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1893 All Over Again




Grover Cleveland reached the Oval in 1885 by turning about on his own benefactors, Tammany Hall, because that turnabout played better nationally than locally. He had risen to power in New York State as a Buffalo mayor by engratiating himself to the Tammany Hall political machine and used its power to reach the throne in Albany (governor). He had reached the governorship by harping on law and order values at the city level leaving the poltical machinations of Tammany Hall out of his pronouncements.


However, once he had become a national figure, he switched gears and chose to follow a former Tammany Hall product, the 1881 President, Chester Arthur, in reorganizing the Civil Service System to reduce the amount of neptism and corruption that Tammany Hall had exhibited for decades. That political tack, a law and order mandate against political machinations, turned the Tammany machine against Cleveland but made Cleveland look highly conservative to the rest of the nation. That put him over the top in DC.


What did he do once there? He continued his conservative stance by pulling all railroad leases to slow development of western lands and return those funds to the federal treasury. He was so concerned with the federal debt that he vetoed the most bills to that time of any President (second only to FDR) and refused to pay Civil War pensions or subsidize the drought the farmers suffered. Yet, he also bought the national park land the railroad leases would have developed and created the first Native American Reservations with them.


He created the Commerce Department through the Interstate Commerce Act to run the railroads and lowered the export tariff to raise revenue while using the remaining lease funds to rebuild the US Navy.


So, very much like Trump, Cleveland lowered taxes and cut spending (Trump killed the Obama-era PanPacific Treaty and US payments to NATO and pulled the US out of every international deal Trump throught cost unnecessary American dollars), but Cleveland dropped tariffs as Obama had done with China while Trump raised them on aluminum which raised their domestic cost.


The conservatism made him popular but the Civil War pensions and the Seed Veto angered middle America. Cleveland won the popular vote but not the electors so he lost the 1885 election the same way Trump lost the 2020 election.


His replacement, Benhamin Harrison, the grandson of William Harrison who died of pneuomonia after just 41 days in office, continued the ship-building and raised import tariffs to raise revenue but rasied them too high. Harrison tried to swap paper money for silver to avoid pressure on gold but that was the same trick on a different coin that Jackson had tried 60 years earlier that van Buren had to stop. The results was the same, it sank the nation into depression. That raised the specter of the popular Cleveland to return again. Marty van Buren had tried that in 1844 but failed. Cleveland returned to the campaign trail ans won again.


The second Cleveland administration immediately terminated the Silver Act to avoid and an interational drop in bank rating for the US which would have raised interest rates on any loans sky high, But Cleveland had no answers as he had to borrow funds from the world's wealthiest man, financier JP Morgan, to pay off the national debt. Unfortunately, that stopgap didnt stop the bleeding and Cleveland could do nothing more.


Niether will Trump.

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