Democratic Prospects and Pitfalls


 “‘Down Goes McGinty’ (Bryan)”
  Cartoonist:  Eugene Zimmerman
  Source:  Judge
  Date:  August 18, 1900

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This cartoon parodies a popular comic song about a foolish Irishman who undergoes a series of mishaps culminating in a fall into the sea, where he dies. In 1892, Judge cartoonist Bernhard Gillam adapted the lyrics to depict the ill fate of that year’s Democratic presidential nominee, Grover Cleveland. Here, McGinty is the Democratic presidential nominee of 1900, William Jennings Bryan. As a shamrock slips out of his hand, the candidate struggles with his head barely above water. He is being pulled under by Tammany “Boss” Richard Croker and several sea creatures.

Underwater on the left, the stingray of “Socialism” swims toward the nominee. Labor activist Eugene Debs was running for the first of five times as the presidential nominee of the Socialist Party. In 1900, he received less than one percent of the popular vote. The turtle is the “Greenback Vote,” referring to the 1870s movement for inflationary paper currency called “greenbacks.” It gave way in the 1890s to the advocacy of free silver, but serves here to associate Bryan with policies of the past. The lobster symbolizes “middle-of-the-road Democrats” and the shark represents Democrats who favor the gold standard.

Underwater on the right, Bryan is being tugged under by Croker, who carries the heavy burden of the Tammany Ice scandal. The age (65 years) of Democratic vice-presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson is mocked by depicting his gravestone. The axes on the marker refer to his firing of thousands of Republican officeholders while he was assistant postmaster general in the first Cleveland administration (1885-1889). The crab symbolizes Democrats who favored a continued American presence in Cuba, the Philippines, and other territories gained in the wake of the Spanish-American War.

The Democratic Headquarters sits on shore in the background of the upper-left. Three leading Democrats make gestures toward rescuing Bryan (left-right): August Belmont Jr., a major donor to the party; William J. Stone, vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee; and former senator Arthur Pue Gorman of Maryland. Former senator David B. Hill of New York, a gold Democrat who was silenced at the Democratic National Convention by Tammany Hall, lies on the sand. Sailing away in the steamship, “Prosperity,” is President William McKinley and his Republican vice-presidential running mate, Governor Theodore Roosevelt of New York, who bids Bryan farewell with a wave of his hat.













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