Friday, January 13, 2012

The Republican Presidential Nomination Process in 1880

I was fascinated by what occurred in Chicago at the Republican Convention during the summer of 1880. A process long since abandoned.

At the time, the Republican Party was split into two factions: Stalwarts and Half-Breeds. The Stalwarts were proponents of the spoil system and opposed to reconciliation with the South. Key players were Ulysses Grant and Roscoe Conkling. Half-Breeds were reformers spear-headed by current President Rutherford Hayes, John Sherman (brother of General William Tecumseh Sherman), and James Blaine (current Secretary of State).

All of the Republican candidates were well known, part of the established bureaucracy. The Stalwarts' candidate was Grant, targeting a third term after four years off. The Half-Breeds' candidate was less clear.

James Garfield was not a candidate. He disliked the limelight. Although a state politician, he was mainly an educator and scholar. He was there to nominate a fellow Ohioan, John Sherman. After an impressive nomination speech for Grant by one of America's most creepy and repugnant politicians, Senator Conkling (NY), Garfield gave his nominating speech for Sherman.

Garfield was not a fan of Sherman. He thought there were better candidates. However, he gave his speech, and a great one it was. After dozens of ballots, there was no clear victor. The division was too great. The hatred between groups intense. One voice proposed Garfield. Garfield was not interested. After more ballots and backroom jeering, Garfield had 399 votes, 20 more than were required to win the nomination.

Garfield never agreed to become a candidate. Yet in a matter of hours, he became the Republican Presidential nominee. Interesting, over the next few months leading up to the election in November, candidates did little campaigning personally, leaving it up to the Party. Garfield beat Winfield Scott Hancock to become America's 20th President.

Electoral vote 214 (Garfield) 155 (Hancock)
States carried 19 19
Popular vote 4,446,158 4,444,260
Percentage 48.3% 48.2%

The Republican Party nomination process and resulting candidate Garfield is refreshing. They got the right man for the job. Garfield was a great man, served only to honor his Party and country.

In today's political world, this can never occur. Our system is set-up to promote Party insiders and the wealthy. The best man can never win because he would never put himself (and his family) through the process.

If here is one thing I have learned from American political history, any man that seeks the Presidency is not the man (or woman) for the job. Their egos and corruption should automatically disqualify them.

Whomever wins the Republican Presidential nomination this summer and whoever wins the election this November, America will not be better off. Sure, I will vote for the Republican candidate but I know he will be deeply flawed, corrupted and ego-maniacal. At best, we will replace one self-aggrandized puppet with another.

My belief is that a true, conservative Republican will help us realize less government control over our freedoms, less taxes, and more mature fiscal and monetary policies. History has proven that this has rarely been the case and probably will never be again.

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