Skip to comments.Republicans Admire Bill . . . McKinley, That Is
Posted on 06/01/2003 5:02:07 PM PDT by William McKinley
To be cutting edge in this presidential election, you have to learn the lessons of the '96 campaign.
1896, that is.
...At the headquarters of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, over cocktails with former GOP party chairman Haley Barbour, in the corridors of rightward think tanks, the party of Lincoln and Reagan has gone dizzy over William McKinley.
The swami of McKinley Mania is Bush strategist Karl Rove, who got hooked two years ago during a class at the University of Texas. A tenacious student of political history, Rove dug deeply into the story of a canny, soothing heartland governor whose party was riven by tactical and religious squabbles. Raising money on a scale previously unimagined, while scarcely leaving his front porch, McKinley remade the party in his own charming image -- inclusive, pragmatic, noncontroversial.
Republicans dominated Washington for the next 35 years.
Rove liked the sound of that.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
I read Focus in the Family's magazine after service this morning, and noticed that Marvin Olasky's article in it mentioned how Karl Rove has noticed the parallels between Bush and McKinley- it was those parallels that led me to choose this screen name. That motivated me to look for stories about it, and I just posted two of them.
Karl Rove has a riff, which he gives to anybody who will listen, entitled Its 1896. Every national political reporter has heard it, to the extent that it induces affectionate eye-rolling when it comes up. Its 1896 is based on Roves reading of the work of a small school of conservative revisionist historians of the Gilded Age (that is, historians who love the Gilded Age), one of whom, Lewis Gould, taught a graduate course that Rove took at the University of Texas.
Heres the theory, delivered at Roves mile-a-minute clip: Everything you know about William McKinley and Mark Hanna--the man elected President in 1896 and his political Svengali--is wrong. The country was in a period of change. McKinleys the guy who figured it out. Politics were changing. The economy was changing. Were at the same point now: weak allegiances to parties, a rising new economy.
Interested, I went to the library and read up on McKinley. There are a couple of big differences between this campaign and the one in 1896: it was a recession campaign run on economic issues, and McKinleys main proposal, high protectionist tariffs, runs opposite to Bushs position on the same issue. But the similarities are indeed striking--so striking as to make you wonder whether Rove deliberately followed the Hanna-McKinley playbook as he coached George W. Bush through his astonishingly rapid transformation from aimless Presidential son to putative President.
McKinley was a man with an amiable disposition and a winning demeanor, great at political handshaking events, who was elected and then reelected governor of the most important state between the coasts, Ohio. He was unusually popular, for a Republican, with urban workers and ethnic minorities. When he ran into financial trouble, his rich friends took up a collection and bailed him out. He even proposed a big reduction in Ohio property taxes.
Mark Hanna, who devoted himself full time to making McKinley President, engineered a front-porch campaign, involving a staged procession of prominent visitors to McKinleys home in Canton, which worked so well that McKinley was able to lock up the Republican nomination early. Then Hanna systematically raised much more money than any previous Presidential campaign ever had, and used it to fund an unprecedentedly heavy media campaign (in the form of widely distributed pamphlets) and a massive organizational effort in the states. And, in winning, McKinley ushered in a period in which the Republicans, as the Party representing business prosperity in the new industrial age, controlled the White House right up to the Great Depression, with the exception of Woodrow Wilsons two terms. Source
That's much more than simply an understatement.
Oh, and Demi Moore left her Hotel Room key on the table for you.