Friday, July 28, 2017

That Ol' Empty Chair

From the “Just In Case You Didn’t Know” Department . . .

Remember this?

He wasn’t the first . . . 

From “The Teapot Dome Scandal,” by Laton McCartney, page 247:

In the national campaign, the Democrats as well as the newly formed Progressive Party, which put forth La Follette and Walsh’s protégé Burton Wheeler as its presidential and vice-presidential candidates, respectively, hammered away at Teapot and the Republicans without much effect. Davis, Al Smith, Walsh, and others (the showman Wheeler debated an empty chair on which he asked his audience to imagine President Coolidge was seated) tried to get Coolidge to respond to charges about the scandal, but “Silent Cal” remained entirely mum, refusing to take the bait.

The Republicans won the election, just so ya’know. Coolidge took 382 electoral votes and the popular vote, of 15.7 million. Democrat John Davis of West Virginia got 136 electoral votes on a popular vote of 8.3 million, while Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, who ran on the Progressive Party (Teddy Roosevelt Progressives of the Republican variety) earned 13 electoral votes on a popular vote of 4.8 million.

This stunt alone inspires me to read more about America’s “Progressive Era,” where the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson (presidents all) were joined by authors like Upton Sinclair, industrialists like Andrew Carnegie (!) and Thomas Alva Edison, members of the Womens’ Suffrage movement (Susan B. Anthony) to combat problems stemming from industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and corruption in government. Sound like familiar troubles, eh?

I’m already a fan of Sinclair Lewis, who wrote of these times.

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