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The First Political Conventions

September 8th, 2012

Long before we had 24-hour news cycles, an endless stream of pundits, and a slew of social media websites, America had no problem nominating Presidential candidates.  In fact, we went decades before political conventions were even thought of!

Up until the 1820’s, members of Congress nominated Presidential candidates.  In those days, the candidates didn’t hit the stump and travel all over the place campaigning.  Instead, they left that up to their supporters.

But, eventually, people got sick of that.  In September 1831, 96 members of the Anti-Masonic Party headed to Baltimore and held America’s first political convention.  (Ironically, they nominated William Wirt — a former Mason.  Apparently flip-flopping existed back then, too!)

Not to be outdone, the National Republicans held their own convention in Baltimore a couple months later.  But like today’s conventions, everyone knew ahead of time that Henry Clay was going to be nominated.  So much for suspense!

Five months later, the Democrats decided to drum up some enthusiasm by holding a convention of their own.  Unsurprisingly, sitting President Andrew Jackson got their nomination.  But in an effort to add some suspense, the Democrats decided to unveil their Vice-Presidential candidate at the convention.

Imagine what things were like at those very first political conventions.  There were no screaming primetime speeches, no balloons dropping from the ceiling, no glitzy videos, and no one Tweeting all of the action in real-time.  All you had was a group of people getting together for one day and picking who they thought would be the perfect choice to run the country.

What’s the Story Behind Third-Party Candidates?

August 29th, 2012

The U.S. has had a two-party political system for hundreds of years — ever since the Federalists and the Republicans started duking things out in 1791.

But every now and then, a third-party candidate comes along and shakes things up.

In 2012, Ron Paul certainly made a splash — even though the Libertarian technically ran as a Republican.  Now that he’s out of the race, Gary Johnson is trying to mount a campaign against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Before that, we had Ralph Nader in 2000.  And, of course, who could ever forget Ross Perot in 1992?

Historically, third-party candidates don’t get a ton of votes in Presidential elections, but they can do a lot to derail the other guys.

Just look at what Ross Perot did…

Even though he officially dropped out of the race in July of 1992, he clearly siphoned off votes that would have otherwise gone to George H.W. Bush in November.  But even more importantly, Perot spent his entire campaign drawing lots of attention to the national debt — something that incumbent Bush was responsible for.  So, when Bill Clinton came along and said tax increases were the only way to close the deficit, people were more willing to listen.

So, where did the idea of third-party candidates come from?

The names may change over the years (after all, America has seen everything from the Free Soil Party, to the Southern Democrat Party, to the Reform Party, to the Green Party, to the Libertarian Party), but the purpose is always the same — to focus on what they believe are the “right” issues and to make sure that these issues are dealt with properly.

What do you think?  Do these parties deserve more credit?  Do you think they could ever replace one of the “mainstream” parties?

When Did We Lose the Cherry Tree?

August 27th, 2012

It’s a story that’s been told for centuries…

Little George Washington (then just six years-old) was playing with a hatchet, when he cut down his father’s favorite cherry tree. When his father asked him who killed the tree, Washington replied, “I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie!”

As we all know, little George grew up to be our first President, and this story set a high standard for America’s leaders to strive for.
But look at what we’ve got today:

– Republicans in Congress crying foul over U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s alleged refusal to turn over documents in response to a subpoena over Operation Fast and Furious.

– Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geitner, who didn’t pay Social Security or Medicare taxes from 2001-2004. He paid $34,000 in back taxes before being confirmed to lead the IRS’ hunt for tax-evaders.

– Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said she was never briefed on the CIA’s use of waterboarding back in 2002. However, the former CIA counterterrorism chief claims to have proof (in a classified government cable) about when and where she was told about what was going on.

It’s not just Democrats who are in hot water, and it’s not a recent development, either. After lying about the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon is still the only U.S. President to ever resign.

More recently, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison for money laundering, after he used a political action committee to send donations to Texas House candidates.

Examples like these make you wonder… when exactly was it that we lost sight of the cherry tree?


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