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POLITICS: LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL Political Strategy and Tactics –major parties normally avoid taking stands on controversial issues, but that tendency.

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Presentation on theme: "POLITICS: LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL Political Strategy and Tactics –major parties normally avoid taking stands on controversial issues, but that tendency."— Presentation transcript:

1 POLITICS: LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL Political Strategy and Tactics –major parties normally avoid taking stands on controversial issues, but that tendency reached abnormal proportions in the late nineteenth century –a delicate balance of power between the parties as well as new and difficult issues, to which no answers were readily available, contributed to the parties’ reluctance to adopt firm positions

2 Voting Along Ethnic and Religious Lines –although major parties had national committees and held national conventions to nominate presidential candidates and draft “platforms,” these parties remained essentially separate state organizations –more often than not, a voter’s ethnic origins, religious ties, perception of the Civil War, and whether he lived in a rural or urban setting influenced his decision to vote Republican or Democrat

3 –local and state issues often interacted with religious and ethnic issues and shaped political attitudes –the nation’s political leadership, therefore, based their strategies and chose their candidates with an eye to local and personal factors as well as national concerns

4 City Bosses –stresses of rapid urban growth, strain on infrastructures, and exodus of upper and middle classes all led to a crisis in city government –this turmoil gave rise to urban political bosses –these bosses provided social services in exchange for political support –money for these services (and to enrich themselves) came from kickbacks and bribes

5 –despite their welfare work and popularity, most bosses were essentially thieves –the system survived because most comfortable urban dwellers cared little if at all for the fate of the poor –many reformers resented the boss system mainly because it gave political power to people who were not “gentlemen”

6 Party Politics: Sidestepping the Issue –on the national scene, the South was solidly Democratic; New England and the Trans- Mississippi West were staunchly Republican –New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois usually determined the outcome of elections –only three presidential candidates between 1868 and 1900 did not come from New York, Indiana, Illinois, or Ohio; and all three lost; partisan politics was intense in “swing states” –because so much depended on these states, the level of political ethics was abysmally low

7 Lackluster Leaders –America’s presidents of the day demonstrated little interest in dealing with the urgent issues confronting the nation –Rutherford B. Hayes, president from 1877 to 1881, entered office with a distinguished personal and political record –Hayes favored tariff reduction, civil service reform, and better treatment for blacks in South –however, he made little progress in any of these areas

8 –Republican party split in 1880 between “Stalwarts” and “Half-Breeds,” and James A. Garfield emerged as a compromise candidate –Garfield was assassinated after only four months in office, but he had already demonstrated his ineffectiveness –his successor, Chester A. Arthur, although personally honest and competent, had been an unblushing defender of the spoils system –as president, however, Arthur conducted himself with dignity, handled patronage matters with restraint, and gave nominal support to civil service reform

9 –Arthur also favored regulation of the railroads and tariff reductions –nevertheless, he was a political failure; the Stalwarts would not forgive Arthur for his “desertion,” and the reformers would not forget his past –his party denied him its nomination in 1884 –the election of 1884 revolved around personal issues and was characterized by mudslinging on both sides –Grover Cleveland, former Democratic governor of New York, defeated James G. Blaine by fewer than 25,000 votes

10 –Cleveland’s was an honest, if unimaginative, administration –his emphasis on the strict separation of powers prevented his placing effective pressure on the Congress, and thus he failed to confront the issues of the day –in 1888, Benjamin Harrison, a Republican from Indiana, defeated Cleveland. Harrison’s election elevated a “human iceberg” and fiscal conservative to the presidency

11 –during Harrison’s term, Congress raised the tariff to an all-time high, passed the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Silver Purchase Act, and enacted a “force” bill to protect the voting rights of southern blacks –Harrison, however, remained aloof from this process –Cleveland reclaimed the presidency from Harrison in 1892 –by the standards of the late nineteenth century, Cleveland’s margin of victory was substantial

12 –Congressional Leaders –James G. Blaine, a Republican from Maine, stands out among Congressional leaders, both for his successes and for his shortcomings –Congressman William McKinley of Ohio devoted his efforts to maintaining a protective tariff –another Ohioan, John Sherman, held national office from 1855 to 1898 –although a financial expert, he proved all too willing to compromise his personal beliefs for political gain

13 –Thomas B. Reed, a Republican congressman from Maine, was a man of acerbic wit and ultraconservative views –as Speaker of the House, his autocratic methods won him the nickname “Czar”

14 Crops and Complaints –if middle class majority remained comfortable and complacent, the economic and social status of farmers declined throughout the late 19th century; and their discontent forced American politics to confront the problems of the era –American farmers suffered from low commodity prices, restrictive tariff and fiscal policies, competition from abroad, and drought. Farmers on the plains experienced boom conditions in the 1880s

15 –the boom collapsed in the 1890s, and a downward swing in the business cycle exacerbated their plight

16 The Populist Movement –the agricultural depression triggered an outburst of political radicalism, the Alliance movement –the Farmers Alliance spread throughout the South and into the Midwest –the farm groups entered politics in the elections of 1890 –in 1892, these farm groups combined with representatives of the Knights of Labor and various professional reformers to organize the People’s, or Populist, party

17 –the convention adopted a sweeping platform calling for a graduated income tax; the nationalization of rail, telegraph, and telephone systems; the “subtreasury” plan, and the unlimited coinage of silver –the party also called for the adoption of the initiative and referendum, popular election of United States senators, an eight-hour workday, and immigration restrictions –in the presidential election, Cleveland defeated Harrison

18 –the Populist candidate, James B. Weaver, attracted over a million votes, but results in congressional and state races were disappointing –opponents of the Populists in the South played on racial fears, and the Populists failed to attract the support of urban workers

19 Showdown on Silver –by early 1890s, discussion of federal monetary policy revolved around the coinage of silver –traditionally, the United States issued gold and silver coins –established ratio of roughly 15:1 undervalued silver, so no one took silver to the Mint –when silver mines of Nevada and Colorado flooded market with metal and depressed the price of silver, it became profitable to coin bullion; but miners found that the Coinage Act of 1873 had demonetized the metal

20 –Silver miners and inflationists demanded a return to bimetalism; conservatives resisted –the result was a series of compromises –the Bland-Allison Act (1878) authorized the purchase of $2 million to $4 million of silver a month at the market price –this had little inflationary impact because the government consistently bought the minimum –the Sherman Silver Purchase Act (1890) required the government to buy 4.5 million ounces of silver monthly –however, increasing supplies drove the price of silver still lower

21 –Cleveland believed that the controversy over silver caused the depression by shaking the confidence of the business community –he summoned a special session of Congress and forced a repeal of Sherman Silver Purchase Act –the southern and western wings of the Democratic party deserted over this issue. Cleveland’s handling of Coxey’s Army and the Pullman strike further eroded public confidence in him, and the public was outraged when it took a syndicate of bankers headed by J. P. Morgan to avert a run on the Treasury

22 –with the silver issue looming ever larger and the Populists demanding unlimited coinage of silver at 16:1, the major parties could no longer avoid the money question in 1896 –the Republicans nominated McKinley and endorsed the gold standard –the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan and ran on a platform of free silver –although concerned over the loss of their distinctive party identity, the Populists nominated Bryan as well –in an effort to preserve their party identity, they substituted Tom Watson for the Democratic vice-presidential nominee

23 The Election of 1896 –the election of 1896, fueled by emotional debates over the silver issue, split party ranks across the nation –pro-silver Republicans swung behind Bryan, while pro-gold Democrats, called “gold bugs” or National Democrats, nominated their own candidate –the Republican aspirant, William McKinley, relied upon his experience, his reputation for honesty and good judgment, his party’s wealth, and the skillful management of Mark Hanna

24 –moreover, the depression worked to the advantage of the party out of power –Bryan, a powerful orator, was handicapped by his youth, his relative inexperience, and the defection of the gold Democrats –he nevertheless conducted a vigorous campaign, traveling over eighteen thousand miles and delivering over six hundred speeches –on election day, McKinley decisively defeated Bryan

25 The Meaning of the Election –far from representing a triumph for the status quo, the election marked the coming of age of modern America –McKinley’s approach was national; Bryan’s was basically parochial –workers and capitalists supported McKinley, and the farm vote split –the battle over gold and silver had little real significance; new gold discoveries led to an expansion of the money supply

26 –Bryan’s vision of America, and that of the political Populists who supported him, was one steeped in the past –McKinley, for all his innate conservatism, was capable of looking ahead toward the new century

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