Looking for the right politician to be POTUS in 1916 - the most crass vote-panderer we can find

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
Hey all, I am looking to have office of the US Presidency, during WWI, and in the peacemaking immediately after, occupied by a politician with maximally flexible principles, possibly reelected in 1916, and seeking to cement their legacy or a third term in 1920, or even better, elected for the first time in 1916, therefore eligible for reelection in 1920, seeking the office, and of the mind to see peacemaking in a (small) part about making a better, more peaceful and just world, a (small) part making a world safer for America and befitting its security and economic interests and - most of all, maximally appealing to the greatest number of ethnic 'vote banks' of Americans who he thinks he can make feel indebted to him and gain support for his or his successor's reelection and historical and post-Presidential acclaim.

Folks - of major American politicians in the 1910s, who should I be looking at? And how can I go about getting them nominated and into office on time for Germany to go off the deep end with unrestricted submarine warfare and the Zimmerman Telegram - the conditions I think would cause almost any President to get into WWI?
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
Bob LaFollette. He was one of THE peace candidates during WWI, staunch Progressive, and was known for his huge rivalry with TR.
So the idea would be to get him elected somehow as POTUS in 1916, and his version of ethnic vote pandering under these circumstances would be,......staying out of war with Germany no matter what, even post U-Boat warfare, with the attempted side benefit of winning the acclaim and loyalty of German-American voters, Irish-American (anti-British) voters, quite possibly Jewish-American and Polish-American (anti-Tsarist Russian) voters and Scandinavian American voters (often with a bit of a leftward lean and with neutral homelands), and just Americans keen to stay out of war not out of any ethnic anti-Entente/pro-CP reasons?

Or even Bob LaFollette, reluctantly, in the face of everything like US ships sunk every week and the Zimmerman Telegram, has to go with the tide, declare war on Germany, and send the boys over there, but he advocates for soft, almost compromising peace on Germany when the latter looks ready to throw in the towel, in addition to making sure at Versailles every other ethnic group he's heard of in Wisconsin, and plenty more he learns of while campaigning and governing nationally, gets some territorial spoils? So he harps on Ireland at Versailles, endorses the Balfour declaration more than Balfour, counts the votes at stake and decides the more numerous Italians are right on the Fiume and Dalmatia questions instead of the less numerous Jugoslavs?
 

dcharles

Banned
Bob LaFollette. He was one of THE peace candidates during WWI, staunch Progressive, and was known for his huge rivalry with TR.

I wouldn't describe him as a "pandering" man of "maximally flexible principles." He was ideologically minded and strongly principled.
 
So the idea would be to get him elected somehow as POTUS in 1916, and his version of ethnic vote pandering under these circumstances would be,......staying out of war with Germany no matter what, even post U-Boat warfare, with the attempted side benefit of winning the acclaim and loyalty of German-American voters, Irish-American (anti-British) voters, quite possibly Jewish-American and Polish-American (anti-Tsarist Russian) voters and Scandinavian American voters (often with a bit of a leftward lean and with neutral homelands), and just Americans keen to stay out of war not out of any ethnic anti-Entente/pro-CP reasons?

LaFollette was known as one of those odd Republicans who had nearly a Democratic understanding of ethnic voting blocs, so this actually fits :) His biggest criticism of WW1 was not that he was a pacifist (he wasn't) but two fold: 1) he was a staunch isolationist and believed in following Washington's dictates on avoiding foreign entanglements and 2) he was concerned (rightly) that the war would be used to turn back Progressive reforms or prevent further reforms from happening. I'd also add that, unlike Roosevelt, he showed a pretty strong understanding of party building. Though this isn't going to be enoug hto suddenly turn the Republicans into a staunchly Progressive Party (there will always be a Stalwart faction) given eight years of pushing for reforms, keeping the US out of the war, and using patronage and the ol bully pulpit, he probably strengthens the Progressive faction significantly.


Or even Bob LaFollette, reluctantly, in the face of everything like US ships sunk every week and the Zimmerman Telegram, has to go with the tide, declare war on Germany, and send the boys over there, but he advocates for soft, almost compromising peace on Germany when the latter looks ready to throw in the towel, in addition to making sure at Versailles every other ethnic group he's heard of in Wisconsin, and plenty more he learns of while campaigning and governing nationally, gets some territorial spoils? So he harps on Ireland at Versailles, endorses the Balfour declaration more than Balfour, counts the votes at stake and decides the more numerous Italians are right on the Fiume and Dalmatia questions instead of the less numerous Jugoslavs?

LaFollette certainly believed in the US as a force of good in promotion liberal democracy and standing strong against the monarchies of Europe. I do believe that if anyone would keep the US out of the war, it would be Fighting Bob, and his isolationism would make it difficult for him to meddle too much in the affairs of the rest of the world. But he'd probably promote many of those causes as best he could.
 
I wouldn't describe him as a "pandering" man of "maximally flexible principles." He was ideologically minded and strongly principled.
Oh, most certainly not. He COULD pander at times (he was a successful politician) but he was about as strongly principled of a man as you could find. I apologise, I skimmed over parts of the OP and missed that bit - my mind keyed in on an anti-war politician who could have kept the US out of the war. But yes, Bob was many things, Flebibly principaled is NOT one of them!!! :D
 
Hey all, I am looking to have office of the US Presidency, during WWI, and in the peacemaking immediately after, occupied by a politician with maximally flexible principles, possibly reelected in 1916, and seeking to cement their legacy or a third term in 1920, or even better, elected for the first time in 1916, therefore eligible for reelection in 1920, seeking the office, and of the mind to see peacemaking in a (small) part about making a better, more peaceful and just world, a (small) part making a world safer for America and befitting its security and economic interests and - most of all, maximally appealing to the greatest number of ethnic 'vote banks' of Americans who he thinks he can make feel indebted to him and gain support for his or his successor's reelection and historical and post-Presidential acclaim.

Folks - of major American politicians in the 1910s, who should I be looking at? And how can I go about getting them nominated and into office on time for Germany to go off the deep end with unrestricted submarine warfare and the Zimmerman Telegram - the conditions I think would cause almost any President to get into WWI?

What about William Randolph Hearst? Not my period, but he's always seemed to be a potential maverick president in the right timeline, and certainly he's got the flexible principles you're looking for.
 

dcharles

Banned
If you're looking for someone with no principles who can appeal to ethnic blocs, I might research the Penrose Machine in PA (Republican), and the Murphy-Sullivan era of Tammany in New York (Democratic).
 
He doesn't quite work for 1916, but if you accelerated William Hale Thompson's career by a few years he's almost purpose built for this question. A venally populist mayor of Chicago, quite corrupt, and stridently opposed to American involvement in WWI due to him angling for the German-American vote (and also being so anti-British that he once threatened to punch King George 'in the snoot' if he ever visited America).

If Thompson were elected mayor of Chicago a cycle earlier, he might end up as someone's running mate in 1916. You kill that person off shortly after the inauguration and voila, President Thompson just in time for preparedness and tensions with Mexico.
 
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raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
He doesn't quite work for 1916, but if you accelerated William Hale Thompson's career by a few years he's almost purpose built for this question. A venally populist mayor of Chicago, quite corrupt, and stridently opposed to American involvement in WWI due to him angling for the German-American vote (and also being so anti-British that he once threatened to punch King George 'in the snoot' if he ever visited America).

If Thompson were elected mayor of Chicago a cycle earlier, he might end up as someone's running mate in 1916. You kill that person off shortly after the inauguration and voila, President Thompson just in time for preparedness, the Lusitania and tensions with Mexico.
This one is very interesting, but I almost need the opposite of what's bolded. Not in terms of up front campaign platform (because I do not think war-mongering in advance would win), but I want somebody who does get into the war or certainly somehow gets into a position to really steer European borders.......and aren't I right to think they are more 'steerable' with Entente victory and with US participation, than with the US sitting it out?
 
Daugherty was a backroom guy, but Harding certainly fits the unprincipled provision. However, my vote goes for Hearst. He wanted it and IIRC his only strong conviction was what was best for Hearst was good enough for the USA.
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
Daugherty was a backroom guy, but Harding certainly fits the unprincipled provision. However, my vote goes for Hearst. He wanted it and IIRC his only strong conviction was what was best for Hearst was good enough for the USA.
I wonder if there's a way we could somehow get Daugherty or Harding elected POTUS in 1916, after having some Democrat in office the previous term, like Bryan, Clark, Wilson, or somebody else, and they are seen as lackluster enough to replace.
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
What about William Randolph Hearst? Not my period, but he's always seemed to be a potential maverick president in the right timeline, and certainly he's got the flexible principles you're looking for.
Indeed, let's keep talking about Hearst. I believe he was in OTL adamantly opposed to enterring the war against Germany and opposed to siding with Britain, and certainly Japan. He saw Japan and Mexico as bigger threats to the USA than Germany. But is it possible that in the aftermath of unrestricted warfare being announced and three US ships being sunk in a week, followed by the Zimmermann Telegram, that Hearst feel compelled to declare war on Germany.

However, like Wilson, Hearst differentiates America's cause from the overall Entente, remaining an Associated power', cobelligerent against Germany with them, but not allies strictly committed to a series of common postwar political goals. That leaves Hearst free to really try to put his own stamp on the Peace Treaty.
 
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