Birtherism Bites Back: Samuel D. Burchard and Donald Trump

donald trumpThe presidential race seemed neck and neck. Then, at a crucial moment in a crucial state, a big-time supporter of one candidate slammed the opposition, big time.

He meant to rally the party faithful. But he fired up the opposition, which used the slur to make hay with swing voters.

The insult might have cost the candidate the election.

The year was 1884. The loser was Republican James G. Blaine. The slammer was the Rev. Samuel D. Burchard.

Could Donald Trump, because he’s off on another birther tear, be Romney’s Burchard?

“Birtherism is a fringe issue that’s way out of the mainstream, and it’s disturbing when you see people you … have some level of respect for, whether it’s members of Congress or even Donald Trump, falling into that category,” CNN quoted Steve Schmidt, a senior advisor in Sen. John McCain’s 2008 campaign.

Birtherism is cool with a lot of tea party tilting Republican white folks who still aren’t that cool with Romney. Hence, he hasn’t flat told Trump to clam up.

Rev. Samuel D. Burchard

Rev. Samuel D. Burchard

Evidently, the candidate of “America’s values” wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Romney just let a staffer put some distance between the candidate and birtherism. “I can’t speak for Donald Trump, Gloria, but I can tell you that Mitt Romney accepts that President Obama was born in the United States,” Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN’s Gloria Borger. “He doesn’t view the place of his birth as an issue in this campaign.”

That doesn’t mean Romney won’t rub elbows with Trump — or take his money — any more. The candidate was expected to be with the birther Tuesday in Las Vegas for a big fund raiser at Trump’s hotel. Newt Gingrich was supposed to be tagging along, too.

Everybody knows Trump is twice-divorced (like Gingrich). It’s also not a secret that Trump is a hedonistic high roller who loves to live it up in the Big Apple and Vegas. Burchard was a mild-mannered Manhattan Presbyterian preacher who foreswore booze. But like Trump, Burchard knew how to play the pander card.

Burchard’s barb irked Irish Catholics, most of whom usually voted Democratic.

A lot of Irish-Americans lived in New York City. Blaine and Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate, believed whoever won the Empire State would probably win the election.

All along, many well-heeled Republican WASPs scorned the sons and daughters of Erin who came to America ’s shores. They dissed them as brawling, lazy, low-life “papist” drunks who, along with the other “refuse of Europe,” were ruining the country (and supporting Cleveland’s party).

romney and trumpElection day was November 4. On October 29, with Blaine in the audience, Burchard gave a speech in New York City to a gathering of Republican pastors, denouncing the Democrats as the party of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.”

“Rum and Romanism” meant “Irish-American.” “Rebellion” was a dig at the Democratic party’s Southern base. (Most of the Confederate leaders were pro-slavery Democrats.)

Anyway, the Democrats jumped all over “Rum, and Romanism,” especially Tammany Hall, New York City’s crooked Democratic machine.

Tammany hadn’t done much to help Cleveland because he was a reformer. Many Irish-Americans were skeptical of Cleveland because Blaine claimed he was pro-British.

Burchard’s bonehead blather revved up Tammany and riled up Irish-Americans all over the country.

The Blaine campaign immediately switched to damage control mode. Blaine’s defenders protested that their man might not have heard the preacher.

berry craigEven Burchard realized he blew it. He belatedly said he got carried away with “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” and insisted he wasn’t anti-Irish-American or anti-Catholic. Blaine quickly said he wasn’t either and disavowed Burchard’s bigotry. (Blaine’s mother was an Irish-American Catholic.)

It was too late. New York and the election were lost.

On the other hand, Trump shows no signs of backing away from birtherism. Mum’s the word from Mitt about it and not just because he doesn’t want to cross the tea partiers.

Trump’s one of Romney’s prize cash cows. He has has raked in big bucks for Romney.

On June 28, The Donald will host another fund raiser for Romney at his Las Vegas lodgings. Trump is crazy about Vegas, though it’s the desert Sodom to the Jesus-loves-me-But-He-can’t-stand-you crowd. (Of course, boozing, betting and divorce are okay in their book if you’re part of the anti-Obama crusade.)

Meanwhile, Republicans like Schmidt keep warning that birtherism won’t play among independent voters in Peoria – places like Pasadena , Portland and Poughkeepsie , too.

Berry Craig

“In the middle of the electorate, people think [birtherism is]…bats–t crazy,” Schmidt warned, according to CNN. “The side that’s seen flirting with it doesn’t do themselves any favors.”

For sure, Schmidt doesn’t play in GOP uber-righty circles. The true believers regularly rip him as a “RINO” – “Republican in Name Only.”

Anyway, after the election, Blaine called Burchard “an ass in the shape of a preacher” whose big mouth was a big reason Cleveland got elected. If Obama wins again, will that make Trump an ass in the shape of bigoted, bloviating narcissistic plutocrat?

Berry Craig

Posted: Monday, 28 May 2012

About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.

Comments

  1. Hwood007 says:

    This ws a good topic but I rather think you muffed it.  I do wonder why you made the twice married comment which is not a rare circumstance in Ameria.  I am twice wed, did the second in 1967 after the first ran off with another guy while I was overseas. She out did me, having had three husbands, none of which left her as she left all three.  Best thing that ever happened to me.  But still it looked like you were dumping slime on the guy for being married twice.
    As for the wild ideas that the “donald” has, they compare in thoughtless words given by others, whom you seem not to issue an opinion.  I could name a lot of loons, many from both sides of the political fense.  Some who seem to call ladies on the right, things I would not call anyone.  No compaint from you, let your team call anyone anyting they wish.  You need to hold your standards to everyone and not cherry pick only nut bags from the right as nut bags are everywhere.  

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