Republican Candidates’ Retro Touch: Sarah Palin as Gracie Allen, Christmas Carol Campaign Song, Can Sex Sell Santorum?

This third in a series on 2012  Republican Presidential candidates and which previous candidates their campaign personae most resemble, begins with Sarah Palin and Chris Christie, who’ve just chosen not to run and comparisons which may suggest why:

Former Governor Sarah Palin and Surprise Party candidate Gracie Allen, 1940

Surprise Party Girls

In an era before reality made satire obsolete, Grace Allen's campaign was brilliant.

Laconic hubby in tow, she hawked her book across the land, chatting up legions of fans while her famed malapropisms left them all in giddy giggles.  “I don’t know much about the Lend-Lease Bill,” said the Surprise candidate at one stop, ” but if we owe it we should pay it.”  Americans shouldn’t be ashamed but rather proud of the national debt, “after all, it’s the biggest in the world!” Questioned whether she would recognize Russia, she showed a little exasperation: “I don’t know….I meet so many people.”

Never fussing with pesky details about serious issues, the “presidential campaign” of comedienne Gracie Allen was the most lucrative publicity stunt to ever exploit politics. Or was it?  Wink.

Her basic platform, Ms. Allen announced, was “redwood, trimmed with nutty pine.”

Both the mirthful and incredulous reaction of supporters and detractors alike helped only to further generate widespread speculation about Sarah Palin’s potential run for the presidency. From practically the moment she lost the 2008 presidential campaign with John McCain, predictions were strong that she would make the run in 2012. It may have ended only yesterday but for months preceding her announcement there was a growing sense that quitting her elected position as Alaskan Governor before her term was over and abandoning her public service career  for one as a successful media celebrity would prove too detrimental to a serious run for the nomination. The similar novelty of Gracie Allen proved entertaining, but certainly nobody in 1940 America took is seriously, especially as war clouds gathered.  In any event, here’s Gracie Allen singing her own campaign song:

Governor Christ Christie and Republican candidate William Howard Taft, 1908

Largely Reluctant

Initially, Taft's weight suggested a jolly persona but when politics went awry it morphed into a lazy persona

Many thought he doth’ protest too much, but Big Bill lumbered so late into the ’08 game, he risked losing many necessary endorsements and missing a chance to effectively raise campaign funds.  Repeatedly, he was open and honest about the reason he hesitated.  His reluctance resulted from a lack of belly fire for the job – just as Christie had concurred as his own reason. Pushed into it, and then winning, there soon came genuine proof that the heavy-set Taft was not in the least bit as jolly as the public presumed as he rapidly gained a dangerous amount of even more weight as Prez, tipping the scales at nearly 400 pounds. However superficial such a thing as physical appearance may be, it can’t help but become one aspect of a potential candidate’s appeal to the voters and in the 21st century it can also suggest a degree of unhealthy self-neglect. Perhaps this fact might put in context Christie’s most adamant and final denial of interest in the job. The fact is that it is safer to lose a great amount of unhealthy weight  slowly and over a period of time – say, perhaps, like four years.Only posthumously has Taft’s avoirdupois served him. Taft and the legend of his large bathtub are perhaps far better known by today’s schoolchildren than Wilson and his Fourteen Points. Read this “President Obesity” two-part series on www.carlanthonyonline.com

http://carlanthonyonline.com/2011/04/19/president-obesity-stuck-in-the-tub/

http://carlanthonyonline.com/2011/04/20/president-obesity-how-taft%e2%80%99s-tastes-may-have-lost-him-an-election-and-a-picture-of-his-famous-bathtub/

Taft has even been immortalized in song by the Two Gentleman Band. Here’s there famous ode to him:

Republican Party activist Fred Karger and Socialist candidate Eugene Debs, 1920

Ignored Johnny-One-Note

Debs' 1920 campaign was considerably limited by his being imprisoned.

A gay equal rights activist and Republican political consultant who served on the Ford, Reagan and first Bush White House staffs, Karger admits he holds no hoping of winning the nomination but is running to prove to both young people and gay people that, “You can do anything you want to do.” Whether it is due to the fact that his primary message is limited to the constitutional right of gay people to  marriage and other civil liberties, Karger  has been largely ignored in the mainstream media and denied a chance to join the other Republican Candidates in debates.  1920 Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs was more literally isolated than Karger, having to conduct his campaign while serving a prison term for speaking against U.S. participation in World War I, convicted under the 1917 Espionage Act.  Being in jail, however, only seemed to garner the labor leader more media notice. Then again, the ex-Democrat had more experience, having run for President in 1900, 1904, 1908 and 1912. Still, Debs was essentially a Johnny-One-Note candidate, calling for the worker class to heed the call of political solidarity. Here’s a bit of his dramatic message set with footage:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson, 1960

Egghead Has--Been

Rational intellect failed to help Adlai.

Erudite Adlai spoke in sentences and chatted abstract analysis as the Dem’s loser man in ’52 and ’56.  By 1960, he presumed this entitled him to rehash his has-been ideas for a third loss. With all but a raised eyebrow in response, Professor Newt recently enjoyed hearing himself unveil a 2.0 of his ’94 Contract With AmericaAlthough Stevenson drew a solid demographic block from young first-time women voters during his two campaigns the fact that he was divorced was barely acknowledged by his campaign. Gingrich, though this year being his one and only time running for President is already well-known for his two divorces and three wives. Stevenson got around the issue by trotting out his daughter-in-law and using women in many of his campaign ads, including one singing the only known campaign son based on a Christmas carol:

Former Ambassador Jon Huntsman and Democratic candidate George McGovern, 1972

Fringeman

A 1972 McGovern campaign poster of the candidate too liberal for many Democrats

Unquestionably, McGovern was a Democrat of his time, notably for his absolute opposition to any further U.S. military engagement in Vietnam, even “anti-military,” according to his opponent, incumbent President Nixon. Yet in an era when McGovern’s liberalism was considered the fringe of the left wing, McGovern insisted on using the word “right” to describe his stand on the issues. And truthfully, in that Seventies Skew where everything was pulled to the left, Republican Nixon supported racially-integrated school busing, environmental protection laws, the rights of women to seek abortion, and the Equal Rights Amendment. Of course, Huntsman is a Republican but he’s not only already committed and released a specific economic recovery plan. He also refuses to relent his anti-right views on genuine concern for global warning and belief in evolution. He speaks Chinese, however….but then again, Nixon went to China. This makes Huntsman moderately conservative, except when he’s at the fringe left of the far right. In the great confused middle where most Democrats in 1972 found themselves. hesitation set in about voting for McGovern – or Nixon. Maybe that will help Huntsman. Or hurt him. As this McGovern campaign commercial seems to admit, after awhile, who’s right as left or right becomes one big pineapple cake of everything’s upside-down!

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum and Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, 1964

Morality Player

In line with Goldwater's moral purity were campaign bottled water and bubblegum cigars.

Formal,  immaculately groomed, and depicted as having his trigger-finger on the button to press the atomic bomb, Goldwater shifted all his political views under his larger message of what “was right,” based on a strict morality. While addressing the full range of issues, Santorum has also framed his views (most famously his opposition to same-gender marriage and permitting the military to disclose their sexual preference)  as being directed by “moral code.”  Among the most provocative issue, nothing quite captures public attention like sex – of any kind, even if only to be used by opponents as evidence of a candidate’s obsession with it. This clip below from the Goldwater film “Choice” almost suggests that he’d have outlawed even Playboy. It goes on at enough of a length and with such salacious detail that if begs the question of whether there was a campaign strategy to actually using “sex”  to promote the candidate against it, on the theory that even prurient attention is good – and if the Santorum media advisers are consciously doing likewise.


Categories: Presidents

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4 replies »

  1. What a great post!
    I’m passing it on.

    Hey Carl,
    President Coolidge will be in Plymouth on the 15th; he will be slotted into a blues concert to benefit recovery from Hurricane Irene’s flood.
    Of course he will recycle his 1928 “Vermont is a State I Love” address!

    • He’s back! President Coolidge….I might like to do a telephone interview with him if you think he’d like that. Do you think he’d have a specific opinion based on general philosophy about the consistently 9 percent unemployment, debt, immigration, etc. etc.

      • The President would be pleased to have a telephonic exchange with you. He does not have available the sources of information that he had when he was in Washington, yet he is generally well-informed. You will recall, as president, he would not have a telephone on his desk; it was not in keeping with the dignity he accorded the office. Of course if he has nothing to say on a given subject he will not hesitate to say nothing.

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