Best Republican President Also Ran-No Contest-Charles Evans Hughes

Looking at defeated Presidential nominees by party is an oft done conjecture.  Several names pop up among Democrats.  For the Republicans the choice, for me, is simple-Charles Evans Hughes of New York.  Hughes was an idealist but tempered this with a deep respect for individual rights and the rule of law.  In other words,  CEH tempered his ideals with a strong dose of realism.

The Republicans nominated Charles Evans Hughes at their convention in Chicago  in 1916. The Democrats had President Woodrow Wilson, who was running for reelection.  Hughes is the only person I feel was better qualified for the Presidency than the incumbent.  Hughes was the Governor of New York State, winning in 1906 and 1908.  { A two year term  is futile and this has changed in most states}  In 1910, President William Howard Taft nominated and the Senate easily confirmed  Charles Evans Hughes for an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.  As a Governor and Judge, Hughes had a consistently liberal record involving the support of organized labor, education, and civil liberties.  He also helped reform corrupt corporate practices, especially in utilities and insurance.  Many of these companies had grossly high rates.

As indicated,  Hughes left the bench to run for President for the Republican Party in 1916.   President Wilson in his first term had a record of good though somewhat flawed liberalism.  It was obvious that, by 1916, that foreign policy would be far more important.   World War I was raging in Europe and the United States had to face it in one way or another.  Hughes repeatedly stated that we should give more aid to the Allied Powers and even impose sanctions on Germany.  Wilson’s plank was strict neutrality.  The motto for his re-election was “He kept us out of War. ”  At first blush, it seems like those wanting to avoid war would vote for President Wilson.  Here though is where the plot gets a novel twist.

Though he preached neutrality, President Wilson’s acts were with no question Pro British and anti-German.  The President

–suspended economic aid and trade  licenses with Germany but increased them with Great Britain;

–complained about the German blockade of the English Channel but said nothing about British actions in the Balkans;

–said Germany wanted to establish an Empire;  Great Britain already had one;

–protested against the  Unrestricted Submarine War of Germany; Great Britain, with control of the seas, did not need to use this tactic.

–correctly condemned the  German invasion of Belgium; but the Germans did nowhere near the damage the newspapers claimed;

–correctly condemned the German’s sinking of the Lusitania; but it was also carrying munitions to England and France and had no business sailing in a war zone.

With Hughes, the Presidents  action would have been consistent would have be consistent with his words and therefor easier to oppose.  In like manner, Barry Goldwater may have been preferable to Lyndon Johnson for those who wanted to stay out of Vietnam.  President Wilson won in 1916 with 30 states and 277 Electoral Votes to 18 states and 254 Electoral Votes to Charles Evans Hughes.  The outcome was in doubt for days.  Wilson won California by just under 3,000 which gave him a majority.   What kind of President would Hughes have made?  To be continued.   


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