Blaine, with a Chinese queue, bangs on a drum

“Boom! Boom!! Boom!!!” – 1 May, 1880

Blaine, with a Chinese queue, bangs on a drum
Boom! Boom!! Boom!!! 1 May, 1880, by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly. Source: UDel-Walfred. Public Domain
Regarding the upcoming presidential election of 1880, President Rutherford B. Hayes declined to run for an additional term, thus leaving the Republican nomination up for grabs.

In 1876 Maine Republican James G. Blaine launched his first bid for the U.S. Presidency. Although he promoted himself as a favorite, and indeed he was a popular and strong candidate, his campaign was derailed by scandal. From the beginning neither Harper’s editor George W. Curtis or Thomas Nast were fans of Blaine.

In Boom! Boom! Boom!!! Nast pokes fun of Blaine and his attempts to reinvigorate excitement for his candidacy and Blaine’s belief that his nomination was assured. The term “boom” was widely used in politics at the time. Today the term “buzz” would be analogous. The Republican field was crowded and competitive with former president U.S. Grant tepidly allowing his name to be placed in nomination along with Blaine and John Garfield of Ohio.

In 1876 bid Blaine had been deeply humiliated by Nast’s Chinese cartoons (Paine 420). In an effort to court votes, Blaine included anti-Chinese rhetoric in his speeches. Nast saw Blaine’s pandering as a betrayal of Republican values of inclusion. Nast repeated his attacks on Blaine in 1880.

In January 1880, Blaine wrote to the artist directly, in reaction to depicting Blaine as a plumed Indian, and asked Nast to reconsider victimizing him in his cartoons. There is no record of a Nast reply, other than a continuation of the cartoons.

Blaine over campaigned in California and Nast ridiculed him continually. Blaine bangs his own drum and Blaine is shown in Chinese clothing and wearing a long queue.

 Nast put little stock in popular trends or booms. A graveyard of self-aggrandizing “boomers” is seen laid to rest in the background.

Nast would repeat attacks on Blaine in 1884 when the politician tried for a third try for the presidency. Despite Blaine’s earning the party nomination, the third attempt would not prove to be the charm.

For Nast, Blaine’s third attempt marked the end of an era. Blaine embodied, better than any other politician of his generation, the transformation of the Republican Party and of American politics – from the social and ideological commitments of the Civil War era to the blander organization style of the Gilded Age (Keller 324). Disillusioned by his own Republican Party, Nast’s own passion for politics also waned after Blaine’s final attempt for the presidency.

 

 

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