Rum, Romanism and Rebellion: Entrepreneurs, capitalism are the Irish Catholics of 1884.
“We are Republicans, and don’t propose to leave our party
and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been
rum, Romanism, and rebellion.”
— Reverend Dr. Samuel Burchard, 1884
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his
own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I
want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the
rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to
educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and
fire forces that the rest of us paid for.”
— Elizabeth Warren, ex-Obama aide, Harvard professor, and Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate, 2011
It is one of the more startling surprises of the 2012 campaign season thus far.
Professor Elizabeth Warren recasts herself as the new Reverend Samuel Burchard.
Setting herself up, the Harvard professor-turned-Obama aide-turned rookie-Democrat U.S. Senate candidate in liberal Massachusetts (she is seeking the seat held by Republican Scott Brown) is transforming herself into the ultimate national political albatross for President Obama and Democrats across the country.
In the same way that an obscure Presbyterian minister became one for the GOP — in 1884. When the minister spoke words so nationally controversial they lost his party the White House — after six straight presidential victories.
The history first.
It was the blunder that lost the presidency.
And it wasn’t even made by the presidential candidate.
Addressing a meeting of Republican supporters at a posh New York City hotel, with Republican presidential nominee James G. Blaine, a former House Speaker and Secretary of State, on the platform, the politically inexperienced Reverend Burchard took the podium. The clergy, Burchard said smoothly to the nominee and all in the crowded room in front of him, were supporting Blaine. On he went, and, in the way of the occasional preacher got carried away with the sound of his own voice. It took mere seconds for the pastor of the Murray Hill Presbyterian Church to exhibit his alliteration skills.
And out came the vow never to identify with the party of “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.”
In the audience, a shorthand reporter hired by the Democrats scribbled the verbatim and quickly departed to deliver Burchard’s words to his employers.
Hearing them, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee knew immediately what to do. Said the DNC chair to his staff: “See to it that the statement is in every newspaper in the country by tomorrow.”
And so it was that the alliterative phrase seen instantly and widely as a slur against Catholics — Irish Catholics in particular who were legendarily opposed to the push for Prohibition — not to mention all those Democrats for whom the cause of the Confederacy was still dear, became the ruinous political blunder historians record as losing the presidency for Republican favorite James G. Blaine.
The Burchard blunder, made a mere week before the end of a campaign, was the proverbial fish in the barrel for Democrats. The hapless Blaine, thought set to win, had reportedly not even noticed the remark much less issued any kind of on-the-spot reprimand to Burchard. Not only did the Democrats make sure news of the remark made “every newspaper in the country by tomorrow.” Literally overnight thousands of handbills with “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” printed in big bold print flooded the Irish Catholic precincts of New York.
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