For John, BLUF: This year isn't really the worst year. The election of 1856 gave us President James Buchanan and the US Civil War. Abe was left to pick up the pieces. Nothing to see here; just move along.
Here are a couple of excerpts.
Knowledge@Wharton: But for Buchanan it was pretty much bad thing after bad thing?Does that remind you of anyone running in the current race?
Strauss: From day one. I don’t try to bring too many parallels to this election, but he was sort of the leftover Democrat. He was the most experienced man ever to run for president. He had been a state legislator in Pennsylvania, congressman, senator, secretary of state, ambassador to Russia, ambassador to Great Britain. A lot of experience. But still when he ran, he was sort of just the next guy in line.
Knowledge@Wharton: Does it surprise you now that we have two presidential candidates that have disapproval ratings in the 60% range?Does that remind you of anyone?
Strauss: Yes and no. In doing this book I studied the 1856 election, which was a much more bizarre election. The Whig party had dissipated. There had been a Whig president in 1853, only three years before. This new party, the Republican party, starts and they nominate a celebrity, much the same as today: John Fremont. He was the pathfinder. He was the guy who mapped out the west with Kit Carson. He wrote journals.
His young bride, she was 17 when they got married, was Jessie Benton, the daughter of the most prominent Democratic senator, Thomas Benton. She gussies up the journals and is sort of the Kris Kardashian to his Bruce Jenner. She makes him a celebrity. She knows everybody in Washington. Everything gets publicized, so he runs for president on this new Republican party. Then there’s a thing called the Know Nothing party. Can you imagine an election where somebody calls themselves the Know Nothing party? They were anti-immigrants. That election is bizarre enough that it sort of compares to the current day.
If those descriptions don't ring a bell you haven't been paying attention.
But, that doesn't excuse you from registering (in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by COB Wednesday, on line, by mail or in person at City Hall) and then, on Tuesday, 8 November, voting. It is a civic duty. If the person who wins turns out to be the "wrong person" then it is on you (and me). So, vote. Don't let someone turn to you and say, "If only you had bothered to vote."
Regards — Cliff