Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Most Important Election of the Second Half of the 1860s

Keeping with Thursday's election year theme, I don't have any good cartoons to share from the 1918 off-year election campaign, so Ulysses S.back Saturday hearkens back another 50 years to the presidential election of 1868.
"Keep the Ball Rolling" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, September 19, 1868
Banking on his overwhelming popularity as the Union General who accepted Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the Republicans nominated Ulysses S. Grant as their standard bearer. Grant didn't have much of a political history; the one and only time he had voted in a presidential election was in 1856 for Democrat James Buchanan (because "I knew Frémont"). But he had come to loathe President Andrew Johnson and happily stepped in when Republicans asked him head their ticket and drive the impeached incumbent out of office.

Grant's brief letter accepting the Republican nomination provided the campaign's catch phrase of "Let us have peace." One could debate whether that sentence in the cartoon is the sound of the Democratic pins clattering down, or their complaint at being bowled over. Ready with a second bowling ball is Grant's running mate, Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax of Indiana ("Mother of Vice Presidents!").

"A Sea of Troubles" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 3, 1868
Deadlocked in ballot after ballot after ballot, the Democratic Convention finally nominated former New York Governor Horatio Seymour in spite of his repeated Shermanesque protests that he wasn't a candidate, wouldn't run, and wanted to nominate Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase instead.
"The Modern Samson" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 3, 1868
1868 would be the first presidential election in which freed African-American slaves would have the right to vote. "The Modern Samson" depicts "Southern Democracy" having used a blade labeled "Lost Cause Regained" to cut the hair of suffrage from Black citizenry while the Democratic ticket and supporters rejoice in the background. A statue of Andrew Johnson with stone tablets labeled "Veto" sits under the words "I will be your Moses" and atop a pedestal reading "The great Dem Party will rise in might and majesty." Southern newspaper editorials and Ku Klux Klan statements decrying the "lost cause" and arguing that Black Americans "are as babes without experience in government affairs" decorate the walls.

One must note that extending the vote to Black Americans was controversial up North as well. Prior to passage of the 15th Amendment, the Failing New York Times had editorialized:
The adult negroes of the South probably number half a million, — and if admitted to the suffrage, would cast one-sixth of the aggregate national vote. Nine-tenths of them are confessedly ignorant of the first rudiments of knowledge, and not one whit better qualified to vote, of their own motive, wisely and intelligently, than so many Chinese would be the day they should land on our shores. Is it quite safe to demand their instant admission to the ballot-box? Would it not be quite as well to approach a matter of such vast importance with a little caution? Is it quite certain that these negroes would all vote just as we would like to have them?
"Why 'The N⸺ Is Not Fit to Vote'" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 24, 1868
That Black Americans might not "vote just as we would like to have them" was the point of Nast's ironic reply in 1868. I've bowdlerized the caption of the above cartoon out of care for modern sensibilities; but you can be sure that no publication in the world had any more hesitation to print the N-word out in full than Thomas Nast did in drawing the Irish as apish ruffians.

"Nationalization Mill," unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 24, 1868
If 1860s Democrats had their prejudice against certain voters, so did the Republicans. The New York Tribune shrieked that Tammany Hall Democrats' open border policies were a ruse to gin up the Democratic vote total. This in spite of the fact that the Republican Party platform also encouraged "foreign immigration, which in the past has added so much to the wealth, development, and resources, and increase of power to the republic." Indeed, there was nothing to stop any immigrant from coming to the U.S.; the short-lived Burlingame-Seward Treaty signed in 1868 opened the doors to Chinese immigrants, the only foreign group with any previous limitations.

The above cartoon depicts Gov. Seymour at right bagging votes from the "naturalization mill" with his running mate, Union General Francis Blair of Missouri. Judge John McCunn was one of the members of Boss Tweed's ring, and was forced to resign in 1872 over the scandal over naturalizing 2,000 fresh-off-the-boat citizens in a single day.

I haven't credited the nationalization mill cartoon to Nast because, unlike the other two cartoons on the October 24, 1868 issue's front page, it is not signed by him.

"Matched. (?)" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 31, 1868
The text under Nast's cartoon contrasts a letter from Major General Grant promising "all due respect" to Confederate soldiers under Lt. Gen. J.C. Pemberton's command at the Battle of Vicksburg if Pemberton would surrender, with Seymour's address to New Yorkers rioting at Fort Pillow against the draft a few days later:
"MY FRIENDS, I have come down from the quiet of the country to see what was the difficulty, to learn what all this trouble was concerning the draft. Let me assure you that I am your friend." (Uproarious cheering.) "You have been my friends." (Cries of "yes," "yes," — "that's so"—"we are, and shall be again.") And now I assure you, my fellow citizens, that I am here to show you a test of my friendship." (Cheers.) "I wish to inform you that I have sent my Adjutant-General to Washington to confer with the authorities there, and to have this draft suspended and stopped." (Vociferous cheers.) "I now ask you as good citizens to wait for his return, and I assure you that I will do all that I can to see that there is no inequality and no wrong done anyone." —New York Tribune, July 14, 1863.
Such formal and flowery language was certainly typical of politicians of the period, and whoever transcribed Seymour's actual words would have polished up anything that fell short of the style. But Republicans used the words "My friends" to tar and feather Seymour as a rebel sympathizer (those words are on the sheet sticking out of Seymour's pocket in the naturalization mill cartoon above). Indeed, he was a conservative with Southern sympathies before and after the Civil War.
"Both Sides of the Question" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 24, 1868
"Both Sides of the Question" was a two-page editorial cartoon contrasting the valiant supporters of Grant and Colfax with Seymour and Blair's scurrilous minions. On the left page under the tattered Union flag, the Boys in Blue include such luminaries as New York World publisher Horace Greeley (reading his newspaper), Generals Tecumseh Sherman and Ambrose Burnside (with his trademark sideburns), and Nast himself sharpening his pencil down in the lower left corner.
"Both Sides of the Question" by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, New York, October 24, 1868
On the right page under Confederate and Ku Klux Klan banners, the Boys in Gray include Tammany Hall figures, General Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Gen. McClellan, New York Mayor John Hoffman (of the mutton chop mustache and huge jaw; he would be elected Governor in November) and peering out from their political grave, President Andrew Johnson and Union General Winfield Hancock (who would be the Democratic presidential nominee in 1880).
"Victory!" unsigned, in Harper's Weekly, New York, November 14, 1868
General Grant won the presidency of course, and the only surprising thing about it is that the outcome wasn't a complete blow-out. He won by a margin of 309,584 votes out of 5,716,082 cast. Grant's majorities in Louisiana and Georgia were disputed; and citizens of Virginia, Mississippi and Texas were not allowed to vote at all.

The Republican Party was only 14 years old, but was already very expert at adapting electoral rules in its own favor. And they have certainly refined their expertise in that area since then.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Q Toon: How It Works

It's true, Buzz. Romania held a referendum on October 6 and 7 on a proposal to enshrine in its constitution an exclusive definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. In spite of a 93.4% yes vote in favor of the constitutional amendment, it failed:
Data from the national election bureau showed voter turnout stood at 20.4 percent when the polls closed at 1800 GMT [later official figures put it at 21.1%], below the 30 percent required for it to be valid.
The two-day referendum, which cost $40 million, aimed to change the constitution to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman from the current gender-neutral “spouses.”
Religiously conservative Romania, which decriminalized homosexuality in 2001 decades after neighboring countries, bars marriage and civil partnerships for same sex couples.
There had been an active campaign by human rights activists and the Save Romania Union urging people to boycott the election. Centrist-liberal President Klaus Iohannis also opposed the referendum, saying that as a member of an ethnic and religious minority (he is a Lutheran of German heritage), he supports tolerance and openness and rejects religious fanaticism.

Here at home, multiple reports suggest that in spite of the turmoil of the Corrupt Trump Administration and decades of craven inaction on gun violence in our schools, some young people may not be as keen on getting out to vote on November 6 as others are. I've heard interviews with millennials who complain that one vote doesn't make a difference, or that they'd rather march in the streets for change.

Granted, Republicans have been doing their damndest to keep one vote from making a difference, both by cracking and packing voting districts and by keeping one vote from being cast in the first place. But without those one votes after another, marching in the streets isn't going to make a damned bit of difference, either. The only things less effective than marching in the streets are retweeting a meme on Twitter, or sharing a post on Facebook.

(Or, for you pre-millennials, muting the TV set.)

There is a lot that could be done to make the American electoral system more transparent and representative, but none of it can possibly happen if the same people currently in charge of the three branches of government get to stay there.  And they're only leaving office if enough of us tell them at the voting booth that it's time to go.

The above tweet has been flitting around the internet during this past week. One hopes that the volunteer at your polling station doesn't need you to get all high and mighty and speaking in caps. "I'd like a provisional ballot, please" should suffice. But I'll pass it along anyway in case you get stuck with someone who takes their poll working instructions from Fox & Friends.

By the way, did you happen to pick up on the detail that the Romanian election was held over two days, a Saturday and a Sunday, when people generally have more time to get out to the polls than on a Tuesday?

There's something to be admired in the Romanian electoral system.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

It's All Fun And Games Until Someone Puts An Eye Out

Last week, some vandalous miscreant glued a pair of googly eyes onto the statue of Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene in Savannah, Georgia. A disgruntled royalist redcoat scallawag, I'll warrant!

Officials were able to excise the offending eyeballs without any damage to the statue, and are hot on the trail of the jocular oculist, hoping to head off a wave of googly eye vandalism from sweeping the country.

We are under threat of a dastardly assault on public art that, left unchecked, could even reach into the White House!

Monday, October 15, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

Even though Killer is breaking the fourth wall, he's never alone, which means that the news can't all be bad.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest

This week's episode of Sneezeback Saturday catches (up on) the Spanish Influenza epidemic in the fall of 1918, which was at its worst in October.
"La Nouvelle Indisposition" by TEL in L'Homme Libre, Paris, August 24, 1918
But first, let's reach back to August, when the French cartoonist penning under the nom de plume "TEL" referenced the Spanish Flu in a cartoon about Spain's official letters of protest to Germany over the sinking of Spanish ships. Neutral in the war, Spain nevertheless lost a fifth of its merchant marine and at least 100 Spanish sailors to German torpedoes. In retaliation, the Spanish government threatened to confiscate an equal number of German ships if Germany did not guarantee safe passage for continued Spanish shipping.
"Speaking of Epidemics" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1918
There is a theory that Germany's defeat in the war was due in part to the Central Powers' armies being ravaged by the Spanish flu pandemic. That, and propaganda that the disease originated in Austria may or may not have helped inspire John McCutcheon's cartoon above. The Spanish flu was spreading through the Entente lines as well, however.
"Open a Window..." by Gaar Williams in Indianapolis News, Sept./Oct. 1918

As noted here before, the Spanish flu had nothing to do with Spain. The first documented case of the disease befell Private Albert Gitchell at Camp Funston, Fort Riley, Kansas in March of 1918; within a week, 100 more soldiers at Fort Riley had the disease, and it was spreading as the soldiers shipped out through New York to Europe.
"How to Get a Seat" by Maurice Ketten in New York World, October, 1918
Somehow, the contagion got the name Spanish flu even though there were no cases of the disease in Spain until November. In other European countries, wartime censorship kept the press from reporting the extent of the pandemic; the association of the disease with Spain may have had something to do with the lack of such wartime censorship there.

We weren't about to let it be called "Kansan flu," you know.
"Grand-dad Inadvertently Sneezed..." by William Donahey in Cleveland Plain Dealer, October, 1918
In spite of the tens of thousands of their fellow citizens stricken with the deadly flu, American cartoonists seem to have had a flippant attitude toward the disease. If I didn't know better, I'd suspect that there was a deliberate campaign to downplay public fears.
"That Guiltiest Feeling" by Clare Briggs in Chicago Tribune, October, 1918
Well, I don't know any better, so I'm going right ahead with my plans to suspect a conspiracy borne of wartime censorship.

"It Happens in the Best of Families!" by Sid Chapin in St. Louis Republic, October, 1918

P.S.: Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Q Toon: Marry Making

Sitting at my drawing board Sunday night, I had considered putting Nikki Haley behind Trump in this cartoon. I'm so glad that I didn't.

While most of the country was embroiled in the fight over whether alleged devil's triangulator Brett Kavanaugh deserved a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, the State Department announced that it is going to require foreign diplomats and U.N. employees who are living in the U.S. with their same-sex life partners to get married or ship their honey home.
Diplomats and United Nations officials in same-sex couples who wish to keep U.S. visas, or are in the process of acquiring them, must show proof of marriage by December 31. If they fail to do so, partners of diplomats and officials will “be expected to leave the United States within 30 days unless they submit the required proof of marriage or have obtained separate authorization to remain in the country through a change of non-immigrant status.”
Ostensibly, this is supposed to have something to do with Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage three years ago, although it's very difficult to see how marriage equality in this country should force people to get married who don't have to obey our parking regulations.

This is not something that any LGBTQ group of any kind has been pushing for, or had even dreamed up, so it's difficult to imagine what the Corrupt Trump Administration is trying to accomplish. As our former Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers pointed out, only 12% of U.N. member states allow same-sex couples to get married. Many countries in Africa, the former Soviet bloc, and Asia actively criminalize their LGBTQ citizens. This new rule is not going to pressure antigay regimes to turn around and embrace marriage equality; it's more likely to result in the persecution of those same-sex partners, and probably the recall and disappearance of the diplomats they were living with.

Which leads me to suspect that maybe there is some particular diplomat Trump wants to get rid of, and this is some sneaky way of going about it.

Whatever the reason, you can be sure it's over something petty.