“Like Pissing Against the Wind”

Michael F. Holt

in The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195161045
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849635 | DOI:
“Like Pissing Against the Wind”

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More than any presidential election since 1836, the 1852 campaign focused on the character and reputation of the opposing presidential candidates rather than on alternative public policies. Southern Democrats' campaign tactics, northern Whigs' disgust with their platform, and the Democrats' selection of Franklin Pierce, a man particularly vulnerable to personal attack, all contributed to that focus. Their indistinguishable positions on the Compromise and the irrelevance of economic issues because of prosperity forced them to appeal for votes by contrasting their nominees. Despite the considerable problems faced by the Whig party, many Whig leaders, especially the party's high command who orchestrated the campaign from Washington, convinced themselves that victory was certain. Although some prescient Whigs had long predicted defeat in 1852, even a few of the previous naysayers converted and remained optimistic until the votes were cast. For the historian blessed (or cursed) with hindsight, explaining that confidence is far more difficult than explaining the outcome itself.

Keywords: presidential election; presidential candidates; Democrats; Whig party; Franklin Pierce; Compromise; Washington

Chapter.  21410 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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