3Elitists = Shitheads
Where You See it Today:
There's a new story every week about how Obama is too smart or well-spoken or generally too "elitist" while some other story points out how accessible McCain seems, or how Sarah Palin's functional retardation makes her more relatable.
Who Made it Cool:
Whenever a presidential candidate speaks well or seems particularly clean, the immediate strategy of that candidate's opponent is to trash them as elitist, someone who thinks he's better than the hardworking, God-fearing general public.
In 1840, this was taken to an awesome, hilarious extreme. The nominee for the Whig party, the old-as-shit William Henry Harrison, gave himself the label of the "Log Cabin and Hard Cider candidate." Basically Joe Six Pack. The plan of course was to make the opposing Democrats and Martin Van Buren look like a bunch of elitist aristocrats.
Van Buren, seen here drinking champagne. As a cartoon.
There were fliers of Harrison positioned next to log cabins to demonstrate his down-to-earth authenticity. They had parades full of log cabin floats to celebrate Harrison. The business of log-cabin-shaped whiskey flasks fucking exploded. Had "I keep my shit real" been a relevant expression at the time, Harrison would've been widely acknowledged for the extreme realness with which he kept his shit.
"So real, you guys."
The people absolutely loved it.
But here's the thing: Harrison's shit was far from real; it was practically hologram shit. Harrison didn't live in a log cabin or drink hard cider. He had acres and acres of land. He lived in Ohio. In a mansion. Did that stop anyone from praising his log-cabin-ness? Absolutely not.
People were so excited about how real Harrison kept his shit, no one seemed to care that he didn't actually run on a platform that expressed a single view or opinion about anything. Honestly. His campaign manager's main strategy was "Let no committee, no convention, no town meeting extract from him a single word about what he thinks now or what he will do hereafter." That is a direct quote.
So, with all this praise for Harrison, what was being said about Van Buren, the incumbent president? Well, his opponents launched the most scathing attacks imaginable when it was revealed that Van Buren installed a bathtub in the White House. Apparently in the 1840s, only pimps and vampires bathed. Or you'd think so seeing how the public lost their shit over this.
You had to be there.
As absurd as it is to attack someone for regularly bathing, it worked. In the end, 78 percent of the voters chose Harrison. Van Buren left the White House after one term, disgraced and offensively clean.
But the joke was on everyone, because, after taking office, Harrison died inside a month and his successor, John Tyler (described as a "poor, miserable, despised imbecile" and given the nickname "His Accidency") took over the White House. Tyler was one of the most hated presidents of all time and was nearly impeached.
Why did we bring that up? No reason at all. Really.
2Elections Can Be Stolen
Where You See it Today:
Well, we're gonna have to wait about a month to know for sure on this one. Sorry, but if you're desperate to find an example of a modern stolen election, we just don't know what to tell you.
Who Made it Cool:
1876 saw the end of the Grant administration, one of the most corrupt in American history. At a time when reform was important, the Democrats responded by nominating Samuel Tilden, the governor of New York who was already an established successful reformer and an enemy of corruption.
At the time Republicans weren't as fond of words like "successful" and "reformer," and preferred to nominate "some guy." Hey, look, Rutherford Hayes is some guy. Okay, him.
If Hayes had any opinions, he kept them to himself. Hayes was chosen not for his policies or his ability to speak or his track record, but because, up to that point, he hadn't stolen anything or pissed anyone off. Hayes was described by Henry Adams as "a third-rate nonentity, whose only recommendation is that he is obnoxious to no one." Not obnoxious? What more can we ask for? Let's make him president.
For Hayes' Vice President, Congressman William Wheeler was chosen despite the fact that Hayes had no idea who he was and the two had never met until weeks after the nomination. Why not? They really just didn't give a shit.
So the results start coming in on Election Day, and Tilden is winning. Several newspapers announced Tilden's victory. Hayes even wrote a letter of concession. Sure, there were, like, four states left to count, but it was estimated that they would almost certainly favor Tilden. The election was in the bag!
Not quite. Republican agents were mobilized to make sure everyone voted in those states, with most of the agents armed with hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure everyone voted correctly. Some votes in favor of Tilden were disputed, and by "disputed" we mean they were thrown in the trash (in Key West, Florida, for example, an entire box of votes that had Tilden ahead of Hayes 401-59 were tossed).
Tilden, seen here staring at a trash can, where the Tilden votes were "stored."
After weeks of bribery and madness, a committee was chosen to decide the election. The committee just happened to feature eight Republicans against the seven Democrats, and they just happened to vote in favor of Hayes. So, nominated for his history of not stealing, Rutherford B. Hayes stole the shit out of the presidency.