Our Three R’s

Jeff Simpson asks about the title of this blog, so here is a bit of a history lesson for y’all.

In 1884, New York Democratic Governor Grover “Grover the Good” Cleveland was running against Maine Republican Senator James “Blaine from Maine” Blaine. The race was supposed to be tight in New York state, where the Tammany Hall machine was less than enthusiastic about supporting the reform Governor.

The Religious Bureau of the Republican National Committee had a get together where a preacher named Dr. Samuel D. Burchard spoke and said:

We are Republicans, and don’t propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion. We are loyal to our flag.

Burchard was summarizing three “bugaboos” that got the Republican “base vote” riled about the Democrats:

  • Rum: Prohibition was the great moral issue of the day, and it divided both major parties. However, then as now, it was easy to tag the Democrats as wrong on a “values” issue. Cleveland had been pounded throughout the campaign for fathering a child out of wedlock, so any charge of moral terpitude tended to stick.
  • Romanism: There were growing throngs of immigrants from Ireland, Southern and Eastern Europe. Since many of these immigrants shared a Catholic background, then considered a dangerous foreign ideology, it became easy to tag them as not quite American. Many of these voters formed the base of the Democratic urban machines.
  • Rebellion: The Republicans were still waving the bloody shirt twenty years after the civil war. Understandable, really.

Cleveland narrowly carried New York and won the presidency. Some people say that Buchard’s comments alienated many and helped motivate more Catholics to go to the polls, I doubt it. Cleveland’s victory in New York probably had more to do with former Kansas Governor John P. St. John (I love that name), who was running as a Prohibition candidate. St. John was irked at Blaine for various reasons and put a great deal of effort in New York to cut into Blaine’s support. What Burchard’s comments did was indicate that the Republicans were slowly becoming out of touch with the electorate, bashing a growing immigrant population and waving the bloody shirt wasn’t going to win elections anymore.

Some of Nixon’s people tried to create an updated version: Acid, Amnesty and Abortion. I suggest this to Jeff as the name of his blog…

I’ll leave it up to y’all to find any parallels to the modern day. I have to get back to setting our nation’s youth straight.

2 thoughts on “Our Three R’s

  1. Thanks for the lesson, T-ski!

    Long live the Roman Rum Rebellion!

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