President Trump has repeatedly challenged the establishment media to ask Joe Biden to denounce antifa, and has, of course, found no takers. Meanwhile, the Hunter Biden scandal keeps growing, with credible evidence that Hunter was selling (at exorbitant prices) access to his father while Joe was vice president, but for the most part the Leftist media remains resolutely mum about it. Reporters are too busy asking Joe what kind of milkshake he got at one of his infrequent campaign stops, and pretending as if his near-daily “lids” on campaigning were the most normal thing in the world for a man running for the highest office in the land. All this is unprecedented in recent presidential campaigns, but in many ways we have been here before – 180 years ago.
Rating America’s Presidents discusses at some length the strange and fabled election of 1840, an overlooked source of inspiration for the Biden campaign. The opposition party in those days, the Whigs, were determined to get their candidate William Henry Harrison into the White House not on the strength of his public positions, but rather upon the appeal of the persona they fashioned for him – just as Joe today is supposed to be the affable, kindly, back-to-normal alternative to four more years of what the Democrats characterize as the insane reign of the Cheeto Mussolini.
Like Biden, Harrison had the support of the Deep State. In those days that was the Bank of the United States, an unelected and unaccountable oligarchy that wielded enormous power without ever having to answer to the voters (sound familiar?). Nicholas Biddle, the longtime president of the Bank, directed that in order to avoid being pinned down on the issues and thereby alienating some portion of the electorate, Harrison should speak substantively as infrequently as possible: “Let him say nothing…Let no Committee, no Convention, no town meeting ever extract from him a single word about what he thinks now and will do hereafter. Let the use of pen and ink be wholly forbidden as if he were a mad poet in Bedlam.” Biddle could have been advising Biden’s handlers about how to deal with questions about packing the Supreme Court.
Instead of dealing with the issues, Harrison, who as a Major General in 1811 won the Battle of Tippecanoe against a force of Shawnee Indians, was portrayed as the humble war hero, “Old Tippecanoe.” His handlers trumpeted him as an ordinary man with simple tastes, content with a log cabin and a jug of hard cider. To this the Whigs contrasted a deeply unfair caricature of incumbent President Martin Van Buren as an out-of-touch, champagne-drinking, cosseted aristocrat who had spent public funds on lavish furnishings for the White House. The Whigs held rallies, passed out hard cider, staged marches, and generally made the 1840 election into a party celebrating “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” (John Tyler was Harrison’s running mate).
This was all great fun, but it was also the sum of the Whigs’ appeal to the American people. The Democrats were confounded. One Democrat editorialist vented his frustration: “In what grave and important discussion are the Whig journals engaged?…We speak of the divorce of bank and state; and the Whigs reply with a dissertation on the merits of hard cider. We defend the policy of the Administration; and the Whigs answer ‘log cabin,’ ‘big canoes,’ ‘go it, Tip! Come it, Ty.’ We urge the re-election of Van Buren because of his honesty, sagacity, statesmanship…and the Whigs answer that Harrison is a poor man and lives in a log cabin.”
No one was interested in appeals to reason. Old Tippecanoe ran the table, defeating Van Buren by 234 electoral votes to 60. Van Buren was justifiably appalled by the whole affair, writing in his memoirs fifteen years later: “No one…can now hesitate in believing that the scenes thro’ which the Country passed in that great political whirlwind were discreditable to our Institutions and could not fail, if often repeated, to lead to their subversion.”
Yet here we are now. The Democrats are asking us to vote for good old Joe. Why? Because look how much more polite, how much less mean, he is than Trump! Joe Biden, everybody! The happy man with the easy smile! Barack Obama’s friend! Influence peddling? Antifa riots? Come on, man! Look what kind of milkshake the man got! He’s one of us! Elect him, and then his people will tell you everything you ever wondered about where he stands!
What could possibly go wrong?
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Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.