Monday, February 17, 2014

Breaking Buckeye

Billy's Tomb in North bend OH
I've written a few posts about our Ohio Presidents including another general one for President's Day. Having a 50% mortality rate of the eight Ohio Presidents along with the poor showing of the survivors is not a great legacy but an interesting one at least. They were also all Republicans with one Whig. Draw your own conclusions there. Just kidding. Republicans in those days barely resembled the modern GOP and both the Republican and Democratic parties have produced fine Presidents. That is the closest I will get to modern political commentary on Gehio.

#9 William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia (and his treatment no doubt) 32 days into his 1st term. I have written about Billy (his friends really called him that) a few times on Gehio. OK, he is an adopted Buckeye (like me!). He was born in the colony of Virginia but spent nearly his entire adult life in the Ohio Valley when there was no opportunity for him in the failing Virginian planter class economy. He had an impressive political and military resume (Governor of the Indiana Territory and General in the Northwest Indian Wars and War of 1812) and decided to get back into politics late in life. At age 67 when he ran in 1840, they said he was too old and sickly to be President. They were right.

Now here comes the triple threat Civil War General, Ohio President domination from 1869-1881...

Grant's ironic sign near his birthplace
in Point Pleasant OH
#18 U.S. Grant was the only Ohio president to be elected to 2 (scandal-ridden) terms and sought a 3rd later (Garfield became the nominee in 1880 instead). The end of his life wasn't as grand as his deserved war hero status from the Civil War. Good warriors do not always make good Presidents.

#19 Rutherford B. Hayes chose not to run for a 2nd (a campaign pledge). It's a good thing I guess. Hayes actually lost the popular vote and there was a backroom deal to decide disputed electoral votes similar to Gore v. Bush in 2000. His presidential legacy will always be known for that rather than anything else he did.

Garfield preaching it
in Cincinnati OH
#20 James Garfield finished out the Ohio Presidential hat-trick but was shot by an angry office seeker named Charles J. Guiteau and died 6 months into his 1st term from infections caused by his poor medical treatment. This was standard at the time. In my opinion, he could have been a truly great President but who knows? Maybe he would be led down the path of power and corruption like many others. Read more about James' fascinating life in Destiny of the Republic by Candace Millard. It should be noted that this could have been Grant's 3rd term and he may have been killed by Guiteau himself. Grant did die in 1885 when he would have been finishing that 3rd term. So no matter what, I think #20 was doomed.

After that hot mess, we go in twos from 1889-1923...

#23 Benjamin Harrison, William's grandson lost re-election for his 2nd term. Another Civil War General. He was sandwiched in between the two Cleveland wins. I guess people felt they made a big mistake with Ben. The Harrison's just couldn't catch a break in the state they helped create.

#25 William McKinley was shot by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz 6 months into in his 2nd term. he was a Major in the Civil War. Believe it or not, it wasn't until McKinley was President that Ohio got a state flag (1902) and the first place it was flown was where he was shot and killed. Coincidence?
McKinley's not so modest tomb
in Canton OH

#27 William Howard Taft of Cincinnati lost his re-election thanks in part to Teddy Roosevelt's 3rd party run that siphoned off votes. The first Ohio president to have no military service. He was appointed a Supreme Court Justice later so he did pretty well for himself compared to the other Ohio guys. I am obligated to point out that he was very fat.

#29 Warren G. Harding ran and won against another Ohioan, a Democrat named James Cox. I believe that was the first Ohio vs. Ohio match-up. Then he died of congestive heart failure 2 years into his 1st term. Harding also had no military service.  My Great Grandfather sent a telegram of congratulations on his win in 1920. They were both from Marion OH. There are lots of weird things about Harding's Presidency and death.

Eight Buckeye's to a plate
Then that’s it. The end of the Ohio Presidents.
Americans gave up on Ohio after that. Too risky. Other Ohioans such as Dennis Kucinich have sought their party nomination and there has been talk of Senator Rob Portman or current Governor Kasich having a go but there has never been another major party nominee from the Buckeye State since 1920.  Ohio still plays a key role in modern presidential politics and her electoral votes are much coveted as no Republican has ever been elected President without winning Ohio. If I were a politician from Ohio thinking about a Presidential run, I would take a deep breath consider the legacy thus far.