Hoosier influence in the election of ’16 … 1916


I’ve been so busy that I completely forgot this column, which I wrote in October. But considering it mentions the election, maybe a little time was just as well.



It’s been a rough autumn here in the Hoosier land. An exciting-in-a-bad-way presidential election, clowns all around us … although as far as I know, this time the politicians and clowns aren’t connected.

But sometimes, bad things can lead to better things. Our car got wrecked this year, but now we have another one that’s pretty nice. It’s got so many electronics that when it’s time to be serviced, we have to take it to the Apple Store.

And sure, I hate late autumn, but there are advantages. In all my life, once the first snow falls I’ve never had a lawn mower blow up on me. Well, once.

This thing with all the threatening clowns lurking around neighborhoods? Hey, that keeps them out of Washington, where they’d cause even more trouble. (I know, two political clown jokes, but it’s just so easy.)

And the presidential election?

Okay, you’ve got me on that one.

As I write this the election’s still three weeks away, and it’s been a nasty one. The only real benefit is that it’s given me lots more time, because I gave up social media. It’s so … antisocial. You can’t just politely disagree on the issues anymore, largely because we’ve all forgotten what the issues are. It’s all about the three P’s: personality, past, and prison, as in who should be there.

The name calling and mudslinging haven’t been this bad since Cleveland vs. Blaine, and we all know how that one turned out.

If we have the two most disliked candidates in history, it makes you wonder how they got nominated in the first place. Clinton had a sense of inevitability (“Well, it was her turn … wasn’t it?”), while Trump got in mostly because the party bosses assumed he wouldn’t get in. I normally castigate people who refuse to vote, but this year I’ve already ordered my “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Neither” bumper sticker.

Whoever wins will have an uphill climb to get the majority of Americans truly behind her. (Although I’m not a fan, I’ve got $20 on Clinton—and I’ve been right in the last three elections. Four, depending on where you stand on Florida in 2000.)

Enough about this year’s election, which will be settled by the time you read this. Here in Indiana, we pine for a repeat of the election of 16 … 1916, which wasn’t nearly as mud-slung, and featured the height of Hoosier influence. There were not one, but three Indiana natives on the ballet that year.

One was Thomas R. Marshall of Columbia City, a country doctor who, to everyone’s surprise, took the governor’s election in 1908. Woodrow Wilson was looking for someone more liberal, but he couldn’t deny Indiana’s political power (seriously!) and chose Governor Marshal as his 1916 running mate.

The Marshall Plan.

Marshall didn’t want the job—it didn’t pay enough. But convinced by his wife, who wanted to live in Washington for some reason, he joined Wilson, They won in a landslide in 1912.

That put him on the 1916 ballot against Republican Charles Evans Hughes and his running mate, Theodore Roosevelt’s former vice president, Charles W. Fairbanks. I loved him in Robin Hood! Wait, that was Douglas Fairbanks.

Fairbanks arrived in Indianapolis as an Ohio lawyer, but we let him in anyway. You college football fans, insert your own joke here. His main claim to fame was serving on the commission on Alaskan affairs before that territory became a state, and now you know where the city of Fairbanks, Alaska, got its name—from an imported Hoosier.

Don’t make fun of the facial hair, he needed breathing protection–it gets cold in Fairbanks.

Just as Wilson wasn’t thrilled with his less than leftist running mate, Roosevelt would have preferred someone further to the Republican left, but he picked Fairbanks and they won in 1904. Unable to get a presidential nomination himself, Fairbanks joined the ticket again in 1916, as Hughes’ vice.

Just goes to show, presidents have always had vices.

If you’re a political history buff, you’d guess the third Hoosier running in 1916 was socialist Eugene V. Debs, who ran the four times before. But no, he sat out 1916, before running again in 1920—from a prison cell. Again, insert your own joke about modern candidates here.

No, in 1916 the third was J. Frank Hanly, still another former Indiana governor who led the Prohibition Party ticket. No, I’m not kidding—I’m stone cold sober, and so was he. He’d been trying to make America a dry country for many years, and this was the pinnacle of his attempts to save our livers. When a man compares liquor to slavery, you know he’s serious. Imagine what social media would do with that today?

Lips that touch alcohol shall never touch mine! Even if they want to.

Hanly was confident his beloved cause of saving America from the evils of alcohol would propel the Prohibition Party to victory—stop laughing, I’m not done. Yes, Hanly underestimated his country’s love of booze, and his party got only 1.19 percent of the vote. The winner? Wilson with 49.25 percent, which continued Indiana’s Marshal as vice-president. I suppose they celebrated with a brewskie.

Considering that just a year later Wilson—who originally ran on an anti-war platform—brought us into WWI, maybe the others were thankful.

So there you have it: Three Hoosiers in one election, and only the average amount of mudslinging. Way better than when Alexander Hamilton claimed Thomas Jefferson was having an affair with one of his slaves (which was true, by the way), or when Ben Franklin’s grandson called John Adams “old, querulous, bald, blind, crippled, (and) toothless”. Adams was also called a hermaphrodite, and his son John Quincy was accused of being a pimp. Andrew Jackson’s opponents declared Jackson to be a cannibal. So he ate them.

Maybe the clowns aren’t so bad.


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