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Author Topic: "Americanism" and the US Presidential Election of 1916  (Read 218 times)
They call me PR
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« on: September 16, 2014, 07:41:33 pm »

Stumbled upon this section of the 1916 Democratic Party platform. Apparently, it was Wilson himself who pushed for the inclusion of this plank in the party platform.

The part that the United States will play in the new day of international relationships that is now upon us will depend upon our preparation and our character. The Democratic party, therefore, recognizes the assertion and triumphant demonstration of the indivisibility and coherent strength of the nation as the supreme issue of this day in which the whole world faces the crisis of manifold change. It summons all men of whatever origin or creed who would count themselves Americans, to join in making clear to all the world the unity and consequent power of America. This is an issue of patriotism. To taint it with partisanship would be to defile it. In this day of test, America must show itself not a nation of partisans but a nation of patriots. There is gathered here in America the best of the blood, the industry and the genius of the whole world, the elements of a great race and a magnificent society to be welded into a mighty and splendid Nation.

Whoever, actuated by the purpose to promote the interest of a foreign power, in disregard of our own country's welfare or to injure this government in its foreign relations or cripple or destroy its industries at home, and whoever by arousing prejudices of a racial, religious or other nature creates discord and strife among our people so as to obstruct the wholesome process of unification, is faithless to the trust which the privileges of citizenship repose in him and is disloyal to his country. We therefore condemn as subversive to this Nation's unity and integrity, and as destructive of its welfare, the activities and designs of every group or organization, political or otherwise, that has for its object the advancement of the interest of a foreign power, whether such object is promoted by intimidating the government, a political party, or representatives of the people, or which is calculated and tends to divide our people into antagonistic groups and thus to destroy that complete agreement and solidarity of the people and that unity of sentiment and purpose so essential to the perpetuity of the Nation and its free institutions.

We condemn all alliances and combinations of individuals in this country, of whatever nationality or descent, who agree and conspire together for the purpose of embarrassing or weakening our government or of improperly influencing or coercing our public representatives in dealing or negotiating with any foreign power. We charge that such conspiracies among a limited number exist and have been instigated for the purpose of advancing the interests of foreign countries to the prejudice and detriment of our own country. We condemn any political party which, in view of the activity of such conspirators, surrenders its integrity or modifies its policy.

Source: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29591

Bolding mine, and I broke up the wall of text to make it more readable.

Comments, questions, thoughts, etc. welcome.
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2014, 11:41:48 pm »

By the word "racial" they would have been referring to the different "races" of Europe: "Anglo-Saxons," Germans, Italians, Swedes, Poles, etc.

Anyway, it's a rather brilliant bit of political writing for the time, since it's vaguely-written yet clearly a dog-whistle of some sort; the reader's own prejudices then fill in the blanks to make it an attack on the Irish, Italians, Germans or Jews. A smarter variation on Teddy Roosevelt's attacks on "hyphenated-Americans," since immigrant groups would read it and naturally assume it's about a different immigrant group (that they don't like) rather than feel personally affronted because the rhetoric is attacking immigrants as a whole.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2014, 11:48:57 pm by pendragon »Logged
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« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2014, 05:12:35 am »

To add onto what pendragon said, Wilson at first was actually very good at combating the ethnic nationalists within his own party's ranks.  You have to remember that 1916 had not only World War I in full swing, but the Easter Rising had occurred in April of that year and many Irish Americans were pissed at Wilson for his Anglophile foreign policy.  Irish Independence leaders in the US went as far as to throw their weight behind Charles Evans Hughes, a Republican (the horror), because he was at least "an honorable man".  Wilson, the great politician he was, equated those leaders with unAmericanism.  Now this is where reverse psychology comes in, as the nationalist publications in the US started publishing Wilson's remarks widely and proudly hoping that it made the case to vote against Wilson.  However, given that "Americanism" was in vogue during the Progressive Era (Wilson, as Pendragon noted, was simply adopting Teddy Roosevelt's earlier statements and making it appeal to Democratic voters) this helped make voting for Hughes seem "UnAmerican".

The author of the weblink notes that the results are kind of vague, but I believe that Wilson's strategy was pretty successful.  He was pretty close in several New England states (a rarity for Democrats even up to the 1920s), doing better in Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut than he did in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey (an extremely rare occurrence).  Methinks he might've won over third and fourth generation ethnic voters, particularly the lace curtains, who viewed the later waves of immigrants as a bunch of bitter radicals (kind of an "oh no we're not with them" effect) as well as a few crossover WASP types who might've felt he was more pro-American than Hughes.

However, Wilson's "Americanism" would end up backfiring in a pretty bad way later on, as the results of 1920 show.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2014, 05:16:26 am by Mechaman »Logged

23:19   Xahar   you're literally a white dude Mechaman
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« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2014, 02:11:51 pm »

You have to remember that 1916 had not only World War I in full swing, but the Easter Rising had occurred in April of that year and many Irish Americans were pissed at Wilson for his Anglophile foreign policy.  Irish Independence leaders in the US went as far as to throw their weight behind Charles Evans Hughes, a Republican (the horror), because he was at least "an honorable man".  

It's quite funny that when De Valera arrived to the United States, he was confident Wilson will receive and recognize him as "President of the Irish Republic".

On a side note, Wilson was accustomed with using term "unAmerican" well before his political career, in his academic writings, though, arguably, it wasn't that uncommon at the time.

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