“The “Magnetic” Blaine;or, a Very Heavy “Load” stone for the Republican Party to Carry” 1880

Blaine's head sits atop of a magnet body
The Magnetic Blaine…by Thomas Nast, 8 May, 1880

On the eve of the 1880 Republican convention, Nast introduced one of his favorite targets, James G. Blaine, as a”magnetic man “who had attracted many undesirable political features” (Paine 425).

Nast dehumanizes Blaine by removing his human form (with the exception of his face) .

Blaine’s head rests upon a barrel of campaign funds. Nast reintroduces the “Mulligan letters” scandal of 1876 which had cost Blaine the presidential nomination. His personal magnetism draws close to Blaine references of past issues:“A Bloody Shirt Campaign,” Credit Scandal,”  “Fort Smith and Little Rock R.R. Bonds,” The Mulligan Letters,” “Machine Politics,” “Grant’s Cast Off Followers.” Center to the drawing, a Chinese man lies lifeless, a metal clip at the end of his queue affixed to the magnet. Next to the Chinese, a man in prison stripes rests his head along a declaration, “For Vice President Denis Kearney”  and lastly a silver dollar, acknowledging a controversy about using silver as currency. 

As a magnet of dubious attraction, Blaine is also rendered ineffective. His torso is missing. He has lost is manhood – his originality and bravery are neutered. At the end of his magnetic legs, Blaine’s feet are missing, disabling the presidential hopeful to take a  moral stand  His hands are flat and immobile at his side. Blaine is, in effect, paralyzed by his past positions, and is unable to disassociate or break the hold of his scandalous and immoral past.

As Morton Keller has observed, with Grant no longer in the political arena, Nast lost his sense of passion for Republican personalities and his perception of their shift away from the moral compass where social issues were concerned.

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