Monday, September 22, 2008

Henry Wallace

As I've been immersing myself in electoral politics, especially in the 20th Century, it's important to look at the decisions made by the major parties and how they won in critical years.

For each party, there's usually one president who embodies the modern party. For Republicans it's Ronald Reagan, and for Democrats it's either JFK or FDR. The two are similar in that they are both charismatic liberals, Machiavellian intellectuals, and defense hawks. Because JFK carries a lot of modern day baggage (his wacky adultery, Vietnam, Bay of Pigs), I prefer looking at FDR as the model Democrat. Not only was he the most successful president (4 wins!) but he created the modern United States as the combination of free-market and state-support, a belief in helping every citizen and also watching out for the world. OK, he should have done more to help my relatives escape the Holocaust, but I doubt Wendell Willkie would have been any better (given that the Republicans in 1940 were pretty happy staying out of the War).

Anyway, the crucial election for understanding FDR's success is 1940 - when he broke with the unwritten rule set up by George Washington that a president should only run for two terms. FDR dropped his VP of the previous two terms, John Garner, who pretty much defined the stereotype of a useless VP. Garner said the immortal phrase about the Vice Presidency "not worth a bucket of warm piss." Tell that to Grand Moff Cheney.

FDR chose Henry A. Wallace as his running mate in 1940 - dumping Garner, a Texas conservative Democrat and former speaker of the house. Wallace had been the secretary of agriculture from 1933-1940. Before that, he was, I think, a farmer. Also a Buhddist. Or something. He was definitely a wacko.

Note, when the 1944 Election came about, the Democratic party bosses insisted that the pro-Communist freaky-deaky Wallace be dropped as VP in favor of someone who could actually, ya know, lead the country in the case that FDR would drop dead (which had been expected at any time by those in the know).

I bring up these footnotes to history in order to understand the present day, especially the choices facing Americans in a wartime election (like 1940 & 1944) in a disastrous economy (like 1932) and with a sick old guy who could die sooner than later (FDR vs. McCain). Specifically, how does FDR's decision to reject Garner, accept Wallace, then reject him for Truman compare to the selection of Palin, Biden and even Quayle. Anon.

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