Papa, My Bull Moose Grandfather

Jul 29, 2016 | 0 comments

Papa's Souvenir Bookmark

Papa’s Souvenir Bookmark

On June 22, 1912 my grandfather wrote home from Chicago:  The convention is over – or maybe I should say conventions are over – and both Taft & Roosevelt are nominated.  I had a hand in the latter but none in the former.

H. A. Espy — “Senator Espy” to his Pacific and Wahkiakum County constituents, “Harry”to his friends, and simply “Papa” to his seven children – had been an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention.  It was at that convention that Teddy Roosevelt tried, but failed, to win the presidential nomination and, in consequence, founded his own party, the Progressive, so-called “Bull Moose” Party.  Papa was a Bull Mooser.

I couldn’t help thinking about Papa last night as I watched the balloons and confetti rain down on Hillary Clinton after her acceptance of the Democratic nomination for President.  The differences between Papa’s situation in 1912 and mine in 2016 couldn’t be more extreme and yet it was the similarities – especially the ones that didn’t happen – that I thought about.

Senator H. A. Espy, 1912

Senator H. A. Espy, 1912

As a Bernie supporter, I held out a faint hope that he, like Teddy Roosevelt of Papa’s time, would somehow be nominated, possibly right along with Hillary, as Roosevelt was with Taft.  But, as pleasing as Roosevelt’s nomination was to his Bull Moose followers, it was that split among Republicans that enabled the Democrats to win both the White House and a majority in the Congress that year.

All these years later, Sanders knew better and, no doubt, took a lesson from history.  His goal, was to unify, not split, the Democratic Party and so he and his followers remained on the convention floor last night.  “Never Trump” said the signs; “Hold your nose and vote for Hillary — and hold her feet to the fire,” said one of the delegates.

Last Night at the DNC

Last Night at the DNC

I wonder what Papa would have said, had he been watching the convention with us last night.   Just like in 1912, he’d have seen history being made but also, perhaps, he would have had some words of wisdom about historic lessons learned.  I wish I could have that conversation with him.


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