This Is a Blog: Losers in Brief: The Wrath of Polk

Friday, March 29, 2013

Losers in Brief: The Wrath of Polk

(part 3 of 12)

Since 1789, 112 men have won at least one electoral vote. Of that group, 65 never became President or Vice President. Of them, 30 were a bunch of ambitious losers who tried for the most powerful office in the country and failed. The other 35, you’ll have to read to find out. These are their stories.

Winfield “Old Fuss and Feathers” Scott (General, Whig-VA) Lost to Pierce-1852

In 1814, Scott became a general at 27-years-old. Think about what you were doing at 27. He was already promoted to brigadier general, and that was only the first of many wars he served in. Two future generals and an admiral would be named after him, and in 1861, he became only the second general on a postage stamp. The first was George mother-fucking Washington. Everyone, I mean, everyone, loved him.

So why’d he lose? President Polk was a conniving son of a bitch. In their short existence as a party, the Whigs only ever nominated famous southern generals and Henry Clay. When Polk saw Scott raising the army that would eventually win the Mexican-American War, he tried to cut off Scott’s supplies until a Democrat could take over. Scott sent a letter of protest to the president, which gave Polk enough ammunition to court-martial him.

Scott’s career is a story of being overshadowed by less qualified men of greater luck. Although Scott basically won the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson became president because the Battle of New Orleans was fucking bad ass. Although Scott set the strategy that won the Mexican-American War, Zachary Taylor became president because the Battle of Buena Vista was some gansta shit. And although Scott had led a long and honored career, Franklin Pierce became president because he was even more conniving than Polk.

John Charles Fremont (Senator, Republican-CA) Lost to Buchanan-1856

Fremont was just supposed to be doing surveys of the West for the military when he happened upon a chance to lead a small army and annex Northern California. Still only a captain, he then joined the force that took Southern California and became its first territorial governor. When Polk court-martialed him for insubordination (and for getting too popular), people actually took Fremont's side. He then used the last of his money to buy a ranch near San Francisco that just happened to sit on a GIANT deposit of gold. Now a rich and famous senator from a state far enough away from the slavery turmoil, both parties courted him to be their candidate.

So why’d he lose? He chose the wrong party. Not only were Republicans a party only a few short months, their main platform was anti-slavery. Fremont didn’t have a chance in the South. Fremont obviously went with his conscience, but had he stayed quiet on the slavery issue, he would have won the White House and been in a better position to help free the slaves.

I give Polk a lot of credit for the energy he brought back to the White House. His forceful leadership expanded the country coast to coast. But if you draw a straight line from him to Taylor to Scott to Fremont, you can almost blame Polk for the Civil War. Spineless Pierce and Dick Weed Buchanan allowed tensions to build, but Scott and Fremont were strong military leaders, more than able to quell, maybe even prevent, a rebellion. Just saying.

We all know the Civil War happened because Lincoln won in 1860 without a single Southern vote. How the hell did that happen? Turns out Southerners had three different choices. Vice President Breckinridge had to battle fellow Democrat Stephen Douglas (12 votes) and Constitutional Union candidate John Bell (39 votes). You can read more about that here.

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