The Democratic Nomination


 "A Strong Combination"
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   June 16, 1888, p. 425

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
Here, Brother Jonathan (a precursor to Uncle Sam) approves the results of the Democratic National Convention in St. Louis, which he views as offering a difficult challenge for the upcoming Republican gathering in Chicago to better. The cartoonist adopts the common circus metaphor to illustrate the world of politics, designating the Democratic meeting as the “Great Moral Circus.” (The term is probably meant here with little or no negative connotation, especially compared to Thomas Worth’s pejorative "The Great Democratic Moral Show,” from the 1880 campaign.)

Brother Jonathan’s attention is focused (left) on a poster of “Cleveland: The Strong Man of the East.” In it, the president has effortlessly lifted a barbell with the weighted ends of “Civil Service Reform”—having tied up the Democratic tiger of hungry patronage seekers—and “Public Lands for the People”—referring to administration efforts to halt the exploitation of federal lands by individuals and businesses. Cleveland is given credit for raising the tariff question, which hangs by a hook on the barbell, through his presidential message to Congress in December 1887 that called for reform of the protectionist system. In the poster on the upper left, Cleveland the strongman is honored for reigning in “Legislative Extravagance” through the frequent use of presidential vetoes. The faded poster behind Brother Jonathan (right) celebrates Cleveland felling the Republican elephant in the election of 1884 (when he defeated Republican James G. Blaine to win the presidency).

At the bottom is a smaller poster featuring Cleveland’s vice presidential running mate, Allen Thurman, as a strongman who conquered the powerful Union Pacific Railroad (“to beard the lion” means to act courageously). While in the Senate, he had sponsored the Thurman Act, which required federally subsidized railroads to set aside a quarter of their earnings in order to repay government loans. It ultimately did not work because the companies went bankrupt, but government regulation of railroads was popular with many voters. The 74-year-old Thurman is respectfully referred to in the poster as “The Old Roman”; he was also called the “Nestor of the Democratic Party” after the mythological king who was the oldest and wisest of the Greeks involved in the Trojan War. In reality, Thurman was in poor health and proved to be an embarrassment on the campaign trail.













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