Doug Wead is a presidential historian who served as senior advisor to the Ron Paul presidential campaign in 2012, and was special assistant to President George H.W. Bush.
Have we ever had an election where both the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates were flawed? And the voters had to chose between the lesser of two evils?
How about 1884?
The American people had to chose between a corrupt politician and a misogynist. Both presidential candidates were seriously flawed.
Grover Cleveland and Charles Blaine.
The misogynist (Cleveland) was member of a law firm in Buffalo, New York. He and his partners shared the sexual favors of a young lady. When she became pregnant our erstwhile, future, presidential candidate, stepped forward to assume paternity. It was the gentlemanly thing to do since his law partners were married.
When one of his law partner’s died, he assume guardianship over his daughter, a risky proposition that turned out as one might expect. When the young lady became a teenager they fell in love and at age twenty-one she finally married him. He was forty-six.
Meanwhile, the corrupt politician ran a pay to play scheme that hampered his political career and made winning the presidential nomination of his party quite problematic. In one transaction that later became public, future presidential candidate, Congressman Charles G. Blaine, received the equivalent of $1.5 million in today’s money. In return he helped a railroad obtain a federal grant.
Today’s critics may see this as a modest bribe when compared to the alleged accumulation of $1.5 billion taken in by the Clinton Foundation. A great deal of the later was allegedly raised from foreign governments and foreign businessmen while Mrs. Clinton was serving as the United States Secretary of State. In his New York Times bestseller, Clinton Cash, Peter Schweitzer carefully tracks the long list of transactions.
In the end, the Republicans nominated Charles G. Blaine anyway. And the Democrats nominated Grover Cleveland. In this case, Cleveland, the misogynist won.
Incidentally, Cleveland became the only president to be married in the White House while in office. He married his 21 year old ward, Frances Folsom. Sensitive to the public outrage Cleveland did not kiss the bride at his wedding. But the nation soon took to the couple and became enchanted with Frances who was the youngest First Lady in American history.
Grover Cleveland is ranked by historians as a very good president and by some as a great one. He lost the White House in 1888 but was returned to power again in 1892, making him both the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, forever confusing history students on exactly how many men have served as president.