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View Poll Results: Who do you vote for as President in 1884?
Grover Cleveland 7 77.78%
James G. Blaine 2 22.22%
Other (specify) 0 0%
Voters: 9. You may not vote on this poll

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Old June 25th, 2018, 05:28 AM   #1

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Presidential Election: 1884


The year is 1884, and incumbent President Chester Arthur, a Republican who succeeded to the Presidency following the assassination of James Garfield, is in failing health and makes only a token effort to secure the nomination of his party for another term; as it turns out, he will die in 1886. Among the accomplishments of Arthur's term is real civil service reform, for which he was generally respected by both parties. The Republican candidate to succeed Arthur will be Secretary of State James G. Blaine, and the Democrats nominate Grover Cleveland, former mayor of Buffalo and Governor of New York. Cleveland has a distinguished record of opposing Tammany Hall corruption; by contrast, Blaine, while he has a long record of admirable public service and generally supported civil rights quite strongly, is mired by accusations of corruption from his time of Congress, allegedly selling his influence to businesses such as railroads. Here are the party platforms.



Democratic: Democratic Party Platforms: 1884 Democratic Party Platform


Republican: Republican Party Platforms: Republican Party Platform of 1884


Historically, the election became a referendum on both men's personal integrity; Cleveland's supporters hammered Blaine's integrity, and Blaine's supporters targeted Cleveland's possible fathering of an illegitimate child. There were also a number of third parties involved here, I'll link the wiki for a brief overview of them. The Greenback Party, and its nominee, are quite interesting.



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United...and_candidates


Something I remarked on with the previous election also holds true for this one; other than tariff policy, there's not a vast gulf on policy between hard-money urban Democrats like Cleveland and mainline Republicans.I am willing to be persuaded otherwise on this count, of course. Please vote and post your reasoning for the vote, and as always, use hindsight or not as you prefer.

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Old June 25th, 2018, 05:46 AM   #2

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Grover, definitely. The 2 biggest issues at this point were over tariffs and corruption, and I believe he was much better suited on those issues than Blaine. Grover was also an uncommonly honest and effective leader, while Blaine was practically the reverse.

I should clarify; Blaine was not incapable, but he was probably still lesser than Grover, and clearly more corrupt and less candid.

Ironically, the one time I probably would have voted against Grover would have been in 1892 (if you decide to include that one as well), the election in which he performed best. This has to do with my view that, in spite of my belief that Harrison was much less formidable of a statesman than Grover, his administration was still an underrated one. While I disagree with Harrison on tariff policy, his administration still presided over such good things as the Sherman Antitrust Act, The Lodge Bill (to protect the voting rights of blacks and poor whites), and the National Forest Act.

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Old June 25th, 2018, 11:27 AM   #3
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I would have seriously considered throwing my support behind President Arthur, but given that he was in failing health (and we now know he would die 2 short years later) I would say that President Cleveland was the best fit for the job. President Cleveland was popular with middle-class Americans, which would lead one to believe that he would continue President Arthur's civil service agenda.

James G. Blaine made the effort to tour the country and see as many voters in person as he could, something President Cleveland neglected to do. This does not mean Blaine should have won the election, but it is a point in his favor as to why he was a legitimate candidate.
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Old June 25th, 2018, 01:37 PM   #4
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I would have seriously considered throwing my support behind President Arthur, but given that he was in failing health (and we now know he would die 2 short years later) I would say that President Cleveland was the best fit for the job. President Cleveland was popular with middle-class Americans, which would lead one to believe that he would continue President Arthur's civil service agenda.

James G. Blaine made the effort to tour the country and see as many voters in person as he could, something President Cleveland neglected to do. This does not mean Blaine should have won the election, but it is a point in his favor as to why he was a legitimate candidate.
Arthur lost in the convention and didn't make it that far. I would vote Blaine because I think he was more qualified for the job especially in terms of foreign affairs and I think Blaine's loss based on the "R,R and R" comments(which in New York was almost certainly the difference) he didn't even make were unfair. Blaine supported economic policies more in line with the Henry Clay "American System" that I give credit to for US industrialization. Blaine was one of the most qualified people to ever lose the Presidency and this was his third election cycle of trying.
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Old June 25th, 2018, 02:20 PM   #5

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Originally Posted by Emperor of Wurttemburg 43 View Post
Arthur lost in the convention and didn't make it that far. I would vote Blaine because I think he was more qualified for the job especially in terms of foreign affairs and I think Blaine's loss based on the "R,R and R" comments(which in New York was almost certainly the difference) he didn't even make were unfair. Blaine supported economic policies more in line with the Henry Clay "American System" that I give credit to for US industrialization. Blaine was one of the most qualified people to ever lose the Presidency and this was his third election cycle of trying.
Honestly though, New York was Grover's own state, so that almost certainly made the necessary difference as well. While I wouldn't blame Blaine directly for those foolish comments, it played out the way it did because a Democratic operator managed to get it into a Democratic newspaper headline before the Republicans could counter. This shows 2 things though:

1. The Democrats catching and exploiting the mistake before the Republicans were able to counter effectively was evidence of a more efficient campaign organization for the former.

2. There were some very toxic individuals within the Blaine campaign, and ultimately the buck has to stop with Blaine.

Plus, I think such comments were evidence of fairly despicable and toxic tactics by the Republican campaign in general, and that the personal attacks on one of the most candid statesmen of the time were obnoxious. All things considered, I do believe the Republicans did deserve to lose this one, especially as they had already held the Presidency for the last 24 years, and thus a Democratic victory restored some semblance of balance in U.S. democracy. It's never a good thing for one party to hold the executive branch for too long (personally, I would never be comfortable with more than 3-4 terms at most, unless there are very special circumstances such as a long period of foreign conflict or unease, as during the FDR-Truman administration).

You make a great point with regards to Blaine's foreign policy experience and that is definitely an advantage he has.

Not sure about his economics though. Do you mean tariffs? You may have a point if support for tariffs is dependent on the time and place they are enacted, especially when government revenue is needed and/or an particular industry in any given nation or locale is trying to get established. That said, I generally believe tariffs to be a bad thing and they will almost always make consumer goods more expensive.
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Old June 25th, 2018, 02:46 PM   #6
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Honestly though, New York was Grover's own state, so that almost certainly made the necessary difference as well. While I wouldn't blame Blaine directly for those foolish comments, it played out the way it did because a Democratic operator managed to get it into a Democratic newspaper headline before the Republicans could counter. This shows 2 things though:

1. The Democrats catching and exploiting the mistake before the Republicans were able to counter effectively was evidence of a more efficient campaign organization for the former.

2. There were some very toxic individuals within the Blaine campaign, and ultimately the buck has to stop with Blaine.

Plus, I think such comments were evidence of fairly despicable and toxic tactics by the Republican campaign in general, and that the personal attacks on one of the most candid statesmen of the time were obnoxious. All things considered, I do believe the Republicans did deserve to lose this one, especially as they had already held the Presidency for the last 24 years, and thus a Democratic victory restored some semblance of balance in U.S. democracy. It's never a good thing for one party to hold the executive branch for too long (personally, I would never be comfortable with more than 3-4 terms at most, unless there are very special circumstances such as a long period of foreign conflict or unease, as during the FDR-Truman administration).

You make a great point with regards to Blaine's foreign policy experience and that is definitely an advantage he has.

Not sure about his economics though. Do you mean tariffs? You may have a point if support for tariffs is dependent on the time and place they are enacted, especially when government revenue is needed and/or an particular industry in any given nation or locale is trying to get established. That said, I generally believe tariffs to be a bad thing and they will almost always make consumer goods more expensive.
I guess in organization you are right, it does say a lot in that regard, but New York was always a close state and this was not the first nor the last election New York swung. Remember Garfield carried the state in 1880 and Harrison carried it in 1888 both times swinging the election. I would also argue this is the 19th century and we would find most individuals in these campaigns to be toxic by modern standards, remember who the segregationists would have supported(hence one of the other three R's, the moral high ground on that statement swings both ways). Blaine's mother was also Roman Catholic.

US politics did not have a semblance of balance. After Buchanan's victory, Republicans were consistently the majority party and besides 1876 no Democratic nominee ever received a majority of the country's vote between 1856 and 1932 and the Democratic victory in 1892 was largely the product of the Populist's taking votes mainly from Harrison(Cleveland was a gold bug) and in 1912 TR taking votes from Taft. Republicans were the majority party very consistently especially in the Senate though the House sometimes went Democratic. Consistently controlling the executive branch(and thus the Supreme Court), and one of the two houses of the third branch while controlling the other about half the time for a period of eighty years is dominance. Before 1856 Democrats had a similar level of dominance where only popular generals could defeat them and between 1932 and 1968 they'd have another similar period of dominance where again only popular generals(or one) could defeat them.

Tariffs are complicated, I am not exactly pro tariff especially in the modern context but I do think they get an unfair hearing today(Smoot-Hawkley shouldn't be brought every single time tariffs are mentioned because not every situation is equal to that, raising tariffs which were considerably higher during a recession was an almost unparalleled exercise in stupidity/desperation), though some of the points against them have merit. Blaine was similarly complicated on the issue, unlike say Harrison or McKinley. The main negative of Tariffs are trade wars which weren't so much a factor here because tariffs were the expectation, they raised revenue(this was before the income tax, booze and tariffs were how the government made revenue) and they did protect both American workers and corporate profits(tariffs were always riddled with loopholes though). In an era where everyone was closing their economy's the largest insular economy was going to be the most successful(hence us), in an era where everything is open and you are dependent on your products from elsewhere(consumer economy) a tariff is going to increase the price of consumer goods so the equation on tariffs has changed drastically(plus now it's a diplomatic issue since there's almost no tariffs and there's a WTC etc), if we are an industrial, not post industrial consumer based society capable of producing everything in house(which we largely did at the time), the equation for consumers is going to be very different because prices only go up today because you're still buying those foreign products and if we're not that issue goes away.

Last edited by Emperor of Wurttemburg 43; June 25th, 2018 at 03:04 PM.
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Old June 25th, 2018, 03:09 PM   #7

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I guess in organization you are right, it does say a lot in that regard, but New York was always a close state and this was not the first nor the last election New York swung. Remember Garfield carried the state in 1880 and Harrison carried it in 1888 both times swinging the election. I would also argue this is the 19th century and we would find most individuals in these campaigns to be toxic by modern standards, remember who the segregationists would have supported(hence one of the other three R's, the moral high ground on that statement swings both ways). Blaine's mother was also Roman Catholic.

US politics did not have a semblance of balance. After Buchanan's victory, Republicans were consistently the majority party and besides 1876 no Democratic nominee ever received a majority of the country's vote between 1856 and 1932 and the Democratic victory in 1892 was largely the product of the Populist's taking votes mainly from Harrison(Cleveland was a gold bug) and in 1912 TR taking votes from Taft. Republicans were the majority party very consistently especially in the Senate though the House sometimes went Democratic. Consistently controlling the executive branch(and thus the Supreme Court), and one of the two houses of the third branch while controlling the other about half the time is dominance.
That is true, even in the Executive Branch but especially in the Legislative, the period of 1856-1932 was largely dominated by Republicans, just as the period from 1828-1856 was dominated more often than not by Jacksonian Democrats, though none of the latter held technically held the EB 24 years straight. This just goes to show that balancing it out by alternating the EB rather than one party holding it 2 decades in a row makes sense. There might not have been a lot of balance in this period, but the closer one can get to it, the better.

Good point about the 'Rebellion' R, but I don't know how much one can attribute that to the DP 2 decades after the Civil War (and by only a certain faction of the Democrats at that), ESPECIALLY considering that the Democrat nominee 4 years earlier was one of the more renowned UNION generals.

The thing about 'spoilers' (as per your 1892 and 1912 comments) is that if they take more votes away from one candidate than they do for another, then it's the 'victimized' candidates own problem in being unsatisfactory to a decisive number of voters. This is especially true if they are incumbents, as in both of these cases. I say this and heck, I probably would have voted for Harrison in 1892.

Yeah, again with tariffs, even if I'm opposed to them on principle, I do admit that they make sense at certain points in time and that it is a complex issue. Credit to Blaine for being more nuanced and less gung-ho about them than those other 2 (though McKinley's attitude towards tariffs shifted downwards during the last year of his Presidency/life). Still wouldn't have voted for him though.

About the toxic campaign, I think this was actually a difference between the campaigns of Blaine on the one hand, and those of Garfield and Harrison on the other. The latter 2 put more emphasis on substance over style whereas the former did largely the reverse. Even by the standards of that day, the Blaine campaign tactics comprised of a lot of petty invectives against Grover (to which Grover responded in an unusually honest and patient manner for a politician). It's little surprise that the toxix 'R, R, and R' comment got mixed into the Blaine campaign and probably cost him the election.

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Old June 25th, 2018, 04:09 PM   #8

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I voted for Blaine. Basically, as a supporter of U.S. expansion, I would have felt that Blaine was the U.S.'s best bet in regards to achieving further expansion in the near-term. I do like Cleveland's honesty and clean record, but it is worth noting that, in spite of his own corruption issues, Blaine was actually from the anti-corruption faction (the Half-Breeds) in the Republican Party. Thus, I would think that Blaine would have also had a decent record in regards to things such as corruption--though he almost certainly wouldn't have issued as many vetoes as Grover Cleveland did.

I'm less sure about tariffs because, on one hand, they make foreign goods cheaper, but on the other hand, they also help ensure the security of jobs (such as manufacturing jobs) in the U.S.
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Old June 26th, 2018, 02:09 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Emperor of Wurttemburg 43 View Post
Arthur lost in the convention and didn't make it that far. I would vote Blaine because I think he was more qualified for the job especially in terms of foreign affairs and I think Blaine's loss based on the "R,R and R" comments(which in New York was almost certainly the difference) he didn't even make were unfair. Blaine supported economic policies more in line with the Henry Clay "American System" that I give credit to for US industrialization. Blaine was one of the most qualified people to ever lose the Presidency and this was his third election cycle of trying.
I don't mean to take anything away from Secretary of State Blaine, he was, without question, a remarkable gentleman who would have made a fine President. However, I disagree that he was more qualified than President Cleveland. In addition to his public office work, Cleveland was also an accomplished lawman, which brings with him invaluable experience to the executive branch and affairs with the legislative and judicial.

President Arthur's loss in the convention was primarily due to his ailing health, nobody gave him a fighting chance and, in fact, he died 2 years after the election unfortunately.

I will yield to you that Blaine may have had the better economic policy agenda, but President Cleveland's relationship with Congress makes it difficult to tell what exactly the scope of his policy could have been.
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Old June 26th, 2018, 02:43 PM   #10

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I'll throw this out there again, apologies for repetition from the OP; other than tariff policy, is there a whole lot that distinguishes Cleveland and Blaine on policy, in the view of everyone else here? On the whole, I don't see it; only the wing of the Democrats that gets increasingly influenced by populist ideas stands out much from mainline Republicans on most policy issues, and they're largely not around yet here.
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