I’m currently reading “Truman” by David McCullough. I really enjoyed his book, “1776” and had a mild interest in reading this. It’s almost 1000 pages and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to interrupt the adventures of The Three Musketeers to dive into what might be a boring tale about ol’ Give ’em Hell Harry. But McCullough does history like a novel so I figured what the heck. I borrowed the book from my son-in-law and began to plod along. The one issue I was most interested in exploring was the dropping of the bomb. This issue has come up in other discussions at other blogs, including a very respectful set of postings at ELAshley’s old blog on the anniversary of the Hiroshima event. I thought I’d get a pretty in depth perspective from this book.

But I’m only at page 166 thus far. Harry just won his first political campaign as a local judge, but it sounds more like a county commissioner type of job. He’d deal with finances and doling out patronage jobs.

But here’s the part that stood out for me: The area of Missouri where Harry lived, Kansas City, Independence and there abouts, was a strong Democratic region. Republicans were a tiny minority and the real drama of campaigning was found in the Dem primaries. There were two major factions at the time. One was called the “goats” who followed the Pendergast machine, and the other was the “rabbits” who were lead by a guy named Shannon.

Frankly, the Dems did a lot for people at the time and it didn’t matter what party you said you were from. If you had need, they’d be there, but they did ask for a vote as the only payment. (Hmmm. Sounds like they’re setting themselves up some victims; cultivating an entitlement mentality.) But it was in the campaigning where they did shine. From the book:

“The difference between the two factions was mainly a matter of style. The Goats liked to win with strength, with big turnouts on election day. The Rabbits were known for their cleverness. But both sides could play rough—with money or by calling out the saloon bullies. Strong-arm tactics at the polls, ballot-stuffing, ballot-box theft, the buying of votes with whiskey or cash, bloody, headlong street brawls, all the odious strategems that had made big-city machine politics notorious since the time of New York’s Boss Tweed, had been brought to bear to determine which side within the party gained the uppor hand. ‘Stealing elections had become a high art,’ wrote one man, ‘refined and streamlined by the constant factional battles…’ “

I especially enjoyed this part regarding the repayment of help rendered:

All that was expected in return was gratitude expressed at the polls on election day. and to most of his people this seemed little enough to ask and perfectly proper. Many, too, were happy to be ‘repeaters,’ those who voted ‘early and often’ on election day. The woman who worked in the hospital laundry, as an example, started as a repeater at age eighteen, three years shy of the voting age, and enjoyed every moment. She and several others would dress up in different costumes for each new identity, as they were driven from polling place to polling place in a fine, big car. It was like play-acting, she remembered years later. She would vote at least four or five times before the day ended. ‘Oh I knew it was illegal, but I certainly never thought it was wrong.’ “

Wow. Imagine that. Democrats cheating. Like Hugh Hewitt said in his book, “If It’s Not Close, They Can’t Cheat”, Dems really have been doing this a long time.

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