tv The Presidency Bob Riel Quest for the Presidency CSPAN August 30, 2022 12:15pm-1:16pm EDT
next on american history tv, bob real documented the stories of every presidential campaign from 1789 to 2020 in his book, quest for the presidency. he is in conversation with author at chapman university english professor, tom. i am a professor at the college. i am here today with bob real, the author of the incredible book, quest for the
presidency. the storied and surprising history of presidential campaigns in america, from the university of nebraska press. this is one of these books that is welcoming to scholars and for armchair historians, and for general readers of all sorts. one of the things that we do together, one of the only unified things we do together, all of us as a country, is a presidential election. every four years, we all have a stake. in terms of where our country is going, and it distills the destiny of the united states into a single entity. in essence, for a range of ideas. this has been a feature of this country since the presidency of george washington. bob riel has pulled
together a comprehensive history of every single presidential election in one readable volume. the word surprising in the subtitle is not frivolous. even presidential scholars are going to find details in here that they haven't seen it before. i am honored to be sitting here talking to bob. thank you for doing this, bob. thank you to the national archives for hosting us. >> yeah, thanks for that. thanks for that wonderful introduction, i am flattered. and yeah, i just want a second to thank the national archives for having us on. it's a great organization for research, online or in person. we appreciate it, thanks. >> yes. and the other great organizations that we should talk about here in the united states are coffeehouses and taverns. >> these were the social media
of the day. certainly, it is where country persons got together to talk, argue, sometimes spiritedly about the great issues facing the country. and what they were going to do when it came to the massive decisions that we make every four years. in that spirit, i am going to open up. i will open up a beer, i am not going to get loaded, don't worry, this is a non alcoholic beer. >> i have my coffee here. and thank you for starting with this, tom. it is part of my book, as you know. i try to make the book accessible to a popular audience. one of the things i did was divide american political history into
seven areas. the introduction to each era, i set it in a historic tavern or coffee shop that was relevant to the time. all of them still exist today, so anyone who reads the book and wants to do a seven site tour of these places is welcome. but i try to come up with a story that was relevant to that tavern or coffee shop it was also relevant to american history in that period. so for instance, café demand in new orleans which everyone knows today as a pretty big tourist haunt, you go for the coffee and beignets. but it opened in 1862 in the middle of the civil war. and at the time, new orleans was under the union blockade. there was a coffee shortage, so it was a time to open a coffee shop. what they did was they mix coffee with chicken route to make it last longer. today, café demand still serves coffee mixed with trickery route. it is their specialty. so for each era, i try to find a story like that that is relevant and provides a bit more context to
that era. so cheers to coffee shops and taverns. here's to coffee shops and taverns. and you begin the narrative with a coffee shop that has been reconstructed, in a sense. right astride independence hall in philadelphia. can you talk about the significance of that particular coffeehouse? >> there are a couple coffee houses. it's interesting, because the original version of the book, i talk about city tavern in philadelphia, which was very significant. it is where -- philadelphia was the national capital for a while. it's where the declaration of independence was written in 1776. and the national constitution in 1787. and city tavern was just down the street from independence hall. and the
who's who of the founding fathers used to go there and they used to grab a beer's. they had a tavern, and they used to go there and after being at independence hall all day, they would go down there and have a beer and debate. so unfortunately, city tavern closed during the covid pandemic. there was an unfortunate victim of the pandemic. we inserted francis tavern in new york city, which is also very, very relevant to the founding generation. george washington met with his commanders are during the revolutionary war. alexander hamilton and aaron burr were there for a reunion of revolutionary war veterans just a week or two before hamilton killed burr in the dual. so anyways, both of them were very connected to the founding of the united states. and they both -- frances tavern still
exists, and city tavern we hope will eventually be reopened. >> we mentioned earlier that these places were like the twitter or the facebook of their day. and ideas were battered around, sometimes with great rancor. one of the defining features, the lasting impacts of presidential campaigns. if you will excuse the expression, the tweets, the ways that ideas are crystallized just down to a few words. i can think of tip a canoe and tyler to. you say it in your book that is one of the things that we remember. nixon is the one, right? >> abe lincoln, the rail splitter. >> very cold water, a choice not an echo. can you talk about the crystallization of these ideas, and some would say the
gross simplification of complex policies under these chants? >> yeah, and what i find interesting is this is obviously a big part of politics today. it really started in a way with tip a canoe and tyler to. with the 1840 campaign which i find fascinating. democracy was becoming a lot more popularized around that time, beginning with andrew jackson the end of 28. prior to jackson, politics was still a sport for elitist, really. it began opening up, more states began having a popular vote. 1840, a really interesting story, the whigs nominated when liam henry harrison. the van buren was the incumbent. they thought van buren p harrison four years ago, harrison's old he is in his
late 60s. of course we can beat him again. some newspaper editor a columnist wrote a piece saying, you know, you should just retire harrison to his old log cabin. give him some hard sided to drink and he will while away the rest of his day. the lakes took that in the rain with the. they totally turned it around on the democrats. they said, yes, of course. he's a veteran, he lives in law cabin. he does drink hard cider, he's a common person just like the rest of us. it created this amazing campaign. they had parade with a log cabin floats. they used to sell bottles of whiskey shaped like log cabins. tip a canoe and tyler too shaving cream. it was really the first mass branding of a political candidate. they did, they distilled it right down to that slogan, tip a canoe and tyler too. many people listening will know this if you don't typical
new, william henry harrison defeated some -- trying to form a native american conspiracy. tyler, was vice presidential candidate. typical new in tyler too was very deliberative, it the irony of this is that harrison was actually a pretty wealthy candidate. he grew up in a pretty wealthy estate in west virginia hey lived in ohio when he was 22. close to the ohio river martin van buren was some of the tavern owner in upstate new york. van buren was actually the common man candidate, harrison was the elitist. the legs were able to make it so it seems like van buren was an elitist ever since branding and trying to distill the branding down to a slogan has been with us ever since all the way to make america great again and, you know?
>> is this a good way in your view i'm not just talking about recent crystallization of ideas down to 140 characters but is this a healthy way to run a democracy? >> [laughs] that is a good question. there is no way around it, obviously. this is the system that we have. there are pros and cons. obviously the easy answer is, no it's not. we should have discussions of issues. and we should vote on that. this is the society we live in. i like to think of, you know, 1960. the first presidential debate between tethered and nixon and kennedy that was on television. now you give the candidates one minute to give an opening statement or to answer a question. the moderated rowers interrupting. saying stop your time is out! back in 1960 with kennedy nixon. i believe i may be wrong on the exact numbers but i believe they had a minute for
the opening statements. they each had two and a half minutes to answer questions. peter white, who wrote that great both the making of a president in 1960. he complained even then that it wasn't enough time. how can you explain complex issues in two minutes or eight minutes? you just can't do! it what he said was what it did do, what the debate did was it showed candidates under stress. it showed them in a certain environment. i think these slogans sort of do that to. if you can distill your candidacy down to a slogan that resonates with people. can alike obama did in a way, or reagan did in 19 indie. throughout the years if you can do that i think it says something about, i hope it's not something about your vision of where you want to take the country. so, ideally no we would have discussions of issues. that is not going to happen so i think there is something that needs to be said
for the way that it is still down. >> sure, as much as we would like to think of ourselves as rational beings who study complex policy issues, weigh the evidence and arrive at a carefully considered verdict, human nature just doesn't work that way, right? >> oh god, no. >> as every car salesman knows. we go on feelings whatever data we can cherry pick. was there an election that you covered in your vast research how can i say this, that was more carefully considered than others? or, did you find a current of passion underneath everything. >> carefully considered as and not emotional?
>> yeah a more more calm, thoughtful, if you'll excuse the phrase, kind of boring, set of clear differences. clear choices. that did not come down to raw charisma, raw feeling. >> if there was a set of cleaner choices than know i think a is always going to play a part. there are certainly a few campaigns that are less charismatic. one that comes to mind, the battles between grover cleveland and benjamin harrison in 1888 in 1892. harrison defeating cleveland's bid for reelection although cleveland won the popular vote. 1892 cleveland came back and he defeated harrison. neither cleveland nor harrison can be accused of being very charismatic. i'm sure i'm gonna get the wrong but some writer referred to the election they said, sort of like calm
mustachioed grover cleveland going up against calm berated referred be hayes. the biggest issue in the election was tariffs, whether we should raise or lower tariffs. it did not inspire a lot of passion or parades or big celebrations or anything. there were a few elections like that. i think in general most elections illicit a lot of emotions. i think that is one of the things we forget. we are so focused on the present day or the past few elections in american history. a memory only goes back so far. sometimes we forget how fascinating some of the older elections really were. how much emotions really stirred in people. in the introduction to my book and i quote alexis de toqueville in democracy in america. elections in the united states, again, i get the quote exactly right but it is a national passion. it is as if a
fever takes over the entire country during an election. he wrote that in 1835. he saw that way back then. in that sense the passions that we are seeing today are not very different because people always think the future of the country hinges on the outcome of the election. sometimes it is really true, sometimes it is not. i think sometimes people feel that way. >> sure, it's easy to look at composite portrait gatherings of all the presidents you have guys with mutton jobs and as you mentioned, various interesting facial hair particularly in the 19 centuries there come down to some older has school perhaps bear their names. chester a arthur, benjamin harrison, >> james garfield. >> vaguely familiar but we obviously forget that at one
time these were pitched battles spirited arguments titanic life or death struggles some of them over issues that have receded international consciousness. for whatever reason maybe because i'm from the west i think of james kay polk tennessee's one term presidency who was enormously consequential i do not think it is widely appreciated just how much was done during that presidency in the 1840s. an enormous amount of work. >> yes, it was. a lot of people don't think of poke these days but excellent words, enormously consequential. i have a piece one of the other things i do in my book is at the end of every election i have we contacts trying to create a contacts. putting the election of the current day. i have a piece after polk's presidency, he won in 1844 just by the skin of his teeth he won the popular vote by a small amount and he won
the electoral college because he won the state of new york by think 5106 votes over henry clay clay lost new york. he was a third party candidate, james barney the abolitionist of slavery party. they might otherwise have gone to clay. polk came very close to losing the election. what's interesting is, this is when the annexation of texas was on the national agenda. john tyler had introduced. it poke, being a protegee of andrew jackson, being a southern democrat, was in favor of annexing texas. they want to more safe territory in the country. henry clay, even though he was from kentucky he was more northern in his sensibilities, he did
not want to annex texas. he came out and said, texas is going to be settled by our race, they will have similar customs to us. they will speak english, they're gonna be good neighbors but they are gonna be their own country. if clay had won the election it was at least possible -- no one knows with history, but it is possible to texas would never have been annexed. certainly that there would never have been the mexican american war. it was the annexation of texas, and polk put troops in west texas over the dispute of boundary that the war started. the united states, of course, troops went down as far as mexico city and believe. the peace treaty acquired what is now new mexico, arizona, california, parts of arizona, nevada. it is possible that none of that would be part of the united states. it's fascinating to think about. the civil war, i mean who knows it would've been addressed with slavery but the civil war was triggered in large part because of disputes over whether or not
there should be slavery in the west. it is fascinating to see that 1500 votes in new york in 1844 determine, you know, whether the united states would have california and the pacific northwest. it is mind-boggling to think about it. polk's presidency was enormously consequential and that respect. >> sure and i think also >> small strange incidents that sometimes participate these large movements of armies and borders. it is almost toll story in and it's scope. i think about the cannon explosion that killed the secretary of state, up sure that was not nearly as and rabid annexation of texas as his replacement, john c calhoun of south carolina insisting
that texas must be brought into the union and the scope of your research, did you come across other unpredictable incidents that had big on national choices? >> interesting question i mean that is the one that comes to mind immediately that i always think about that me think about that--. >> let's look at florida, 2000. >> well yeah. [laughs] i should've thought of that. >> we can make a case that, you know had the supreme court had one for different. had there not been staged riots in miami how gore would've been the president arguably no iraq war none of the things that you
have to be bush did on and on the butterfly flaps its wings, right? >> absolutely. that is really interesting to look at and the two dow than -- i go through it in my book. the debate can go on forever about who the actual winner of that election was the recount shows depending on how it went, it could've gone either way. continue with the over vote count, bush would've won. if they had included under votes -- know the opposite. if they continued with the under votes push through to one, if they had continued over votes gore would've won. if palm beach butterfly ballot hadn't caused thousands of people to unnecessarily vote for patrick buchanan, gore would've won easily. the iraq war, afghanistan war, and the supreme court justices. something we are dealing with today. if you want to think
about something else in terms of the supreme court, i would argue back to 1968 something that is lost to history no one really talks about it, that was the year george wallace ran on a really third party campaign. he did not think he could win the election but he wanted to win enough electoral votes in the south, running as a law and order candidate as a racial conservative to sort to be the kingmaker. he could negotiate with nixon and or humphrey for his electoral votes. he was around 20% in the polls for around and. he won eight or 9% in the end. it scared the heck out of the country. he came very close to running the election into the house of representatives. the country was scared that somebody could do this. someone came so close to doing this. there was a big
movement to abolish the electoral college. nixon, after he took office in 1969 was in favor of the. i think something like 80% of americans wasn't favorite. the house of representatives voted to abolish the electoral college by an overwhelming margin! over 300 votes in the house and establish a national popular vote. it had majority support in the senate but it was filibustered by southern senators. again, this is only a few years after the civil rights and voting rights act of 1964 1965. they couldn't really abide by the thought of blacks in the south being put on an equal level to the whites who then controlled southern governments and the whole one person one vote thing. southern senators filibustered this electoral college act they killed it by filibuster. americans supported it, and if it hadn't been for the filibuster in 1969, we would have abolish the electoral
college and instituted the popular vote. when you think of the ramifications for the past 20 years, five of the six conservative justices, and no matter what your ideology is, you can be for or against this, but it's a fact of history the five of the six supreme court justices were appointed by presidents who came into office after first losing the electoral vote. george bush's appointments were in second term, but he never would've had that second term. and donald trump had three appointments. so you think of one small event that can change history. that one filibuster by seven senators in the late 60s, it's fascinating. >> you mentioned a third parties. that is something you hear a lot in minor politics. on the democratic side, primarily, both parties are the same. they both are captured by corporate interests, so therefore we are going to run a third party candidate. of course republicans talk about
-- me think of this as kind of a modern viewpoint, but has that existed since the 18th century? kind of a lament that americans really aren't offered a choice? >> oh yeah, absolutely. that's been the case forever. the first one was the anti masonic party back in jackson's a day. it was made up of people who thought that too much of the government is talking about conspiracy theories controlled by mason's. and they were elitists. they actually won a vote in one presidential election and elected a few governors. but yeah, there is always -- it's usually some precipitating issue, i would think. ross perot in 1992, and john anderson in 1988 examples of candidates who i think tapped into this sense that
voters didn't appreciate either parties candidate. in 1980, they were disappointed with carter and they were afraid that reagan might be too conservative, they didn't know. and in the 90s, it was that lament that the parties are too much alike. but often, there is some precipitating issue. if we go back to 1848, modern -- martin van buren ran as the candidate for the free soil party that wanted to limit the expansion of slavery in the west. in 1856, miller fillmore, interesting lee both ex presidents, was the candidate of the american party. we know as the know nothings, which ran a nativist campaign, very very similar to the 2016 trump republicans. they wanted to restore america to a previous age of greatness, and they wanted to keep immigrants out who were polluting our culture. at the time, it was irish catholics that they were against. they wanted 22% of the vote in 1856 on that campaign.
in the end, there was a peoples party, which was a prairie populist movement from the great plains. they won four states, i believe. and they basically preached the rise of -- in 1996. and became a progressive movement in the early 20th century. they were running on a lot of issues at the progressives ran on. one of the most famous candidates was teddy roosevelt in 19 -- when you try to rested omniscient back from william howard taft and was disappointed that he lost it at the convention, even though he had one vastly higher numbers of delegates in primaries that year. he started his own party, the progressive party, and finished second to wilson that here. he helped split the republican vote. yeah, all the way through 1948. truman faced a split in the democratic party into differentn
wings. the democrats that year passed the civil rights platform, and southern democrats were so enraged that they broke away and formed the dixie party. and on truman's left, a new progressive movement emerged and henry wallace, the former vice president was the nominee of the progressive party that year. so yeah. and then wallace in 68, and all the way up through perot and the president. i think every couple decades, something emerges. either people are disillusioned with the two major parties, or some major issue emerges that neither of the two major parties is doing a good enough job dealing with. it wells up from below. >> i was a political reporter once and spent a lot of time with elected officials. one thing that i of course noticed, as everyone does who spent time with them, is that they are enormously, usually, charismatic. emotionally
intelligent. they try and get you on what robert highland would colleague rocking level. i am kind of suspicious of charisma, suspicious of data campaigns -- i want to vote for the person who most excites me, who really engendered that kind of strong feeling that this is the quarterback of the football team that i want. and would have tried to tell friends who are sick of listening to this, met the candidates are ultimately an index system for ideas. and a whole raft, particularly on the federal level, of appointments. not just supreme court justices, but the entire executive branch. who is going to be the
director of the bureau of land management? that is really important to westerners like me. that doesn't seem to be on the ballot, but actually it is. them by making this binary choice between two distinct philosophies of how american government should work. when i tell people is, don't get caught up in personalities. it could be a wooden post that you are electing, so long as it is that that conforms to the kinds of ideas that you want to say. do you think that is a good way to vote, or am i wrong on this? >> no, i think in an ideal world, yeah. you should vote based on that. but it's inevitable that people boast -- vote based on emotions. i'm an idealist, and i like to think that people weigh the issues and vote for the candidate and
the party that most represents their concerns. but it's simply not true. it doesn't happen. barack obama is incredibly intelligent and capable, obviously. but people voted for him based on emotion in 2008. ronald reagan, people voted for him based on emotion in 1980. john f. kennedy, after people saw the debate, it was a small number, but it was enough to swing the election. when you look at the polling afterward, the number of people who said the first debate when kennedy was perceived as the winner who by people who watch tv, as opposed to people who would listen to it on radio. a number of people who said that it swayed their vote was enough to have tipped the popular vote in the election. so people do. what you hope is that you find a candidate who represents -- like you said, a vessel for those ideas. somebody who
represents that, but is also capable of tapping into the -- the zeitgeist of moving people emotionally, that's the ideal. >> i've got a ton more questions, but i want to open this up, in the spirit of democracy, to anyone who might be listening on the live stream to answer your questions in the chat. i would be granted to ferry them to our author here. will or will you for that, i want to ask, what was your biggest surprise in this research? did you have a moment in the archives, or in the midst of doing your reading that you are just blown away by something? >> i don't know about blown away, but i think it's always surprising to realize how emotional these elections have
always been. you can go back to 1796 and 1800, with adams and jefferson. and to see some of the quotes that appeared in newspapers in the 90s. adams was called a hideous hermaphrodite a cult figure, or something. he wasn't really a man or a woman. and jefferson, his opponents said if you were elected, incest and murder would be openly practiced in the united states and bibles would be banned. talk about people thinking it was a life and death election. it's amazing. and all the way through. andrew jackson was devastated when he saw a report that suggested his mother had been a prostitute, brought over to the united states. he was a scotts irish immigrant, and
somebody suggested that his mother was a prostitute, and he was the result of this. one of my favorite criticisms came from davy crockett, who we know as this western frontier settler. he was also a congressman for a while, and he took a pen and trashed martin van buren. he said -- he talked about munch ops. he said if it wasn't his mantra up sideburns, you would be able to tell if he was a man or a woman, given the tight leggings or whatever he wore. so yeah, i think we tend to think that oh, the founding generation, they did this for idealistic reasons. and they did. but they were passionate and they wanted to win these elections, and they thought this was life and death. so i think that always surprises me. it surprises me, too, a little bit, abraham lincoln, we revered him as a president. and
it seems almost inevitable that of course, he won in 1860 and a four-way race, it was narrow. but it seems like, of course he was reelected in 1864. he was criticized by every side. when historians say that conservatives not him a radical and liberals thought him a failure. and it reminds me of the present day, innocence. barack obama and joe biden, their presidencies are painted as radical by republicans, but liberals and their own party think they are failures. people say the same thing about lincoln. a lot of people thought he was not going to win reelection because he was exhausted from the civil war. radical republicans didn't think that he was doing enough to end slavery, and democrats thought he was doing too much. and everybody, even republicans, republicans thought they needed to find a stronger candidate,
there's no way he's going to win. they talked about you know nominating ulysses s grant. it was lincoln himself, in fact, in august of 1864, he wrote a letter. he put it in an envelope and sealed it and signed it. he said, we are going to open this after the election. in the letter, he said that after i lose, that george mcclelland, the democratic candidate, i am going to cooperate with him between the election and the inauguration to try to save the union during those few months. he assumed he was going to lose the election. and it wasn't until the fall, when sherman captured atlanta and grant started pinning the confederate army down in virginia, the radical republicans that nominated their own candidate, because they thought lincoln wasn't liberal enough, john fremont had been a candidate in 1856. and later governor of the arizona territory. he withdrew from the recent september because he thought the union
army is in victory. he thought if he stayed in the race it would split the republican party and elected democrat is going to preserve slavery. so it really wasn't until the last two months of the election that the stars aligned for lincoln, and he won reelection. so, yeah, things like that, things like that surprise me. we have this sense that politics wasn't like that then but it was. >> you and i and many others are real junkies for the stuff. it is just popcorn, it is really fun. i will confess a certain weariness when two years out before the contest news is full of cleveland from iowa these exhaustive portraits of all of the contenders. the obsessive focus that the national press house on these contests. i want to ask, do you
think that some of it is overblown? >> overblown or overdone? >> overblown, do we spend too much time on it? i am asking a biographer to you and minimize the importance of his own subject. >> right. >> very rude thing to do but i want to say, do you think for as important as they are, do we overvalue them? >> yeah, i think we do. i certainly think we do. personally, my personal opinion the elections go on for too long. we spend so much time evaluating every little thing, you know? but everyone says on a debate stage. every gap. this obsessive focus on elections that goes on for two years before the election. everything
gets blown up and then becomes a big thing. he wasn't always like this though. the rise of television, more recently the rise of the internet has certainly exacerbated this. it was not always this obsessive focus for a year or two before. we talked a little bit earlier about the 1968 election with george wallace but 1968 was also -- indirectly related to this topic, as well. i think 1968, i am a think we should have a before and after 1968 dividing line in american politics. in 1968, humphrey won the democratic nomination without running a single primary. he was the last candidate to do that. a lot of the backers of robert kennedy, mccarthy, were pretty upset that he did that. they started a movement in the democratic party and then eventually nationally, to have more emphasis on primaries and caucuses. the democrats, since
they wrote the rules between 1968 in 1972 as a direct result of humphrey's nomination, they gave more power to primaries and caucuses. 1912 and 1968, candidates would run in primaries but it is mostly to prove their mettle, to prove they could get votes. a decision was still made by party leaders by the most part of the convention floor. after 1968 that was no longer the case. 72 with mcgovern he was the first nominee who won his nomination entirely on the basis of primaries and caucuses. i think we don't often appreciate how much that has changed american politics. we took away political parties as gatekeepers. you know? there is no longer this filter there. television already contributed to the rise of the candidate if you think about it, the nomination.. i think it's overdone for a large part because of that. no longer political party says the gatekeeper, but the media is the only gatekeeper. the media band obsessively focuses on all
of these things. >> isn't the extended primary campaign also a fight for donations? corporate and moneyed interests want obviously to put their cash on the winning marker, you know in the election. they don't want to see an investment go up and smoke. those of us who have given as individuals to -- i think it's overdone in large part because of that. no longer political parties are gatekeepers with the media is the only gatekeeper, the media obsessively focuses on all of these things. >> isn't the extended primary campaign also a fight for donations? corporate and interests want obviously put their cash on the winning marker, you know, any election, they don't to see investment go up in smoke,
those of us who have we have been as individuals to political campaigns know how bad it feels when they spend all this money and they're hoping to get some elected, well, that's a, right? our primaries a contest for that viability and access to money? which as your books points out, it's because louder than ever. >> yeah, absolutely, and there is something to be said for running with this gauntlet, because if you can't run this gauntlet, if you can't run in campaign you can't run an oval office, some people can run a campaign and still can't run an oval office. i would argue that if you can't run a campaign, certainly don't deserve to be president. there is that to be said for it. on the other side, it is also, you know, put the media in a position of being the sole gatekeeper by taking away political parties and it has contributed to your original question, whether this is all overblown. i think it's overblown to a large degree because of the
candidate nature of the process. candidates need to star years ahead of time to raise donations, they need to get attention, the need to go up in the, pulls the further they go up in polls, the more attention they get, the more donations they raise. >> hence the cult of personality that emerges at various times. >> absolutely, absolutely, yeah. >> i say we have a question here, and this gets back to the what ifs, the sort of alternative history. uss grant, a pioneer for his time on race relations. while his administration was dogged scandal. a question from an audience member here, had he been reelected would structures been put in place that would've had it off the toxic effect of jim crow laws in the south. reconstruction might have been done right instead of as your book points out ending as a compromise of the disputed 1876 election.
so i don't und >> while grant was reelected in 1972. so i don't totally understand that question. not a lot of people know this but he considered running again. he left office after 1876. in 1880, how to taking it to your trip around the world, believer not, he came back and a lot of republicans wanted to nominate him for a third, non consecutive term in 1880. he was kind of ambivalent about it. he wanted to do it for his country but he wasn't thrilled about getting back into the politics. turns out the convention split between key in jamie blaine, they ended up compromising on james garfield in 1880. i find it hard to imagine, that is a darn good question. you're right, cramp -- he convince congress to pass
the clue collects clan act. he definitely was trying to -- into the national politics and the national conversation. we forget how furious southerners war over the end of slavery and bringing blacks to the rights of citizenship and voting. earlier in reconstruction there were blacks elected into congress and into the senate. white conservatives in the south, they did everything they could. we think about jim crow, even before jim crow laws this is where the ku klux klan came from. they would chase blacks away from voting sites. sometimes shoot and kill them. blacks were lynched, you know?
there were bodies of blacks found along roadways four years early in reconstruction. the reason for northern republicans finally giving up on trying to bring blacks more into national political fabric is they wanted to move on to other issues. for a couple of decades republicans kept trying to pass laws that would overrule what's southerners were doing with voting rights or whatever. it kept failing. it would either not pass or get filibustered. i think northern republicans finally got exhausted by the effort. i'm not sure that there is a lot that could've been done to avoid what happened with jim crow, short of an even heavier hand by the u.s. government. >> this is maybe a good time about vice presidential selection. given the rather disastrous choice, in retrospect, that abraham lincoln made in selecting andrew johnson as part of a ticket balancing act here,
wanting to appease southern unionists by choosing this tennessee and that later went on to -- i think it is putting it mildly, through reconstruction in a really imperfect way. i think of john f. kennedy selecting the texan, lyndon johnson. later became, of course, president. i think of john mccain selecting sarah palin as a kind of attack dog, if you will. george h. w. bush made a similar decision with dan quayle. create a mini me who was younger and more outspokenly conservative to placate various wins of his party. sometimes this decision comes from not. i think it was john nance carter who said vice presidency isn't worth a bucket of warm -- he has been sanitized into spit.
>> but he said something besides beer, right? [laughs] >> what's in your view was the vast vice presidential selection? >> oh, yeah well you mention the worst with andrew johnson, obviously. that did not work out so well. i like truman. >> really? >> truman would be quite a good president. it's really interesting how he ended up as fdr's running mate in 1944. fdr the first eight years with turner as his vice president. in 1940, henry wallace became vice president. he was the vice president between 40 and 44 he was very liberal. by 1944 a lot of people in the dam they knew that he was not in good health. they didn't necessarily know he
was gonna die a few months into his next term but they knew he was not in good health. southerners and conservative were not thrilled with wallace. they thought he was too liberal. too much on the side of civil rights for blacks. he was also pretty eccentric. what we would call today, he followed a lot of new age spiritual beliefs. they get behind and they convince roosevelt to dump wallace in 1944 and nominate someone else. truman was a compromise candidate. he didn't even want to be vice president. they convinced him to run, there was a big to do with the convention. wallace did not want to go easily. he gave a big nominating speech in favor of roosevelt. the convention,
he had a lot of supporters! they were all up in arms and cheering. the band was playing, you know? he was from iowa. iowa, in a town called cone grows it became waltzes theme song. the convention manages thought they would lose control and have to re-nominate wallace. they get the organist to stop playing. son someone up there! cut the darn cables if you have to, stop the music! they said there were too many people in the hall and it was a fire hazard to the head and the convention for the night. they basically stopped this event from happening. they reconvened the next day, overnight the states that have been voting for favorite son candidates, the party leaders forced them to vote for truman. chairman was inserted at a compromise at the time. it turned out to be sort of an inspired choice, you
know? truman turned out to be a good president. he left the united states through the post war era. he is today considered one of the top ten presidents. he had a really interesting way of coming into office. >> these accidents, these sort of turning points -- >> there is a saying, among democrats actually a little bit of a doggerel. it goes like this, usually said in late november, the election is over, the rancor has passed. i will kiss year elephant and you can kiss my -- >> [laughs] that is a statement of the reunification that is supposed to happen around inauguration. your book has a wonderful epitaph from theodore h. why, a great documentary presidential campaigns. who
says that inaugurations are and amazing event. the ceremony the spectacle, on the national mall. we tried to bridge the differences. there is a tradition of course, that the elected president invites the losing candidate in for an oval office lunch. based on your research, do you find that this is really the case? after all the shouting is over that we really do come together? we could easily point to 2020 and say that that is not the case. the cut is still open. the bitterness intensifies. and this new in u.s. history? did you see this in prior contests? >> both. i think there was a period for a century or so when
we did come together. john adams famously did not attend thomas jefferson's inauguration in 1800. to be fair there wasn't a tradition yet establish of a defeated president attending his successor is not duration. andrew johnson, same thing, did not attend ulysses s grant's inauguration. i think from then at least to the 1990s people were -- there was definitely frosty nunes. hoover and roosevelt were not very friendly to each other. carter was pretty devastated, i don't think he talked a lot to reagan in the car on the way over to the integration. there is a tradition that the parties come together, at least initially. that is why we talk about presidential honeymoons. an effort to give the new president a chance. we are gonna vote for everything but we're gonna let you establish
yourself in office. i think that really started changing again in the 1990s. we talk about the roots of today's polarization and part of it goes back to the 1960s and the rise of social and cultural issues that have been with us ever since. the other part of it goes back to the 90s. the rise of talk radio, fox news, the internet and social media. new gingrich, we haven't talked about him a lot but he really changed strategies of how the two parties would interact with each other. he's the one that developed the strategy of obstructing everything that a democratic president would propose, even if it had bipartisan support, under the theory that the voters wouldn't notice obstruction. they would just blame the ruling party for a lack of progress. he also came up with these words, these protested words. democrats are anti-family, anti flag, pathetic and radical. these were never talked about before. they were so successful that
they are still part of our politics today. opposing everything that the incoming democratic would propose, gingrich had a strategy that we are not gonna give clinton a honeymoon. we don't think he's a legitimate president. if perot hadn't been in the race we wouldn't have won. it's not true by the way if you look at the polling. clinton would've won the matter wet. the only thing perot did was stop clinton from getting 50% of the vote. it has gotten worse since then. the nader, the trump bride in campaign where trump refused to attend the results of the campaign and refused to attend the inauguration. things have gotten worse from the 90s. through the 70s and 80s we did try to give the new president a chance. i think that has started going away. there is no
longer such thing as a president johnny moon or coming together. >> rice. i mentioned earlier that some of us a real junkies for this stuff. it is fun! it involves clashes and ideology and personalities. part of me wonders, you know, is this exacerbating the sense that we are not really neighbors? the divisions between us are exploited by those chasing power. i am gonna confess and ambivalent relationship to presidential politics. is this realistic? should i rethink that position? >> i always choose to remain idealistic. it has been more difficult in recent years. i
also said in my book, i did not take my ideological perspective. i tried to write as nonpartisan as possible. so i'm on amazon that i don't know complemented me on that. i do have a bias, my biases pro democracy. i'm not thrilled for whatever happened to southern democrats years after jim crow in restricting voting rights. i'm not thrilled with that segment of the republican party today that will not accept the results of the 2020 election. i do have a pro democracy bias. i do like to remain idealistic. i think that presidential politics. i like to think that they are important we. should remain engaged. it does make me a bit sad that democracy is suffering these days. it makes me a bit sad that democracy may be at risk at all. i think the united states foods, since the late 1700s has been a beacon to
the world in terms of giving people choice and implementing democracy. i hope that this continues for centuries into the future. >> indeed. some may consider that sentiment corny. some may consider vast elements of presidential politics as corny, cheesy, or whatever, pick your food product. there is a reason why corn and are popular. it's because they are pretty good! so i want to thank you, bob, first of all for writing this enormously accessible, well researched, surprising knowledge grounded book. also thanks to the national archives for the work in preserving our nations past. understanding who we are. and i think that is it.
>> absolutely, i just want to thank the national archives for having us on. thank you, tom, for coming on with me. i have enjoyed our chat. been fun talking about two centuries a presidential history with you. >> a huge topic, but the time flew by. >> yeah, and sure did. thank you so much. >> thank you everyone.