Presented by Fisher Investments: Biden and Guns; Torture Silence; Eliza's Mission

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Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. A new poll of registered New Hampshire voters has Mayor Pete Buttigieg surging to a significant lead in that state’s Feb. 11 Democratic presidential primary. This survey, done by the respected Saint Anselm College Survey Center, now has a 37-year-old small-city Indiana mayor leading five sitting U.S. senators and a former vice president.

A CBS poll done only a week earlier, however, showed Elizabeth Warren in a commanding lead, with Joe Biden second, Bernie Sanders third, and Buttigieg fourth. That survey was conducted YouGov, a research firm with a solid track record. In other words, you can view these results and come away with a divergent deductions.

One logical assumption, as the 2020 field assembles tonight for a debate in Atlanta, is that the Democrats’ primary electorate is still very impressionable. Another is that horse-race polling in a large field nearly three months before an election is equal parts art and social science. Either way, I’d submit to you that it underscores the wisdom of RealClearPolitics’ pioneering, and still unsurpassed, practice of averaging polls.

Yesterday, I wrote about the Gettysburg Address, delivered on Nov. 19, 1863. This morning, I will use the Battle of Gettysburg to tell you about Eliza Farnham, an extraordinary American historical figure, a woman at the forefront of nearly every leading social cause of her age and someone who helped the wounded in that besieged Pennsylvania town days after the fighting ended. 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:

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Biden, From Pro-Gun Senate Newbie to Gun-Control Gold Standard. Phil Wegmann tracks the 2020 candidate’s nearly five-decade evolution on the issue.

Wisconsin Elections Panel Sued for Not Cleaning Up Voter Rolls. Mark Hemingway has the story.

Dem Candidates Should Commit to Act on Torture Report. Mark Udall urges those taking the debate stage tonight to address a topic rarely discussed on the campaign trail -- if at all.

Iraq’s Chance. In RealClearWorld, Stephen Rasche warns that the future of pluralism in Iraq’s political system hangs in the balance as protests mount against the Shiite-controlled government.

Congress Must Take Control of Money Back From the Fed. Alex Pollock offers a history lesson for lawmakers in RealClearMarkets.

Apprenticeship Programs Reach an Inflection Point. In RealClearPolicy, Eric Seleznow writes that replacing retiring workers in key industries requires a commitment to age-old training programs.

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Eliza Farnham (nee Eliza Woodson Burhans) was born 204 years ago this week in Rensselaerville, N.Y. Although little is known about her parents, Eliza’s mother died when she was 4 and she and her four siblings were scattered among their relations. Eliza was given to the care of an aunt and uncle, a home life she later described as characterized by “neglect and hardship.”

She studied briefly at the Albany Female Academy before going to live with a married sister in Tazewell County, Ill. At 20, she married a local attorney originally from New England named Thomas Jefferson Farnham. Thomas Farnham may have been a country lawyer, but mainly he was an adventurer with a wanderer’s soul. The couple headed back to New York state. But as soon as Farnham ensconced his new wife in a house in Washington Hollow, outside Poughkeepsie, he headed out West. His widely read 1841 book, “Travels in the Great Western Prairies,” made him famous and only whetted his appetite for adventure. He traveled the Oregon Trail, sailed to the Sandwich Islands and then to California’s Monterey peninsula, helped get some American prisoners released from a Mexican prison, and went back to San Francisco, where he died in 1848.

Eliza lived and worked with him for a while in California, but she developed her own passions and her own voice as a writer. She became active in the political and social movements of her day: abolition, women’s rights, and prison reform. In 1844, she was put in charge of the women’s division of New York’s Sing Sing prison. There, she ushered in a series of reforms ranging from allowing inmates to talk to each other -- believe it or not, this was not the practice -- and forming reading groups.

Her evolution as a feminist thinker was an interesting one. Her first published essay, in 1843, argued against political rights for women on the theory that it would subvert their influence. In 1849, she tried to recruit more than a hundred women to travel to the Gold Rush fields on the theory that it would take wives to civilize California. (Three or four actually made the trip with her.) By 1859, however, Eliza was addressing the National Women’s Rights Convention in New York City, where she espoused her belief that women were not men’s equals -- they were superior to men.

These sentiments were never uttered by Eliza Farnham in a mean or spiteful way. She loved her fellow human beings, male and female, and had enough energy and empathy for a battalion of volunteers. One contemporary of hers described her this way: “She has nerves alone to explore the seven circles of Dante’s Hell.”

She’d need all that fortitude and more when she got to Gettysburg the night of July 7, 1863. She described the scene she found in a letter to a friend in California. Here is an excerpt:

When we reached the place we were bound to, there appeared before us avenues of white tents under the green boughs, and many men moving about. But good God! What those quiet looking tents contained! What spectacles awaited us on the slopes of the rolling hills around us! It is absolutely inconceivable, unless you see it. There are miles of tents and acres of men lying on the open earth beneath the trees. I never could have imagined anything to compare with it. Dead and dying, and wounded, in every condition you can conceive after two days in such a rain of missiles. Old veterans who have seen all our battles, say that there never has been such firing anywhere for more than half an hour or so, as there was here for the greater part of nine hours. No wonder that men who were rushing upon and through and upon it, should be torn to pieces in every way. I worked from ten till half past four, without five minutes cessation, in spreading, cutting and distributing bread and butter. Such thankful eyes and stifled voices, and quivering lips, from poor fellows without legs, or arms, or hands, or terribly wounded otherwise, who had seen nothing but hardtack since they were hurt!”

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

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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