A Few Minutes with the Mayor – October 2016

Before addressing our tagline, here is the long-awaited announcement concerning a Public Citizen’s Day at the New City Hall. The date for the festivities is set for Friday, October 14th from noon until 1:00pm, complete with refreshments. Your hosts and hostesses will be the Belles and Beaus Old West/ Victorian Society of Jacksonville, who will also take you on a guided tour of the new offices manned by our City staff.

It’s going to be a party, a great chance to view the newly-restored building. It is your building… you, the citizens of Jacksonville, own it… not the government. You are the government.

And now… for the subject of our tagline! We’ll begin with the real.

If you think this has been a brutal campaign on the national level, you may be right, but it doesn’t even come close to the 1948 presidential election, which might be summed up as not only nasty but bizarre.

The combatants were the incumbent, Harry S. Truman, vs. Thomas E. Dewey, the Governor of New York. You could hardly find two more different men. Dewey, always the polished speaker, a natty dresser, and wearing a well-groomed mustache, was thought by everyone to be a shoe-in over Harry, who had weathered two years of being slandered as a communist because of the Yalta treaties, signed by F.D.R., which gave Russia’s Stalin control over all of eastern Europe… even Czechoslovakia. The media, almost universally Republican, (unlike today) was voracious in its daily attacks on Truman. Every day, their headlines shouted “had enough?” The Republicans proclaimed, “Remove the four C’s… Controls, Confusion, Corruption, and Communism.”

In addition, Dewey, the Governor of New York, had been given the nickname, “The Gangbuster” with his hugely successful drive against the Mafia when he worked as a federal prosecutor. Lucky Luciano went to jail because of him. Yes indeed… no one doubted Dewey would defeat Truman. But no one understood the effect that another nickname would have on him.

In 1944, four years earlier, Alice Roosevelt Longworth… daughter of Theodore Roosevelt… mocked Dewey as “The little man on the wedding cake.” His distinctive mustache and resemblance to Clark Gable, rather than being an asset, became a handicap. By 1948, her sarcastic description had turned off a large majority of women voters. On election night it was so bad that Oregon was the only state west of the Mississippi that Dewey won, resulting in a landslide for Truman. All because of a mustache!

Now for the Not So Real…

This October, we are going to do something we have never done before – repeat a film at Old City Hall. We ran this one during the last Presidential election because it is probably the best satirical film of election politics ever written.

The film is “The Dark Horse,” starring Bette Davis and Warren William, an actor who gives a superb performance as a corrupt campaign manager who seldom tells the truth, yet someone for whom you develop a rather perverse liking.

The story begins with a convention to nominate someone to run for Governor. With a political deadlock on the convention floor, a case is made for a “dark horse” no one has heard of. The trouble is, after the unknown candidate is chosen, he turns out to be completely unfit and unqualified for any office. When our not-so-ethical campaign manager is brought in to save the election, and is brought face-to-face with the candidate, his first response to the party leaders is, “That is the dumbest human being I have ever met.” What follows is a hilarious election campaign to convince the voters to actually vote for the fellow.

Now, I have to conclude, aren’t we glad our local elections are not like that?