Monday, November 03, 2008

Franklin Pierce for President!
New Hampshire's only native son to sit in the oval office is generally regarded by historians as being one of our worst presidents. I, being of Granite State origins-the state that has greatly influenced my politics, have a soft-spot for Mr. Pierce. But, I'm a student of history and let the facts be told. Pierce served during a time of great cultural conflict in America. A northern Democrat who sympathised with the south (a doughface), Pierce just barely held the country together for another 4 years before the inevitable would occur-the Civil War.

Now, I'm not suggesting that a president Obama will be a president Pierce. After all despite all the gaa-gaa that the media and his followers have for him-no one really knows what kind of president Obama will make. We don't know much about him-but what I do know bothers me.
Now, I'm no partisan, so don't throw a label at me. I have voted for a Democrat for president every time since I first started voting in 1980. The only exception- I voted for McCain in the 2000 primary and I'm voting for him again in the 2008 election.

What has happened to the Democratic party over the last 25 years is the same thing that has happened to the Republican party-it has shifted to an ideological extreme. Liberal colleagues of mine are quick to point out the Republican Party no longer welcomes the likes of a Dan Evans and Edward Brooke. And I quickly counter that the Democratic party of today is not the same party of JFK, Scoop Jackson and Harry S. Truman- all great Americans.

Our last great president was Reagan-before that, Nixon (except for Watergate), Truman, and both Roosevelts- a mix of democrats and republicans. Our worst presidents contain a similar mix. Are we now headed for a repeat of the post Jackson- pre-Civil War era of presidents where we are destined for a long line of lousy leaders?

But I'll try not to despair for even lousy and sub-marginal presidents do some good things. Clinton reformed welfare and protected a lot of ancient forest. W lowered my taxes and signed a bunch of wilderness bills. Hell, even Franklin Pierce did some good-like the Gadsen Purchase!

Now, on the eve of the 2008 election in which Obama appears to be destined to be our next president, I leave you this about Franklin Pierce.

Franklin Pierce began his political career in Congress after coming off of a successful law practice.
He was nominated as president as a dark horse (Hillary, are you paying attention?) at the 1852 Democratic Convention in Baltimore. Pierce won the election that year in a landslide defeating Winfield Scott (nickname "Old Fuss and Feathers"- McCain are you listening?) a general, national hero and person who was generally regarded as one of the most able Commanders of his time.
Pierce possessed good looks and an inoffensive personality gravitating many people toward him (Obama are you listening?), but he made decisions that were extremely decisive including supporting the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Ostend Manifesto which went against the widely held American ideals of manifest Destiny and Popular Sovereignty.

Historians Philip B. Kunhardt and Peter W. Kunhardt reflected the views of many other historians when they wrote in The American President that Pierce was "a good man who didn't understand his own shortcomings. He was genuinely religious, loved his wife and reshaped himself so that he could adapt to her ways and show her true affection. He was one of the most popular men in New Hampshire, polite and thoughtful, easy and good at the political game, charming and fine and handsome. However, he has been criticized as timid and unable to cope with a changing America."

America are you listening?
In any case, I leave you with this. Because I believe in my country, whomever wins the presidency tomorrow I will support-that is until he starts taking us in the wrong direction.

(photo-Franklin Pierce's homestead sits in a lovely corner of New Hampshire with lots of public lands and trails nearby)

1 comment:

David C. said...

I'd add that the nation made great strides in civil rights during LBJ's administration. Also, Franklin Pierce was a tragic figure who was in some respects a victim of circumstance. For more on Pierce see my blog.