Comparing Candidates Careers, 1928


Presidential candidate Herbert Hoover waving his hat while on a western driving trip in Duluth MN, (1928)1928-61. 

There is a long tradition of proxies stumping for their candidate using whatever tools come to hand.  In 1928, Archie Rice, a Stanford classmate of Herbert Hoover, produced a small flyer advocating for Hoover based on summary biographies comparing candidates’ careers.  On the front cover, Rice identifies himself as an analyst of news and football [1928’s version of Nate Silver, without the crunchy data].

On the back cover, Rice comments on the character-forming influences on the two men running for President.  Surrounding Smith, Tammany and its record of 140 years of patronage and public favors [read corruption].  Surrounding Hoover, the Stanford spirit and its ‘appreciation of the blessings of this Government, a reverence for its institutions, and a love of God and humanity.’

Leaving as the credentials of Rice [and his obvious bias in favor of his Stanford chum], the flyer offers nearly eighty points of comparison between Hoover and Smith.  These include some basic biographical data: age, education, occupation at various stages of life, number of men managed, years of government service, managerial experience, and highest office held.  These criteria stand the test of time; they are arguably germane.

Other points of comparison are of more dubious importance: number of books written, number of gold medals won, honorary degrees earned, number of states lived in, religion, height and weight.  While some of these may be relevant to the character of the man, they seem distant from either Smith or Hoover’s qualifications to be President.

Some points of comparison are just mysterious: preferred style of hat, favorite recreation, has milked a cow, and wife’s special accomplishment.  One is left to ponder whether a man wearing a fedora is more qualified to be President than a man wearing a derby, to wonder whether weekends spent fishing carry more weight than weekends spent golfing, to consider just how often the President will be called on to milk a cow, and whether his wife’s singing voice should come into play in a voting booth.

Of course, this was 1928.  Things were quite different then.  Now we are all civilized men and women.  Voters in 2016 would not be swayed by such low-brow politicking.

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