This Is a Blog: Losers in Brief: The Tragedy of Alton Parker

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Losers in Brief: The Tragedy of Alton Parker

(part 6 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.

William Jennings Bryan (Former Congressman, Democrat-IL) Lost to McKinley-1896, 1900; Taft-1908

Like a whirlwind, Bryan single-handedly re-molded the Democratic party in his image with fiery speeches that left the country entranced. Although he saw diminishing returns each time he ran, he would eventually become Secretary of State. And he was awful. You can read more here.

So why’d he lose? He was batshit crazy. Completely mad. The dude who fought AGAINST evolution in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Yeah, that was him.

Alton Brooks Parker (Court of Appeals Chief Justice, Democrat-NY) Lost to T. Roosevelt-1904

I’m going to break format a little on this one because this is the saddest damn thing I’ve discovered while researching these.

Although he spent several years as a successful banker, being a judge on the New York State Court of Appeals made Parker the happiest he had ever been in his life. He adored being a judge. He fought against other judges attempting to change laws from the bench, and his defense of unions became the rubric for even the US Supreme Court, where his spectacular career would most likely take him next.

When Bryan decided not to run in 1904, he chose his replacement, and it wasn’t Parker. The party, on the other hand, wanted a new direction, and Parker was as un-Bryan as a man could get. At the convention, Parker could see the wind was blowing to him, and he begged them not to nominate him.

You see, Parker was not just a Democrat, he was a Jacksonian. He had studied and adored the man who was his party’s first hero, and here is where he found the rub. Jackson had once written that a nomination was not something a man could turn down. When the people nominate you, it is your duty to run and try to win. A devoted public servant, Parker simply could not turn down a nomination, even when he knew he could not defeat the incumbent.

When he rose to the presidency following President McKinley’s assassination, Teddy Roosevelt impressed the hell out of everyone. No VP who ascended to the presidency had ever even run before, but TR was so widely loved, his nomination was assured and his victory was a done-deal. Parker himself is the best evidence of Roosevelt's popularity. His party chose him because Parker was the closest thing to Roosevelt they could find.

In short, Alton Parker was a sacrificial lamb, and he knew it when he accepted his party’s nomination. Strictly adhering to the law, the moment he became a candidate, he resigned the judgeship he loved so much. He could have won it back had it not been for the pettiness of William Jennings Bryan.

It was Bryan who led the charge against Parker, not Roosevelt. Bryan so thoroughly smeared him and defamed him and lied about him, Parker didn’t even win his home state. Holding onto his dignity as a judge, Parker refused to make speeches, even to defend himself. Parker would never hold public office again.

In 1921, President Harding appointed then Former President Taft Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Taft, who had only been a minor judge in Ohio for a few years over thirty years earlier. Taft, who had beaten William Jennings Bryan in 1908. Taft, who in 1912, despite being the incumbent, came in third and lost more spectacularly than Parker in 1904. The fat fuck who complained that he had WON the presidency and whined that he hated every minute of being president was the most powerful judge in the land when Alton Parker died.

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