Where In The World Is Grover Cleveland?
An entire generation of American voters came to their collective senses and did not elect a Democrat as President of the United States for 52 years, from 1860 to 1912, with the noteworthy exception of Grover Cleveland. There was very good reason for this public snubbing of Democrat candidates…Democrats were pro-slavery. They had instigated the secession of southern states that had brought about the Civil War. They were anti-business and in favor of legislating countless laws and regulations designed to ‘protect’ citizens from themselves. It’s really kind of strange. The Democrats of 1860 were in favor of states rights and a very limited role for the federal government, but once they lost the Civil War and were allowed back into the U.S. Congress, they almost immediately championed the cause of a powerful central government that could heap countless oppressive regulations, first on American business, then on the people themselves. To that end, they have been relentless to this day.
But I digress. In the midst of this 52 year epidemic of voter sensibility, Grover Cleveland was elected in 1884, defeated in 1888, and re-elected in 1892. He was a Democrat, but of a far different type than are the Democrats we find today. For one thing, he was an adamant opponent of ‘machine politics,’ cronyism, graft, and corruption among elected or bureaucratic officials. There were no Solyndras, no bridges to nowhere, no Buddhist monastery campaign contributions during the Cleveland administrations. He was an economic conservative who believed in a small federal government that exerted little influence or interference in the lives of individual citizens. Cleveland was a great believer in the goodness and self-reliance of the American people, a champion of the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, and is often remembered not for what he did to resolve national problems, but for what he did not do!
“Wow!” I can hear you thinking. “How did this guy become a Democrat, and does he have any descendants we can find today?”
I don’t know the answer to either question, but will tell you my very favorite Grover Cleveland story, a story that reveals the fact that politicians of both parties today (with the possible exception of Ron Paul) have completely lost that belief in Americans’ goodness and self reliance that was a principle on which Cleveland governed.
In the 1880s a severe drought that had lasted through several growing seasons was driving Texas farmers out of business. In 1887, the U.S. Congress passed a bill appropriating $10,000 to provide seeds in an effort to help the farmers. Even in 1887, ten grand was a pretty paltry sum that would have done little to assuage the problems caused by the drought, but the bill did set a precedent for federal intervention into a problem that affected only a small number of American citizens.
President Cleveland vetoed the bill. In a statement that certainly defines today’s politicians’ disdain for the Constitution, he said, “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.”
Here is an interesting footnote. Rather that just veto the spending bill, President Cleveland made certain that the major national newspapers reported to their readers the plight of the Texas farmers. Within weeks, private donations that exceeded $100,000 were sent to a fund established for relief of the drought stricken farmers. Government intervention or the goodness of American citizens…which is better?
I know it is politically incorrect in this day and age, to speak out against social programs supposedly designed to relieve human suffering, but sometimes enough is enough. Recent news revelations (that 24 hour news cycle is certainly tough on politicians) have pointed out that 70+% of the federal budget now goes to social programs, as opposed to less than 25% in the 1960s and far less before that. A more staggering disclosure is that the average amount given to recipients of social programs now exceeds the average disposable income of working Americans. Let me put that another way. If you are an average American making an average wage, for the first time in history you can now make more money going on welfare, food stamps, etc.
Even a complete idiot can tell that such irresponsible spending by government is unsustainable. Even worse, such spending strips Americans of the very personal goodness and self sufficiency recognized by Grover Cleveland.
Mark Twain said it best. “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself!”
That’s all I’m saying.