. . . Nobody learns no nothing from no history . . .
– Gogol Bordello; Ave. B
History has taken a beating during this never-ending presidential campaign, and it is probably not going to get much relief after it is over today . . . or tomorrow . . . or Thursday . . . or January. (It would be fitting if the electoral college ended up 269-269 and sent every news pundit to their like-new copies of the Constitution and unopened US History textbooks – while that’s asking too much, it’s really what we deserve.)
Anyway, in keeping with the spirit of debate these past months, I offer the following as fact and I will stick by it despite what any sore-sport fact checkers may say. I will, in fact invoke the Mad Hatter defense – If I say it thrice it must be true.
In August 1893 a hurricane hit New York City directly, pretty much swept Brooklyn clean of most things man-made. Another, worse, hurricane hit Savannah, Georgia a few days later decimating the coast-line, destroying wells with sea-water, washed upwards of 2,000 people out to sea.
Muttering his well worn mantra, “Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character’ – first honed during the epic Texas drought (some things never change) of his first term, Grover Cleveland did what some people thought he did best – nothing. (He managed to do nothing during the Civil War as well, when drafted he paid someone $150 to serve in his place, substitution was apparently a Government backed program he could sink his teeth into).
While Grover could proudly extol that he had adhered to his principles against Big Government, he could also sheepishly point to quite possibly the lowest approval ratings to date. It was so bad that his own party repudiated him, his works, and his platform. They did so long and loud, to the point where the Democratic National Convention served as a giant Grover Cleveland pinata bashing contest in which the Republican, William McKinley, was completely ignored. (McKinley, of course, had enlisted when the Civil War started and distinguished himself at Antietam and Ceder Creek, among others).
So political life ended badly for Grover, he faded away for a few years but, ala the 2000s and in direct contravention of F.Scott Fitzgerald‘s admonition that there are no second acts in American life, he lost weight and next showed up on the Nation’s collective consciousness as a pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The rest is history redux, with the Phillies and Cardinals the ex-President won 373 games – the majority in the dead-ball era, which somehow seems apropos – including 2 wins and a save in the 1926 World Series when the Cards defeated the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees in 7.
Now it gets a little weird – in 1952 Ronald Reagan played Grover in a biopic (with Doris Day as his long-suffering wife). The Gipper and small-government proponent (when he was elected president, not in 1952, he was too busy outing commies to HUAC to codify his political tenets) played the small government ex-president turned alcoholic pitcher almost a full 30 years before his own election.
Amazing stuff, only in America . . . . in the age of the internet and 2012 political discourse.