Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mugwumps and Other Miscellaneous Musings

Bizarre as it seems, the Mugwumps were an actual political party in the United States at one time. I can't help but associate the word with Puddleglum, a C.S. Lewis character in one of the Narnia books. Essentially they were activists who broke off from the Republicans because they wouldn't be associated with the Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine.

Blaine had been Speaker of the House under U.S. Grant and two-time Secretary of State, a dominant force in the post-Civil War era. It was a period fraught with corruption and Blaine was right in the middle of it. The Mugwumps broke off because they'd had enough. Even though they failed to get their candidate into office, they influenced the election by drawing enough votes away from Blaine to get Grover Cleveland elected as the 22nd president of the United States.

Because I myself was born in Cleveland (Ohio) I liked Cleveland as a president even though I knew nothing about him (as a kid). In fact, most of the presidents between Cleveland and Teddy R. are pretty unmemorable. Cleveland was born in New Jersey, where I moved to at age twelve, so you might say I scored a double connection to the man.

What most people remember, more than his deeds, is that he was the only U.S. president to serve two non-consecutive terms. In other words, he was defeated after his first term, but won re-election again to become the 24th president.

Political smear campaigns are nothing new and Cleveland was on the receiving end of a Republic promotion that he had fathered an illegitimate child while a lawyer in Buffalo before becoming governor of New York. The GOP taunt, repeated everywhere, was, "Ma, ma, where's my Pa?"

The reality is that Cleveland had indeed been paying child support to the woman. The back story is that she'd been involved with a number of men at the time. Since the others were all married, and he the only bachelor, Cleveland chose to take responsibility so that she would not be left carrying this burden alone.

One can only imagine how this would play out on the Internet and in today's media.

What's your favorite Grover Cleveland story? I'm sure everybody has a half dozen.


Christella said...

Don't have a favorite story but I have always been fascinated about the "Ma, ma, where's my Pa?" story and the fact that he paid. Thanks for the back story. Didn't know she had other lovers.

ENNYMAN said...

It gives one plenty of things to think about... Gary Hart and his Monkey Business event comes to mind.

De Tocqueville said that Democracy encourages hypocrisy and posturing. FDR, Clinton and many others were not all they appeared to be. Harding supposedly had a tryst in a closet in the White House...

LEWagner said...

I believe I may have found the quote by De Tocqueville that you're referring to. I searched Google with the words "De Tocqueville democracy hypocrisy", and came up with this:
"The handicraftsmen of democratic ages not only endeavor to bring their useful productions within the reach of the whole community, but strive to give to all their commodities attractive qualities that they do not in reality possess. In the confusion of all ranks everyone hopes to appear what he is not, and makes great exertions to succeed in this object. This sentiment, indeed, which is only too natural to the heart of man, does not originate in the democratic principle; but that principle applies it to material objects. The hypocrisy of virtue is of every age, but the hypocrisy of luxury belongs more particularly to the ages of democracy."

So here, we have Tocqueville actually saying that the "hypocrisy of virtue" ("Monkey Business") is NOT peculiar to, or encouraged by democracy.
De Tocqueville is talking here about social pretenses being encouraged by democracy. He listed several examples, such as imitation diamonds, wood columns painted up to look like genuine stone, statues molded in plaster rather than in bronze.
In this quote, De Tocqueville pointedly EXCLUDED "the hypocrisy of virtue" being particular to any age or political system.
This doesn't fit in at all with your description of what De Tocqueville said.
Perhaps you were referring to some other De Tocqueville quote? This is all I could find by doing my own search, in an attempt to verify your quote.

ENNYMAN said...

Good sleuthing on the quote. My source was a reference in a lecture I heard recently. It (the idea of hypcrisy in democracy) dovetailed with a booklet I read a few years back by a Harvard prof in 1932 (his name began with an M) that said that all candidates for president had to say they believed in God and were Christians whether they were or not in this country.

I cited Gary Hart but could have cited many others and wondered if things are different today and if so how different. I did not make the distinction you are making.

I am curious, since you note the "hypcrisy of virtue" reference, if de Tocqueville here is meaning virtue as you apply it or the higher sense of Virtu as the early Greeks would apply it to the philosopher kings.

LEWagner said...

You "quoted" De Tocqueville as saying that democracy encourages hypocrisy and posturing, then proceeded to list 4 examples. All four of your examples were politicians who had affairs.
I pointed out that none of the examples that De Tocqueville gave of hypocrisy were of people having affairs, but all were of people in the democracy (America) pretending to be richer than they were. In fact he very distinctly EXCLUDED the "hypocrisy of virtue" as having been caused by democracy, because it's been around since the beginning.
Nah, I don't think he was referring to the "higher sense of Virtu as the early Greeks would apply it to the philosopher kings".
I think he was referring to Monkey Business. Think whatever you want. If you have time, maybe you can explain just how the early Greeks would apply the higher sense of Virtu to the philosopher kings. I'm not sure I know.
But, really, when "quoting" a famous person, why not give a direct quote, plus a link to the quote, including context, if possible? That's what we had to do in college, as it removes all questions as to the accuracy of your quote.
Research, research, research!

ENNYMAN said...

You are correct that de Tocqueville appears to be noting a special kind of hypocrisy unearthed by hypocrisy, that the other has always been around

My question on the other is, have things changed in the pubilc's reaction to it? Cleveland was out front and it did not kill his chances. A number of high profile seem to have been seriously damaged by it.

just wondering