Thursday, 17 January 2019

rutherfraud b. hayes

As the US federal government is in the midst of the longest partial shutdown in recent memory, the always engrossing Planet Money brings us the story of the very first begrudging lapse in appropriations that struck politicians as so acrimonious and against the spirit of the Republic that it was not revisited until a century later—with caution and trepidation before becoming an everyday bargaining chip.
When the Civil War broke out, Confederate Democrats serving in the House and Senate took leave of their offices to fight for the South (roles were quite reversed) but with reunification, the party had all but forfeited those seats to the Republicans. Seeking to re-establish themselves in halls of government, Democrats worked to disenfranchise African American voters who would ensure that challenger candidates win in their former constituencies by all means necessary, including unabashed voter intimidation. In 1879/1880, the Republican administration of President Hayes, in order to ensure free and fair elections, ordered military troops to monitor polling places in the Reconstruction Era southern US. In response, Democrat congressmen and senators hurled insults, like the one in the title, at Hayes and threatened to withhold releasing funds and effectively suspending government business, unless the soldiers were recalled. It is unclear that the scope of the shutdown was or if they even acted on this threat in the first place—politicians on both sides of the aisle immediately cognisant how badly that sort of budgetary hostage taken could turn out for democracy, to say nothing of denying a population the right to participate therein. Check out the entire episode below and subscribe to Planet Money for more stories like this.