Republican Candidates as Retro Replicas: Part 2, Bachmann, Paul and Cain

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Free Love Party candidate Victoria Woodhull, 1872

Cuckoo Crusader

Evoking Jesus as the inspiration for advocating a woman’s right to divorce, Woohhull was caricatured as the Devil.

Head of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, lawyer Bachmann rose rapidly to public notice after she expounded on a string of contentious issues in often explosive language, yet leaving uncertainty about her specific opinion.  In other cases she may have made “accidental” mistakes, like her statement that Obama made a trip to India that cost taxpayers $200 million a day.  It only makes her all the more tactically similar to the first woman to run for President, stock broker and newspaper publisher Victoria Woodhull.  Her rally call for “free love”  scandalized the  public who presumed she encouraged wanton promiscuity (which she even more provocatively didn’t seem to have denied). Some declared her a “cuckoo” while others depicted her as demonic. Woodhull actually advocated the equal right of women to chose or divorce their own husband and whether to become pregnant. With an evangelical base, and declaring herself a “fool for Christ,”  Bachmann stated in veiled reference to Islamic nations, “not all cultures are equal.” Christian doctrine was also the base for Woodhull’s crusades, stating of women, “with the freedom to love who they wished. man is obliged to respect this freedom, then will this instinct become pure and holy.” One of her most frequent lectures was “The Human Body, the Temple of God.”   Here’s a recreation of an impassioned feminist-Christian Woodhull speeches from the 1872 campaign:

Congressman Ron Paul and Democratic candidate Harry Truman, 1948

Crackerjack Underdog

When crowds shouted “Give ‘em Hell, Harry!” Truman quipped, “I tell the truth and they just think it’s hell.”

Harry Truman’s intervention in the Korean conflict or approving the Marshall Plan for rebuilding postwar Europe are entirely at odds with Ron Paul’s’ philosophy that the federal government has no right to overseas interventions or regulate personal choices ranging from drinking to prostitution to education to marriage of any kind (a role for the states, he says). What makes them similar is not what they say but the startling way they’ve taken on their foes with unvarnished criticism in plain, direct words, spoken rapid-fire without pausing to politely parse their thoughts or drama to get attention.  It’s so radically anti-politician, admits libertarian Paul,  it keeps him in the underdog role and often ignored by the media. Truman just called it the “crackerjack” way. In the clip below (0:46 to 1:07), Truman even gives the common man some hell for not voting:

Businessman Herman Cain and Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter, 1976

Baptist Businessman

Walking Carter windup peanut

Cain is so original, that its a stretch to find a worthy match from the past. Like Eisenhower, he’s never held elective office, like even James Polk he’s a “dark-horse” who shows promise of bolting out from the pack and  winning the race.  He does, however, show more than superficial commonalities with Jimmy Carter. Both are Georgia Baptists who’ve often evoked God on the campaign trail and reference  “common sense” as their guide on decision-making with a touch of steely confidence in their own opinions that some might see as inspiring, others as sanctimonious. Both also served in the U.S. Navy, evidencing a certain tidy mind, Cain as a mathematician, Carter as an engineer. While Cain rose within the Pillsbury Company to eventually save its bankrupt Godfather’s Pizza, then lead it into success as Chairman,  Jimmy Carter’s stint as a businessman involved a lucrative and large peanut farming business.  If the peanut became the ubiquitous symbol of the Carter campaign, can the pizza slice be far behind for Cain? Some of the Cain’s thematic touches in his campaign commercial are touched on in this one emphasizing Carter’s rural background. Although this campaign ad is a bit detailed – enjoy the Love Boat/Shaft music from the Bicentennial Era and the irrepressible  Miss Lillian:

This just in….

Next: Sarah Palin 2012′s Gracie Allen, Christie, Karger, Gingrich, Huntsman and Santorum


Categories: Jimmy Carter, Presidents

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