In 1898 Republicans in Indiana were concerned about winning a race for Congress in the 6th District. It was an open seat and the party had two major problems in holding it. The first was the black vote, which at that time was still heavily Republican. But in this particular year black voters were, for one reason or the other, upset with the local GOP. There was no danger they would vote for the Democrat but they might stay home on Election Day.
The second problem was with a local political figure, a former Civil War General named Lew Wallace (better known today for writing Ben Hur). Wallace was upset with President McKinley and his expansionist policies after the Spanish American War. In those days before television and radio the key to elections was one on one campaigning and Wallace was a big draw for voters.
Republican leaders solved both problems with one simple action and through the services of one man, Benjamin ‘Pitchfork’ Tillman. Tillman was a Democratic senator from South Carolina who was known for being an unrepentant Confederate and a virulent racist. So party officials arranged to pay Tillman to give a series of speeches in Indiana, and the man was never one to turn down a free buck.
When local black leaders heard his violent racism they quickly set aside any differences and flocked to the polls on election day. When Wallace heard him defend Confederate Generals and attack Union leaders like Grant and Sherman, he marched into GOP headquarters to sign up for the duration of the campaign.
The result was an easy Republican victory on election day, all thanks to a major member of the Democratic party.
Modern leaders in both political parties would be wise to take a lesson from this event. It has been my view that whether in politics or war the winners seldom succeed so much because of their own brilliance as it is a result of the blunders of their opponents.
Just today I noticed a couple of examples of this blundering. As many of you have probably read there was a major screw up this morning in New York City when several planes flew low over the city and then past the Statue of Liberty. As it turns out the plane was the aircraft normally designated as Air Force One and it was filming some sort of photo mission.
Somewhere along the line the proper notifications and warnings of the event were not sent out to media outlets so they could let the public know what was going on. Given the understandable sensitivity of New Yorkers to planes flying low over the city someone should have made sure those warnings were issued and local officials were quite correct in making objections.
But the good folks over at Redstate.com chose to use it as a partisan attack on President Obama, as if he were the one personally authorizing the mission and thus made themselves look petty and overly partisan. Had they simply made it an issue of an adminstration blunder they might have scored points, but this was just petty. The people in charge have since apologized for the blunder.
Not to be left out the people at Daily Kos have tried to hype the idea that Senator Collins (R-ME) and those naughty evil Republicans blocked pandemic preparedness plans because the funds were cut out of the stimulus bill.
In doing so they ignore the pesky fact that 1) the group that cut the funding was bipartisan and included several Democrats and 2) the reason for cutting the funds was not because they opposed the spending but because they did not think it belonged in the stimulus bill. Members of both parties made it clear they wanted to include the funding in another bill,
Again, I am sure there are areas where proper criticism could be made against the GOP but by trying to be this partisan, Kos just undercuts their own argument and end up making the other side look better.
I wonder what would happen if both sides started behaving properly ?