Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Vice Presidency Comes to the Fore

“The two parties in 1920… have both nominated men of Presidential stature for Vice President,” a New York Times article that summer read. Those two men were FDR and Calvin Coolidge, who would both become president. In fact, 1920 is the only year in American history when both major-party vice presidential nominees later became president.

In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of only two losing vice presidential nominees of a major party to later ascend to the presidency. The other: John Tyler, who lost in 1836 as a Whig Party running mate for Hugh Lawson White, but would later be elected vice president in 1840 on the Whig Party ticket behind William Henry Harrison.

The article also stated: “To find a parallel to the present-day interest in both Roosevelt and Coolidge, one would have to hark back to 1884, when Logan and Hendricks ran for the same office.” Wait, who?

Former Indiana Senator and Governor Thomas Hendricks had previously been the 1876 Democratic vice presidential nominee behind New York Governor Samuel Tilden. The ticket won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College. Hendricks was nominated for vice president again in 1884 behind another New York governor, Grover Cleveland. Winning the White House this time, Hendricks only served about eight months before dying unexpectedly of natural causes. The vice presidency remained vacant for the remainder of Cleveland’s term.

Illinois Senator and former Civil War Union Army General John Logan ran as the Republican vice presidential nominee, behind former Maine Senator and former Secretary of State James G. Blaine.

Both Hendricks and Logan are largely forgotten today, neither having served as president — although Washington, D.C. residents know the latter as the namesake of the city’s neighborhood Logan Circle.

 

The Vice Presidency Comes to the Fore: Both Parties Have Broken With Tradition to the Extent of Picking Men of Positive Achievement Well Qualified for High Office (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 11, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 11th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in History,Politics

That Ideal Campaign Front Porch

On the 1920 campaign trail, future President Warren G. Harding revealed his perfect formula for eating waffles:

You eat the first fourteen waffles without syrup, but with lots of butter. Then you put syrup on the next nine, and the last half-dozen you eat just simply swimming in syrup. Eaten that way, waffles never hurt anybody.

Actually, it did hurt somebody: Harding. His formula for the best way to eat 29 straight waffles may have contributed to his death by cardiac arrest three years later, as one of four presidents to die in office of natural causes.

 

That Ideal Campaign Front Porch: Candidate to Follow Example of McKinley, One of His Political Heroes – Mrs. Harding, “The Duchess,” as a Waffle-Maker (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 20, 1920

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Written by Jesse

June 18th, 2020 at 10:19 am

Posted in Food,Life,Politics

Penrose as Potential President Maker in Chicago

A week before the 1920 Republican convention, an article suggested Pennsylvania Sen. Boies Penrose could decide the party’s presidential nominee. As it turns out, he kind of did.

Heretofore the Old Guard has had more than one man capable of playing this part behind the scenes, with the loyalty of the ingrained partisan who in an hour of crisis will set aside personal fortunes and personal choice for the sake of harmony. In the last Republican convention there were two leaders of this kind — Murray Crane of Massachusetts and Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania. With the announced retirement of Mr. Crane as the National Committeeman from the Bay State, the authoritative organization leadership of the Old Guard, formerly divided among several, is concentrated in the hands of Senator Penrose.

Here’s what ultimately happened, according to the book Selling the President, 1920: Albert D. Lasker, Advertising, and the Election of Warren G. Harding by John A. Morello.

There may not have been a “smoke-filled” hotel room in Harding’s journey to the presidency, but there was a hotel room… It belonged to Boies Penrose, the senior senator from Pennsylvania, who in the summer of 1919 took it upon himself to find a presidential candidate. He was looking for someone with whom conservative Republican senators could work, and most likely do their bidding.

He was also worried about Leonard Wood. Republican Progressives were gravitating toward Wood in the wake of Theodore Roosevelt’s death. They seemed energized, and that spelled trouble for Old Guard Republicans such as Penrose. Penrose eventually settled on Harding as someone who could stand up to Wood, as well as go along with party elders.

Penrose’s influence ultimately helped Harding secure both the nomination and the presidency.

To him, Harding looked like presidential material and would be a safe bet for the Republican Party in 1920. Harding wasn’t a boat rocker; Penrose felt confident Harding would listen to him and other leaders and do what he was asked. That may be one key in trying to unlock the mystery of how Warren Harding, possessing some latent presidential ambitions but riddled with doubt about his chances, managed to become the Republican nominee for president.

As the nominee Harding could do what neither Lowden, Wood, or Johnson could — that is, parlay his apparent ambivalence on issues such as the League of Nations into something that would hold together all wings of the Republican Party until November. He truly seemed to be the essence of conciliation and compromise.

This is a similar strategy to the one Democrats are currently taking by nominating Joe Biden for president. Whether it will result in the same White House occupancy as Harding earned, we’ll have to wait until November to find out.

 

Penrose as Potential President Maker in Chicago: Pennsylvania Senator’s Leadership of the Old Guard, His Solid Backing in His Own State and His Skill as Arch-Politician, May Give Him Deciding Voice in Spite of Ill-Health (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 30, 1920

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Written by Jesse

May 28th, 2020 at 9:16 am

Posted in Politics

Gov. Frazier’s Own Story of the Non Partisan League

The first U.S. state governor ever to lose their seat in a recall election? 1921: Lynn Frazier, a socialist who led North Dakota.

Frazier was affiliated with the Non-Partisan League (NPL) faction of the Republican Party, a socialist faction which only emerged in 1915 but won Frazier the 1916 election. At the time, North Dakota held governor elections every two years, with Frazier winning second and third terms in both 1918 and 1920. (The governor’s term was changed to every four years starting in 1964.)

As governor, Frazier implemented socialist policies, which were popular with the state’s voters for a time. But an economic downturn hit in 1921, and voters didn’t want to wait until 1922 to potentially throw Frazier out of office. So they successfully petitioned for a recall election in November 1921. Frazier lost in a squeaker, 50.9% to 49.1%.

The year before that, though, Gov. Frazier penned this New York Times article about how well his tenure was going:

Our state legislature enacted into law… state-owned terminal elevators and flour mills, a rural credit bank to be operated at cost, state hall insurance at cost, the exemption of farmers’ improvements from taxation, and a fair and just grain grading act.

It is very easy to see why certain financial interests are bitterly opposed to our organization, and are fighting it in North Dakota; because we are cutting off some of the easy profits that have been made by these interests in the past.

Frazier became the first governor in American history to lose a recall election. Yet although he lost the battle, he won the war, on both the personal and ideological levels. Personally, Frazier would shortly thereafter become a U.S. senator from North Dakota, from 1923 to 1941. Ideologically, six of the state’s subsequent nine governors were affiliated with the Non-Partisan League.

In the 1950s, the state party switched from Republican faction to merging with the Democrats. To this day, one of the two main parties in North Dakota is officially known not as the Democrats, but the North Dakota Democratic–Nonpartisan League Party.

The name change hasn’t done much good. The party last won a North Dakota governor election in 1988.

The only other governor ever successfully recalled was California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, when he was ousted by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 

Gov. Frazier’s Own Story of the Non Partisan League: North Dakota Executive, Twice Elected by Farmers in “Anti-Capitalist” Movement, Describes Benefits and Economies Derived from New Form of Government (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 16, 1920

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Written by Jesse

May 13th, 2020 at 10:31 am

Posted in Politics

‘Dark Horses’ in the Coming Presidential Campaign

A month out, who were the dark horses for the Republican and Democratic nominations of 1920?

According to this article, here were some potential surprise candidates to keep an eye on… and how each of their fortunes turned out.

Republicans

Pennsylvania Senator Philander C. Knox. Never officially receiving any votes for the nomination, Knox was seen as a potential compromise candidate. A subsequent New York Times article a month later explained why he didn’t get the nomination:

Various objections to Mr. Knox as a Presidential candidate were raised. He was too old. It was said that he was not in good health. He had voted against woman suffrage and for prohibition. He was from a State that did not need a favorite son at the head of the Presidential ticket to keep it in the Republican Party. And the Knox boom died then and there.

“He was not in good health” proved prescient. Knox died about a year and a half later, in October 1921, at the age of 68.

(Yes, his first name was actually Philander.)

Pennsylvania Governor William Cameron Sproul. Sproul ranked fourth on the initial ballot, the closest he came. He was actually offered the vice presidency, but declined — yet would have become president had he accepted, because Warren Harding died in office.

Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge ranked seventh in the initial ballot, coming as close as sixth in subsequent ballots. Later nominated for vice president. Coolidge became president himself upon Harding’s death.

Kansas Governor Henry Justin Allen. Allen never actually received any votes for the nomination. He would later become a U.S. senator from Kansas.

Democrats:

Vice President Thomas R. Marshall. Marshall ranked sixth in the initial ballot, coming as close as fifth in subsequent ballots. Marshall came exceptionally close to becoming president himself while serving as vice president, due to President Wilson’s stroke which left him almost incapacitated. Marshall spent his post-veep years quietly, returning to private law practice in his native Indiana.

Virginia Senator Carter Glass. Glass ranked 10th in the initial ballot, coming as close as sixth in subsequent ballots. Today, he ranks #31 all time for tenure in Congress, serving for more than 42 years.

Democratic National Committee Chair Homer S. Cummings. Cummings ranked 11th in the initial ballot, coming as close as seventh in subsequent ballots. He would later serve as FDR’s attorney general.

 

 

Secretary of Agriculture Edwin T. Meredith. Meredith ranked ninth in the initial ballot, the closest he came. Honestly, not much happened to him after this.

 

 

 

‘Dark Horses’ in the Coming Presidential Campaign: Chances of Knox, Sproul, Allen, Coolidge, Capper and Other Republicans at Chicago — Democratic Contingencies Include Carter Glass, Cummings, Colby, Meredith, Marshall, Houston, Baker and Daniels (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 9, 1920

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Written by Jesse

May 7th, 2020 at 10:31 am

Posted in Politics

How Inflation Touches Every Man’s Pocketbook

In 1920, inflation was rampant, with prices double what they’d been five years prior. That would quickly change: prices would peak that June, then decline, fluctuate, and not exceed their June 1920 levels again until November 1946.

What was the primary cause of huge inflation from 1915 to 1920? According to Johns Hopkins political economy professor Jacob Hollander in this article from the time, the primary cause was quantitative easing:

The amount of money which the Government and the banks have supplied the country for the purpose of carrying on its business is twice as great as it was five years ago. The business of the country consists in producing goods and services and in exchanging them.

The amount of things to be exchanged — goods and services — is practically no greater than it was before the war. But we have been supplied with twice as much money to do this exchanging. Consequently two dollars are worth no more than one was before; or, what amount to the same thing, prices have doubled. This condition of having twice as many money units with which to carry on the country’s business is what we mean by inflation.

In other words, it was largely the politicians’ fault:

Inflation is due to the financial mistakes of the Administration at Washington (1) while we were getting ready for war, (2) while we were at war, and (3) after war was over. During each of these periods the Treasury permitted and, indeed, encouraged an increase in the country’s money supply, with the certain prospect of rising prices.

What about in the modern era? As of March 2020, prices were about double what they’d been in April 1990. That means it took about three full decades for prices to double, far more than the five years it took from 1915 to 1920.

 

 

How Inflation Touches Every Man’s Pocketbook: Primer in H.C.L., Prepared by Expert, Shows Why Dollar Does Only Half as Much Work as Before War–Remedies Are Difficult (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 2, 1920

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Written by Jesse

April 29th, 2020 at 3:01 pm

Chauncey M. Depew on the Middle Class Union

Advocacy organizations exist for various interests: AARP for the elderly, NRA for gun rights supporters, unions for teachers and transportation workers. In 1920, many proposed a “middle class union” to advocate for the middle class on all issues.

The transportation strike hit the doctor of philosophy who commuted to his classes at Columbia just as it hit the shoe salesman who commuted to Fifth Avenue. At one point their interests were identical, however widely they may have varied at other points.

Wait, but isn’t democratic government in general supposed to represent the middle class? Alas, that institution’s failures on that count were the main factor necessitating a middle class union in 1920, supporters claimed:

It is argued that our Government is designed to do exactly what it is proposed to do by means of a Middle Class Union. In a democracy the ballot is supposed to be the last resort. But when the fruit of the ballot is a legislator whose life is his re-election he often finds his life threatened by a minority organization, while there is no majority organization to reassure him or defend him or bring the majority influence to bear on him.

The final sentence of the article: “Perhaps it will be the next thing on the books — who knows?” We now know… and it wasn’t.

There are a few organizations which somewhat qualify for the title, such as Consumers Union which began in 1936, but they primarily advocate on behalf of the masses for issues like product safety specifically. A general “middle class union” to advocate against transportation strikes and the like? That never really took shape.

 

 

Chauncey M. Depew on the Middle Class Union: Need for Organization of Public to Protect Itself Against Strikers and Profiteers Set Forth by Former Senator–Objectors Answered, Advantages Outlined (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 25, 1920

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Written by Jesse

April 25th, 2020 at 12:08 pm

Candidates and Issues Still in Doubt

Three months before 1920’s party conventions, General Leonard Wood and former Treasury Secretary William McAdoo were the Republican and Democratic frontrunners, respectively. Neither became the nominee.

For the Republicans, Wood actually earned the most votes on the convention’s first ballot, but at 29.2% didn’t claim a majority, so voting continued. He continued leading on the second through eighth ballots, but not enough to claim victory. As the other main contender Illinois Gov. Frank Lowden slowly lost much of his support, many gradually flocked to Ohio Sen. Warren Harding, who had only finished an astonishingly low sixth place initially. Harding finally took the lead on the ninth ballot, claiming an outright majority on the 10th and clinching the nomination.

For the Democrats, the process somehow took even longer… more than four times longer. McAdoo earned the most votes on the convention’s first ballot, but at 24.3% didn’t claim a majority, so voting continued. He continued leading on the second through 11th ballots, when the lead was taken by Ohio Gov. James M. Cox, who had finished third initially. McAdoo and Cox continued fighting back and forth, with McAdoo actually reclaiming the lead on the 30th through 38th ballots. But Cox finally clinched the nomination on the 44th ballot.

The two party’s conventions look to be much less down-to-the-wire in 2020. Actually, if social distancing guidelines still remain in effect by August, there might be no in-person conventions at all.

 

Candidates and Issues Still in Doubt: Open Question for Conventions — But Wood for Republicans and McAdoo for Democrats Now Seem to Have Best Chances (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 18, 1920

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Written by Jesse

April 19th, 2020 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Politics

The Anti-Wilson ‘Mania’

Woodrow Wilson was unpopular near his presidency’s end, but how would he be remembered by history? This 1920 article predicted he’d be remembered well. By 2017, a C-SPAN survey of historians ranked him the 11th-best president.

The 1920 article noted that Wilson was hated by many during his own lifetime, just like Washington and Lincoln… who would ultimately rank #2 and #1 in that same C-SPAN survey.

Indeed, so far as the printed page is concerned, it is hard to match even in the unrestrained public press of today in its treatment of Wilson the brutality, insult and viciousness of the newspaper attacks upon Washington, who, it might be supposed, had so far won the gratitude and admiration of his countrymen as to enshrine him forever in their affection and veneration. As for Lincoln, who preserved the nation which Washington had created, can we match in Washington’s day or in Roosevelt’s day or in Wilson’s day the sneers and contempt which dogged his footsteps until the day of his assassination?

So how would Wilson be remembered by history? The 1920 article predicted his ultimately strong historical reputation fairly accurately:

But if Washington’s one track led to the creation of the nation, and Lincoln’s one track led to its preservation from disunion, and Roosevelt’s one track led to its second preservation by stopping the corruption of its governmental sources — to what terminal point will history say that Wilson’s one track has led? Is it not reasonably probably that when history is written it will concern itself little with but one conclusion, namely, that Wilson was chosen — by God, or, if you please, by fate, or by national evolution — to see to it that the war did not end without the creation of some form of international legal organization around which should revolve, under the leadership of the United States, a bona fide effort to make wars of aggression difficult and unpopular; to combat the fool notion that war is a legitimate, if not a desirable, “out-of-door” sport for civilization, and to make it as unfashionable as public opinion has finally made the duel, the slave trade, the lottery and the drunkard — and that he “delivered the goods”!

That being said, Wilson’s reputation seems to be slipping. C-SPAN’s 2000 survey ranked Wilson #6, then in 2009 down three spots to #9, then in 2017 down another two spots to #11.

In other words, Wilson dropped five spots from 2000 to 2017. That ties Andrew Jackson for the second-largest drop of any president during that span. Rutherford B. Hayes and Grover Cleveland tied for the largest drop, falling six spots each. (Wondering which president improved the most? Ulysses S. Grant, jumping 11 spots.)

 

The Anti-Wilson ‘Mania’: Analyzed by One Who Finds the President as Lonely and Well-Hated as Lincoln in 1862 (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 18, 1920

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Written by Jesse

April 19th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Future,History,Politics

Priming the Feminine Voter for the Primaries

1920’s primaries were the first where women could vote in New York state. Henrietta Wells Livermore, Chair of New York’s Republican Women’s State Executive Committee in 1920, insisted it was vital that women vote, or else men may regret allowing suffrage at all:

According to the opinion of old-time politicians, it is only about 15 per cent of the men who turn out at the primaries. The women do not dare duplicate this figure. They will be accused of lack of interest, of playing with the vote as with a toy, of having the time but not the inclination to use that power over which they have fought for so long.

That number has about doubled a century later, with 28.5% of eligible voters voting in either a Republican or Democratic presidential primary in 2016. That represented the second-highest percentage since 1980, though a bit short of the modern record 30.4% in 2008.

 

The change was likely caused because primaries in 1920 generally didn’t “count” like they do now. Most states didn’t even have primaries — Oregon became the first in 1910 — and candidates were still ultimately decided at national conventions anyway.

Take four years later, in 1924. The Democratic primaries were won strongly by William McAdoo, while party leader wanted Al Smith. As a result, the convention took 99 ballots to nominate the compromise candidate John W. Davis, who few truly wanted as their first choice. Davis only won 25.6% of the Electoral College and 28.8% of the popular vote, losing decisively to Calvin Coolidge.

 

Priming the Feminine Voter for the Primaries: Political and Non-Partisan Organizations Establish Correspondence Kindergartens to Teach the A B C of the Ballot — Magistrate Norris Sees Opportunity Which the Male Contingent Has Neglected (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 4, 1920

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Written by Jesse

March 30th, 2020 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Politics

China Chief Problem in Maintaining World Peace

This 1920 article named China as the country most threatening world peace. As the Chinese-originated COVID-19 disease shuts down life and economies across the globe, that prophecy appears prescient.

Indeed, President Trump has increasingly and controversially taken to calling it “the Chinese virus.” However, many medical experts including the World Health Organization have called on him to stop:

But aside from the coronavirus, is China otherwise the country most threatening world peace today? That’s hard to say — depending on who you ask, that ignominious title probably goes to North Korea, Russia, or Iran. China is likely up there, but probably not #1 in most experts’ minds.

Or maybe the country most threatening world peace is actually America? A 2017 Pew research poll found that globally, 35% of respondents thought America’s power and influence was a major threat, compared to 31% who said the same of Russia and China.

This 1920 article about China was written by Theodore E. Burton, a Republican former U.S. senator from Ohio. (He would later return to the position again for less than a year in 1928-29.) Burton suggested that China had massive potential, but that its poor economy and lack of national unity at the time would hamper it.

The result of all these conditions is that the Chinese are a people, not a nation, an aggregation of families and clans, so distinct in their aspirations and interests as to create almost insuperable obstacles to unity and political organization. With most of them life is a constant struggle for daily bread, and in that struggle the obligations of each day are primarily to relatives and neighbors. Thus loyalty is not to any Government, but to family and friends.

Since then, China’s economy has skyrocketed thanks to its partial embrace of free-market principles, and its national unity has also soared ever since the Chinese Communist Party’s takeover in 1949.

Burton quoted former Secretary of State John Hay about China: “Whoever understands this mighty empire, socially, politically, economically, and religiously, has the key to the world’s politics for the next three centuries.”

Yes and no. China has absolutely surged as a global power, now claiming the world’s largest population and second-largest economy. But the country that truly became the “key to the world’s politics” between 1920 and 2020 was less China and more the U.S., which a century ago was certainly a major player but arguably not yet the global superpower, as it would become in earnest post-WWII and especially post-Cold War.

 

China Chief Problem in Maintaining World Peace: Country Is Backward Politically Because Its Gaze Is Backward, and Its Enormous Natural Riches Are a Temptation to Stronger Powers (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 21, 1920

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Written by Jesse

March 19th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Will Congress Stop Federal Wastefulness?

There had always been some level of U.S. government waste, but for more than a century, those revenues were almost entirely collected through tariffs. That changed in the early 20th century, with the federal corporate tax created in 1909, income tax in 1913, and estate tax in 1916. People increasingly felt it was their own hard-earned dollars being wasted.

So a proposed 1920 committee to reorganize the government was suggested, hopefully to be headed by former Secretary of the Interior Franklin Knight Lane, who had resigned mere weeks prior “because his salary was insufficient to provide for his family.”

(The salary was $12,000 at the time, or about $178,939 adjusted for inflation. That’s about -16% lower than the current Secretary of the Interior’s pay: $213,600.)

The question is, How far will the reforms go? Will they be fundamental, reaching down to the first causes, or will the defenders of the old methods — bureaucracy, apprehensive of wide changes, and Congressmen true to the traditions of the pork barrel — succeed in forcing compromises that offer the appearance and not the reality of true reform?

Spoiler alert: it was the latter.

Last month I wrote an article for GovTrack Insider about the Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act, a bill from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) which would require an annual report about government projects running $1 billion overbudget or five years behind schedule.

 

Will Congress Stop Federal Wastefulness?: Only a Thorough Reorganization of Government Departments, Each of Which Wears a Coat of Many Colors, Can End Bureaucracy and the Pork Barrel — Lane Is Suggested for Work (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 14, 1920

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Written by Jesse

March 10th, 2020 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Politics

Shall Women Practice Party Regularity?

As women gained the right to vote in 1920, should they be partisan or independent? Two women debated the issue in the New York Times: Republican Henrietta Wells Livermore for women’s partisanship vs. Democrat Katrina Ely Tiffany for women’s independence.

Livermore:

Women are not primarily office seekers. Therein lies their value in a political organization. They can sit on political committees and lend their efforts toward shaping the principles which will be followed by the members of the party. Without affiliation, the way is long and roundabout. With affiliation, they can strike their blows where they will do the most good.

Tiffany:

Women are a new force in the political life of the nation. Some men recognize that fact; others do not. Until all of them, or at least a majority of them, do, it is foolish for them to insist upon women’s loyalty to a program with which they have had nothing to do. No political party should depend on the entire loyalty of its women members if they have not had a voice in shaping the platform of the party and helping to select the candidates.

In recent years, women seem to be acting more according to Livermore’s position.

In 1994, female voters leaned more Democratic than Republican by 6 points; by 2017, that was up to 19 points. And female voters voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 15 points.

 

Shall Women Practice Party Regularity?: Opinion Among Suffragists Is Divided, Some Maintaining That Independence Would Be More Effective as a Political Factor — Four Types Among the New Acquisitions as Voters (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 7, 1920

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Written by Jesse

March 5th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

Simplify the Income Tax? — Perhaps, But Not Soon

Federal corporate tax was created in 1909, income tax in 1913, and estate tax in 1916. By 1920, there were already calls for the tax code’s simplification.

How quaint. Back then, federal tax law ran less than 500 pages. Now it’s more than 70,000.

Source: Tax Foundation

So why is the tax code so complex? One of the biggest reasons given by this 1920 article was limiting follow-ups on the part of tax collectors:

A chief decision, in the policy that was developed, was to reduce correspondence to as low a point as possible, both for the convenience of the taxpayer and the government, because even a small exchange of letters with 4,000,000 persons would mean an immense item. This is a reason given for putting the great number of questions on the income tax blanks. The aim was to bring out the material for a complete audit, without the necessity of follow the receipt of the return from the taxpayer with letters for more information. The friends of Daniel C. Roper, Collector of Internal Revenue, say that only his genius for organization enabled him to mold a machine that could take on and carry such a huge load.

So what to do? One of the most important writers of the 1913 tax law, Rep. Cordell Hull (D-TN4), suggested that objections about complexity would largely dissipate on their own, as people became more familiar with the process each year:

“I think also that the number of complaints will be reduced as the taxpayers become more accustomed to making out the blanks. If each one read the instructions first, carefully, there would not be much difficulty now. A man starts in without having posted himself in advance, makes mistakes, and has to go back. As to difficulties that can be removed, Congress will be enabled to legislate more accurately as soon as it gets the technical facts.”

That prediction was not to be.

 

Simplify the Income Tax? — Perhaps, But Not Soon: Washington Buzzes With Official Reasons for the Complicated Blanks, and One Congressional Reformer Actually Predicts a Method Which Taxpayers Can Understand (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 7, 1920

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Written by Jesse

March 4th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

France’s New President

When Paul Deschanel was elected president of France in January 1920, this article predicted great things. Instead, his behavior proved so erratic that he resigned after seven months and entered a mental institution.

Now if Paul Deschanel is to tread carefully in the footsteps of his excellent predecessors of the Third Republic, he has received the best possible schooling during his long career as President of the Chamber. He is promoted from presiding officer of a legislature to presiding officer of a nation. Aside from that and still with due attention paid to the traditions of the Presidency, as far as political affairs are concerned, there are great possibilities for Paul Deschanel.

Actually, the opposite occurred. Deschanel’s behavior became increasingly unhinged, culminating in falling out the window of a moving train and subsequently wandering around outside aimlessly in his pajamas. He resigned the presidency in September 1920 and entered a sanatorium.

Yet upon his release he was elected to France’s Senate, where he served for the rest of his life — apparently without incident, as far as I can tell.

Deschanel’s prior political position, President of the Chamber of Deputies, is equivalent to the American position Speaker of the House. Fortunately, America has had the opposite track record as France: only one Speaker of the House has ever become president, James K. Polk, and historians rank him in the top third of all presidents.

France’s New President: Paul Deschanel’s Shadowy Office Better Matched to His Personality Than to the Rugged Figure of Clemenceau (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 25, 1920

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Written by Jesse

January 22nd, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Democratic Candidates: Hoover, Without a Political Past, With Palmer and McAdoo in Forefront of Discussion

10 months before the 1920 presidential election, there were three leading Democratic candidates. None would become that year’s nominee, but one would later be elected president… as a Republican.

The three leading contenders were Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, former Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo, and former Federal Food Administrator Herbert Hoover.

Prior to the 22nd Amendment’s ratification in 1951, limiting the president to two terms, then-second term Democratic President Woodrow Wilson hoped to serve a third term. But party bosses were skeptical about nominating him following his debilitating stroke in October 1919, which left him immobile.

Ohio Governor James M. Cox ended up winning the Democratic nomination, on the party convention’s 44th ballot.

Hoover was seeking the Democratic nomination because of his lead role helping rebuild Europe after World War I under a Democratic president, although that position was relatively nonpartisan. Two months after this article, in March 1920, Hoover switched his allegiance to the Republicans and sought that party’s nomination instead. The strategy failed, with Hoover failing to even break the top 10 candidates at the Republican convention.

In early 1920, there were also three leading Republican candidates. One of them, Warren Harding, would win the nomination — and the presidency. Sunday Magazine recently covered the New York Times‘ similar article about the top three Republican contenders:

Republican Candidates: Wood, Harding and Lowden Avowed Possibilities in the Presidential Campaign

That certainly wasn’t the end for Hoover, but the beginning. He would serve as Harding’s Secretary of Commerce for all eight years, then won the presidency himself in 1928.

 

Democratic Candidates: Hoover, Without a Political Past, With Palmer and McAdoo in Forefront of Discussion (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 18, 1920

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Written by Jesse

January 15th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Young Men More and More Active in Politics

In 1919, young men were becoming more active in politics. Is that true in 2019? Even if so, they still have perhaps the lowest political activity rate of any age/gender combo.

Only 33% of men aged 18-29 voted in the 2018 midterm election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Higher percentages of women in that age group voted (38%), and a far higher percentage of men aged 65+ voted (68%).

The consequences were literally world-changing. Donald Trump very likely would have lost if most the young men who claimed to strongly oppose him — which numbered millions — actually voted for Hillary Clinton. Instead, millions of young men who professed to dislike both Trump and Clinton didn’t vote at all.

(And even a not-insubstantial number of young men who did vote cast ballots for third party candidates Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or write-in votes for Bernie Sanders or Ron Paul.)

This 1919 article doesn’t have similar turnout data, since such statistics were barely collected back then, if at all. It does include this explanatory quote from Republican National Committee Chair Will H. Hays, who tied the rise of young men in politics to the end of World War I the year prior:

It is a natural aftermath of war. During the last few years millions who hitherto thought that they could do nothing for their country have given generously themselves, their time, their money. It has been a revalation.

Millions of boys realized that the future of the nation was in their keeping. Those who had never thought of any of the serious things which make up America were suddenly brought face to face with reality. As they crossed the continent, as they crowded into ships to make the perilous journey overseas, as they worked and fought in France and as they rested they thought in unfamiliar ways of their country.

It seems to me that the spirit which was awakened under the stimulation of the conflict will not be content to forget the service of that high season. Young men will not forget. The nation which had the supreme demand upon them in time of war still wants their service and they know it. And they know their country needs this service.

Most interesting to modern eyes is FDR being listed in an accompanying photo compilation of young men in politics. Roosevelt, then the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, was 37 at the time. Today, we tend to think of him more as the grandfatherly figure he had become by his presidency, particularly his 1940s-era third and fourth terms when he led the nation during WWII.

Young Men More and More Active in Politics: Will H. Hays, Republican National Chairman, Says Stern Duty of Taking Part in Public Life Confronts Youth of the Country (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 28, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 27th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Republican Candidates: Wood, Harding and Lowden Avowed Possibilities in the Presidential Campaign

Who would become the Republican presidential nominee in 1920? In December 1919, three candidates led. Warren Harding ended up as president. Frank Lowden and Leonard Wood were largely forgotten by history.

This article broke down the pros and cons of each:

Ohio Senator Warren Harding

Advantages:

  • “Senator Harding stands out most conspicuously in the eyes of the Republican powers that be as a safe man… He apparently knows the secret of making advances in life without arousing antagonisms.”
  • “His greatest advantage from a political standpoint is that he hails from a pivotal State, a doubtful one with a big electoral vote. From being considered a rock-ribbed Republican State, Ohio has gone Democratic in the last two Presidential elections.” [Indeed, Ohio would vote Republican for Harding the following year. And it remains among the bigger swing states today.]

Disadvantages:

  • “Senator Harding has failed to come out in a clear-cut fashion on some of the important issues that have arisen in this country since the armistice, his opponents point out. They have waited in vain, they assert, to hear from him on the steel strike, the coal strike, the Plumb plan, and on radicalism generally.” [Indeed, this flip-flopping / wait-and-see approach were major marks against recent losing candidates John Kerry, Mitt Romney, and currently Joe Biden.]

Illinois Governor Frank Lowden

Advantages:

  • “In Governor Lowden’s career, starting from a humble beginning, there is a quality that has its appeal to the voter. He is the son of a village blacksmith.”
  • “He has an excellent record as administrator and reformer of the Illinois State Government… When he was elected Governor in 1916 there were 128 State commissions, overlapping in wastefulness and inefficiency. These were consolidated into nine departments and an effective budget system was introduced.”

Disadvantages:

  • “He lives in a State which is regarded as safely Republican.” [But so was Illinois a safely Democratic state for Barack Obama, so this argument seems flimsy to modern ears.]
  • “His large wealth could be made the target of attack to prejudice labor against him.” [Donald Trump is literally one of the wealthiest people on planet earth, and certainly in America, yet that didn’t seem to prejudice voters against him.]

Major General Leonard Wood

Advantages:

  • A beloved military hero. “In 1886, in the campaign against the Apaches in the West, his conduct as a medical and line officer won for him the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
  • “Because of his close association with Theodore Roosevelt, the following of the late leader is rallying to him.” [Roosevelt, a beloved two-term president whose face would later be carved into Mount Rushmore, had died in January of that year.]

Disadvantages:

  • “As the campaign unfolds, General Wood, as an officer under the President as Commander in Chief of the Army, is withheld from making known his views on questions uppermost before the people, or in putting his own energy in the fight for the nomination.”
  • “There is nothing in the army regulations to prevent him from becoming a candidate for the Presidency, but the ethics of it is another question, it is stated.”

 

Of these three leading Republican candidates at the time, Harding would go on to win both the nomination and the presidency.

But ’tis not always thus. Trump wasn’t in the top three Republican candidates before he announced — in fact, most people didn’t even think he was actually going to run at all. (He had been talking about running for president since at least 1988, but most people dismissed it at self-promotional since he’d never actually pulled the trigger.)

Of the top four Democratic candidates right now, three of them were initially viewed as top tier contenders — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders — but current fourth place Pete Buttigieg most certainly was not. Indeed, most people hadn’t even heard of him back on January 1.

 

Republican Candidates: Wood, Harding and Lowden Avowed Possibilities in the Presidential Campaign, With Some Dark Horses in Background Republican Candidates (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 21, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 20th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Outer Government Entrenched at Washington

How did Washington, D.C. become “the swamp”? Around 1900, the rise of lobbying organizations in the nation’s capitol caused great controversy. By 1919, it was considered normal.

When one side of a case is represented only, the reaction is likely to be one-sided. This situation, from the first, has been the great magnet in bringing new national organizations to Washington.

This movement began more than twenty years ago, when lobbying was becoming a national scandal, and has grown to its present proportion almost unnoticed by the country. In order that its side of any proposed legislation might be legitimately represented, one organization after another made Washington its headquarters.

That’s only become more true by 2019. In August, I wrote an article for GovTrack Insider about the SWEET Act, which would end the federal subsidy for the sugar industry. It was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA10), who represents the Pennsylvania district where Hershey is located. If the federal sugar subsidy was eliminated, smaller manufacturers would have a much harder time withstanding the blow — massive corporations like Hershey would survive.

Of course, perhaps the most famous lobbying organization is the one described by humor writer Dave Barry in his book Lessons From Lucy earlier this year:

AARP is a powerful lobbying group representing the interests of senior citizens. Like, if a member of Congress even thinks about cutting Social Security benefits, an elite AARP tactical assault lobbying squad will descend on the congressperson’s office at a slow rate of speed and wave their catheters around in a threatening manner until the congressperson sees the light.

This blog’s created and former lead writer David Friedman now works for the AARP, producing videos and documentaries for their website and social media channels.

 

Outer Government Entrenched at Washington: Organizations Which Encircle the Capitol Dome and Influence Legislation for the Special Classes and Interests They Represent (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 7, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 4th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Open Season Threatens the Extinction of Deer

A New York state hunter could only kill only one deer per season, which had to be a male buck with antlers. Starting in 1919, a hunter could kill two deer, including a male buck or a female doe. Would that decimate the animal’s population?

Even some hunters were opposed to the new law, for that very reason:

Most of the real sportsmen were opposed to allowing does to be shot, for they well knew that if the does were killed off, it would not be long before the last deer would be gathered in from the Adirondacks. But the demands of promiscuous hunters had sway. The law was passed.

Those fears didn’t come to pass. In fact, the opposite occurred.

In 1919, a census found there were “not more than 50,000 deer in New York State.” But by 2018, there were about 1 million. Hunters kill about a quarter-million deer in the state each year, including 227,787 in 2018. Yet the animal’s population has remained roughly steady.

As Oak Duke wrote for the Evening Tribune in upstate New York:

Long gone is the attitude of 50 years ago when there were few deer compared to now. A sighting, let alone a successful hunt, was more of a rarity. Now deer have become ubiquitous, a common sight, if not a serious bother to motorists, farmers, and outdoors recreationists worried about ticks.

 

Open Season Threatens the Extinction of Deer: Hunters Permitted by New Law to Kill Does as Well as Bucks–Quail Still Protected, but Fight for End of Restrictions Is in Prospect (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 16, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 16th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Nature,Politics