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Archived Issue
Monday, February 18, 2008
ISSUE #490
#490, Feb. 18, 2008

Presidential politics: 1932 vs. 2008

COLUMBUS: For the past few months Ohio has been kinda laughing at you folks in other states with all the Presidential campaigning. Well, now that the candidates, what’s left of ’em, have landed full force on Buckeye soil it ain’t so funny. The entire Clinton clan, Hillary, Bill and Chelsea, was here, just not at the same time; Senator Obama, Michelle Obama and Ted Kennedy (but not Oprah) stopped in.

We haven’t reached Washington’s birthday yet, and the field has been whittled down to 3 candidates. Yes, I know Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul are hanging on by a thread. But really it’s down to three with six more months to go until the conventions.

With these early primaries I decided to look back at another election year, 1932. We hear about a likely recession in 2008, but it’s nothing compared to the economy in 1932.

In February 1932, there was hardly any news about presidential candidates. Two New Yorkers, Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt, had skirmished a little. New Hampshire held the first primary, March 6, won by Roosevelt. But not until late April did anything substantial happen: “I bet Al Smith threw a scare into some of these wise politicians that they won’t forget for some time. Whoever advised Roosevelt to enter that (Massachusetts) primary anyhow? Running against Smith in Massachusetts is like trying to win a debate with Sister Aimee on her grounds.” (April 27, 1932)

Then, in the middle of the worst Depression in history, Congress raised the income tax. Can you imagine that happening today? “The big writers are hollering now that Congress “soaked the rich” by raising the rate after it passed $1,000,000 to 45 per cent. Why the holler?… You can’t legitimately kick on income tax, for it’s on what you have made.” (April 28) [Actually by the time the bill passed Congress, the top rate was 55%.]

The next week California held a primary. “Tomorrow is primary day out here in California. Course, it’s all cut and dried with the Republicans, but the old Democrats out here in Orangejuiceville have got a chance to name the next Democratic nominee. Al Smith’s big spurt in the East has shown that Governor Roosevelt can’t possibly go to the convention with enough to nominate. Give (John Nance) Garner California and Texas and he will be sitting prettier than any of the three.” (May 2) [FDR finished second to Garner in Cal.]

“About all these primaries prove around the country is that the Democrats have got three good men and the Republicans only one. It looks to me like any man that wants to be President in times like these lacks something.” (May 4)

In mid-June the Republicans nominated Hoover for a second term. Then the Democratic convention started June 26, less than four months after the first primary. Because so many states had “favorite son” candidates no one received the required number of votes on the first ballot. During the third ballot, Roosevelt essentially offered Garner the Vice-Presidency in return for the Texas delegates, and that gave him the nomination over Al Smith. Considering the horrible state of the economy Roosevelt was assured a landslide victory in November.

That was 1932. In 2008, will the offer of the Vice-Presidency determine the nomination, and the election?

Historic quote from Will Rogers: (in addition to several above)

“There is one thing you can bet on this year. No voter is going to do anything that a politician thinks he will do. The way most people feel they would like to vote against all of ’em if it was possible.” DT #1797, April 27, 1932


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