Becoming an Engaged Citizen: What a Difference a Century Makes!

Independent Commentary, Opinion & Political Anaylsis by local activist & community organizer, Michael McCue.


You may not realize it, but 2012 is the centennial anniversary of what many consider to be the healthiest American election ever held, which was the United States Presidential Election of 1912.

Yep.  It was one hundred years ago this year American voters were fed up with our morbidly obese, incumbent president, William Howard Taft, who was re-nominated by the Republican Party, with the party’s ultra-conservative wing (Tea Party?) blocking the former moderate U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, from claiming the nomination for himself.  (Mitt Romney?)

But, that didn’t stop our Rough Rider, Teddy. After his unsuccessful challenge to Taft’s nomination at the Republican convention, maverick that he was, Teddy called
his own convention
and created the Progressive Party, (aka: the Bull Moose Party) who nominated T.R. for President, along with many other candidates for other
offices in several major states.  (Ron Paul?)

And yes, Virginia….there really were Progressive Republicans back in 1912!

The Democratic convention was gridlocked that year, too.  Perennial presidential wannabe, William Jennings Bryan, the oft-nominated former Democratic Party candidate, finally threw his support behind New Jersey governor, Woodrow Wilson,
and thus, resolved one of the most contentious Democratic Conventions in
history. Wilson didn’t secure the nomination until the 46th ballot of the delegates!

The term “Socialism” was not bantered about as though it was a dirty word back then and The Socialist Party of America was a major player on the American
ballot for many decades in the early 20th century.  Back then, millions of Americans were Socialists and proud of it

In 1912, the Socialist Party easily nominated their best man, Eugene Debs,
absent the infighting and party-splitting that the Democrats and Republicans
were experiencing at their conventions.

Why would our having four major candidates for president be considered healthy for the American electorate? 

Because a century ago, no matter where you stood in our political spectrum; Left
(Socialists), Center-Left (Bull Moose Progressives), Center-Right (Democrats),
or Right (Republicans)….voters had solid choices…and with four candidates, chances were overwhelming that at least one of them matched your own personal point of view politically

Democracy thrives on clear, distinctive choices…something we really don’t have today in 2012. 

In 1912, all of the presidential candidates had a specific vision for our nation as we fully entered the totally amazing, occasionally-frightening and yet unchartered 20th century. 

Not only were all four candidates rooted in clearly-defined party platforms, but each also had major appeal to large sections of the American populous, even though women didn’t even have the right to vote at that time!

And most importantly of all…each candidate had a real shot at winning the office of U.S. president because the voters were totally fed up with corporate rule—just like
today!  The Presidency was truly up for grabs!

Now…compare this to our situation today, exactly one century later in 2012.  What are the similarities?  What are the differences?

Like it or not, there are duties and obligations that we, as individual citizens, simply must fulfill if we are to avoid the disasters, both economic and otherwise, that our nation has experienced in the past 100 years….and even more importantly, to avoid the new calamities that are headed our way. 

Can we return to the wealth of political choices from a century ago?  That’s the sort of topic we’ll be talking about in this blog.

My personal mission is to get our Valley communities and all of our Valley voters engaged in our democracy.  That’s why I’m out there at Farmer’s Markets, Libraries and events registering voters of all political stripes.  That’s the first step to becoming an engaged citizen…registering to vote!

We’ve learned the hard way that living in a democracy is not a spectator sport.  One must participate and get in the game. 

And in 2012, everyone will need to be on board for the bumpy ride of our next presidential election.

And…maybe even join a political party like it’s 1912.

© 2012 –
Michael McCue

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael McCue January 21, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Your natural curiousity and intelligence have enabled you to connect a lot of dots, Greg, with historic basis and current application particularly. Yes, please do weigh in any time you wish. We are all, hopefully, as diligent citizens, educating ourselves as we respond to the national crisis we are facing...and that is what "Engaged Citizen" is all about. Keep those insights coming! And readers...do any of you care to respond to Greg's invitation?
Elliot S! Maggin February 02, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Please allow me to interject a thought on banking ... In the Eighties when banking regulation on the part of the federal government was effectively withdrawn and restrictions on interstate banking and the merging of multiple financial functions in the same institution in the name of efficiency presented a nightmare of conflict of interest, all the banks in the little New England town where I lived were bought by larger institutions. Eventually these institutions were bought by larger ones, those larger ones were bought or merged with others and about a dozen or fewer super-national banks emerged to create roughly the structure under whose fiscal sway we live today. So back in those days a bunch of the businesspeople in town got together and, as they had a hundred or two hundred years earlier, founded a new local bank. I didn't puty all my business there right away but I did buy a couple of blocks of shares - really more to support a community intiative than to make an investment. My thought at the time was that two scenarios were likely: (1) the bank could fail and all I was out was the money I put into the initial stock or (2) the bank could conceivably be successful and one of these dys I could sell the stock to help with my kids' college fund. At the time my son was a toddler and my daughter was a leer in my eye ...
Elliot S! Maggin February 02, 2012 at 05:48 PM
... Since then, to my surprise, that little bank has been more successful than anyone thought it could be. It got self-sustaining really fast and has never been otherwise. It never staged an IPO, the stock I hold is still a private issue and not saleable at anything but its original face value, and my kids are both dealing with college and graduate school through other means. When we moved to California we used the conventional commercial banks for a long while but they continued to disappear or chnge their names. Finally about two years ago we all opened accounts in a local credit union where the tellers say hi and smile - much as they did in that tiny northern town - and the owners of the institution are its depositors. They have a cooperative network with credit unions all over the country andf you can make withdrawals and deposits for free at other credit unions and thousands of retail stores from here to Houlton Maine. I recommend it highly. Maybe someday the little bank in the woods will need a few bucks and will be forced to ask the outside world to determine a real market value for its stock and I'll be able to kick in something for the grandchildren's college. Maybe not.
Michael McCue February 02, 2012 at 06:29 PM
What Elliot is talking about here is a perfect example of the Key Value of "Community-Based Economics," one of the 10 Key Values of the Green Party. When our economy is not based on Centralized Banking Power (Too-Big-To-Fail Banks), it is strengthened and made more flexible and secure. "Decentralization of Power" is very important for a healthier democracy, and is also one of the 10 Key Values of the Green Party.
Karen Davis February 14, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Thank you for the welcomed history reminder! Great piece. Let's not forget however that in 1912 it wasn't just women who could not vote, but Blacks as well. It wasn't until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Blacks were entitled to vote throughout the US. So in 1912, more than 50% of the population was disenfranchised. Maybe we have it wrong by thinking all citizens should be participating. Maybe it goes back to what our Founding Fathers actually believed: that only a select number of white, land-owning male family members should be participating in democracy in order for it to work properly? Maybe democracy is too complicated for most of us.


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