During the election of 1900, Thomas C. Platt, leader of the Republican Party, became so frustrated with the progressive politics of the Governor of New York, Theodore Roosevelt, that he hatched a plan to remove the aggressive loudmouth from office and install him in the least powerful office in the land. Namely, he convinced McKinley to adopt Roosevelt as Vice President of the United States.
The move was genius, but it backfired spectacularly when President McKinley was assassinated eight months later.
In all fairness though, McKinley survived the bullet only to die of infection because his doctors didn’t think to wash their hands before digging around in the chest of the President.
So much for premium health care.
What Platt wanted was business as usual. Instead we got the Panama Canal, National Parks, and a President who single handily dismantled the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age.
Where are you now Teddy?
The story doesn’t end well though. His impatience with his timid successor, Taft, lead to a party split which handed the 1913 election to rival Woodrow Wilson. The same thing happened to “Read My Lips” Bush in 1990 because of Ross Perot, and try to imagine the world if Ralph Nader wasn’t on the Florida Ballot in 2000.
Americans aren’t comfortable with timidity which is an odd paradox because nothing terrifies the establishment more than a leader with conviction. If the Thomas C. Platt’s had their way, nothing would ever get done and no one would notice.
However, if business as usual was an effective strategy we’d be dulling our senses right now with droll debates between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush where not a single concrete thing would be uttered.
Instead we have a thrill-ride cock-fight between a Socialist from Vermont and a Reality TV star.
Inversely, or perhaps perversely, we’re inescapably drawn to the loudest most puritanical voice which gives people like Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin a moment at the podium. Thankfully such narrow minded fundamentalism doesn’t sit well with us as a whole, which is why we’ve never elected George Wallace, David Duke, or anyone from Fox News. We want a lion to lead the pride, not a monkey who wants to set fire to the savannah.
In 1960 we elected sexy Kennedy with his perfect teeth, who got us through the Cuban Missile Crisis and laid the groundwork to get us to the moon. We would have elected his brother in 1968, but Bobby was shot before he could pick up steam. That election saw another third party candidate who mucked things up handing Nixon the bare minimum to win. In 1976 we elected a ‘pure of heart’ peanut farmer because he was a ray of light amid a decade of scandal and then we dropped him like a rag doll for a B-movie actor who insisted we should be picking more fights with the Russians.
Reagan was shot too, but doctors had learned to scrub up by then.
George Herbert Walker Bush won in 1988 because, even in an Abrams tank, Michael Dukakis looked like a sissy. And of course four years later Bush looked like a crotchety old man standing next to Bill Clinton (a man whose virility superseded years upon years of scandal).
Had Gore trusted Clinton’s gravitas in 2000 and allowed the sitting President to campaign for him, we might never have been stuck in this middle eastern quagmire, but we also wouldn’t have Melissa Etheridge’s hit song “An Inconvenient Truth.”
You win some . . . you lose some.
Hillary should have been nominated in 2008 but there was little she could do against one of the greatest American orators since . . . well . . . Teddy Roosevelt.
She should be nominated now but she’s given so many wishy washy speeches with so many different accents (from southern drawl to New York erudite) that nobody wants to hear her talk.
Same with Jeb Bush. He’d be the easy front runner right now if he had said just two things “Yes I’m running for President.” and “No, I would not have invaded Iraq.” Instead he eased his way into the campaign while the stage filled like a clown car, and he flip flopped on the Iraq question so often even a Google search can’t tell you were he stands today.
The establishment doesn’t want a lion, but the American people do.
And Jeb, Hillary, or any other of the myriad of Presidential Candidates, if you’re reading this . . . I think it’s time to roar.