From Henry Clay Versus James Polk to Donald Trump Versus Hillary Clinton: Has Much Changed?

When I was a little boy in Richmond, Indiana, my parents decided to go to the drive-in to see the new Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift movie Raintree County. There must have been a kids movie before it, parents all counting on children being asleep in the backseat by the time the main feature started–this had to have been during the summer of 1958 and I was six years old.

Anyhow, instead of sleeping, I was entranced by the movie, and vividly remember the discovery of the lost little boy at the end–and the tree that everyone missed.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I read the Ross Lockridge novel the movie is based on, and only then that I realized that the fictional setting of the movie was just west of Richmond. I loved the book, and have returned to it often. This morning, I was reminded of the description in it of election day, 1844. I want to share it in anticipation of tomorrow, both in terms of how much has changed–and how much hasn’t:

A lot of men went around swatting people on the back and laughing fiercely. T. D. put a paper in the ballot box. Things got louder as the night came on. Bonfires burned on the Court House Square. The family had a big feed in the wagon, and after that Johnny slipped off into the crowd with his brother Ezekiel, who was two years older  and a lot bigger. They watched some men hitting each other and yelling things about God, Polk, and Clay over in front of the Saloon. A man was knocked down and had his coat torn off. A woman came up shrieking and grabbed at the man lying on the sidewalk, so that Johnny didn’t see how he could get up if he wanted to. Zeke disappeared for a while, and when he turned up again, he was grinning all over his face and said he had just beaten up on a goddern kid that admitted he was a Democrat. Zeke showed his knuckles all skinned and bruised.

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