Anti-Christian Bias; Women and Trump; Boies Club

Story Stream
recent articles

Good morning, it’s Thursday, May 16, 2019. On this date in 1912, a horse reared in Washington, D.C., at the corner of 5th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, depositing its rider in the street. The man thrown unceremoniously from his mount was a U.S. senator named Boies Penrose, a Republican from Pennsylvania. Penrose was not seriously injured, but the mishap was a perfect metaphor for both horse and rider: The steed was spooked by a steam roller being used to pave streets; the senator was spooked by something else that year -- the spectral return of Theodore Roosevelt to national politics.

I’ll have another word on TR and Boies Penrose, whom I’ve written about before, in a moment.

First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

* * *

Liberals Proved Pence Right About Anti-Christian Discrimination. Jerry Falwell Jr. assails the left’s response to the vice president’s address at Liberty University, in which he warned the Christian graduates that they will be ridiculed for their faith.

2020: The Year of the Women -- for Trump. Lauren DeBellis Appell spotlights evidence of sustained support for the president from female voters.

If the Fed Can Stimulate, Why Is Middletown Still Poor? RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny uses the plight of a struggling Ohio town to illustrate the limited impact of money supply manipulation.

The “Black Hole” of Dark Money Groups. In RealClearPolicy, Ken Braun examines the left-leaning advocacy group Fix the Court, whose agenda has been as thoroughly masked as its donors.

Revised Well Control Rule Triggers False Narrative. In RealClearEnergy, Mark Green debunks the alarmism surrounding offshore oil and gas regulation changes.

* * *

Boies Penrose comes to my mind occasionally, and not only because the idea of a 6-foot-4, 300-pound politician being thrown by a horse is irresistible, but also because the intra-party turmoil he stoked serves as a reminder that there is really little new in politics.

The Tea Party rebellion against the Republican establishment a decade ago; the takeover of the GOP by Donald Trump nearly three years ago; the current insurrection within Democratic Party ranks by mouthy millennials and “Democratic Socialists” -- such unnerving upheavals come with the territory. A two-party system may seem stifling to unaffiliated voters and political independents like me, but it would be ever so much more suffocating if the two parties weren’t always evolving, sometimes in multiple directions simultaneously.

For establishment types, the Trump phenomenon seems like the end of the world. It isn’t. Most likely, it isn’t even the end of the Grand Old Party. Occasionally, such convulsions do portend a seismic historical shift and even the creation of a replacement party. But that’s all right, too. I don’t miss the Whigs, do you? How about the Know-Nothings?

Will Democrats ever get over losing Pennsylvania in 2016? Or, heaven forfend, will it happen again in 2020? The answer is maybe. Then, again, have you noticed how Barry Goldwater’s Arizona is trending Democratic?

Republicans dominated Pennsylvania politics from the time of the Civil War to the arrival of Franklin Roosevelt, yet for nearly that entire time the GOP was at war with itself: reformers vs. bosses; the Pittsburgh machine vs. the Philadelphia machine; pro-business interests vs. progressives.

Which brings me back to Boies Penrose. An unlikely political boss, he was born in 1860 to a well-connected Main Line family, graduated second in his class at Harvard, and became a Philadelphia lawyer. But appearances, then as now, could be deceiving. As the New York Times noted in its Jan. 1, 1922, obituary of the man: “Although his size made him somewhat ponderous in appearance, Senator Penrose was very quick-witted and was not slow physically.”

The same Times obit noted that Penrose cheerfully waded into every one of the many bitter factional squabbles that took place in Pennsylvania’s Republican politics. The biggest of these fights was the one he picked with Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. Teddy Roosevelt was enormously popular in Pennsylvania, however, and Penrose eventually lost control of the state's delegation at that summer’s Republican convention.

The intra-party split between President Taft and TR delivered the White House to Democrat Woodrow Wilson (perhaps a cautionary tale to Sen. Bernie Sanders and his legion of “Bernie Bros”), and Roosevelt also bested Penrose by carrying Pennsylvania that year on the Progressive Party ticket.

Boies Penrose remained in the Senate, however, where he was known for opposing Prohibition and supporting tariffs -- like our current president on the latter issue. Penrose took ill in 1920, but vowed to attend the Republican convention in Chicago “if it kills me.” He recovered later -- although not in time to make the convention -- but his warning was prescient. In late 1921, Boies Penrose fell ill again, dying on New Year’s Eve, a little before midnight in his apartment at the Wardman Park Hotel, where revelers were seeing in the New Year.

Carl M. Cannon  
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

Show comments Hide Comments