent today.

So what is the modern-day equivalent of the 1916 “farm vote”? In terms of their demographics — mostly Caucasian, mostly non college education, mostly poor to middle income — the modern-day equivalent of the 1916 “farm vote” is probably the “white working class” which helped propel Donald Trump to victory earlier this month. In the Agri-Pulse Farm and Ranch Poll conducted mere days before the 2016 election, modern-day farmers and ranchers supported Trump 55 percent, compared to only 18 percent for Hillary Clinton.

Farm Vote Shows Breaking of Old Party Lines: West, Having Tasted Power, Will Hold It, Says Political Observer – Next President from West of Missouri River (PDF)

From November 26, 1916.

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Written by Jesse

November 29th, 2016 at 11:29 pm

Posted in Politics

The Hyphen Vote Was Practically a Myth

From November 19, 1916

the-hyphen-vote-was-practically-a-myth

The fear (for some) in 1916 was the rise of German-Americans as a voting block, and other immigrant groups who were known as the “hyphens” after the hyphens between their original nationality and the word “Americans.” The 2016 election was no different, as it was expected that everyone from Mexican-Americans to Asian-Americans might reach record high levels of turnout. The Hispanic population did make up about 11 percent of the electorate, up from 10 percent in 2012 and 9 percent in 2008, but even that 11 percent was less than many analysts expected given their surging population.

The Hyphen Vote Was Practically a Myth: With the Possible Exception of Oregon, the German-American Vote Was Not an Election Factor Anywhere in the United States (PDF)

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November 17th, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Politics

How Close Votes Influenced World Events

From November 19, 1916

how-close-votes-influenced-world-events

In the words of Homer Simpson after he didn’t cast a ballot in an election where the side he wanted lost by one vote: “Sure, like it would have mattered.”

This article details several times that elections or ballot measures came down to one vote, and the consequential results that followed. It’s hard to know how many of these are fully true, but some of them are rather startling. Take this one, which was certainly never taught in any history class I ever attended:

“Henry Clay cast the deciding vote in the Constitutional Convention which admitted Kentucky to the Union as a slave State. If Kentucky had entered the Union as a free State is is hardly doubtful that Missouri would have done the same, and it is conceivable that there might have been no Missouri Compromise, and perhaps even no civil war.”

How Close Votes Influenced World Events: The Sequels to Many Issues Which Were Decided by Single Votes – Are Our Methods of Consulting Public Opinion Faulty? (PDF)

 

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Written by Jesse

November 16th, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Politics