“Before he ever came to the White House, Rove fervently believed that the country was on the verge of another great shift. His faith derived from his reading of the presidency of a man most historians regard as a mediocrity, Anyone on the campaign trail in 2000 probably heard him cite the pivotal importance of McKinley’s election in 1896. Rove thought there were important similarities.
‘Everything you know about William McKinley and Mark Hanna’ – McKinley’s Rove – “is wrong, he told Nicholas Lehmann of the New York Times in early 2000. “The country was in a period of change. McKinley’s the guy who figured it out. Politics were changing. The economy was changing. We’re at the same point now: weak allegiances to parties, a rising new economy.’” – Green, The Atlantic.
Caro writes eloquently about the wave of Populism that briefly broke in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, and the hope it elicited:
“But the hope was vain; the cause was as lost as the one for which many of the Populists had fought thirty years before – Bryan’s campaign was gallant but underfinanced, and the Republican Party, run by Mark Hanna, who shook down railroad corporations, insurance companies and big-city banks for campaign contributions on a scale never before seen, won what one historian calls ‘a triumph for big business, for a manufacturing and industrial rather than an agrarian order, for the Hamiltonian rather than the Jeffersonian state.’… perceptive historians find great significance in the campaign of 1896 –‘the last protest of the old agrarian order against industrialism.’”
This from a July 1999 Washington Post story by David Von Drehle:
"The swami of McKinley Mania is Bush strategist Karl Rove, who got hooked two years ago during a class at the University of Texas. A tenacious student of political history, Rove dug deeply into the story of a canny, soothing heartland governor whose party was riven by tactical and religious squabbles. Raising money on a scale previously unimagined, while scarcely leaving his front porch, McKinley remade the party in his own charming image -- inclusive, pragmatic, noncontroversial. Republiicans dominated Washington for the next thirty five years."
David Brooks expounds on how profoundly unconservative a vision this was:
“Over the past six years, the Republican Party has championed the spread of democracy in the Middle East. But the temperamental conservative is suspicious of rapid reform, believing that efforts to quickly transform anything will have, as Burke wrote “pleasing commencements” but “lamentable conclusions.”
Hang in there with me. this is all coming together.