Voting in Fort Worth? Drop into the Amon Carter, see how campaigns worked in 1844

November 4, 2014

Election day art — well, this is campaign art, but part of that American tradition of highlighting the public nature of elections and campaigns.

Caption from the Dallas Morning News:  James Henry Beard’s The Illustrious Guest, depicting Henry Clay on the campaign trail in 1844, is on loan to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Caption from the Dallas Morning News: James Henry Beard’s The Illustrious Guest, depicting Henry Clay on the campaign trail in 1844, is on loan to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Yes, there’s Henry Clay — maybe the man most-expected to become president who never did.  No, your high school history class probably didn’t cover Clay well, and most don’t today, either.  Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes may give him part of what he is due.

But there he is, campaigning in 1844, out on the road.  Actually, he’s at the hotel, reading a newspaper — and everyone else stares.  Some people bring their children to see the
Great Clay.

It was Clay’s third run at the presidency, at to be his last.  He ran on the Whig Party ticket, a party that would crash and burn within the decade, sinking from electoral politics forever.  (Millard Fillmore would be last Whig President, ascending from the vice presidency on the death of Zachary Taylor; Taylor was the last elected Whig President.) Clay was amply qualified on paper, and in the minds of most people, to be president.

Henry Clay, Sr. (April 12, 1777 – June 29, 1852) was an American lawyer, politician, and skilled orator who represented Kentucky in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. He served three different terms as Speaker of the House of Representatives and was also Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829. He lost his campaigns for president in 1824, 1832 and 1844.

In 1824, he ran behind Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. In what Jackson later called the Corrupt Bargain, when no candidate got a majority in the electoral college, and the election went to the House of Representatives (where each state gets one vote!), Clay pulled out, and let it be known that he favored Adams, who had run behind Jackson.  Adams was elected, and appointed Clay to be Secretary of State, the most common stepping stone to the presidency. (Was there a deal cut between Adams and Clay? No evidence can ever quash the suspicions of Jackson and his supporters.)

In 1832, older, wiser, from the Senate and as founder of the Whig Party, Clay ran and lost to Jackson, who won his second term.

In 1844 Clay was 67 years old.  The presidency was open.  Clay sought to walk the fence between groups who favored abolishing slavery, and groups who insisted slavery was necessary for the economy.  He opposed annexing new lands to the U.S., in order to preserve the balance between slave and non-slave states in Congress, especially the Senate.  James K. Polk, a young protege of Andrew Jackson, was chiefly unknown.  But Polk endorsed the idea of the nation’s “manifest destiny,” meaning he supporting annexing lands, sorting out slave/non-slave issues later.  Polk didn’t talk about his views on slavery in territories, and that was enough to mollify anti-slave forces in the party; but Polk was a slave holder, and that encouraged partisans on the other side to believe he’d favor them.  Polk won 49.5% of the popular vote, Clay 48.1%; Clay captured 170 electoral votes when 138 were needed to win.

Clay was, no doubt, more hopeful at the time the painting conveys.

Notice Clay seems to travel alone.  There is not gaggle of reporters, no clutch of campaign aides.  There is no one to fetch the great man a newspaper so he can remain cloistered in his hotel room. It was, in all ways, a much different time.  Voting in the election itself ran for a month, from early November to early December.  How that would have frustrated the television networks!

The painting, on loan to and on display in Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum, came to light due to an owner’s bringing it to the Antiques Road Show of PBS, in 2008.  Amon Carter’s curators, always alert to American art and art of the west, worked to get it on display.  That story is told nicely by University of Texas at Dallas art historian Rick Brettell in the Dallas Morning News.

The painting represents the well-dressed — note the red silk living of his top coat — Sen. Henry Clay from Kentucky in the middle of a common tavern during his final run for office. He is at a stop on the campaign trail — his luggage is piled up on the right — and is catching up on the news in front of a stove. The tavern itself is respectable, and one small child, representing the future, looks intently at Clay, while two women and another child peep in curiously from the door. The entire painting projects an air of democratic common sense.

The painting actually focuses on the class differences between Clay and his constituents and represents the great politician as being out of touch with “the American people” — lost in his paper. Clay was a member of the American party that was dominant in the early 19th century and was called the Democratic-Republican Party. He had become a Whig long before the 1844 election, which he lost to James Polk.

With his beautiful clothes and his disdain for those around him, he is as out of touch as many of today’s politicians with their wealthy backers and super-PACS. What we learn from this trenchant analysis of 19th-century politics is that history does repeat itself. Interestingly, Clay, as a slave owner, opposed the annexation of Texas to the republic, a major issue in the election of 1844, for fear that it would exacerbate the debate about slavery then raging in America. How right he was.

Had Clay won instead, would Texas be a part of the U.S. today? Something to ponder on election day 2014 — or to visit, if you’re voting in Fort Worth.

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Voter Lookup (yes, even this late)

November 4, 2014

You suddenly got the urge to vote, you know you’re registered . . . but you don’t know where to vote?

Here to help; put in your address below, you can find your polling place.

Two things:  First, I don’t see your information, and no one in WordPress keeps it.  So your address is safe with you.

Second, holler if it doesn’t work, or you find any other problems!

Thank you for voting!

Ben Sargent cartoon from the Austin, Texas American-Statesman.

Ben Sargent cartoon from the Austin, Texas American-Statesman. “Your vote is your voice.”


Leigh Bailey in Texas House District 108

October 31, 2014

Not my district, but if it were, I’d vote for Leigh Bailey.

The Trailblazers Blog at the Dallas Morning News described the race:

Meyer, a Republican, and Bailey, a Democrat, are competing for an open seat in House District 108. The district covers the Park Cities, Preston Hollow and central Dallas. Meyer is the heavy favorite in the GOP stronghold, but Bailey is trying to win independent voters and newcomers to Uptown, Downtown Dallas and East Dallas.

Candidates for Texas House, District 108, Republican Morgan Meyer on the left, and Democrat Leigh Bailey on the right.  Dallas Morning News photos

Candidates for Texas House, District 108, Republican Morgan Meyer on the left, and Democrat Leigh Bailey on the right. Dallas Morning News photos

In my conversations with both candidates, Republican Morgan Meyer seemed distant, stiff, and unwilling to say anything that wasn’t approved by Corporate HQ (whose? I don’t know).

Bailey took time to talk, about life in Dallas, how to make it better, what an uphill fight she has.  Dallas schools, and what it might take to make people see the improvements already there, and how to support teachers and students . . .

In short, Bailey is much more human, and for my money, much more attuned to the needs of Texas, Texas families, and making things work in Austin.

When you vote Tuesday, Dallasites, if you’re in District 108, vote for Leigh Bailey.


Early voting opens in Texas: Polling place shenanigans?

October 20, 2014

If you are confronted with voting irregularities at your polling station in Texas, call 1-844-TXVOTES (1-844-898-6837)

If you are confronted with voting irregularities at your polling station in Texas, call 1-844-TXVOTES (1-844-898-6837)

A friendly reminder from BattleGround Texas:  If you experience voting irregularities at your polling station in Texas, call 1-844-TXVOTES (1-844-898-6837).

Vote early!


Leticia Van De Putte will make Texans smile

July 3, 2014

As an introduction to her speech at the Texas State Democratic Party 2014 Convention last Friday, Lieutenant Governor candidate, Sen. Leticia Van De Putte produced a short video, making light of the serious issues of citizens trying to get the attention of Texas officials under the current GOP junta.

If nothing else, the Democrats offer someone with a much better sense of humor than the Republicans.

Published on Jun 28, 2014

Introducing Senator Van de Putte and family at the Texas Democratic Convention

Texas State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte; the Harvard-graduate, Texas pharmacist pushed the Texas Senate in good directions; she offers a solid record and outstanding ability for the Lieutenant Governor's office.  It Texas, the Lieutenant Governor makes the state budget, chairs the State Senate, and appoints people to several important boards and commissions, making the post more important than the Governor, in many calculations.

Texas State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte; the Harvard-graduate, Texas pharmacist pushed the Texas Senate in good directions; she offers a solid record and outstanding ability for the Lieutenant Governor’s office. It Texas, the Lieutenant Governor makes the state budget, chairs the State Senate, and appoints people to several important boards and commissions, making the post more important than the Governor, in many calculations.

Now, is there some way we can get the video of Van De Putte’s actual speech, or the text of it?  What she said of substance was even better than the video.

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Wendy Davis’s guide to Fort Worth: What every GOP delegate, and Texas voter, should know

June 8, 2014

You may have missed it.

Ending yesterday, the Texas Republican Party conventioned in Fort Worth, Texas — oh, if you were in Fort Worth you noticed all the people looking like fools and packing urban assault weapons, but others may have missed it. National GOP officials, and quite a few Texas GOP candidates, hope the convention would fly under the radar, with its call for repeal of Constitutional rights in almost every plank of their platform.

Delegates got a nice little map to help them tour Fort Worth, which is where Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor, got her political start.

Come to think of it, it’s a map every Texas voter ought to have, even those not visiting Fort Worth.  It spells out the difference between Wendy Davis’s vision for the growing, healthy and productive Texas, and Greg Abbott’s no-public school, low-wage playground for the rich-and-heavily-armed view.

Sites to see in Fort Worth, if you're a Texas Voter.  Map courtesy Wendy Davis for Governor campaign.

Sites to see in Fort Worth, if you’re a Texas Voter. Map courtesy Wendy Davis for Governor campaign.

[Conflict of interest note:  I’ve hired (and been happy with) the work of some of the law firms listed, and have familial connections to others.  Needless to say, the views in this map are not necessarily the views of any of my employers, though they should be, if they had any sense about what’s good for Texas, and justice.]


Beleaguered Texas GOP governor candidate Greg Abbott goes on offensive makes offensive Tweet

April 8, 2014

This guy just can’t seem to figure out when it’s polite to talk about some things, and when one should just be quiet.

In short, he’s not got the judgment to be governor of Texas.

We’re just five days out from a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, where gun packing has taken too many innocent lives in the past few years.

Doesn’t Abbott have any sense of decency?

No wonder his campaign is troubled.  At this point, a candidate for governor should be working on a message about building the state to make it stronger (hows that for generic?).

Abbott’s cracking Second Amendment gun jokes while families grieve.  Ouch.

This isn’t funny, five days after the April 3 incident at Fort Hood.

Not funny sign, at this time, if ever.

Not funny sign, at this time, if ever.


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