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Friday, September 12, 2008

McCain as Jackson, Obama as Adams? Not quite.

I saw a passing reference to this election as being similar to the three presidential campaigns of Andrew Jackson versus John Quincy Adams. In that context, let us continue the discussion:

Back in the early 1800's, Presidential elections were almost unrecognizably different than they are today. Methods of communication were slow, rumors usually traveled as fast or faster than news (okay, that part is still true, ha ha), most people had little or no idea about who the candidates really were or what they stood for (hmm, that happens today as well) and the voting was often done by the state legislature with no vote by the populace at all.

In 1820, John Q Adams had run and suffered a Mondale-like overwhelming defeat. In 1824 there were several candidates that got significant electoral and popular votes, all of which were officially members of the Democratic-Republican Party. That controversial election is discussed in a post on this interesting website:

1824 - Adams vs Jackson

THE CRITICS CHARGE: In this election, critics point out that Andrew Jackson won both the electoral vote and the popular vote, but the House of Representatives circumvented the will of the people and chose John Quincy Adams as President.

BACKGROUND: In this election four men, all from the same party, were running for President. Each was popular in a different section of the country: Adams in the Northeast, Jackson in the South/Southwest, Crawford in the South/Mid-Atlantic, and Clay in the West. When the votes were counted, Jackson had won the most electoral and popular votes, but had failed to carry a majority of electoral votes. It fell upon the House of Representatives to choose the president from among the top three electoral vote getters: Jackson, Adams, and Crawford. With Clay throwing his support to Adams (who is rumored to have done so for a cabinet post), Adams carried the vote on the first ballot and was named President.

WHY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE SHOULDN'T BE BLAMED: The critics ignore the fact that the popular vote was not a true indicator of the will of the people in 1824. In fact, popular vote totals weren't even kept for elections before this one. Hardly any state had all four candidates on the ballot; most didn't have three. And six states didn't even have a public vote! Their legislatures chose the electors. This included New York, the largest state at the time, where Adams certainly would have been able to cut into or eliminate Jackson's popular vote lead.

CONCLUSION: To say the Electoral College failed in 1824 is incorrect, because this was not a campaign where the candidates went after the popular vote; this campaign was fought for electoral votes.


Clay was awarded with a cabinet post, that of Secretary of State. Jackson used that occurrence to charge Adams with dirty politics (terming it "a corrupt bargain") and then very easily defeated him in the 1828 election and then beat Clay and two other candidates even more thoroughly in 1832 to extend his Presidency. Actually, Clay and Adams most closely agreed on the issues so that their alliance was not surprising when push came to shove. The promotion to State for Clay looked like dirty politics. But Clay was a brilliant man who was sometimes called the "Great Compromiser" for his ability to work out disputes and get things done.

It would be easy to go on for paragraph after paragraph about Clay and John C Calhoun and Adams and Monroe and Jackson as prominent figures of the early 19th century and how they helped shape politics to come and the course of our nation.

Andrew Jackson does compare to John McCain in certain ways. Jackson was a war hero and had been a prisoner of war (during the Revolutionary War). He had multiple injuries and, in fact, a few bullets/musket balls lodged within his body and yet lived to a very old age for that time period (age 78), succumbing to a combination of ailments including tuberculosis. His politics might be considered generally conservative, acknowledging state's rights yet determined to keep the Union together as rumblings of secession had already begun.

John Q compares to Barack Obama in that he favored more government programs and controls and considered Europe to be a template to be followed in many areas. So very generally the face-off of Jackson and Adams resembles that of the candidates today.

We would not recognize life in the early 1800's. Duels were fought often among "gentlemen" such as Jackson, who fought 13 of them and had a bullet lodged next to his heart to prove it. No electricity or recognizable running water or sanitary or toilet facilities such as we take for granted now and no radio or television. The United States was still in the process of becoming itself, with squabbling over the power of states versus the federal authority far more common than now. A state would often threaten to secede from the Union in the process of a question of authority but before the Civil War this was more often a negotiating ploy rather than a real intent.

The oddity of Andrew Jackson is that he was instrumental in bringing about the forced movement of the Cherokee Nation from the areas around Georgia to the far West, yet he adopted an orphaned Indian boy. He fought alongside Indians and fought against Indians in various wars and struggles. He was the man most responsible for the annexation of Florida and possibly the man most responsible for ending the War of 1812.

I suppose I have him to thank for my small Indian heritage. As the Cherokee Nation began moving Westward one of my ancestors on my father's side met and married a young Cherokee woman, who was, I believe, my great great great grandmother. Or it might be great times four, but unfortunately my father has passed away and I cannot consult him to be sure. In any event, that woman did, in fact, keep and maintain a log cabin in Western Kentucky for a large part of one winter while her husband, my G G G Grandfather, spent the winter in the city working to make money in some kind of factory. It is factual that she fought off a small band of marauding Indians by herself. Whether she actually shot a musket up the chimney to wound and scare off one of the Indians or not, well, that might simply be an embellishment. Seems like the heat from the fire would have been enough to keep someone from coming down but maybe she was out of wood?

The trouble with looking at past Presidents and comparing them to the race of today is finding a President with as little experience and as meager credentials as Barack Obama. I finally gave up the search. Commenters, go ahead and try to find a President with so little experience in life and in government as Barack Obama!


OBAMA, Barack, a Senator from Illinois; born in Honolulu, Hawaii, August 4, 1961; obtained early education in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Hawaii; continued education at Occidental College, Los Angeles, Calif., and Columbia University, New York City; studied law at Harvard University, where he became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review, and received J.D. in 1992; lecturer on constitutional law, University of Chicago; member, Illinois State senate 1997-2004; elected as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 2004 for term beginning January 3, 2005.

As Creeper pointed out in a comment on another post, Barack Obama has been involved in some legislative efforts and sponsored or co-sponsored some bills in his brief career. His record in the Illinois Senate was not so impressive but, in Illinois, the Democrats could almost run a stop sign for the Senate and win (remember Carol Mosely Braun?) and would have to run a remarkably incompetent candidate to lose (CMB, running for reelection while trying to stay out of jail). It was no great accomplishment that Obama got where he is, because he was handpicked by the Chicago Machine to go out into the political world and succeed. His credentials include studies at two of the most liberal Universities in the country, Columbia and U of Chicago, where terrorists can receive tenure (William Ayers) or be invited as guest speakers (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). He has never had any executive or command experience of any kind, at least as far as his listed credentials go. He has four years of experience as a US Senator.

McCAIN, John Sidney, III, a Representative and a Senator from Arizona; born in Panama Canal Zone, August 29, 1936; attended schools in Alexandria, Va.; graduated, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. 1958, and the National War College, Washington, D.C. 1973; pilot, United States Navy 1958-1981, prisoner of war in Vietnam 1967-1973; received numerous awards, including the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, and Distinguished Flying Cross; elected as a Republican in 1982 to the Ninety-eighth Congress; reelected to the Ninety-ninth Congress in 1984 and served from January 3, 1983, to January 3, 1987; elected to the United States Senate in 1986; reelected in 1992, 1998 and in 2004 for the term ending January 3, 2011; chair, Committee on Indian Affairs (One Hundred Fourth Congress; One Hundred Ninth Congress), Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (One Hundred Fourth through One Hundred Sixth Congresses, One Hundred Seventh Congress [January 20, 2001-June 6, 2001], One Hundred Eighth Congress); unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.

John McCain's record is summarized a bit because it is extensive. He had graduated both the Naval Academy and the War College (preparation for military command) before Barack Obama was born! He had a remarkable career in the military, one in which his career path was hindered greatly by the inconvenience of being imprisoned and tortured by the North Vietnamese for several years. However, he did successfully return to duty and command responsibilities before turning his life towards political service. He has more years of command and national political experience than Barack Obama has years on this planet.


Let's look at the actual record. Barack Obama has voted with a majority of his Democratic colleagues 96.0% of the time during the current Congress. (His running mate, Joe Biden, votes with the Democratic majority 96.6% of the time. In fact, the top thirty Senators in terms of voting along party lines were ALL DEMOCRATS! Barack is only number 11 on that list, but Biden does make the top ten at number 8.

John McCain has voted with a majority of his Republican colleagues 88.3% of the time during the current Congress. He has a record of working with Democrats to create and implement bills that has actually hurt him with many Republicans because he will seek out a Russell Feingold or a Joseph Lieberman to help him with a cross-party solution to a problem.


I found reasonable comparisons to Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt for John McCain as I researched. I found that Adams was a poor comparison to Obama because of accomplishment and experience.

John F Kennedy is sometimes mentioned as a comparable, but Kennedy has more in common with McCain than he does Obama.
1) Both Kennedy and McCain had military command experience in wartime and were awarded medals for courage and accomplishment.
2) He had a reputation of diverging from party lines in his congressional voting record.
3) He persevered despite nagging physical problems (back) that might have persuaded another man to pursue a leisurely existence. Both he and John McCain had access to enough family money to do little or nothing had they not had a desire to serve.
4) He had a long term of service in Congress (from 1947 to 1960) before becoming President. Not as long as McCain, but his six years in the House and eight in the Senate are far, far more than Barack and more comparable to McCain's four years of House and twenty-two years of Senate experience.
5) Kennedy carried the label of Democrat. His view of world geopolitics resembles that of McCain far more than that of Obama. It may well be that his assassination was due to his administration's pressure on organized crime, or a result of his conflict with Cuban and Soviet communist administrations. In either case, he was far closer in political point of view to an Andrew Jackson or a Teddy Roosevelt or a John McCain than to an Obama.

One good comparable? Both Kennedy and Obama are young and handsome guys with young wives and families.

John Q Adams had far more experience than Barack Obama, so that comparison just will not work. As I said, I was frustrated in trying to find anyone that compares. But the record shows that a vote for Obama will be one for the same old Democratic Party line with a relative juvenile in the driver's seat, while a vote for McCain puts a man of great experience and one who has a long record of being his own man at the wheel.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the change that Obama and subsequently McCain have been promising is change from the way things are being done in Washington right now, not necessarily change from their respective parties, though that may be implied and/or part of their respective packages. In that regard, their voting record with regard to their respective party is not really the decisive criterion.

Perhaps you were distracted by Obama and his supporters harping on McCain having voted with Bush around 90% of the time... which actually is relevant seeing as the "change" that is being touted is supposed to be away from Bush's policies.

-- creeper

radar said...

Obama is a slam dunk Democratic drone. McCain is his own man. The voting record is proof.