Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Nickname: Young Hickory
James K. Polk was the first presidential dark horse. The opposition’s famous slogan was “Who is James K. Polk?”. Polk’s association with Jackson throughout his political career had helped bring him to the light of presidency. Polk, like Jackson, didn’t trust banks and was very much for expansion. As soon as he was elected over Whig, Henry Clay, he told the public that he was only going to run for one term. But he set four specific goals for this term: 1) a reduction in tariffs; 2) the creation of an independent treasury; 3) a settlement of disputes with Great Britain over Oregon; and 4) the acquisition of California. Hardworking and effective, Polk achieved all four goals during his single term.
These accomplishments came with a cost, however. With Texas now part of the U.S., there were newfound disputes with Mexico over where Mexico land started, and where it ended. Texas claimed all the way to the Rio Grande, while Mexico claimed more land of the south west part of the state. Polk had his men go down to the disputed area, where they are promptly fired upon. Many still speculate that Polk had purposefully started a conflict with Mexico to gain land from them, but we’re not completely sure. I think it was intentional though. After Polk had Zachery Taylor and Winfield Scott attack Mexico from the North and the east from the sea, Mexico was defeated and had to give the U.S. California, New Mexico, and Arizona, or the land that comprised most of these future states. Polk felt generous and gave Mexico 15 million dollars for the land. Mexico had earlier demanded over twice that much for the land.
With California now a part of the United States and the Gold rush in 49 bringing a swelling of the population, who calls for statehood, the slavery issue comes back. Should California be free or slave? Polk didn’t have to answer that question and left it for the next president. However, Wisconsin and Oregon are brought into the Union as free states per the Missouri Compromise.
One of the best things Polk did was declare that it was the people’s right to elect the president directly and had the old electoral system done away with. Polk, physically drained by long hours of hard work, died just a few months after returning home. Good thing he didn’t go for a second term.
Polk was a man after Jackson’s heart, as people will notice from his similar nickname. This served him well in some respects, but some might say his expansionist ways led the U.S. to a war it wasn’t supposed to be in. We did gain a lot of land from the war, but it did reignite the slavery issue. Polk was a man of his word and accomplished all that he had said he would. That’s pretty good for one term.
Nickname: His Accidency
John Tyler was now the president after William Henry Harrison had died in office, or was he? The Constitution didn’t say anything about who would become president if they should die. All it said was the vice-president should take on the duties of the president, but not become the president. That seems like not much of a difference, but to everyone back then, that was really important. Tyler declared that he was president and the people of the U.S. better get used to it. Due to this question of power, Tyler received the names of “The Accidental President”, and “His Accidency.” Tyler refused to open any mail that said anything of that sort or “acting president.” Tyler laid the groundwork for future vice-presidents who would take over for their fallen leader.
The Whigs assumed that Tyler would act more as a figurehead, like Harrison, and let them do their thing. Tyler would have none of that and decided to take action. When Henry Clay pushed forward his plans to create a new Bank of the U.S., Tyler vetoed it. Everyone in his cabinet, of which were all Harrison’s choosing and not Tyler’s, resigned in protest except Daniel Webster. Webster would eventually leave, but not out of bitterness.Now, opposed by Both the Whigs and the Democrats, Tyler could not get anything through Congress. He was a lone wolf. Tyler however, got things done anyhow. Not wanting to miss out on the Manifest Destiny craze, he advocated for the annexation of Texas, which had been its own country for about eight years and wanted to be protected from Mexico. He also oversaw the opening of the first trading ports with China.
Fun Fact! John Tyler is the only president to swear his allegiance to another country! Later in his life he served on the Confederate House of Representatives. This fact diminished his status as a president and he was not given a typical presidential funeral.
I used to not like Tyler at all. The whole confederate thing is pretty lame, but that happened much later in life. Tyler was elected as vice president for his southern views and those made him alienated after Harrison’s death. He wasn’t able to get anything but the Texas annexation passed and made the mistake of not picking his own cabinet. Though he wasn’t the best president, I do admire his perseverance and bull-bullheadedness. If he had backed down about the presidency issue at all, he may have not been in that position. I have gained a little more respect for Tyler, but he still didn't go about all things the right way.
Nickname: Old Tippecanoe
Very Short Bio:
William Henry Harrison was best known before becoming president as a general who defeated Tecumseh’s forces. Notice I said forces and not Tecumseh. He was away gathering tribes to help them fight the white settlers who were encroaching on their land. Harrison was chosen for the Whig nomination for his reputation, and because southerners didn’t want Henry Clay to be nominated. With the Democrats unpopular due to the plunging economy, the Whigs knew it was their time. Harrison had no political background whatsoever, and had no opinion on any issues. Nevertheless, he was elected with John Tyler- states’ rights advocate-as his vice-president. Wanting to prove that he did have a few things to say on the issues and also wanting to prove he was tough, he gave his inauguration speech in the rain and cold during March without a coat or hat on. He gave the longest inauguration speech ever given. It was around two and a half hours long. That is ridiculous. He became sick after and later that month developed pneumonia and died. Remember, he was 67 years old, so he was no spring chicken. Well, he sort of looked like a chicken. Harrison was dead only a month into his term, giving the presidency to John Tyler.
I would give him a F for his stupidity in not dressing for the weather, but that can’t be the only thing graded. There are questions whether it would have been a chaotic presidency due to the fact that he promised the same government posts to more than one person. But we shall never know, since he didn’t live long enough to screw anything up.
Nickname: Little Magician (Don’t ask)
Short Bio: Martin Van Buren is one of those presidents that make you scratch your head, wondering what he was known for, and what century he was president in. He is not a very well known president, but you will see why. Van Buren rode Jackson’s coattails to the presidency and decided to take over where Jackson left off. Too bad that included a economic tailspin. Van Buren inherited Jackson’s economy problem and was ultimately blamed for it, as the Panic of 1837 as it was called, didn’t happen till he was president. Van Buren was stuck with the very clever name of Martin Van Ruin (I’m being a little sarcastic). Van Buren was not like Jackson in many ways though. He was not a visible man of the people-he liked to wear expensive clothes and had a stuffy appearance. He was also not as adamant or fierce in the face of opposition. He was like Jackson in one way-he did not hesitate to order the Cherokee off their land starting the lovely chapter of American History called the Trail of Tears. Van Buren, Jackson, and most of the U.S. population was to blame for what happened to the Native Americans. The blame does not solely lay on one person in particular. Did Jackson and Van Buren play a part? They sure did, and that's why they lose points for wheir involvement.
Though popular at first, Van Buren lost it with the Panic of 1837 and the depression that followed. It didn’t help that he refused to extend federal aid to distressed banks and state governments. He was soundly beat by non-political war hero, William Henry Harrison. One bright spot on Van Buren’s record is his peaceful approach to the border dispute over Maine. Fighting was about to break out between U.S. troops and the British over the land when Van Buren went into peace talks and had a property line drawn.
He loses points for his mismanagement of a country in economic peril. He did very little to help the economy and got his comeuppance with a denied second term. I still find the Trail of Tears to be a bad mark on his record. He gains points for his peaceful talks with Britain and giving us the land that would be Maine. Van Buren was a strictly mediocre president.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Nickname: Old Hickory
Not short at all bio:
Andrew Jackson or otherwise known as “that guy on the twenty.” Washington and Lincoln surely deserve their place on our nation’s money, but what did Jackson do that propelled him to the status of so money he don’t even know it? In short, Jackson gave power back to the people-well, some people. Remember General Jackson from the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812? That little stunt propelled him into the limelight, and people started clamoring to get him into the presidency. At first, Jackson was hesitant and really wanted nothing to do with the position. But, like many presidents after him, he changed his mind and started campaigning. Jackson entered the election of 1824 with his popularity and non-aristocratic background. Jackson won the popular vote and the electoral votes, but didn’t win the election. How can that be you ask? Well, Jackson didn’t have enough electoral votes to win; sure he had the most, but didn’t reach the necessary amount. All four candidates were Democratic-Republicans and took a fair share of the electoral votes. Thus, the decision went to the House of Representatives. Henry Clay was out of the race, and decided to throw his hat in with John Quincy Adams. He used his influence to persuade the Kentucky representatives to side with Adams and therefore give him the victory. After Adams won, he gave Clay the position of secretary of state. Jackson’s followers were outraged and claimed that Clay and Adams had struck a deal to steal the election. This is another reason Adams didn’t have quite the best presidency.
Thus, the Democratic Party was born. The party dedicated to electing Andrew Jackson as president. Jackson used his image as a war hero and a log cabin everyman to win the election in a landslide. Just a note: Jackson was not as poor growing up as he and his campaigners made people believe, his family was well off, but not part of the social elite. Jackson, as a man of the people and not for the rich, decided to allow the public to join the inauguration party. The public proceeded to trash the white house and sent Jackson fleeing for safety. The public didn’t hate him; they just knew how to party.
Jackson’s presidency would be dogged by two men, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. You could probably see why he didn’t like Clay, but why Calhoun? He was as a matter of fact, his vice-president. This was a time when presidents picked a vice-president or cabinet members who would appeal to the south. Calhoun was that person. He was a loyal South Carolinian and chose to support his state over the country. The Tariff of Abominations, passed by Adams, and followed still by Jackson, made the south and other areas pay heavy taxes on importing. Calhoun and South Carolina decide that this is unconstitutional and issues the Doctrine of Nullification, which basically says that a state doesn’t have to follow a federal law that they feel is unconstitutional. South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union. At this point, Jackson didn’t really say much in terms of state’s rights and federal rights. He didn’t give his opinion. But, at a formal white house dinner, Jackson gave a toast, saying that the union of the states was the most important thing. Basically saying he didn’t support South Carolina’s states’ rights argument. Calhoun, in a rage, delivered a speech right afterwords, saying just about the opposite. Jackson and Calhoun didn’t speak after that. Calhoun would resign his post shortly after the second term started. Jackson stated to South Carolina that he would march down to the state and hang the first secessionist he saw. Was he serious? Nobody wanted to find out. South Carolina backed off, and a fierce and courageous Jackson staved off what could have been a very early Civil War. Many historians today believe had we not had Jackson in that position at that time, we probably would have gone to war forty years early.
Ok, so Jackson was a man of the people, and supported the Union, so what else? Well, Jackson’s presidency was a time that the President had all the power. Jackson vetoed a record amount of bills and blocked anything he didn’t like. After his presidency the pendulum would swing the other way, back to congress, but for his time, he had a whole lot of power. He may have had too much power though. One of the most controversial parts of his two terms was his Indian Removal Act. Long story short, a lot of white people wanted Native American land, for farming, gold, and opportunities. Jackson saw this and decided to move the Native Americans off their land to let the settlers have their way. The funny thing is Jackson felt he was doing them a favor by making them move. He felt that settlers would force them off anyway in violent ways. The Cherokee, one of the civilized tribes (this is what the settlers called them due to the Cherokee’s acceptance of white customs and clothing), had been granted the pass to stay on their land. Jackson went against this decision and had them moved anyway, saying that the judge could enforce it himself if he wanted. Jackson technically could have been impeached for going against a Supreme Court decision. The Cherokee’s were not moved until Martin Van Buren’s presidency. Their move is otherwise known as the Trail of Tears.
So, Jackson meant well, but some of the worst people you meet mean well. Jackson also decided that he didn’t like the Federal Bank. The Second National Bank was a very powerful bank that had helped the country stay afloat and keep inflation down. Jackson had personal problems with banks as young man and didn’t like Nicholas Biddle, the bank operator, bragging that he could persuade Congress. Biddle claimed that he would give out better loans to members of Congress who passed bills he liked. Jackson smelled corruption and decided to take the bank out. First, he declined their charter renewal, and then had all the government groups pull out the money from the bank and put it into state banks, or pet banks as Jackson’s opponents called them. While Biddle’s National bank had made it hard for people who probably couldn’t pay him back a loan, the state banks decided that it was fine to do that. Instead of regulated loan giving, everyone was getting loans, even people who couldn’t afford to pay the money back. Sound familiar? It should given our current recession due to the same practice by the housing industry. The National Bank lost all its money and disappeared, while the nation went into an economic panic. Luckily for Jackson, this panic didn’t really hit until he was gone and Martin Van Buren was in control.
So despite causing a depression and sending people off their land, Jackson was a decent president. You could argue either way, but I feel that his presidency was needed. The U.S. needed a man of the people, someone who would fight for the weak (but not weak Native Americans). Though his destruction of the Second Bank ended up being a disaster, he was looking out for all the people who weren’t allowed loans due to their status. Though he was one of our most controversial presidents, he is probably one of our luckiest too. Near the end of his presidency, Jackson was leaving a funeral at the Capital when a man approached him. The man, Richard Lawrence, pulled out a pistol and shot point-blank range at Jackson. The gun miraculously misfires. Undeterred, Lawrence pulls out another pistol and shoots. The second pistol also misfires. Seeing that he was not going to be shot, Jackson takes his cane and promptly beats Lawrence within an inch of his life. Both guns were studied afterwords and were said to be in perfect working order. Studies still show that the odds of both fully functioning guns misfiring are astronomical. Some historians even claim divine intervention. Whether it was God, or just luck, Jackson walked away. Nobody knew Lawrence’s motivation and he was promptly dubbed insane.
Without a strong willed president, we may have been in the Civil War much earlier. Jackson let the people know that he was there for them and allowed for all white males regardless of status to vote. He helped develop an America for the people. He was dubbed “King Andrew” by his enemies and at times, he acted like one. He had a few big missteps though he claimed good intentions. The bank fiasco was very much avoidable, but in all honesty, any president would have moved the Native Americans at that time. So next time you look at a twenty, think about how ironic it is that Jackson is printed on a Federal Bank note.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Nickname: Old Man Eloquent
Short Bio: There is not much to say about John Quincy Adam's presidency. He was extremely smart, knew many languages, helped with the treaty for peace with Britain, made the Monroe Doctrine, and had Florida ceded into the U.S., but for all that, he was one lousy president. All of these great things were done when he was secretary of state for Monroe. In fact, Adams is regarded as the best secretary of state in U.S. history. The first person to follow their dad's footsteps into the presidency, he was socially awkward and only had one term...just like his dad. Adams had a problem from the get-go. He won the 1824 election even though Andrew Jackson had secured more popular votes than he had. Through supposed back door dealings, Adams had won the presidency, and Jackson and his supporters would make Adams pay for it his whole term. Adams' biggest mistake was not getting his supporters into the administration. He kept all of Jackson's supporters for some reason, and wondered why he couldn't get anything passed! Adams became extremely ineffective and was trounced by Jackson in the 1828 election.
Adams was a great person, don't get me wrong, but a terrible president. He, like others I will talk about later, hated being the president due to the stress and national attention and jeering. Adams was ineffective, and wasn't smart enough to surround himself with friends.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Party: Democratic Republicans
Nickname: The Last Cocked Hat
Monroe's nickname speaks to him being the last of the "Virginia Dynasty", or presidents that hailed from Virginia. The group was also considered of the elite. Monroe's presidency ushered in the "Era of Good Feelings." The economy was great, the Federalists party died out so inter-party squabbles ceased, and the country had just fought off a major power in the world. Major happenings under Monroe included the issuing of the Monroe Doctrine and the Missouri Compromise. The Monroe Doctrine is only named such, because Monroe was president at the time. The secretary of state at the time, John Quincy Adams, came up with the idea. If you don't remember what the Monroe Doctrine is, it basically says that European powers cannot come over and try and colonize the America's anymore. Basically, stay out of our business and we'll stay out of yours. America threatened war with any country that went against the Monroe Doctrine, though they really didn't have the manpower to do it.
The Missouri Compromise came from the growing issue of slavery in the U.S. There is now a clear division of slave and free states, and the issue of slavery cannot be ignored anymore. The Missouri Compromise allowed for Missouri to become a slave state, as long as Maine came in as a free state. Also, slavery was banned north of the 36 degrees, 30 line. This was a temporary fix that would lead to troubles down the road.
Monroe himself was another man after Jefferson, wanted limited government and more emphasis on states' rights. Monroe was so popular that he ran unopposed in the next election, but was given one vote against so he would not have the distinction of winning unanimously like Washington.
The addition of Florida from Spain also happened during his presidency. General Andrew Jackson invaded Florida to get rid of the Seminoles and the Spanish basically left the territory and ceded it to America.
He gets a above average grade for being President during the Era of Good Feelings. Sure, Madison had a little to do with it, but Monroe did such a good job that nobody wanted to run against him. Thumbs up for the Monroe Doctrine in my opinion. Though it was another man's idea, Monroe does support and endorse it. Thumbs sort of down for the Missouri Compromise. It was a good fix, but even the near death Thomas Jefferson knew that only war would come from this compromise.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Political Party: Democratic-Republican
Nickname: Father of the Constitution
Short (not really) Bio:
Madison is best known as stated above, as the father of the Constitution. Madison himself scoffed at the nickname and claimed that the Constitution was not made by a single mind, and that many had helped form it. Madison was with Jefferson in terms of how he felt about the strength of the government, which was he feared a centralized federal power. After Washington, Adams, and Jefferson had refused to take sides on the war between France and Britain, Madison chose to favor the French. Parts of Jefferson's embargo were still intact for France and Britain, but Madison was willing to agree to terms with France to get trade going again. Why choose France over Britain? Madison and America were a little pissed off that Britain was stopping our ships, taking our supplies, and then impressing our sailors. Impressment meant that our sailors now had to serve on the British ships and fight their war. France did it too, but not as much, and stopped to resume trade.
Pressure to go to war with Britain was high, and not only from citizens. Enter the War Hawks, John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay. They, along with other War Hawks, entered Congress and demanded that Madison deal with Britain. The War Hawks were also convinced that the British had the Native Americans attack our western settlements (The west in that time was our Midwest today). Britain realizes that the hammer is about to come down from both sides, and says they will stop. But, too bad the telegram or any faster mode of communication hasn't been invented yet! The U.S. declares war on Britain while the message is being sent. Madison receives word, and is like, "oh well". Britain now has to fight two countries. Though to their benefit, the Shawnee, led by Tecumseh decide to support Britain and fight the U.S. Tecumseh is widely considered one of the best warriors and generals of all time for his cunning and knowledge of the enemy. Tecumseh was a thorn in the side of Madison and Commander William Henry Harrison. Tecumseh represents the last hope that the Shawnee, and any Native American tribe has at staving off westward expansion of whites.
To make this section about the war itself shorter, I'm going to summarize. The War of 1812 had two parts: Our battles in Canada and around Detroit, and on the east coast. The second part of the war starts when France agrees to a treaty with Britain. Madison runs again for president, wins against Anti-War candidate Clinton, and drives to end the war. Tecumseh is killed in battle, essentially killing the biggest Native American coalition against the whites. Many Native American tribes throw their hats in with the Americans after that, including the Shawnee. The British land in the Eastern U.S. and torch the capitol and the white house. Bad day. Madison and the American forces are finally able to beat the British into a stalemate. Both sides are tired of fighting and sign the Treaty of Ghent. Word doesn't reach New Orleans in time and General Andrew Jackson takes heavy losses, but wins against British forces after the war had already ended. Fun Fact: Our national anthem comes from the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key was captured at Fort McHenry and watched the fort stave off the British forces.
With the war finally over, Madison's popularity grew. America had just shown that it could hold it's own for the second time against one of the world's superpowers. The British never attacked the Americans again after that war. The economy also improves with the creation of the Second National Bank, though it's existence will be snuffed out by a future president. Madison was not big on immigrants into the U.S. He blocked a bill on naturalization, and had all illegal immigrants kicked out of the U.S. Funny how some issues never go away. Madison goes out on a high note and ushers in the Era of Good Feelings.
Madison went to war with a major power and wore them out. That's pretty impressive, though reckless, as Britain had agreed not to impress their sailors anymore. Madison, like Jefferson is more well known for his contributions outside of his presidency. Madison's policy on immigrants could also be seen as harsh by some. Madison also supports the continued expansion of citizens into Native American land. All in all, not a bad presidency.
Yes I realize that this was also a War of 1812 entry too.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Political Party: Democratic Republican
Nickname: Sage of Monticello
Jefferson used the new three-fifths compromise which gave the southern slave owners an extra fraction of a vote to win against Adams. In all honesty, Adams would have won a second term had it not been for the inflated southern vote. Jefferson during his presidency is most known for his buying of the Louisiana Purchase from France. Though Congress wasn’t too keen on spending money it didn’t have, they bought the bargain from France to double the size of the U.S. Jefferson also won the Barbary wars, a war with pirates. Yes, the United States did officially have a war with pirates. Jefferson then decided to pass the Embargo Act of 1807 which stopped all trade with foreign nations, but especially Britain. The embargo backfired and sent the U.S. into an economic tailspin. Jefferson later repealed the act. Jefferson is better known for his writing of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was probably the smartest and well rounded president we ever had, having a extensive library that was the largest in the country. He later sold the three thousand books to the Library of Congress after the small library was burned down during the War of 1812. Was Jefferson generous? Yes, but he partly only did it to get money to support his decadent lifestyle. Jefferson was huge into interior decorating and having big parties. This quickly led him to bankruptcy and died nearly penny-less. Way to be. Jefferson and John Adams became enemies after Jefferson’s underhanded election win and they didn’t reconcile until they were old. Both men ended up dying on the fourth of July.
Jefferson in my opinion did much more outside of his presidency than he did in. The Louisiana Purchase helps him out a lot, but the Embargo was just a terrible idea.
Political Party: Federalist
Nickname: His Rotundity
Adams kept all of Washington’s cabinet members, which was seen as a weakness of the president at the time. Adams also had to deal with the continuing war between France and Britain. He decided to follow Washington and stay out of the ordeal. Adams presidency is somewhat marred by allowing Congress to pass the Alien and Sedition act which made it so foreigners could not become citizens until living in the country for fourteen years and allowed the government to deport anyone they found to be a threat to the nation. This proved to be extremely unpopular and sullied Adams one term as president.
While keeping with Washington’s views, he loses points for the Alien and Sedition act. Adams as a one-termer was not able to accomplish as much.
Here’s my first big series. I’m going to give an overview of our presidents, listing their main achievements, what they messed up on, and I give them my personal grade. Be sure to check back every couple days for a few more presidents. Hopefully you learn something you never knew about our nation’s past leaders.
Political Party: None
Nickname: Father of Our Country
Short Bio: Washington had been enjoying his retirement from national service, when he was asked to preside over the Constitutional Convention. He agreed, and that set him on track to become the President. The framers of the Constitution had made a strong government with Washington in mind actually, and he was the only choice anyone had ever had for the first President of the United States. To this day he is the only president to win unanimously. John Adams was chosen as his Vice-President. Washington realized early on that he was going to be setting many precedents for the presidents. Since Washington lacked much in the way of education, he had James Madison write his inaugural address. Washington was offered $25,000 a year for being president, but like when he was leading the Continental Army, he declined, saying that he would like his work expenses covered only since he was rich already. Congress eventually got him to take the money, since they didn't want this to be something that was perceived as precedents, which would take any poorer man out of the Presidential race.
Washington started the tradition of meeting regularly with his cabinent members, which has been done by every president since. An instance of precedents that was very harmful to America was Washington's unwillingness to visit Congress in person. He had terrible experiences when he did go and try and speak to everyone, so he never did it again. This set a trend for further presidents and caused a larger rift between the Legislative and Executive Branch. Washington helped build the new nation, while dealing with domestic issues including the creation of political parties. Washington was against the creation of political parties and was disdained to find that his secretary of state Thomas Jefferson and secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton had created the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalist, respectively. His cabinet became an all out war against Hamilton and Jefferson. Washington himself leaned more towards the Federalists side, which angered Jefferson, who felt the President relied too much on the advice of Hamilton. This large rift between all of this cabinet members ultimately led to it's demise, as Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and many more would leave and have their seats filled with inadequate men. Hamilton was the last to go, but served with Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion. The rebellion was a controversial issue for the new nation, mostly on how to deal with it. After the rebellious were told that they would be put down with force if they didn't go back home, they still stayed, and Washington decided that this was a dangerous situation that needed to be put down. Washington and Hamilton led the standing army, though Hamilton led the men, and Washington hung out in back giving orders. This marks the only time in history that a Commander in Chief took part in any part of the military while president. Washington took a lot of heat for this from the Democratic-Republicans, as they felt that this was the government abusing its power.
Washington, though greatly loved in America, was not without detractors. Many Democratic-Republicans thought he was too much like a king, as did a few members of the press at the time, some who routinely wrote of how Washington was trying to be King of America for life. Washington heard these attacks, and though he had a tough exterior, he was internally tortured by them. Washington decided that he had enough and just wanted to go back to Mount Vernon. He knew he could of been reelected till he was too old to serve, but instead wanted to live out the rest of his days in peace. He had to get away from all the politics. Thus, Washington set the precedent of only serving two terms. This would go on until FDR, who was elected to four, though he was criticized for it, as his detractors found it to be a slight against Washington. Though it wasn't expected, Washington had a farewell address prepared, this time by Hamilton. This was the last piece of precedence that Washington set, as all presidents afterward would give one. Though during his two terms his cabinet and many others were torn between the two new parties, Washington endorsed and for the most part had a united America. He had claimed neutrality in the fight between Britain and France and was determined to instead build his nation up. He showed that he was able to tackle tough domestic issues like a rebellion, and able to keep a bunch of colonies together.
Grade: A: For his role in creating our nation and keeping the new nation afloat in the early years.
If you have driven, or have ever been in a car, or walk around with your eyes open, you have probably seen all those election signs spread out all over your community. Chances are you have never heard of these names before. If you do recognize one, it’s only because you accidentally listened to your counties’ local radio station or NPR. What do these signs mean? It means election time is upon us! Hoorah! Election time means something for people who are 18 and over. Or at least it should. If you are under 18, it doesn't mean as much. It’s just a time when your parents seem more agitated and seem to yell at the TV more than they do when Jeopardy is on. Along with the thousands of signs that line every coverable inch of earth on the side of the road, there are those fun TV commercials which are paid for by the committees to elect John or Jane Doe. Because politicians aren't just men anymore, women have overcame the fact that they couldn't vote less than a hundred years ago, and now have run for president. The TV commercials are either two things; boring or funny. "My opponent supports punching puppies, and that just sickens me," says one politician about his competition. "Those puppies are taking our jobs, and they’re communist! Do you want to support someone who loves communist puppies? ," says the competition. Though communist puppies will surely not become an issue for many years, that’s basically how the mudslinging goes between candidates.
Mudslinging is a popular way to get you elected. All you have to do is paint the other person as being the worst human being in existence and you are all set! A republican and a democrat go back and forth about jobs, taxes, abortion, gay rights, gun control, and a number of other issues. Then you have that third party candidate that kind of knows they’re going to lose but wants to draw votes away from one party.
So what does election time mean to us? Does it mean change? Does it mean more of the same? We honestly don’t really know unless there is an incumbent running. We all hope for different things though. There aren't many times when both sides of the political spectrum decided to get someone elected. The exception is Washington’s, Monroe’s, and Eisenhower’s election as president of the United States. Washington had no competition. Monroe was voted in unanimously except for one vote just because they didn't want to put Monroe in the unanimously voted in area of presidents. Eisenhower was a war hero from World War II. Enough said. I may want change, while another person wants things to stay the same. What we can all agree on, is that the American public is never happy.
Elections bring another thing besides signs and commercials. They bring debates. This is where you get to see a little snippet of what that politician is about. Most of the time, the responses to questions will fit in to what their party wants. It is a proven fact that third parties just can’t win in our current political elections. The last time they came close was Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party. As a politician, you either spout what your party wants you to, or you go somewhere else. Are all Democrats and Republicans the same? No. Some republicans are more liberal than others and some democrats are more conservative than others. But they can’t go too rogue, as it’s called nowadays, or they alienate themselves from their party. Good example: John Tyler. You will hear more about him in a later blog. When a person becomes an elected official, they have to reach over the aisle just enough to get things done, but not topple completely over into the other side or withdrawal too much into their own side. That’s why it’s hard for a president to get anything done when congress is controlled by another party.
Anyway, I’m going on a tangent. You may be upset at a candidate for saying certain things, but in truth, they probably have to say those things, either to appease their party, or to reach out to a group that they need votes from. Abraham Lincoln, when in debates for president, pledged that he did not support the spread of slavery, but would not work to abolish slavery. Do you really think that Lincoln didn't want to get rid of slavery? Of course he probably did, but, when the country is on the brink of war and you say you’re going to work to get rid of a region’s way of life, then things get ugly. Lincoln had to find a way to get southern votes if he could and not cause any more unrest. Politically, he said one thing, and personally felt another way. Who is to say that politicians today disagree with some of the stances they have tied themselves to? Debates can be entertaining at times. If you want entertaining, check out the first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy in the 1960 election. Nixon was getting over a sickness and make up was used to try and make him look better. It just made him look pastier and old compared to the good-looking JFK. For those that saw that debate on television, Nixon appeared tired and un-presidential, while Kennedy looked the youthful politician of the future. Television viewers found Kennedy to be the winner. Radio listeners thought Nixon won. So, appearance matters. Especially now since debates are watched mainly on the television. Things can unravel fast for a candidate. It doesn't matter what level you are at, getting up in front of a bunch of people and answering important social questions is nerve wracking. All it takes is a slip of the tongue and you've lost some of your constituents. Or maybe you paused too long after being asked a question. Or maybe you answered it as vaguely as possible and everybody knows it. Elections are won or lost here. If you've never watched a debate before, please do. They are incredibly boring sometimes, but at heart, they are what we are supposed to listening to the most. People vote a certain way for a variety of reasons. Whether if it’s on one issue only, or they just always vote one way, sometimes, people don’t really care what the candidates have to say. I think that’s a mistake. I think that no matter what party the candidate belongs to, they have the potential to be great, or a dismal failure. I personally vote either way in elections all time based on who I think is best for the job. It’s about competency, leadership skills, and the will to get things done. Issues of course to come into play, but in all honesty, many issues we take into consideration when voting are not addressed at all during that persons tenure.
Voting is a gamble. It’s our patriotic duty, but it’s a gamble. As a representative democracy, we the people choose who represents us. They make decisions based on what they think is good for the people. Unfortunately, it’s not always all people, and just some. We for the most part don’t really know that much about the politicians we elect. We hear a few personal preferences and party talk and then we make our decisions. That’s why I think it’s important that we all do our research. Not just vote for a person because they belong to the party you usually support, but vote for someone who has the integrity, the good character, and the passion to make our communities, our states, and our country a better place. Vote for someone that represents the people, and not just their party, not just the movers and shakers, and not just interest groups.
Our elections and their systems may be tedious, but it gives us the ability to voice our opinion. Some say that your vote does not matter, and they may be true because of how our system is set up, but it is our right to vote, and we have the freedom to do it, so we should take advantage of that right. Go out and vote! IT'S FUN!