It’s the end of the presidential election season. Most of us feel relieved about that, but very nervous about the results. It feels like we’re on the verge of civil war, there are so many angry people on both sides. And no matter who wins, there are going to be some very bitter people who will feel disenfranchised for years as a result.
It’s important to keep in mind something we learned during the Watergate scandal. Nixon had just won reelection by a landslide, the biggest in history. But Watergate was a sore festering on his presidency, and it would not go away. I remember the somber faced newsmen telling us we had a government of law, not of men; meaning that the principles of our democracy would stand the test and justice would prevail – which it eventually did.
This is one of the most contentious elections we’ve ever held. And while that may be true, we’ve held some pretty crazy elections in the last 240 years. But what’s more, we’ve elected some wild rascals and wild characters over the years.
You may have heard that Lyndon Johnson was very proud of his manhood, which he called Jumbo. During a Cabinet meeting, when asked why the U.S. went into Vietnam, Johnson reportedly whipped it out and bellowed, “This is why!”
Franklin Roosevelt’s mom clothed him in dresses until he was five. Gerald Ford worked as a male model during college. Jimmy Carter reported seeing a UFO. Calvin Coolidge liked to have his head rubbed with petroleum jelly while eating his breakfast in bed.
And if you think Donald Trump is quick to respond to the slightest slight, take a look at Andrew Jackson. He was not only a colorful, outrageous business man and land developer, he was a dead shot and not a man to take an insult lightly. He was in several duels, and finally killed a man in one, which cemented his reputation as a dangerous person. Yet he won the popular vote for president three times – losing once in the electoral college. He hated paper money, but ironically is on our $20 bill.
But my favorite outrageous politician may surprise you. It is no less than Abraham Lincoln, Honest Abe, the country boy who is so well known and loved. Some say he stole the nomination of the Republican party from William Seward, who was the favorite and all but guaranteed to win. How did Lincoln steal it? His campaign manager printed up hundreds of counterfeit tickets and sent their own people in to disrupt voting and show huge support for Lincoln. The strategy worked, and Lincoln won.
So happy voting day, my friends. And remember, we have a government of law, not of men; and we’ve elected lots of characters to the presidency, and some how we survived.