Archive for the ‘Partido Republicano’ Category

Las elecciones presidenciales de 1876 fueron unas históricas caracterizadas por el fraude, la intimidación y la violencia. Los Republicanos nominaron como su candidato al gobernador de Ohio Rutherford B. Hayes, un político insípido, pero integro. Los Demócratas nominaron al gobernador de Nueva York Samuel J. Tilden. Ambos favorecían el gobierno propio para el Sur (es decir, no interferir ni intervenir en los asuntos políticos del Sur) y, además, la reconstrucción no era una de sus prioridades.

Esta elección ha sido una de las más cerradas en la historia de los Estados Unidos. Hayes obtuvo el 48% de los votos populares y 185 votos electorales, mientras que Tilden le superó en votos populares con el 50% de éstos, pero sólo alcanzó 184 votos electorales. Ninguno de los dos candidatos obtuvo el número de votos electorales necesarios para ser electo presidente, lo que provocó una seria crisis política. Para resolver esta crisis el Congreso nombró un comité compuesto por cinco senadores, cinco representantes y cinco jueces del Tribunal Supremo, ocho Republicanos y siete Demócratas. El comité votó en estricta línea partidista a favor de reconocer la elección de Hayes, lo que generó las protestas  de los Demócratas. Éstos controlaban la Cámara de Representantes y amenazaron con bloquear la juramentación de Hayes. Para superar esta crisis se llevaron a cabo negociaciones secretas que culminaron con un acuerdo en febrero de 1877: los Demócratas aceptaron la elección del Hayes a cambio de que éste nombrara a un sureño en su gabinete, no interfiriera en la política del Sur y se comprometiera a retirar las tropas federales que quedaban en el sur.

Poco tiempo después de su juramentación como Presidente de los Estados Unidos, Hayes ordenó la salida de las tropas federales de Florida y Carolina del Sur. La salida de los soldados conllevó la eventual derrota de los gobernadores Republicanos de ambos estados. Al adoptar una política de no interferencia en los asuntos del Sur, los Republicanos abandonaron a los afroamericanos. Aunque formaban parte de la constitución, las Enmiendas 14 y 15 quedaron sin efecto en el Sur porque fueron sistemáticamente ignoradas por los gobiernos sureños. Con ello murió la era de la Reconstrucción y se inició una era vergonzosa caracterizada por la supremacía de los blancos, la violencia racial, la violación sistemática de los derechos de los ciudadanos afroamericanos y la segregación de los negros.

Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite administering the oath of office to Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877.

Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite administering the oath of office to Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877.

The Presidential Election of 1876

In the summer of 1876 the United States celebrated a centenary of independence. Although it was a jubilee year, the American Republic was also deeply troubled. The desperate battles of the Civil War had ended more than a decade before; yet Abraham Lincoln’s call for ‘malice toward none’ remained an unfulfilled appeal, as Federal troops continued to occupy some of the former Confederate States. President Ulysses S. Grant’s second term of office was drawing to a close under a barrage of criticism directed at corruption in his government. The coming Presidential election would take place in November.

It promised to be an exciting fight, but no one foresaw that the struggle between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden would result in an unparalleled scandal and bring America perilously close to another civil conflict. Indeed, the roots of the dispute were firmly woven into the Civil War and its tragic aftermath.

On April 9th, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia and the guns at Appomattox stopped firing. The Civil War drew to a close. In four years of grim fighting the troops of both sides had developed a respect for each other, a bond of harsh experiences mutually endured. Now Yankees shared their rations with Confederates and traded wartime stories.

The day after the surrender, Abraham Lincoln returned to Washington after a visit to Richmond. A wildly cheering crowd called for a speech, but the President demurred. Instead, he asked the military band to strike up ‘Dixie’. For a brief moment there seemed to be hope of genuine reconciliation. It was unquestionably Lincoln’s fervent hope. Then, only days later, John Wilkes Booth fired a fatal bullet into the President’s head at Ford’s Theatre in Washington.

Election Cartoon, 1876 Photograph by Granger

With Lincoln’s death, the ‘Radicals’ in the Republican Party gained the upper hand. For men like Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania and Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, the South fully deserved the revenge they had planned. The bitter years of ‘Reconstruction’ followed. Government tax-collectors enjoyed a bonanza below the Mason-Dixon Line. General Lee’s magnificent home at Arlington was seized for taxes. Properties worth thousands of dollars were sold for a few hundred and Federal Treasury agents laid claim to supposedly abandoned land. Even General William Tecumseh Sherman, whose army made the famous march from Atlanta to the sea, burning and destroying everything in its path, spoke in compassionate terms to a veterans’ gathering shortly after the war:

It was in this atmosphere that white Southerners fought to regain control of South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Florida and other states of the former Confederacy; the newly emancipated slaves fought for a place in a society previously denied them; and political scavengers fought to hang on to the spoils of war. Gradually, however, the South returned to the control of its native white population. In doing so, it became more solidly attached to the Democratic Party than ever before.

Due to the presence of Federal troops and officials in positions of power, Ulysses S. Grant was able to carry eight southern states for the Republican Party in the Presidential election of 1868. Grant won a second term in 1872, but this time only six southern states were in the Republican camp. The grip of Radical Republican power was fading. Perhaps more significant, the immediate post-war zeal in the North for African-American welfare had diminished.


Republican election poster

Republican election poster, 1876.


As the election of 1876 approached, Grant’s Republican administration reeled under a heavy attack by the press when a great whisky scandal broke. Western distillers had been flagrantly evading Federal taxes, and Grant’s own private secretary, General Babcock, was implicated. The President’s enemies gleefully pointed to corruption in the White House. Instead of dissociating himself from Babcock, Grant leaped to his defence.

Indeed, Grant displayed an almost incredible loyalty to dubious colleagues during his Presidency. His support of Babcock largely contributed to an acquittal. But this was just part of the rapidly mounting troubles faced by the Republican Party.

In March 1876, just eight months before the election, Secretary of War William Belknap was charged with malfeasance in office by the House of Representatives. Rather than remove Belknap from his post, Grant merely accepted the cabinet member’s resignation. One month later it was James G. Blaine’s turn to embarrass the Administration. As Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Blaine was in a most influential position. When the press charged that he had taken favours from the Union Pacific Railroad, the tag of ‘Grantism’ received new life as a synonym for political avarice.

The scandals could not have come at a more inopportune time, for the Republicans desperately needed a politically untarnished standard-bearer in the coming election and Blaine was a strong candidate. Despite the publicity, Blaine’s name was prominent when the Republicans met at Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 14th to nominate a contender for the Presidency. Recognising that public attention had to be focused on something other than the Administration’s record, Blaine attacked the South and stirred up fears of a new war. In doing so, he alienated those members of his party who sought a genuine rapprochement with the old Confederacy. On the seventh ballot, he lost the nomination to a ‘dark horse’ candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio. Hayes was a compromise between the extreme wings of the Party. Above all, his personal record and political integrity could not be seriously challenged.

The 53-year-old Hayes had a good, if not spectacular, background. Born in Delaware, Ohio, he had been raised by a widowed mother who, fortunately, enjoyed financial security. He received a degree from the Harvard Law School in 1845 and subsequently accepted a number of fugitive slave cases. During the Civil War, Hayes rose to the rank of brevet major-general of volunteers, participated in many actions and was severely wounded. While the war still raged he was elected to Congress. He was later elected Governor of Ohio on three separate occasions and put through a number of reforms.

In accepting the nomination, Hayes vowed to end the spoils system and called for an end to ‘the distinction between North and South in our common country’. This conciliatory statement was in sharp contrast to Resolution Number 16 of the Party Platform which went so far as to question the loyalty of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. This allegation reflected the presence of Congressmen who had fought for the Confederacy.

The Democrats had no problem in devising their campaign strategy. The entire nation was aware of the Administration’s shortcomings. Corruption was the issue and the Democratic Party promised reform. On June 27th they held their convention in St Louis, Missouri. In an auditorium jammed with 5,000 people, Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York scored a landslide victory on the second ballot.


Samuel J. Tilden is announced as the Democratic presidential nominee

Samuel J. Tilden is announced as the Democratic presidential nominee.


Tilden was a unique figure, and certainly one of the most interesting to cross the American political scene. This frail, cold, articulate bachelor commanded a crusading zeal from his supporters. As a boy, Tilden was withdrawn and showed little inclination to mix with young people. Politics, however, fascinated him and his father fostered that interest. At the age of 15 he used his own money to buy Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. By 1841 he was a qualified lawyer with a continuing and consuming interest in politics. His brilliant grasp of political matters brought him to the attention of Democratic leaders who sought his counsel. For some time Tilden studiously avoided candidacy for high public office, but his own abilities soon brought him national recognition.

A particularly significant event was Tilden’s exposure and prosecution of New York’s notorious racketeer, ‘Boss’ William M. Tweed. His popularity soared and he was elected Governor of New York. Then he broke up the Canal Ring, a group of crooks and unscrupulous politicians. Tilden’s name became associated with integrity in politics. This was just what the Democratic Party wanted as a contrast to the Republican Administration.

The battle lines were clearly defined. Left to themselves, it is possible that Hayes and Tilden might have kept the election campaign free from distortion of facts and bitter personal invective, but it was not to be. Tilden was subjected to a number of damaging of charges. There seemed to be no limit to the accusations: that he was a liar, swindler, perjurer, counterfeiter and even an absurd claim that he had been in league with the infamous Tweed. In line with their basic campaign strategy, the Republicans alleged that Tilden had supported the Confederacy, the right of secession and the continuation of slavery. This all stemmed from his opposition to Lincoln in 1860, but that was because he was a Democrat and feared a Republican victory would bring disaster to the United States. This feeling had no bearing on his fundamental loyalty to the Union, and once the war began he had urged the quick suppression of the Confederacy.

As election day approached, excitement grew with each rally and parade. It was, after all, the centenary of American independence. Even politically apathetic citizens came out for Hayes or Tilden with great enthusiasm. But on polling day, November 7th, calm prevailed as people made their way to voting centres. It was a stillness soon to be shattered. Hayes’ hopes began to sink as swing states such as Connecticut, Indiana and New Jersey went to Tilden. When New York finally fell into Tilden’s camp, Hayes admitted defeat to those around him and went to bed.

Tilden was not only leading in the popular vote: he had 184 of the far more important electoral votes to Hayes’ 166. The 19 votes of South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana were had not yet been declared, but they were in the heartland of the Democratic South. At the Republican National Headquarters, exhausted and dispirited party workers began to go home. On the morning of November 8th, the press of both parties was crowded with news of Tilden’s victory. Even the militantly Republican New York Tribune conceded the election.

The New York Times, however, would do no more than admit a Democratic lead. Two days after the election, John C. Reid, the newspaper’s influential editor, sat in the editorial room with two assistants. It was after 3am when a message arrived from the State Democratic Committee: ‘Please give your estimate of the electoral votes secured by Tilden. Answer at once.’ Reid was astounded. If they urgently needed such information, then the Democrats were not certain of victory. In a matter of minutes he conceived a scheme to wrest the election away from Tilden and put Rutherford B. Hayes into the White House. Tilden had 18 more electoral votes than Hayes, but if the 19 from South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida were secured by the Republicans, Hayes would win by one vote, 185 to 184.

Tilden (left) and Hayes

Samuel J. Tilden (left) and Rutherford B. Hayes (right).

Reid, accompanied by a Republican official, hurried into the night and awakened Zachariah Chandler, National Republican Chairman. Chandler agreed to Reid’s proposal: telegrams must be sent immediately to Republican officials in the three states, with the following message: ‘Hayes is elected if we have carried South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana. Can you hold your state? Answer immediately.’ The meaning was clear: those states were to be held at any cost. At the same time, Republican headquarters proclaimed Hayes’ election.

The key to the plot’s success lay in the state canvassing boards. They had the power to certify the votes and cast out those that, in the board’s opinion, were questionable. The need for absolute honesty by the boards in exercising their power was self evident, but the personnel of some made comedy of that requirement. Of course, all of the boards were Republican and backed by Federal troops.

Initially, Hayes dissociated himself from the plan, saying: ‘I think we are defeated … I am of the opinion that the Democrats have carried the country and elected Tilden.’ A few weeks later, however, he changed his mind: ‘I have no doubt that we are justly and legally entitled to the Presidency.’

From the beginning there was an outside chance that Hayes could have carried South Carolina and Louisiana on the strength of votes from African-Americans and ‘carpetbaggers’ (a pejorative term for Northerners who moved South during the Reconstruction). Florida’s heavily Democratic white majority, however, made that state a dim prospect for Republican hopes. But they had to have Florida or Tilden would win by 188 to 181. During the actual election campaign, all three states witnessed a wide variety of attempts by both sides to cow voters and fraud was rampant. In one shameful tactic, the Democrats tried to distribute ballots with the Republican emblem prominently displayed over the names of Democratic candidates. It was worth the chance in the hope of picking up votes from illiterate voters. On the Republican side, one inspired person devised ‘little jokers’. These were tiny Republican tickets inside a regular ballot. A partisan clerk could slip them into the ballot box with little chance of being detected.

In Louisiana, Tilden held a comfortable majority over Hayes. And in New Orleans, the Democratic elector with the smallest plurality had more than 6,000 votes over his Republican opponent. The canvassing board solved the problem in that state by simply throwing out 13,000 Tilden votes against only 2,000 for Hayes. Then the electors for Hayes were certified.

The prelude to the election in South Carolina was a bloody affair. The Governor was Daniel H. Chamberlain of Massachusetts, a strict dogmatist on the race question and thoroughly loathed by white South Carolinians. In addition to the Presidential election, there was a gubernatorial race. The Democrats were running a war hero, former Confederate General Wade Hampton. ‘Rifle clubs’ were organised over the entire state by Hampton’s supporters and there were numerous clashes with African-American groups. As far back as July 8th, there had been a sharp fight in Aiken County at which African-Americans suffered a severe defeat. Chamberlain appealed to President Grant for help. Grant described the rifle clubs as ‘insurgents’ and sent all readily available troops to South Carolina. The resultant fury at this action was compounded when the Republican canvassing board ensured the certification of Hayes’ electors.

The Election of 1876 & The End of Reconstruction

Florida was the most critical problem. As the polling booths closed, each side claimed victory. Once again, the canvassing board held the decision in its hands. The three-man board was dominated by two Republicans, Florida’s Secretary of State and its Comptroller. The third man was the Democratic Attorney General. The board had the right to exclude ‘irregular, false or fraudulent’ votes. In a complete travesty of integrity, the board voted for Hayes by virtue of its Republican majority. Thus, Florida’s key electoral votes went to Hayes. The Republican Governor certified them with the official blessing of the state. The outraged Democrats held a meeting and had the Attorney General certify the Tilden electors. With this action, a new and dangerous complication entered the scene. Democrats, claiming dishonesty by the canvassing boards, were certifying their own electors by whatever legal or quasi-legal means they could. To further complicate matters, Florida Democrats elected G. F. Drew as Governor and he appointed a new board of canvassers who promptly judged Tilden’s electors to be victorious. In South Carolina, where Wade Hampton had been elected Governor, there were unqualified demands to disenfranchise the Hayes electors.

As a precaution, General Grant ordered Federal troops into all three state capitals, directing General Sherman ‘to see that the proper and legal boards of canvassers are unmolested in the performance of their duties’. That meant Hayes would win. At this point, Samuel Tilden’s followers almost begged him to denounce the plot publicly, but he would no nothing to prejudice the legal process. This is somewhat difficult to understand in view of his previous anti-fraud successes.

The Senate and House of Representatives convened for the second session of the 44th Congress on December 4th, 1876. It was just two days before the date set for Presidential electors chosen in each state to meet and declare their choice for President and Vice-President of the United States. It was the responsibility of each state Governor and Secretary of State to affix the official state seal to the voting certificates and send them to the President of the Senate in Washington D.C. who would then count them before a joint session of Congress.

Since the Senate was controlled by Republicans, the Democratic House demanded the right to decide which votes were valid. The Senate, understandably, refused. Here was an incredible situation; each day bringing the United States closer to March 4th, the date when Grant’s term expired. Who would succeed him and how would it be done? Rumblings of a new civil war rolled ominously across America. There were drills and parades and wartime units began to reform. Even cool heads discussed the possibility of the National Guard, under the command of Democratic Governors in most states, marching on Washington to install Tilden by force, if necessary. In that case, the Regular Army under Grant would oppose the Guard as Hayes had been ‘legally’ elected.

Amazon.com: Presidential Campaign 1876 Ncontemporary American Newspaper  Cartoon Attacking William Eaton Chandler Who Directed Republican Tactics In  The Rutherford B Hayes And Samuel J Tilden Election In Which Twe: Posters &  PrintsIt was an unthinkable prospect. Fortunately, there were men of influence on both sides who saw that a peaceful solution was absolutely mandatory. On December 14th, the House appointed a committee to approach the Senate in the hope that a tribunal could be created; one ‘whose authority none can question and whose decision all will accept as final’. After much debate, an Electoral Commission was approved. Congress proceeded to set up a group of 15 men; five from the Senate, five from the House and five from the Supreme Court. Presumably, the Court Justices would be non-partisan. Both Hayes and Tilden declared the Commission unconstitutional, but they reluctantly agreed to accept its verdict.

It was clear to everyone what would happen without the Commission. Republican Senator Thomas Ferry of Michigan, presiding officer of the Senate, would open the certificates before a joint session and declare Hayes the winner by 185 to 184 electoral votes. The House would then immediately adjourn to its own chambers where Speaker Samuel Randall would declare no electoral majority and throw the election into a vote by each state delegation in the House. That would assure Tilden’s victory, and on March 4th, 1877 both Hayes and Tilden would be in Washington to be inaugurated as President of the United States. Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York described this route as a ‘Hell-gate paved and honeycombed with dynamite’. It was no understatement.

The Commission held its first session just four weeks before the inauguration. Democratic members of the Commission pressed for a searching examination of the honesty of the canvassing boards. The Republican members claimed that the legal state authorities had filed legitimate certificates and Congress had no power to interfere.

The Commission finally voted along party lines with the decision going to Hayes, 8 to 7. On Friday, March 2nd at 4am, the Senate awarded the last certificate to Hayes. It was just two days before the inauguration. The fury of the South was matched by its Democratic allies in the North. All eyes turned to Samuel J. Tilden. If he claimed that the will of the American people had been frustrated by partisan duplicity and fraud, then America faced civil war. Instead, Tilden said: ‘It is what I expected.’

Electoral map of 1876: Republican wins in red, Democrat in blue, non-states in grey.

Electoral map of 1876: Republican wins in red, Democrat in blue, non-states in grey.


Open conflict might still have been a possibility except for a meeting that has since been the subject of much speculation. One week before the inauguration, Southern Democrats and Republicans met at the Wormley Hotel in Washington in an effort to find some compromise before it was too late. There is ample evidence to suggest that a quid pro quo was reached; the South to agree to Hayes’ election if the North would agree to abandon all efforts to maintain carpetbag regimes in the South. That meant withdrawal of Federal troops. In return, the South presumably agreed not to take reprisals against African-Americans or carpetbag officials.

For that matter, the South and its Democratic friends in the North already held a powerful sword over the head of the United States Army. They attached a clause to the Army Appropriations Bill that outlawed the use of Federal troops to sustain state governments in the South without Congressional approval. When the Senate refused the clause, the House simply adjourned and left the Army without funds to pay soldiers. Morale collapsed and the end of Reconstruction was at hand.

After the decision, Tilden commented: ‘I can retire to private life with the consciousness that I shall receive from posterity the credit for having been elected to the highest position in the gift of the people, without any of the cares.’ That summer he sailed for Europe for a year’s vacation. Rutherford B. Hayes took the oath of office in private, kissing the open Bible at Psalm 118:13 ‘… the Lord helped me’.

There was no inaugural parade or ball. There was little to celebrate.

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Andrew Johnson · 1868 Una batalla política por la reunificación del país

El fin de la guerra civil estadounidense dio paso a un nuevo problema: ¿qué hacer con los derrotados estados sureños? Esta pregunta llevó a una crisis constitucional que abrió la puerta al primer juicio de residenciamiento en la historia estadounidense.

Tras el asesinato de Abraham Lincoln asumió la presidencia el Vicepresidente Andrew Johnson, un sureño que no sólo había sido miembro del Partido Demócrata, sino que también había poseído esclavos. Johnson era hijo de la tradición de Andrew Jackson y, por ende, se consideraba un defensor del hombre común frente a la aristocracia corrupta de noreste. El nuevo presidente simpatizaba con los blancos pobres y no tenía mucha empatía para los esclavos. Cuando estalló la guerra civil, Johnson era Senador por el estado de Tennesse, pero se mantuvo fiel a la Unión. Los Republicanos lo eligieron candidato a la vicepresidencia para promover la unidad y cortejar el apoyo de los sureños unionistas. En su gestión como Presidente, Johnson dejó claro que era un creyente en la supremacía de los blancos y, por ende, se opuso a la concesión de derechos políticos a los negros. Su simpatía para con los estados sureños fue más que evidente y le   llevó a una colisión con el Congreso.

En mayo de 1865, Johnson hizo público su plan para readmitir a los estados sureños en la Unión. El plan presidencial ofrecía amnistía a todo sureño que hiciera un juramento de lealtad a la constitución de los Estados Unidos. Sólo quedaban fuera los altos dirigentes civiles y militares de la Confederación, quienes sólo podían ser perdonados por el Presidente mismo. Para que los estados fuesen reintegrados a la unión, los sureños debían también ratificar la Enmienda 13, aboliendo la esclavitud. Rápidamente, los estados confederados aceptaron el plan de Johnson y pudieron elegir gobiernos propios. Para el otoño de 1865 diez de los once estados confederados habían cumplido con los requisitos del plan de Johnson

White League and Ku Klux Klan alliance, in illustration, by Thomas Nast, in Harper's Weekly, October 24, 1874La primera reacción de los congresistas Republicanos al plan del presidente fue favorable. Tanto moderados como radicales decidieron darle una oportunidad a Johnson y a su plan. Éstos esperaban que los nuevos gobiernos sureños aprovecharan la gran oportunidad que el plan Johnson significaba y actuaran de buena fe. Desafortunadamente, esto no ocurrió porque los nuevos gobiernos sureños buscaron resucitar la esclavitud a través de una serie de leyes, conocidas como los códigos negros. Estas leyes buscaban obligar a los negros libres a regresar a trabajar a las plantaciones.  Además, Johnson le otorgó un perdón a básicamente a todo antiguo líder de la Confederación que se lo solicitó. Envalentonados, los sureños eligieron antiguos funcionarios confederados para representarles en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos. Antiguos generales y coroneles, legisladores y hasta el vicepresidente de la Confederación fueron electos al Congreso federal en representación de los estados sureños.

La actitud y las acciones de los sureños enfurecieron a los congresistas Republicanos, quienes decidieron no reconocer a los nuevos legisladores sureños. Para ello, aplicaron una cláusula de la constitución que le reconoce al Congreso el poder de aceptar o rechazar legisladores. De esta forma, todos los congresistas sureños electos bajo el plan de Johnson fueron rechazados por el Congreso.  En respuesta, los estados sureños eliminaron las alusiones raciales en los códigos negros, pero en la práctica sólo aplicaban las leyes a los negros libres.  Para complicar aún más las cosas, se desató una ola de violencia y terror contra los negros libres en diversos estados del sur.  Todo ello llevó a los congresistas republicanos a concluir que el Sur estaba deliberadamente evadiendo la Enmienda 13, y que era necesaria la intervención del Congreso.

En marzo de 1865 el Congreso creó la Oficina de  Libertos  (Freedmen Bureau) para brindar ayuda de emergencia a los antiguos esclavos.  Esta oficina había tenido un éxito limitado.  La Oficina de Libertos operó escuelas ayudando a crear las bases para un sistema de educación pública en el sur. También ayudó a los negros a denunciar los abusos de que eran víctimas. A principios de 1866, el Congreso aprobó extender la vida de esta oficina asignándoles fondos de forma directa y autorizando a sus agentes a investigar casos de maltrato de libertos. Además, el Congreso aprobó una ley de derechos civiles, confiriéndole la ciudadanía norteamericana a los negros. Esta ley definía como ciudadano a toda persona nacida en los Estados Unidos, aunque dejaba fuera a los amerindios. De acuerdo con esta ley, los negros estarían cubiertos por todas las leyes norteamericanas que garantizaban la seguridad y la propiedad de los ciudadanos estadounidenses.

The Freedman´s BureauEn febrero de 1866, el presidente Johnson vetó la nueva ley de la Oficina de Libertos y la Ley de derechos civiles. Además, lanzó un fuerte ataque contra los radicales, acusándoles de traidores que no querían restaurar la Unión.

Los radicales toman control

¿Quiénes eran estos congresistas radicales que provocaron la ira del presidente Johnson?  La mayoría de los unionadicales eran individuos formados al calor de los debates en torno a la esclavitud. Éstos procedían, principalmente, de la zona de Nueva Inglaterra o del medio oeste. Les unía la creencia en la igualdad de derechos políticos y de oportunidades económicas, por lo que creían necesario un gobierno central fuerte. Según ellos, el establecimiento del trabajo libre, la educación universal pública y la igualdad de derechos llevarían al sur a disfrutar del mismo nivel de riqueza, progreso y movilidad social que poseía el norte. Su opinión del Sur no era la mejor, pues le consideraban una región en donde reinaba la ignorancia, se practicaba una agricultura de despilfarro, se rechazaba la manufactura, se despreciaba el trabajo honesto y estaba controlada por una oligarquía majadera. Los radicales querían transformar al Sur desarrollando la pequeña propiedad agraria, fomentando la manufactura, promoviendo la educación, cultivando el respeto al trabajo honesto y extendiendo la igualdad de derechos políticos entres sus habitantes.  Para los radicales, la prioridad no era reestablecer la Unión, sino rehacer al sur.

Charles Sumner

Para los radicales, el gobierno federal debía jugar un papel protagónico en la reconstrucción del sur, sobre todo, garantizando los derechos civiles y el voto de los libertos. Republicanos radicales como Thaddeus Stevens (Pennsylvania) y Charles Sumner (Massachussets) abogaban por una intervención federal directa que protegiera a  los negros y les brindara oportunidades educativas, sociales y económicas.


Los vetos de Johnson unificaron a los legisladores republicanos bajo el liderato de los republicanos radicales, quienes decidieron retar el poder del presidente. En abril de 1866, los radicales obtuvieron el respaldo de las dos terceras parte de los legisladores necesarios para aprobar las leyes vetadas por Johnson. Este fue un momento histórico porque por primera vez en la historia de los Estados Unidos el Congreso fue por encima de un veto presidencial.  En junio de 1866, el Congreso aprobó la enmienda la Enmienda 14 declarando ciudadano norteamericano a toda persona nacida en los Estados Unidos. Según la enmienda ningún estado “aprobará o hará cumplir ninguna ley que restrinja los privilegios o inmunidades de los ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos; ni ningún estado privará a persona alguna de su vida, de su libertad, sin el debido procedimiento de ley, ni negará a nadie, dentro de su jurisdicción, al igual protección de las leyes”. Esta enmienda histórica buscaba proteger los derechos de los libertos frente los abusos y atropellos de los sureños garantizando la constitucionalidad de la Ley de Derechos Civiles vetada por Johnson y aprobada por el Congreso.

En las elecciones de 1866, los Republicanos aumentaron su mayoría tanto en la Cámara como en el Senado, y ganaron control de todos los estados del norte. Los Republicanos entendieron su contundente victoria como un mandato, como una muestra de aprobación popular de sus posiciones, como una especie de referéndum que Johnson perdió. La victoria electoral unificó a los congresistas republicanos en su propósito de tomar control de la reconstrucción. Con ello quedó definido el escenario de un choque histórico y peligroso entre las ramas legislativa y ejecutiva del gobierno de los Estados Unidos.

Los Republicanos tomaron la iniciativa rápido aprobando una serie de leyes a comienzos del año 1867. En marzo, los republicanos aprobaron la Ley de la Reconstrucción que fue vetada por Johnson y vuelta a probara por el Congreso por encima del veto presidencial. Esta ley organizaba al sur como un territorio conquistado y ocupado, pues le dividía en cinco distritos militares, cada uno comandado por un general del ejército de la Unión. Para que se retirasen las tropas federales y los estados se reintegrasen a la Unión, era necesario que éstos le concediera en el derecho al voto a los libertos y privara de ese mismo derecho a los confederados que participaron en la rebelión. Cada comandante militar debía registrar a todos los votantes de su distrito, blancos y negros, y supervisar que se llevaran a cabo elecciones para escoger una convención estatal. Ésta debería redactar nuevas constituciones que garantizaran el derecho al voto de los negros en cada estado. Además, los estados sureños debían ratificar la Enmienda 14. Cuando todo ello ocurriese, los estados sureños serían readmitidos a la Unión.

Resultado de imagen para Edwin M. Stanton"

Edwin M. Stanton

Los republicanos también aprobaron la Ley de Tenencia de un Cargo Público que hacía obligatorio el consentimiento del Senado para remover de su cargo a todo funcionario cuyo nombramiento tuvo que ser confirmado por el Senado. En otras palabras, obligaba a Johnson a solicitar el consentimiento senatorial para poder destituir funcionarios públicos que aunque pudieron haber sido nombrados por el presidente, debieron ser confirmados por el Senado. Con ello, el Senado quería proteger al Secretario de Guerra Edwin M. Stanton, quien había sido nombrado por Lincoln y favorecía la reconstrucción radical del sur. Como Secretario de Guerra, podía hacer mucho para favorecer a los republicanos radicales y bloquear las acciones del presidente. Esta ley atentaba contra los poderes reconocidos por la constitución al presidente de los Estados Unidos, pues exigía que Johnson trasmitiera sus órdenes al ejército a través de su oficial de mayor rango el General Ulises S. Grant.

Johnson no pudo evitar que se aprobaran ambas leyes y hasta pareció dar señales de aceptar el control congresional de la reconstrucción, pues nombró los generales recomendados por Stanton y Grant para comandar los cincos distritos militares creados por la Ley de Reconstrucción. Sin embargo, esto era una maniobra de Johnson para ganar tiempo, pues tan pronto acabó la sesión del Congreso destituyó a Stanton y le sustituyó por Grant, pues creía que el general sería mucho más fácil de controlar. Además, el presidente sustituyó a cuatro de los comandantes de distritos militares del sur. Grant sorprendió a Johnson al objetar públicamente las movidas del presidente. Cuando el Congreso volvió a reunirse anuló la destitución de Stanton. Resultado de imagen para johnson impeachment"

El 21 de febrero de 1868, Johnson oficialmente despidió a Stanton y el secretario se atrincheró en su oficina y se negó a obedecer al presidente. El 24 de febrero de 1868 por primera vez en la historia de los Estados Unidos, el Congreso inició un proceso de residenciamiento para destituir al presidente. Siguiendo el mandato establecido por la constitución, la Cámara de Representantes inició el proceso de residenciamiento contra Johnson acusándole de once cargos de mala conducta presidencial, siete de ellos por haber violado la Ley de tenencia de un cargo público.  Una vez establecidas las acusaciones en la Cámara, el Senado pasó a enjuiciar al presidente. Tras un juicio de once semanas de duración, Johnson se salvó de ser el primer presidente en ser destituido por un voto, pues se requería que dos terceras partes de los senadores le condenaran (36) y sólo 35 senadores lo encontraron culpable de los cargos de que se le acusaba.  Siete republicanos moderados votaron a favor de Johnson porque no estaban seguros de la constitucionalidad de la Ley  de tenencia de un cargo público, que en efecto fue más tarde declarada inconstitucional por el Tribunal Supremo. Para este grupo de legisladores, destituir a Johnson hubiera sido un acto muy extremo, pues habría establecido un antecedente muy peligroso. En otras palabras, para ellos era más importante salvaguardar el sistema político estadounidense que castigar a Johnson.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, 15 de noviembre de 2019


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The Two Legacies of Richard Nixon that Shaped the Modern Republican Party

HNN    August 17, 2014


The fortieth anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation from the presidency last week passed without much attention to the question of the former president’s historical significance and his role in the history of the modern Republican party. Twenty years after his death, it is apparent that Nixon shaped the political world in which we now live, and the last fifty years of the twentieth century are properly seen as The Age of Nixon. In race relations and the fundamental beliefs of the modern Republican party, Nixon was a more consequential historical figure than Ronald Reagan.

In the 1950s, Nixon was sympathetic to African-American aspirations and was someone who impressed Martin Luther King with his understanding of the civil rights impulse. The 1960 election changed all that as black voters helped put John Kennedy in the White House. Convinced that the election had been stolen from him, Nixon said of African-American support of Democrats, “it’s a bought vote and it isn’t bought by civil rights.” From there, even though his administration enforced civil rights laws, it was a short step to the Southern Strategy that turned the states of the Confederacy from Democratic to Republican over the next three decades.  Nixon, through aides like Pat Buchanan, reinforced the Republican commitment to white voters that underpins so much of the Republican opposition to President Obama.

As Nixon told a friend after the 1960 election, “we won, but they stole it from us.”  Contrary to the portrait of patriotic self-denial and deference to the election of John F. Kennedy that Nixon later proffered, he and the Republicans were quite prepared to contest Kennedy’s success until they knew there was no case that would withstand scrutiny. Yet the lesson that Nixon took away from 1960 was not that politics was like war, in which victory justifies all.

In that insight lay the roots of Watergate. Presidents could not, in Nixon’s mind commit illegal acts. Faced with a Democratic Party whose tactics impaired its dubious legitimacy, the Republicans should stop at nothing to achieve and maintain power. Entering the White House in January 1969, Nixon saw himself surrounded by enemies bent on his political annihilation. It was only right in such a dangerous political environment to meet fire with fire, criminality with criminality, dirty tricks with similar tactics.

The Watergate generation saw in Nixon’s methods violations of the Constitution that led to his resignation. But in time the assumption grew among Republicans that Nixon had been right all along. Nixon might believe that Democrats had more fun than Republicans did, and for a time he toyed with the idea of a new political party. In that he emulated Dwight D. Eisenhower and Modern Republicanism. Yet in his heart of hearts Nixon believed that the Democrats were the Other in American politics, a criminal enterprise that abused the rules of partisan behavior for selfish ends. They did not deserve fair play, which was only for suckers in public life.

The lesson stuck. Watergate had not been a moment of constitutional truth. Impeachment was a tactic that Republicans could deploy, first against Bill Clinton, and now against President Obama. Nixon taught that only Republicans had a true commitment to American values and therefore the only viable and defensive claim on fundamental legitimacy in American life. In the universe of Richard Nixon, only the winning side had the luxury of moral values. Commitment to democratic practices was only a sham that the true political sophisticates adhered to only at their peril. His disciples abound. They restrict voting of minorities, they filibuster everything, they gerrymander with abandon, they deny medical care even though people die as a result.

Nixon famously invoked a sign he had seen while campaigning, “Bring us together,” it read. It made for good rhetoric, but in his career he was the architect of two policies that are still tearing the country apart. His belief that politics is actually war demands perpetual battle with unconditional surrender as the only sensible goal at hand, whereas his fealty to the southern strategy, which dictates the exclusion of fast-growing minorities, questions the very survivability of his own party. These are the dilemmas that the United States now contemplates as it ponders the legacy of Richard Milhous Nixon.

Lewis L. Gould, visiting distinguished professor at Monmouth College, is the author of “The Republicans: A History of the Grand Old Party,” which the Oxford University Press will publish next month.

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Our political era, as most of us understand it, starts in 1980. The election of Ronald Reagan is the opening shot, the first of the three massive conservative backlashes (1994 and 2010 are the others) that have irretrievably shaped our sense of political possibility.

That is not how we see our economic history, though: there it is the middle years of the 1970s that mark the turning point when median wages stopped their steady postwar rise, Keynesian solutions failed, productivity stalled, and the gains of the wealthy began to take off. Culturally, too, an hour listening to any classic rock radio station or watching a cable rerun network is a reminder that the mid-’70s are very much part of our own world.

The “invisible bridge” in the title of Rick Perlstein’s new book reconnects the politics of the early and mid 1970s to the Reagan era, and thereby to the present. The tawdry end of Richard Nixon and the emergence of Reagan on the national stage only seem like wholly different phenomena—because Nixon was hardly a movement conservative, except when that pose was useful to him; because Reagan challenged Nixon’s successor and pardoner; and because their personalities seemed so wildly at variance, with one deeply engaged in dark conspiracies, the other nodding affably.

But Perlstein, among other achievements, draws a straight line from the “Final Days” to morning in America, demonstrating that Reagan was as unflinching a defender of Nixon as was an oddball like Rabbi Baruch Korff. The manipulation of patriotic imagery and cultural division that we associate with Reagan (placing “heroes” in the audience at the State of the Union address, for example) was merely an evolution on a political theme developed by Nixon and extended by Ford. For instance, Perlstein’s brilliant opening chapter reveals in deep detail the fabrication underlying the dramatic return of American prisoners of war from Vietnam and the creation of the category of the “Missing in Action,” even though there was no evidence that American soldiers were still alive in Vietnam after the end of the war. Both the POW return and the MIA fiction were contrived mostly as a distraction from the far more shocking conditions in South Vietnamese prison camps, a delusion that remained prevalent until a commission led by Senators John McCain and John Kerry finally brought it to an end in 1993. The election of 1980 was a restoration, not a revolution.

Although each of his three books is structured around an individual politician, Perlstein’s subject is always political movements and political culture. “Biography doesn’t much interest me,” Perlstein wrote in The Baffler in 2012. “Powerful men are but a means to the more profound end of sizing up the shifting allegiances on the demand side of our politics.” His first book, Before the Storm, about Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, became an important point of reference for liberals when it appeared in 2001, and it remains so. In those uncertain moments after the end of the chaotic, timid Clinton administration, and as the tragedy of the Bush years was coming into sight, Before the Storm taught us that winning elections is not always the main goal and that a campaign that ends in a historic loss, but builds the foundations of a coherent and passionate ideological movement, can achieve lasting change, visible only years later. The “fighting Dem” bloggers of the Bush years read Storm as a call to action, but it was also a brilliant, tight history of the early figures in the conservative movement and the Republican establishment’s clumsy struggle to hold them at bay.

Where Goldwater hung in the background of Storm, Perlstein put his protagonist at the center of Nixonland (2008), casting American politics during the upheavals of the late 1960s through the lens of Nixon’s own psychological torments, rooted in his collegiate resentment of the “Franklins”—the smug, elite student society at Whittier College—and his own club, the square and aspiring “Orthogonians.” It is not so much that Nixon imposed his view of the world on the nation; rather, he provided an explanation that connected perfectly to the breakdown of the late 1960s, and resonated particularly with a resentful white working class.

The Invisible Bridge is a more complex book than either of its predecessors. Perlstein describes it as an account of the events that led to Reagan coming within a hair’s breadth of toppling Ford at the Republican convention in 1976, a victory-in-defeat that is surely as consequential to the modern conservative ascendancy as Goldwater’s campaign. But the first glimmers of a draft-Reagan campaign don’t appear until almost the 500th page of this 800-page book.

Along the way to the showdown in Kansas City—the last nominating convention, of either major party, whose result was not certain on the first day—is a political history of the middle years of the 1970s, focusing on the Watergate investigations, the subsequent exposés of the CIA, and the many other collapses of trust that opened the door to outsiders such as Jimmy Carter and Reagan. Perlstein provides a rough and cluttered cultural history of the period, featuring phenomena such as Wacky Packages (trading cards and stickers with punning names of consumer products) that will make older Gen X-ers want to rummage through the boxes in their parents’ attics.

Woven through an otherwise chronological narrative of 1973–1976 is a serviceable but unnecessary biography of Reagan, surely the least interesting of the last thirteen men elected to the presidency. Perlstein draws out less well-known aspects of Reagan’s background, particularly the role of Lemuel Boulware, who as General Electric’s vice president of labor and community relations enlisted Reagan to make speeches for the company espousing the particular brand of free-market and anti-labor ideology, with a thin patina of social conservatism, that is still the dominant strain in official conservatism. Reagan’s flip, in his mid-forties, from modest anti-Communist liberalism to the far right was made possible by Boulwarism, Perlstein says, “a right-wing politics that imagined no necessity for class conflict at all” because business would take care of workers’ needs. That matched Reagan’s sense of himself—a man at once above conflict and gleefully sowing it.

Following the model he employed in Nixonland, Perlstein half-heartedly uses a fragment of the Reagan biography as the interpretive lens for the entire half-decade: when he was a high school lifeguard, Reagan apparently overstated his life-saving feats, and as an adult, Perlstein says, he adopted the posture of the “rescuer” in the face of Watergate, the CIA revelations, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and all the other confusion, chaos, and distrust.

Eh, maybe. Not only is this a banal interpretation of both the era and of Reagan, but it also rests too much agency in Reagan, the individual, when the whole point of the Perlstein project is to trace the lines of the conservative counterrevolution, undistracted by the charms and psychodrama of its front men.

The book works best when it does exactly that, just as the 1976 Reagan campaign took off when it, too, stopped focusing on the man at the top of the ticket. Reagan had been losing in the early primaries, during which the wily but not-quite-conservative campaign manager John Sears had been trying to sell him as an experienced governor and non-scary potential president. Heading into the North Carolina primary, Senator Jesse Helms and his lieutenant Tom Ellis, using the army of direct-mail donors and activists assembled by Helms’s National Congressional Club, picked up the campaign and encouraged Reagan to talk solely about hot-button conservative issues of the moment, such as the threat of détente with the Soviet Union and the proposed Panama Canal treaties. Victory in North Carolina re-launched the conservative ascendancy. In a sense the movement—in the form of its issues and its direct-mail operations—was more successful than the man.

• • •

A more interesting interpretation of the mid-’70s and their relevance emerges from the less Reagan-centric narrative, from the “demand side” of politics, and from the torrent of anecdotes, quotes, movie summaries, and clips that make up the bulk of the book. But this interpretation is never stated as explicitly as the Reagan-as-rescuer trope. It goes something like this: a large segment of the white population of the United States, something like Nixon’s “silent majority,” was deeply unsettled by the social and political changes of the late 1960s and ’70s, and “felt ignored, patronized . . . by arrogant liberalism,” as Perlstein puts it. He is largely respectful toward these people, who include the first wave of school textbook activists—led by a Texas couple who asked reporters to call them only by the husband’s name, “the Mel Gablers”—bussing foes in Boston, and grassroots opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Panama Canal treaties. That respect does not extend to Reagan or to elite conservative activists, particularly figures who occupy both the Nixon and Reagan machines, such as Pat Buchanan, who rather than creating a politics that could hear and address those anxieties, exploited them and deepened the divide—for power and often just for money.

Almost complicit in the rise of the right—and this is where Perlstein’s grand theory of politics gets interesting—are Democrats and liberals, particularly the reformist generation of the “Class of ’74” congressional Democrats and the 1976 Democratic presidential candidates, who get a surprising amount of attention in a book ostensibly about the Republican contest. Perlstein twice quotes Gary Hart, elected to the Senate in 1974, declaring, “We’re not a bunch of little Hubert Humphreys.” But Humphrey himself, the former vice president then back in the Senate and leading the push for a full-employment act, appears only fleetingly, as an undeclared 1976 candidate. Most of the other 1976 contenders—particularly the duplicitous Jimmy Carter; sanctimonious, shallow Frank Church; and quasi-conservative bullshit artist Jerry Brown—are regarded much as Perlstein sees Barack Obama: too naïve about the right, uninterested in economic justice, too eager to compromise and to distance themselves from the historical legacy of FDR-LBJ-Humphrey liberalism. As Perlstein sees it, the angry white working class is as poorly served by posers and spinners such as Hart as by the professional dividers on the right.

This is a cold dismissal of a moment that is as central to the history of liberalism as of conservatism. Perlstein regards the Class of ’74 Democrats as merely arrogant, high-minded reformers who kicked out old populists such as House Banking Committee chairman Wright Patman. No doubt ’70s reformist liberalism—a tradition that can be traced forward to the Obama administration—had profound blind spots, particularly to the role of political machines in building support and community for working-class families. But its effort to open up Congress had a deep history, going back to the 1950s. Immovable committee chairs such as Patman (though he was far from the worst) were progressive on a few dimensions, but on others—especially civil rights, the only issue that mattered—had posed barriers for decades. Opening up Congress ultimately led to a period of legislative entrepreneurship that included many of the foundations of modern government: environmental and workplace safety regulations, huge expansion of health coverage culminating in the Affordable Care Act, even passage of Humphrey’s Full Employment Act, none of which would have been possible had the old Southern lions remained on their thrones.

Perlstein skips over this context, in this and other instances, simply because, with the exceptions of the Reagan biography and the opening set piece on the POW-MIA scam, his tale relies entirely on the immediacy of the press. If there were a soundtrack to this book, it would be the spins and clicks of an old microfilm machine, zipping, slowing, and pausing through archives of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentineland other mid-sized newspapers, picking up quotes, images, long-forgotten anecdotes, ads for wig shops or “golden age” pornographic movies.

Indeed, you come away from the book feeling the way you would after a long afternoon in the library reading those microfilms—you might find what you were looking for, but much more as well, and you’ll get a little fuzzy-headed in the process. None of Perlstein’s material is uninteresting; there is just too much of it. There is a great book within The Invisible Bridge, but it would be about 500 pages long, the length of Before the Storm. It is about the structure and strength of the conservative movement, the continuities between Nixon’s politics and Reagan’s, the failure of liberals and Democrats (and organized labor, whose disintegration during the decade goes mostly unmentioned) to speak to the economic and cultural panic of the decade. The Invisible Bridge is too difficult to get through, making it unlikely to achieve the audience or influence of its predecessor.

It is Perlstein’s misfortune that he doesn’t appear to have had the kind of editor who could not only cut the scrapbook clutter, but also keep the story governed by Perlstein’s own maxim: “Biography doesn’t much interest me.” The “demand-side” of politics is the story here, and it is up to the patient reader to find it.

Mark Schmitt is Director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation and former executive editor of The American Prospect.

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Doris Kearns Goodwin Tackles the “Irrepressible Conflict” of 1912

by Sheldon M. Stern

HNN  January 22, 2014

Image via Wiki Commons.

There are few things that fascinate historical writers and readers more than moments at which events take a very clear and decisive turn in one direction versus another — for example — the stories of how Franklin Roosevelt chose Harry Truman (1944) and John Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson (1960) as vice-presidential running mates. If FDR and JFK had lived to complete their terms these choices would be little more than historical footnotes. But, of course, they didn’t. As a result, the dramatic appeal of these turning-point episodes is never-ending; and, as revealed in Robert Caro’s 2012 reexamination of the selection of LBJ, new evidence and insights continue to reshape assumptions that have often held sway for decades. (1)

However, no decisive moment in the history of the American presidency is more dramatic, indeed, almost redolent of a Greek or Shakespearian tragedy, than the collapse of the personal friendship and political partnership of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft between 1909 and 1912. This saga, which had profound implications for the decade of World War I and beyond, has been the focus of several major studies since 2002. Kathleen Dalton devoted nearly two hundred pages of her TR biography to his post-White House years; Patricia O’Toole’s examination of Roosevelt’s last decade covered more than four hundred pages; and Edmund Morris, in the final volume of his TR trilogy, devoted nearly six hundred pages to the same ten years. (2)

Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose intuitive grasp of the interstices between politics and personality has produced vivid insights into the public and private lives of Lyndon Johnson, the Kennedy family, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, has now added her perspective to the Roosevelt-Taft story. (3) The tale unfolds against the backdrop of an intensifying state and national progressive reform movement, supported by an exceptionally talented group of journalists assembled at McClure’s Magazine. Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, and William Allen White were committed to exposing the corrupt, covert power amassed by corporate special interests and their political allies in the decades since the end of Reconstruction. Goodwin skillfully balances two concurrent stories: the personal and political intimacy that developed between Roosevelt and Taft (TR’s most reliable associate and trouble shooter) and the unprecedented and mutually advantageous relationship which Roosevelt shrewdly cultivated with this influential corps of journalists.

Goodwin, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is at her best in setting the stage — that is, in giving the reader a vivid sense of the social, economic, and family contexts that produced Roosevelt and Taft; they were both the sons of wealthy, public-spirited families which valued principled and honest public service, particularly in the wake of the industrial revolution which had created a vast and growing gap between the very rich and the working poor. The early TR story is, of course, very well-known, but Goodwin also gives equal attention to the far less familiar story of big Bill Taft, whose personality and temperament were virtually antithetical to that of his friend Roosevelt. Their personal and political relationship was, in many ways, an attraction of opposites.

TR was a man of action, who loved the spotlight and the chance to publicly take on those who differed with him on politics, science, history, literature or anything else — a political animal to the core. He was devoted to his wife Edith and their six children, (4) but rarely allowed her objections to get in the way of his preferred course of action. Edith, whose early life is discussed in revealing detail, was an intensely private person; she did not want her husband to leave his family for nearly a year of hunting in Africa in 1909, opposed his decision to run for president again in 1912, and resisted his determination to lead a mapping expedition into the Brazilian wilderness (which nearly cost him his life) in 1913-1914. Nonetheless, he made and carried out these decisions, often leaving Edith lonely and depressed.

Taft, known for his genial personal warmth, preferred to work in the background; he was an excellent administrator with a judicial temperament who always tried to objectively weigh both sides of an argument. He carried out every presidential assignment with skill and even-handedness, became the most valued man in TR’s Cabinet, and virtually served as acting president during Roosevelt’s extended tour of the western states in 1905. Nellie Taft, unlike Edith Roosevelt, adored politics and had been committed to becoming a president’s wife ever since she first visited the White House as a young girl during the Hayes administration. Nellie’s character and ambition, deftly rendered by Goodwin, was clearly a central factor in Taft’s private and public life.

Bill Taft was acutely dependent on his wife’s love, support, and advice, often deferring to her on critical decisions. She, as well as his politically influential brothers, Horace and Charles, wanted him to be president; he wanted to be Chief Justice of the United States. His mother, Louise Torrey Taft, sympathized with her son’s reluctance to seek the highest political prize in the land: “A place on the Supreme Bench, where my boy would administer justice, is my ambition for him. His is a judicial mind, you know, and he loves the law.” She explicitly cautioned her son: “Roosevelt is a good fighter and enjoys it, but the malice of the politicians would make you miserable.” (5) The result: he listened to his wife and brothers, turned down three offers from TR to be appointed to the High Court, and ran for president instead — with ultimately calamitous results for his personal and family happiness.

Goodwin skillfully highlights the stark contrast between the intimacy and trust once enjoyed by TR and Taft and the depths of personal and public bitterness that followed — so much so that it’s almost like reading two entirely separate books. The first part, carrying the story to early 1909, allows her to demonstrate the best of her insight and interpretive originality. In the second part, the details of which are so much more familiar, the task is considerably more difficult since most of the primary sources on the 1912 rift have already been extensively mined by countless journalists and historians. It is impossible, of course, to try to isolate a single cause for such a complex human and political drama. Perhaps, as Goodwin suggests, the conflict was all but inevitable in light of Taft’s self-doubt about his ability to serve as an executive leader and TR’s yearning to hold on to power — at least through his influence on (and over) the man he had selected to succeed him.

Early in 1912, as he was about to announce his candidacy, TR told an old college friend: “What do I owe to Taft? It was through me and my friends that he became President.” (6) In fact, Roosevelt had repeatedly (and successfully) delegated the most difficult political and diplomatic assignments to Taft. One newspaper commented humorously that it was too bad that Mr. Taft could not be cut in two. In 1906, Secretary of War Taft toured the country as the administration’s spokesman in the mid-term Congressional elections. Roosevelt was “overjoyed” by the results (small losses in the House and four seats gained in the Senate) and told his devoted ally, “I cannot sufficiently congratulate you upon the great part you have played in the contest.” (7)

The first signs of the impending debacle had appeared just after Taft won the 1908 Republican presidential nomination. The nominee announced publicly that he was planning to bring the final draft of his acceptance speech to TR’s Oyster Bay home for discussion and possible revision. The press blasted this “humiliating pilgrimage,” comparing Taft to “a schoolboy about to submit his composition to the teacher before he read it in school.” Some journalists even joked that T.A.F.T. meant “take advice from Theodore.” The nominee understood the need to demonstrate his independence but responded, rather guilelessly, that he also had “the highest regard for the president’s judgment and a keen appreciation of his wonderful ability for forceful expression.” (8)

Roosevelt’s officious response to Taft’s request for comments on the speech illustrates precisely what the candidate was up against: (9)

Both of the first two paragraphs should certainly be omitted. The rest of the speech is I think admirable, with two or three corrections. On pages thirty-seven and thirty-eight reference to bank deposits is weak and most of it should be omitted. It is apologetic and hesitating and would give advantage to opponents. The last two thirds of page forty-six should be omitted and supplanted by something else, or at least entirely changed. In present shape, there are phrases that would not please the negro and would displease the white. I do not like the stray pages about injunction and am doubtful about the page concerning the identity of interest of employer and employees. … The first two paragraphs should for different reasons certainly come out.

The president also included a personal admonition:

I think that the number of times my name is used should be cut down. You are now the leader, and there must be nothing that looks like self-depreciation or undue submission of yourself. My name should be used only enough thoroly [likely an example of TR’s quixotic campaign to reform spelling] to convince people of the identity and continuity of our policies.

Talk about mixed messages! TR does not merely make suggestions for changes in the speech, but essentially orders them in a peremptory tone much like that of the traditional nineteenth century rod-and-ruler school teacher. At the same time, he urges Taft to publicly affirm his independence! Perhaps Roosevelt really wanted Taft to merely make the public appearance of greater independence while remaining privately in thrall to his mentor’s personality and policies. The president, in any case, seemed genuinely incapable of understanding the bind in which he was placing his likely successor. Taft was understandably very ambivalent — first announcing after his election that he would keep Roosevelt’s cabinet intact and then clumsily angering his former chief by making major changes to demonstrate that he was really in charge. He was damned in the eyes of TR and the progressives if he replaced key administration reformers and damned by the press and much of the GOP Old Guard if he didn’t. It was hardly an auspicious way to kick off a new administration.

By early 1912, once it became clear that TR would challenge him for the nomination, a despondent Taft looked back at two years of increasingly bitter conflict with his former chief and told his aide Archie Butt: “I could not ask his advice on all questions. I could not subordinate my administration to him and retain my self-respect, but it is hard, very hard, Archie, to see a devoted friendship going to pieces like a rope of sand.” (10)

Goodwin seems personally sympathetic to Taft, but politically sympathetic to the activism championed by Roosevelt — hailed as “the trustbuster” by progressive reformers. Taft, with considerable justification, pointed to the fact that his Justice Department had brought ninety antitrust suits in four years as compared to only forty-four by Roosevelt in nearly eight years. TR, however, had insisted publicly on a “moral” definition of “good” vs. “bad” trusts; but Taft was committed to dispassionately carrying out the law — a textbook definition of the difference between a politician and a judge.

The key factor that drove this personal and political disaster was almost certainly Theodore Roosevelt’s failure to face the fact that he desperately wanted to return to the White House — a conclusion about which Goodwin seems somewhat ambivalent. TR, of course, frequently spoke and wrote about his contentment with private life at Sagamore Hill with his wife and children — but, as Patricia O’Toole insists, he never grasped, “that most of the challenges to adjusting to life without power lay in his own character.” A man of action rather than reflection, he understood his own motives “no better than fish understand water,” regularly deceiving himself about his own ambition. (11)

Colonel Roosevelt had insisted that he would not lift a finger to win the nomination unless it became an irresistible public duty to accept a spontaneous and unsolicited call from the American people. That “call” came in February 1912, when a group of eight progressive Republican governors published a round-robin letter declaring that TR was the clear choice of the great majority of Republican voters. But, as Goodwin makes clear, Roosevelt had arranged in advance “to answer their demand with an announcement of his candidacy. … the Colonel was orchestrating every detail of how and when to respond publicly to the round-robin letter he himself had initiated.” Even Alice Roosevelt, thrilled by her father’s decision to throw his hat into the ring, admitted that the letter had been “somewhat ‘cooked.’” (12) The “Saturnalia” (as Goodwin aptly calls it) that followed was, by any definition, an irrepressible conflict.

* * * * *

1 Robert Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power, Knopf, 2012, pp. 109-156.

2 Kathleen Dalton, Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life, Knopf, 2002; Patricia O’Toole, When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt after the White House, Simon &m Schuster, 2005; Edmund Morris , Colonel Roosevelt, Random House, 2010.

3 Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of American Journalism, Simon and Schuster, 2013.

4 Alice, the oldest, was the child of TR’s first wife, who died of Bright’s disease at age twenty-two in 1884.

5 Goodwin, Bully Pulpit, p. 521.

6 Ibid., 682.

7 Ibid., pp. 501, 510.

8 American President — a Reference Resource: http://millercenter.org/president/taft/essays/biography/print; Goodwin, Bully Pulpit, p. 549.

9 Elting E. Morison, editor, The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt: The Big Stick, 1907-1909, Volume VI, Harvard University Press, 1952, pp. 1139-40.

10 Lawrence F. Abbott, ed., Taft and Roosevelt: The Intimate Letters of Archie Butt, Volume 2, Doubleday, Doran, 1930, p. 803.

11 O’Toole, When Trumpets Call, pp. 123, 128.

12 Goodwin, Bully Pulpit, pp. 673, 677; Joseph L. Gardner, Departing Glory: Theodore Roosevelt as Ex-President, Scribner’s, 1973, p. 214.

Sheldon M. Stern is the author of numerous articles and Averting ‘the Final Failure’: John F. Kennedy and the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Meetings (2003), The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis (2005), and The Cuban Missile Crisis in American Memory: Myths vs. Reality (2012), in the Stanford University Press Nuclear Age Series. He was Historian at the Kennedy Library from 1977 to 2000.

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AHuellas2caba de salir el cuarto número de la revista on-line Huellas de los Estados Unidos. Estudios, perspectivas y debates desde América Latina. Este número está dedicado al análisis de las recientes elecciones presidenciales norteamericanas con  trabajos de Tom Engelhardt (creador de la famosa y valiosa TomDispatch.com), del puertorriqueño Raúl L. Cotto Serrano, de Valeria L. Carbone y de Fabio Nigra, entre otros.

Completan este número un grupo de ensayos dedicados a temas tan variados como esclavitud, raza e ideología,  guerra fría y criminalidad en Puerto Rico, así como también un análisis de la película  El Álamo (1960).

Nuestras felicitaciones a lo editores de Huellas de los Estados Unidos por otra aportación valiosa al estudio  de los Estados Unidos en América Latina.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez, PhD

Lima, Perú, 18 de marzo de 2013

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Comparto con todos ustedes mi participación el pasado 8 de noviembre en el programa HablaPUCP, donde fui entrevistado por el Dr. Eduardo Dargent sobre el resultado de las elecciones estadounidenses.

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Aunque han existido más de dos partidos nacionales de manera simultánea, la historia política de los Estados Unidos ha estado caracterizada por la presencia dominante de dos partidos políticos. El nombre y la orientación política de estos dos partidos  ha variado a lo largo de la historia estadounidense.

El bipartidismo estadounidense nace en los primeros años de vida independiente de la nación norteamericana bajo la influencia de los eventos asociados a la Revolución Francesa. La crisis internacional provocada por los acontecimientos en Europa atrapó a los Estados Unidos entre las dos principales naciones en lucha: Francia y Gran Bretaña. La joven y aún vulnerable república norteamericana se vio amenazada por un conflicto del que no era responsable ni podía controlar.

En este contexto, la lucha entre dos grupos políticos provocó el desarrollo de los primeros partidos políticos norteamericanos: el Partido Federalista y el Partido Republicano. Los federalistas estaban liderados por Alexander Hamilton y se identificaban con los intereses de la región más urbana y comercial del país, el noreste. Éstos proponían el desarrollo de los Estados Unidos como un país manufacturero y comercial, por lo que defendían la creación de un banco nacional, el pago de la deuda nacional y el cobro de aranceles a los productos importados. A nivel internacional, los federalistas veían con recelo los eventos de la Revolución Francesa y no escondían sus simpatías por Gran Bretaña. Los republicanos estaban liderados por Thomas Jefferson y representaban los intereses del sur esclavista y agrario. Éstos favorecían el desarrollo de una economía agrícola de pequeños propietarios y se oponían a los aranceles y a la creación de un banco nacional porque creían que afectarían los intereses de los ciudadanos comunes. A nivel internacional, Jefferson y sus seguidores simpatizaban con la Francia revolucionaria y manifestaban una actitud claramente anti-británica.

Thomas Jefferson

Estos dos partidos se enfrentaron por primera vez en las elecciones de 1796. Los federalistas resultaron victoriosos, ganando la mayoría del Congreso y eligiendo a John Adams como el segundo presidente de los Estados Unidos. Éste mantuvo una política pro-británica, provocando serios problemas con Francia. En las elecciones de 1800 resultó electo Jefferson presidente, marcando el inicio de un dominio político republicano sobre el gobierno federal.

Ambos partidos mantuvieron una dura lucha hasta que la guerra de 1812 conllevó el fin del Partido Federalista. Los fracasos sufridos por las fuerzas norteamericanas durante la guerra –unida al costo económico del conflicto– provocaron críticas y una oposición popular, especialmente, donde los federalistas eran más poderosos: los estados de la zona de Nueva Inglaterra, al noreste del país. Dado que eran la principal fuerza política de la región, los federalistas lideraron la oposición a la guerra. En diciembre de 1814, un grupo de delegados de los estados de Nueva Inglaterra se reunieron en la ciudad de Hartford en el estado de Connecticut, para discutir las quejas contra la guerra y el gobierno del entonces Presidente James Madison, un republicano. Como parte de los debates de la convención se discutió la posibilidad de la secesión, es decir, de que la región se independizara y formara un nuevo país. Aunque los seguidores de esta idea eran una minoría, la euforia nacionalista provocada por la victoria de Andrew Jackson en la batalla de Nueva Orleans en 1814, hizo que los participantes de la Convención de Hartford fueron considerados unos traidores, lo que condenó a muerte al Partido Federalista.

La crisis y eventual desaparición del Partido Federalista llevó a los republicanos a dominar el escenario político nacional hasta 1824. Ese año las elecciones presidenciales fueron disputadas por cinco candidatos: John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, William Crawford, Henry Clay y Andrew Jackson. Este último obtuvo la mayoría de votos populares, pero no la cantidad de votos electorales necesaria, por lo que la Cámara de Representantes tuvo que decidir entre los tres candidatos con más votos: Jackson, Adams y Crawford. Adams resultó electo con el apoyo de Clay, entonces Presidente de la Cámara, provocando las críticas de Jackson, quien fundó un nuevo partido político, el Demócrata.

En 1828 Jackson ganó las elecciones convirtiéndose en séptimo presidente de los Estados Unidos. El estilo personalista y enérgico de Jackson provocaron duras críticas entre sus opositores, que le acusaron de ser un dictador. En 1834, un grupo de legisladores se unieron para oponerse Jackson. Éstos se autodenominaron como los “whigs”, en alusión a los británicos que se opusieron a las arbitrariedades del rey Jorge III durante el periodo revolucionario. Los whigs alegaban que ellos se enfrentaban a un presidente que se comportaba como un rey tiránico y abusivo. Liderados por Calhoun, Clay y Daniel Webster, los whigs se convirtieron en una fuerza política coherente y organizada que defendía que el gobierno estuviese controlado por hombres capaces. En otras palabras, los whigs defendían un elitismo político basado en el talento: que los “mejores” gobernaran al país. A nivel económico, favorecían la libre empresa, la iniciativa privada, la expansión del gobierno federal y el estimulo al desarrollo industrial y comercial del país. Según ellos, Estados Unidos debía convertirse en una nación industrial con un comercio vigoroso El tema de la expansión al oeste era uno delicado para los whigs, pues temían que el crecimiento territorial produjera inestabilidad política. Rechazaban la lucha de clases, alegando que el crecimiento económico redundaría en beneficios para todos los norteamericanos, fuesen éstos agricultores, trabajadores o dueños de las fábricas.

Aunque los whigs tuvieron más simpatías entre los comerciantes y empresarios del noreste, también hubo whigs entre los sureños, quienes apoyaron el nuevo partido por razones muy especificas. Los whigs sureños no simpatizaban con el cobro de aranceles a las importaciones, pero sí tenían inversiones en bancos y ferrocarriles y, por ende, les atraía el programa económico del partido. Otros eran hacendados que querían acabar con el poder político que habían alcanzado los granjeros blancos libres durante la presidencia de Jackson. Algunos whigs sureños se había unido al partido en reacción a la actitud que asumió Jackson con relación a los derechos de los estados y el caso de Carolina del Sur y la teoría de la invalidación en 1828. En el oeste, los whigs fueron apoyados por una clase comercial emergente que favorecía el programa de mejoras internas y que estaba compuesta por inmigrantes.

Los seguidores de Jackson estaban agrupados bajo el Partido Demócrata. La filosofía de éstos estuvo influida por las políticas y acciones de Jackson. De ahí que éstos favorecieran limitar la intervención económica del gobierno federal, promovieran los derechos de los estados y se declararan defensores de los trabajadores, los granjeros y los “hombres honrados”, y enemigos de los monopolios, los aristócratas y los corruptos. Contrario a los whigs, los demócratas favorecían la expansión territorial porque creían que ésta aumentaría las oportunidades para los norteamericanos comunes. Los demócratas defendían la remoción y el traslado de los indios. Su base de apoyo político estaba entre los pequeños comerciantes y trabajadores del noreste y los agricultores sureños. Contrario a los líderes whigs, los líderes demócratas eran menos ricos y de origen popular.

Whigs y demócratas compitieron por el control del gobierno entre 1836 y 1852, alternándose en la presidencia. En 1836 fue electo presidente Martin Van Buren, un demócrata. Cuatro años más tarde fue electo William H. Harrison, un whig. En 1844, los demócratas volvieron a la Casa Blanca con la elección de James K. Polk, pero fueron derrotados en 1848 por Zachary Taylor, un whig veterano de la guerra con México. En el año 1852 se dio el último enfrentamiento entre estos dos partidos y los demócratas lograron la victoria con la elección de Franklin Pierce como décimo cuarto presidente de los Estados Unidos.

En la década de 1840 surgió un partido anti-inmigrante conocido como el Partido Americano, también conocido como el Partido Know Nothing. El origen de este nombre está en el hecho de cuando alguien les preguntaba algo a alguno sus miembros, éste respondía que no sabían nada (“know nothing”) y de ahí les quedo el calificativo. El nuevo partido contaba con el apoyo de pequeños granjeros, hombres de negocios modestos y gente trabajadora. Los “Know Nothings” poseían una rara combinación entre un fuerte nacionalismo anti-inmigrante conocido como “nativism” y anti-esclavismo, pues se oponían abiertamente a la inmigración de irlandeses y alemanes católicos (como también de los chinos) y su segmento norteño rechazaba la esclavitud. Su fuerte anti-catolicismo les llevaba a plantear la existencia de una conspiración entre el Papa y los propietarios de plantaciones esclavistas contra la democracia norteamericana. La llegada de miles de pobres inmigrantes católicos era, según ellos, parte de este complot, que amenazaba la idea que tenían los Know Nothings de los Estados Unidos como una sociedad protestante de individuos libres e iguales.

Aunque  logró algunas victorias electorales en ciudades de la zona de Nueva Inglaterra, el Partido Know Nothing entró en crisis como consecuencia de las divisiones internas, especialmente, sobre el tema de la esclavitud y eventualmente desapareció.

El tema de la esclavitud no afectó solamente a los Know Nothing. Los debates sobre el futuro de la esclavitud que caracterizaron la década de 1850 tuvieron serias consecuencias sobre otros partidos políticos. En 1854 fue aprobada por el Congreso la Ley Kansas-Nebraska revocando el Acuerdo de Missouri que prohibía la esclavitud al sur de paralelo 36º30´, permitiendo así que los territorios a sur de ese paralelo fuesen organizados sobre la base de la soberanía popular. Los residentes de los territorios de Kansas y Nebraska decidirían a través del voto si eran territorios, y por ende, estados esclavistas o no.

La ley Kansas-Nebraska tuvo consecuencias desastrosas para el sistema político norteamericano, pues destruyó al Partido Whig y dañó severamente al Demócrata. Los whigs y demócratas opuestos a la ley la denunciaron como un esfuerzo más para imponer la esclavitud en el país. Estos abandonaron sus respectivos partidos y se unieron a los “free-soilers” –un partido político opuesto a la expansión de la esclavitud fundado en 1848– y los grupos abolicionistas para fundar, en 1854, un nuevo partido político, el Republicano. Este partido estaba formado por grupos muy diferentes unidos por su rechazo de la esclavitud. Los miembros del Partido Republicano afirmaban los valores republicanos de libertad e individualismo, y consideraban que la esclavitud negaba ambos. La lucha entre republicanos y demócratas fue intensa en el periodo previo a la guerra civil.

El detonante de la guerra civil fue la victoria en las elecciones presidenciales de 1860 del Partido Republicano y de su candidato Abraham Lincoln. Estas elecciones jugaron un papel decisivo en la historia de los Estados Unidos. La victoria de Lincoln fue facilitada por la división del Partido Demócrata. La lucha por la candidatura presidencial llevó a los demócratas a una crisis interna y a la destrucción de ese partido. Como el Partido Demócrata agrupaba tanto a sureños como norteños, había jugado un importante papel como instrumento de conciliación durante las crisis regionales que vivió el país en la década de 1850. Su destrucción no sólo facilitó la victoria de Lincoln, sino que dejó a la nación sin una herramienta útil para enfrentar la crisis regional más severa de su historia: la secesión del Sur.

Los delegados del Partido Demócrata se reunieron en abril de 1860 en la ciudad de Charleston, Carolina del Sur, para elegir su candidato a la presidencia. El Senador Stephen Douglas contaba con una mayoría de votos, pero no tenía el apoyo necesario de dos terceras partes de los delegados. Para ello necesitaba el apoyo de los delegados sureños, que le exigieron garantizar la protección de la esclavitud en los territorios. Para Douglas, ello conllevaba violar su apoyo histórico a la doctrina de la soberanía popular, por lo que declinó la oferta de los sureños. Sin el apoyo de los sureños, la convención no pudo elegir un candidato. En junio de 1860, los delegados demócratas se reunieron nuevamente en la ciudad de Baltimore, Maryland, para intentar resolver las diferencias entre las facciones norteñas y sureñas y elegir un candidato a la presidencia. Esta segunda convención fue un total fracaso, pues los delegados sureños abandonaron la asamblea y luego nominaron John C. Breckinridge como su candidato presidencial. Sin la participación de los demócratas sureños, los norteños nominaron a Douglas su candidato presidencia, lo que selló la división y destrucción del Partido Demócrata.

Por su parte los republicanos nominaron a Abraham Lincoln como su candidato presidencial. Para complicar aún más la situación política, algunos whigs sureños se unieron a nativistas y crearon el Partido Unión Constitucional, con John Bell como su candidato a presidente.

Durante la campaña electoral, Breckinridge apoyó la extensión de la esclavitud en los territorios, mientras Lincoln se manifestó claramente a favor de su exclusión. Douglas buscó mantener un punto medio con su apoyo a la doctrina de la soberanía popular. Bell también buscó un compromiso, pero de forma más vaga que Douglas. Douglas fue el único candidato que alertó con insistencia sobre el peligro de la secesión.

Esta elección histórica produjo una enorme participación popular, pues votó el 81% de los electores. La división de los demócratas posibilitó la victoria de Lincoln, quien obtuvo 180 votos electorales y 1,865,593 votos populares. Breckinridge llegó en segundo lugar con 72 votos electorales y 848,356 votos populares. Bell llegó en tercer lugar con 592,906 votos populares y 39 votos electorales. Los 1,382,713 votos populares que obtuvo Douglas sólo le permitieron ganar dos estados y acumular 12 votos electorales. El resultado de la elección fue de un marcado regionalismo, pues todo el sur voto por Breckinridge, mientras Lincoln ganó en todos los estados libres de esclavos. Tan regionalista fue esta elección que en diez estados sureños el nombre de Lincoln ni siquiera apareció en la papeleta electoral.

Elecciones de 1860

El trauma de la guerra civil marcó el desarrollo de los partidos políticos en los años de la posguerra. El Partido Democrático resurgió con un claro control de los estados sureños, mientras que el Republicano controlaba el Norte. Entre 1860 y 1894, los republicanos ganaron 8 de las10 elecciones presidenciales que se celebraron. Sin embargo, no pudieron romper el dominio demócrata en el sur, y prueba de ello es que entre 1880 y 1924, ningún candidato republicano a la presidencia ganó ni uno solo de los estados que fueron parte de la Confederación.

Uno de los fenómenos políticos más importantes de la segunda mitad del siglo XIX fue el surgimiento de un partido de los granjeros norteamericanos. El nacimiento de este nuevo partido político estuvo directamente vinculado a los cambios económicos que experimentó la sociedad estadounidense en las últimas décadas de siglo XIX. Los granjeros norteamericanos comenzaron a organizarse a partir de la década de 1860 en respuesta a los problemas que enfrentaban, especialmente, con los precios de sus productos. El gran crecimiento de la agricultura a nivel mundial provocó la caída de los precios y, por ende, de los ingresos de los agricultores. Los agricultores tenían también problemas con los bancos por los altos intereses que pagaban por sus préstamos e hipotecas de sus fincas. En otras palabras, los granjeros vieron sus ingresos reducir, haciendo difícil el pago de sus hipotecas y poniendo en riesgo su supervivencia económica y, por ende, su forma de vida.

La dependencia en los ferrocarriles era otro serio problema que enfrentaban los agricultores, dado que la única forma rentable que tenían de enviar sus productos a los mercados era través de los trenes y las compañías ferrocarrileras se aprovechaban de esto cobrándoles tarifas abusivas.

La primera organización nacional de agricultores fue fundada en 1867 en la zona del medio oeste y fue conocida como los “Patrons of Husbandry”. También conocida como el “Grange” –otro palabra en inglés para granja– esta organización creció rápidamente entre los agricultores de las grandes planicies y entre agricultores al oeste y sur del río Misisipi, afectados todos por el descenso de los precios de sus productos. En poco tiempo el Grange llegó a tener 1,500,000 miembros.

El Grange concentró sus ataques contra los bancos, los ferrocarriles y los productores de maquinaria agrícola. A los bancos se les acusaba de cobrar intereses demasiado altos por sus préstamos. A los fabricantes de maquinaria, les acusaban de abusar de los agricultores vendiendo sus productos a precios más altos en los Estados Unidos que en Europa. A las compañías ferrocarrileras le acusaron de sobornar a legisladores estatales para cobrarle a los granjeros tarifas discriminatorias, ya que cobraban más caro por transportar productos agrícolas en rutas corta que en las largas. Gracias a la presión de los miembros del Grange varios estados del medio oeste aprobaron leyes estableciendo tarifas máximas de transporte ferroviario.

En la década de 1870 la economía estadounidense entró en una crisis económica que afectó severamente a los agricultores y acabó con el Grange. Para 1880, su membresía se había reducido a 100,000 personas. Además, el Tribunal Supremo llegó a varias decisiones que afectaron los logros legislativos alcanzados por el Grange a nivel estatal.

El fin del Grange no puso fin a los problemas de los agricultores y, por ende, a su necesidad de estar organizados. Por el contrario, la década de 1880 fue testigo del surgimiento de poderosas alianzas regionales de agricultores. En el sur, los agricultores se unieron para enfrentar el descenso en los precios del algodón y fundaron la Alianza Sureña de Granjeros en 1877. A los granjeros afroamericanos del Sur se les negó acceso a la Alianza Sureña por lo que se vieron obligados a fundar, en 1886, su propia organización, la Alianza de los Granjeros de Color (“Colored Farmer´s Alliance”). En el norte fue fundada la Alianza de Agricultores Norteños, que ganó mucha fuerza en estados como Nebraska, Iowa y Minnesota. Contrario a la Granger, las alianzas dieron más importancia a la participación política. Éstas desarrollaron una visión política que buscaba no sólo defender sus intereses, sino también crear un nuevo tipo de sociedad que dejase a un lado la competencia y estuviera basada en la cooperación.A finales de la década de 1880, las crecientes frustraciones convencieron al liderato de las alianzas de la necesidad de crear un partido nacional para defender sus intereses e iniciar una renovación nacional. En 1889, las alianzas del norte y el sur decidieron cooperar.

En diciembre de 1890, celebraron una convención nacional en la Ocala, Florida y aprobaron lo que se convertiría en la plataforma de un partido político, las llamadas Exigencias de Ocala. Los delegados decidieron seguir adelante con la fundación de un tercer partido nacional que atrajese no sólo a los granjeros, sino también a las organizaciones laborales y reformistas. En febrero de 1892, 1,300 delegados de las alianzas agrícolas (incluyendo a los afro-americanos) y de un sindicato nacional conocido como los Knights of Labor se reunieron en la ciudad de San Luis, y fundaron el Partido del Pueblo o Partido Populista.

Miembros del Partido Populista, Nebraska, 1892

El programa del nuevo partido era muy ambicioso, ya que proponía la nacionalización de la banca, los ferrocarriles y los telégrafos, la prohibición de latifundios de propiedad absentista, la elección directa de los senadores federales, la creación de un impuesto gradual a los ingresos, el establecimiento de la jornada laboral de ocho horas y la restricción de la inmigración. Los populistas, como fueron llamados los seguidores de este nuevo partido político, querían que el gobierno federal construyera almacenes donde pudieron ser depositados las cosechas hasta que sus precios mejorasen y que concediera préstamos a muy bajo interés a los agricultores para que pudieran sobrevivir la espera de mejores precios.

Los populistas participaron en las elecciones de 1892, obteniendo victorias en Idaho, Nevada, Kansas y Dakota del Norte. A nivel nacional, eligieron tres gobernadores, diez representantes y cinco senadores. Su candidato a la presidencia, James B. Weaver, recibió 1,000,000 de votos y acumuló 22 votos electorales. Aunque Partido del Pueblo demostró muy poca fuerza en los centros urbanos del este, es incuestionable que hizo una gran demostración política, sobre todo, si tomamos en cuenta que era un partido de menos de un año de vida.

En las elecciones de 1896, los populistas se enfrentaron un gran dilema, pues el candidato del Partido Demócrata, William Jennings Bryan, tenía un discurso muy cercano al del Partido Populista y, por ende, se ganó el apoyo de un buen número de agricultores. Temerosos de que Bryan les debilitara, los populistas decidieron nominarle como su candidato a la presidencia, pero rechazaron una fusión o alianza con el Partido Demócrata. Por su parte, los republicanos nominaron a un veterano de la guerra civil llamado William McKinley. Éste recibió el apoyo de los grandes intereses económicos (la banca, la industria y los ferrocarriles) y ganó las elecciones con el 51% del voto popular y 271 votos electorales. Bryan obtuvo 6,492,449 votos populares y 176 votos electorales. La victoria del Partido Republicano desilusionó a los populistas y debilitó al partido, que comenzó a disolverse rápidamente.

A lo largo del siglo XX, y lo que va del XXI, el bipartidismo ha sido la norma, excepto por la aparición temporal de terceros partidos que trataron, sin éxito, retar el control tradicional de republicanos y demócratas. Veamos algunos de ellos.

  • Partido Socialista: En 1900 fue fundado el Partido Social Demócrata, mejor conocido por el Partido Socialista. Los socialistas proponían hacerle cambios a la estructura económica del país, pero estaban divididos en torno a cuáles debían ser esos cambios. Los más radicales planteaban la eliminación del capitalismo, otros proponían reformas para reducir el poder de las empresas privadas. Bajo el liderato de Eugene Debs, este partido se convirtió en una fuerza importante, pero no en una amenaza seria para los partidos principales. En las elecciones de 1912 Debs obtuvo cerca de un millón de votos procedentes de las zonas urbanas de inmigrantes, sobre todo, alemanes y judíos.
  • Partido Progresista: En 1912, diferencias políticas entre el entonces Presidente Willliam H. Taft y el ex Presidente Teodoro Roosevelt llevaron a este último a abandonar el Partido Republicano y fundar un nuevo partido, el Progresista. En su campaña presidencial Roosevelt prometió un Nuevo Nacionalismo para el pueblo estadounidense caracterizado por un aumento del poder del gobierno federal, con más planificación y regulación para defender al pueblo de los intereses privados. La división de los republicanos facilitó la victoria del candidato demócrata Woodrow Wilson.
  • Partido Verde: En agosto de 1984 un grupo de organizaciones ecologistas se reunieron en San Paul, Minnesota, y dieron vida a la primera organización nacional verde en los Estados Unidos, los Comités Verdes de Correspondencia. Con ello buscaban darle una carácter político a su lucha ecológica. A nivel estatal fueron organizados varios partidos ecologistas locales hasta que en 1996 se organizó un partido ecologista nacional, el Partido Verde. Este es una especie de confederación de partidos ecologistas locales que busca la protección del medioambiente y la creación de una sociedad más justa y democrática. Los verdes rechazan el control que, según ellos, las grandes corporaciones tienen de la política norteamericana y aspiran a una democracia popular. En el año 2000 el Partido Verde ganó notoriedad al nominar a Ralph Nader su candidato a la presidencia. Nader es un activista y abogado que por años se han enfrentado a las grandes corporaciones en defensa de los consumidores y el medio ambiente. En las elecciones del 2000 Nader no acumuló votos electorales, pero sí obtuvo 2,888,955 votos o el 2.74 de los votos a nivel nacional. Para algunos analistas, la candidatura de Nader pudo haber ayudado a la victoria del candidato republicano George W. Bush en la elección presidencial más cerrada de la historia estadounidense, ya que le restó votos a Albert Gore, candidato demócrata. Este fue un factor especialmente importante en Florida donde Bush y Gore terminaron empate, mientas Nader obtuvo 97,419 votos. En el año 2008, el Partido Verde hizo historia altener dos mujeres como candidatas a la presidencia y vicepresidencia de los Estados Unidos. La legisladora afroamericana Cynthia McKinney fue la candidata verde a la presidencia, mientras que la activista comunitaria de origen puertorriqueño Rosa Clemente fue la candidata a la vicepresidencia. McKinney sólo recibió unos 160,000 votos. o
  • Partido Reformista: En las elecciones de 1992 se presentaron tres candidatos a la presidencia: el entonces Presidente George H. W. Bush por el Partido Republicano, el gobernador del estado de Arkansas William J. Clinton por el Partido Demócrata y un multimillonario de Texas llamado Ross Perot. Este último se presentó como candidato del Partido Reformista, fundado por él en 1995, y gastó $60 millones de su fortuna en un esfuerzo para llegar a la Casa Blanca. La campaña electoral de Perot estuvo basada en su imagen de empresario exitoso. Según éste, su conocimiento del mundo de los negocios le capacitaba para resolver los problemas económicos del país. El día de la elección Clinton obtuvo 43,728,275 votos, Bush 38,167,416 y Perot un impresionante total de 19,237,247 votos.
  • Partido del Té: Uno de los fenómenos más interesantes de la política estadounidense de principios del siglo XXI es el surgimiento del Tea Party (Partido del Te). Producto de las protestas populares en contra del rescate económico de la administración de George W. Bush y de las políticas instauradas por Barack Obama a su llegada a la Casa Blanca, el Tea Party toma su nombre de uno de los eventos más importantes en la etapa previa al inicio de la guerra de independencia de los Estados Unidos. Sus miembros se oponen al incremento de los impuestos, la expansión del gobierno federal, la creación de un seguro de salud nacional, el déficit presupuestario, etc.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez, PhD

Lima, 10 de mayo de 2012

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