The Democratic Party: My Third and Current Paradigm (Part 6)

I dedicated this series, or at least the parts of it that are not controversial, to the memory of divineorder, a special Caucuser whom all Caucusers miss. I hope that he would not have minded this dedication.

Parts 1-5: ; ; ; ;


During the fifty-six years between the 1856 election of separation-of-powers ignoring, racist Democrat James Buchanan and the 1912 election of racist Democrat Wilson, the only Democrat elected President was the footnote President.* No doubt at least partially responsible for the shift to Republican Presidents after Buchanan was the increasing support for emancipation outside the South, as evidenced by the remarkable election of Lincoln in 1860, the ensuing Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation; and the Civil War Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Very likely, the first assassination of a US President had an impact as well.

The elections of Lincoln in 1860 and Wilson in 1912 had something in common: Racist Democrats split when running against Republican Lincoln, while Republicans split when running against racist Democrat Wilson; and the internecine split very likely gave a rare victory to "the other side." In 1860, the rarity was a win for the Presidential nominee of a political party only six years old (though abolition had been an issue in the so-called "New World" since the 1600s); and, in 1912, the rarity was a win by a Democratic Presidential nominee, rare in the US since 1860 and completely unprecedented in the Northeast.

Small wonder that a growing rift within a Party causes politicians of that Party to behave badly! Of course, it's also possible that a split results in the newer faction rendering the earlier group all but vestigial, as occurred when New Democrats broke from what remained of New Deal Democrats. (The same could be said of the powerhouse New Deal Coalition rendering its Democratic predecessors all but vestigial...for a time.)

In any event, if I were Wilson in 1912, I may have looked back on an almost unbroken stretch of fifty-six years of Republican Presidents and my own fluke of an election. As a result, I may have thought about my own re-election in four years and the ability of my Party to win the White House after I vacated it. I therefore may have tried to behave somewhat as I imagined a Republican President might behave, especially as to American blacks.

Wilson did follow "trust-buster" Theodore Roosevelt's lead in a number of things, but Wilson did not seem to share my view that the success of the early Republican Party in Presidential politicians was attributable in no small measure to the basic decency manifested in Lincoln and his Party during and after the Civil War. For one thing, Wilson, an "ardent segregationist," segregated the federal work force. And, under Wilson, the Pentagon formally created "white only" bathrooms, classic and blatant Jim Crow, with nary a public murmur from the Commander in Chief. For another, T-WoW threw out of the Oval Office William Monroe Trotter, a civil rights leader and newspaper editor of the stature of W.E. Dubois. Trotter's "fault?" Protesting the Jim Crow practices of the federal government under Wilson.

During the administration of Wilson, who sought to lead his party in Congress in much the same way as a prime minister leads Parliament, Congress established the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Reserve Board and other entities.** It was also a time of Constitutional amendments, including the amendment establishing/legitimizing a federal income tax and the amendment FINALLY recognizing women's right to vote. Congress also investigated pro-labor forces, like socialists, with vigorous collusion from the msm of the day, then pivoted to the Communist Party of the USA, almost the minute the latter formed. (Perhaps it is worth noting again that Eugene Debs did win 5% of the 1912 popular vote.)

And, again, Wilson did prepare the USA for war during his first term, ran for re-election on having kept us out of war and won, then led us into World War I during his second term. There was some fig leaf of possibly "defending" the US against Mexico, but my gut says the draft, the sedition law, and equipping the military were about World War I, not Mexico. (Wilson sent twelve thousand US troops after five hundred Mexican invaders under Pancho Villa--and we say Republicans are "strong on 'defense!'") Anyway, I strongly suspect Wilson of, during his re-election campaign, intentionally fooling the electorate about the worst thing any President can fool the electorate--the lives, limbs and sanity of its children and the sweat of its brow, aka the "blood and treasure" that he intended (IMO) Americans to lavish on World War I.

In Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?, Molly Ivins referenced Eisenhower as the first President who had Madison Avenue package and sell him like toothpaste. I don't know if Wilson relied more on "ad men" than on public relations men, especially the apparently conscience-less Edward Louis Bernays, nor do I know if Wilson had the professionals of either or both those fields help him get elected or re-elected. I do know that Wilson is considered to have been the first President to create a propaganda machine to "sell" Americans something, specifically, World War I. Some have called it manipulating the minds of Americans; some claim it forever changed US journalism. (Did Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer really help sell Americans the Spanish-American War all on their own, though? Oh, pay me no mind.) And, of course, World War I was a huge factor in bringing home to the US the flu pandemic, adding to the tragic cost of that war.

No, I don't blame Wilson for the influenza virus. Nor do I blame Wilson's example for the techniques of Goebbels. I don't blame Wilson's role in various World War I treaties for the rise of Hitler, either. However, I am not alone in believing that a connection of some kind existed, if not a causal connection. And, while likely well-intentioned, the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, were far better in concept than in reality. However, I do credit Wilson with the vision.

In sum, if you've guessed that I don't consider Democrat Wilson a prince, as a human being, as a President, or even as a husband, you've nailed it.


*That Stephen Grover Cleveland was the only US President to serve non-consecutive terms often appears in a footnote, all but forcing me at gunpoint to refer to the repulsive cad as the footnote President.


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Raggedy Ann's picture

A well documented and informative series. It did make me think of do. Miss him.

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"The “jumpers” reminded us that one day we will all face only one choice and that is how we will die, not how we will live." Chris Hedges on 9/11

@Raggedy Ann

Thank you for the kind words.

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Anja Geitz's picture

I wonder, did the constitutional amendment establishing a federal tax come about the same time we were gearing up for WWI?

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Centaurea's picture

@Anja Geitz that provided for the imposition of an income tax was proposed several years prior to WWI. It was supported by the Democrats and by the POTUS at the time, Taft, a Republican. It was done within the context of tariff reform and the contentiousness of that period, when the haves were battling the have-lesses and the have-nots. (And here we are again, still working on it 100+ years later. Will we humans ever learn?)

The constitutional amendment was necessary, because a previous attempt to impose an income tax was ruled unconstitutional by SCOTUS. Its ratification by the states was finalized shortly before Wilson was inaugurated in early March 1913.

The legislation that levied the first income tax on the general American public -- the Revenue Act of 1913 -- was passed later that year by Congress and signed into law by Wilson, who supported it.

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"Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep."

"If you want revolution, be it."
~Caitlin Johnstone


the answer. I suspect that the haves have been battling the have nots for many millennia, except in the most enlightened societies--if any society that took care of its non-contributors existed. (I don't know the answer to that, either.)

Certainly, the East India Company cracked the whip (figuratively, I assume) on colonists to find ways in the new world on which the owners of the EIC back home could make money. And slavery goes back a long, long time.

I often try to imagine what may have happened in pre-historic times. My uneducated guess is that the physically strongest became haves, assuming they had a mind so to do.

So, Taft and Wilson both supported an income tax. No surprise, I suppose. I have a feeling that, when they contemplated it, visions of sugar plums danced in their heads, of course, Wilson had war on his mind. See? All the things we love come to us when Republicans and Democrats join hands.

BTW, Taft didn't do so well in the election of 1912, especially for an incumbent. IIRC, he did not even do as well as former President Roosevelt, who broke away from the Republican Party to run against his own hand-picked successor. It speaks volumes when an incumbent President does that poorly against a newly-formed party. Then again, TR had been a popular incumbent himself only a few years earlier.

Anyway, I wonder if Taft's support of the income tax had anything to do with his poor showing in the 1912 Presidential?

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@Anja Geitz @Anja Geitz

that one. My guess would have been that it was proposed before Wilson's election, only because the amendment had to have been controversial and controversial amendments either take a long time to get ratified or just die on the vine (ala the ERA, which, of course, never should have been even mildly controversial).

Although Centaurea says it was not Wilson's idea, I'd bet my last font that T-WoW was grateful for it. Just think! Our very first tax dollars were lavished on killing people with whom we had no beef that we did't manufacture.

Remember the Maine! 1898

Remember the Lusitania! 1915

Remember the Arizona! December 7, 1941 ("a day that shall live in infamy")

After World War II, we simply stopped declaring wars until after 911 provided an excuse to invade Iraq--and, really, any nation that contains, or is suspected to contain, terrorists. Which, of course, includes the US.

The US, with all its technology and its might cannot locate and turn over its resident terrorists to authorities. But we bombed Afghanis for failing to deliver Osama to us. Then it took us how many years to get him ourselves? Oh well, we needed to de-nude the poppy fields, didn't we? At least as much as we needed to de-nude Vietnam.

How many years did President Carter say the US has been at peace in its entire history, including colonial times?

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@HenryAWallace oh well, google is too slow, but I think it was only a few years.

Very nice reporting of you.

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I would bet that, whatever Carter said overstates it. And I'm not even talking fake wars, like the War on Poverty. the War on Drugs or the War on "Terror," all of which the US lost, anyway.

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lotlizard's picture


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