Tag: William Jennings Bryan

The Twenty-Four-Year Itch Revisited

 

24 FlagIn a piece posted two weeks ago, “Donald Trump and the Twenty-Four-Year Itch,” I claimed to have seen this movie before more than once: Twenty-four years ago, when Ross Perot led an insurgency, and twenty-four years before that when, as a cub reporter, I covered the George Wallace campaign as it unfolded in Oklahoma. It was my contention, then, and is my contention now that, in American politics, things tend to come apart roughly every 24 years — which is to say, once a generation — when a neglected part of the electorate erupts in fury at our masters in DC.

In the interim, I have found myself musing about the Trump phenomenon time and again, and I am prepared to defend the following hypothesis — that something of the sort has recurred every quarter-century or so in this country now for nearly 250 years.

In 1776, for example, there was a real revolution directed at our masters in London. In 1800, there was, so Thomas Jefferson tells us, a second revolution, when his Republicans ousted the Federalist Party from power. There was another such event in 1824 when Andrew Jackson outpolled John Quincy Adams. That development did not reach fruition until 1828 when he replaced Adams, but the writing was on the wall in 1824. The era in which the grandees of the revolutionary generation dominated American politics was over.

Misremembering History: The Scopes Monkey Trial

 

Rather than the often repeated adage that the victors write the history of an event, the story of anything is actually determined by the unswerving adoption of one version of it, and the telling of that version by a determined cadre of writers. In time, the version with the most persistent adherents becomes the “truth.” – David & Jeanne Heidler in Henry Clay: The Essential American (2010)

I still recall my entire family getting in the car for the drive to Hartford, Connecticut. It was the late 1950s, and my father was taking us to pick up a monkey. My father had a small role as an Italian organ-grinder in a play put on by a local community theater group. The director wanted to use a prop monkey, but dad insisted on the real thing. We housed that monkey for the next week; I remember it as nasty and mean-tempered, but the audience loved it and my father in his bit part (he always had a knack for showmanship). The play was Inherit The Wind. Last week was the 90th anniversary of the start of the trial (July 10, 1925) on which the play was based, an event that became popularly known as the Scopes Monkey Trial.