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Ideas

1936, When “The Dictator” FDR Was Bent On Constitutional Destruction

The Fight Over the New Deal and Roosevelt's Second Term Launched a New Style of American Political Attack

Roosevelt Wallace

By David Sehat
October 10, 2016

True or False? Franklin Delano Roosevelt claimed to be a conservative defender of the nation’s founding ideals.

If you answered “both,” you’d be correct. We don’t tend to think of FDR as a conservative today, and at certain points he would have rejected the label, but in 1936 that was how he wanted to be understood. He was three years into his first term and it was far from clear there would be a second. The mandate from his 1932 …

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Encounters

Think The Press Is Partisan? It Was Much Worse for Our Founding Fathers

A Scheming and Salacious Newspaper Reporter Targeted Hamilton and Jefferson—and Nearly Ruined Them

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By Christopher B. Daly
October 10, 2016

It is a common complaint that the drive for traffic at news sites in the digital age has debased our political dialogue, turning a responsible press into a media scramble for salacious sound bites. But partisanship and scandal-mongering go way back in the American political tradition. And there was no internet to blame in 1793, the year an especially vicious and salacious newsman arrived on American shores and soon after set his sights on the founding fathers.

Despite efforts to unify …

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Encounters

How Herbert Hoover Skirted Scandal to Win the White House

The Public Was Charmed by His Presentation as an Antidote to Politics, Until the Great Depression Hit

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By Charles Rappleye
October 10, 2016

It was not the craziest election of the 20th Century, but it might have been the strangest.

One candidate was a natural politician, affable and gregarious, a true man-of-the-people who favored flashy suits and a trademark derby hat. Reporters loved him and admirers thronged his events.

The other contender could easily be classified a misanthrope. He was a miserable public speaker who hated crowds and disdained the campaign regimen of shaking hands and kissing babies. For months, even after secretly directing his …

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Encounters

The Untold Story of the Presidential Candidate Once Named “Our Other Franklin”

Massive Rallies, an Emulated Style, and Votes From Both Democrats and Republicans Couldn’t Save This Quixotic Candidate’s Campaign—Or His Life

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By R. Craig Sautter
October 10, 2016

A populist desire for “reform” runs deep in the psyche of American voters. Every few decades, a presidential candidate channels this rebellious spirit. Andrew Jackson was such a candidate in 1828. So were William Henry Harrison in 1840, Abraham Lincoln in 1860, William Jennings Bryan in 1896, Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, Jimmy Carter in 1976, and Barack Obama in 2008.

But no candidate for President carried the reform banner for honesty and competence more naturally, or …

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Ideas

Before Donald Trump, Wendell L. Willkie Upended the GOP Primary in 1940

The Populist Businessman Known as “The Barefoot Wall Street Lawyer” Took Over His Party’s Convention in Philadelphia

Wendell Willkie, Republican presidential candidate, parades through his hometown, Elwood, Ind., Aug. 17, 1940.  He was en route to a local park where he delivered his acceptance speech as the party's nominee.  (AP Photo/John D. Collins)

By R. Craig Sautter
July 26, 2016

Later this week, the historic nomination of the first female candidate for president by a major political party at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia is sure to generate considerable hoopla. But, as with all U.S. presidential conventions in recent decades, the outcome is already certain.

Such predictability was not always the case. In fact, three-quarters of a century ago, the City of Brotherly Love played host to a very different convention—one whose outcome was so unexpected it became known as …

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Ideas

What Does ‘Natural-Born’ American Even Mean?

The Seemingly Rigid Requirement for the Presidency Didn't Disqualify the Nation's British-Born Founders

Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States WIMTBA

By Don H. Doyle
May 10, 2016

When choosing among presidential candidates, Americans find plenty to debate about their fitness for office, experience, and economic and foreign policies. But the framers of the Constitution made no mention of such qualifications; they were primarily concerned that the president be truly American. And one of the ways that a president counted as truly American was to be, in the Constitution’s phrase, a “natural-born citizen.”

In the modern era, this phrase has been particularly contentious. There was the clamor over whether …

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