Posts Tagged ‘Democratic presidents’

Andy Thomas’ portraits of the presidents

December 1, 2018

Andy Thomas is an artist noted for his popular group portraits of Republican and Democratic Presidents.   He makes interesting choices in how he portrays them, which I will discuss.  Read on only if you are interested in political and historical trivia.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge.

The light in the two paintings is from above, and falls on the faces of Donald Trump (white shirt, red tie) and Barack Obama (white shirt, blue tie).

Abraham Lincoln, the first and greatest of the Republican presidents, is shown with his back to the viewer.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, arguably the greatest of the Democratic presidents, is shown likewise.  But Andrew Jackson, the first Democratic president, is shown off to the upper left side and in shadow.

When I was younger, Democrats honored Jackson as one who stood up for the common man, or at least the common white man, against wealthy merchants and powerful bankers.  We overlooked his being a slave owner and respected him for being an Indian fighter.  That’s not how liberals and progressives think today.

Jackson, by the way, was the first President to be nominated at a party convention.  All the previous Presidents were nominated at congressional caucuses.

Notice that Obama is looking away from Jackson and also from Woodrow Wilson at the far right of the painting.  When I was younger, Democrats honored Wilson as a political reformer and overlooked the fact that he was a segregationist.  Not any more!

Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson are dressed formally.  We can’t see, but I assume that Lincoln’s and FDR’s suit coats are buttoned and they are wearing neckties.  

Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are shown in ties and vests, as they might do working in an office a century ago.  Donald Trump and Barack Obama also are dressed for office work.  So is Bill Clinton, although Clinton does not appear to have a tie.

Richard Nixon almost always wore a dark suit, but he is shown here with his suit jacket unbuttoned and I’m guessing he’s not wearing a necktie.  The older George H.W. Bush, standing, and the younger George W. Bush, seated, are shown wearing suits, but without neckties.

Harry Truman‘s white shirt and light-colored vest show him also dressed for work.  In one of Thomas’ older paintings, he is shown in the kind of flamboyant Hawaiian shirt he wore during vacations in Key West.

Dwight D. Eisenhower is dressed as if getting ready to play golf.  John F. Kennedy is dressed as if getting ready for a day on his yacht.  

Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson are dressed as if getting ready for a day at their respective ranches.  Gerald Ford is dressed for leisure generically.

Jimmy Carter is dressed as if getting ready for a day’s work in the family peanut warehouse or on a Habitat for Humanity project.  In one of Thomas’ older paintings, he is shown in a cardigan sweater of the kind he wore when giving a TV address on energy conservation.

The choice of beverages for the Presidents also is interesting.  Donald Trump is a non-drinker and is shown with a Coke.  George W. Bush struggled with a drinking problem before he went into politics and has what looks like iced tea.  Abraham Lincoln has a glass of water.


Racism and the four great Democrats

November 4, 2011

In the 1950s and 1960s in Washington County, Md., there was an annual Jefferson-Jackson Day picnic, in which Democrats would eat Southern fried chicken and corn on the cob, and listed to speeches about the four great Democratic champions of the common people.

We listened to praise of:

  • Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, upheld religious and intellectual freedom and fought the powerful financiers represented by Alexander Hamilton.
  • Andrew Jackson, who championed the common people and freed the young United States from the grip of powerful national bank.
  • Woodrow Wilson, who fought corruption and monopoly and created a vision of a peaceful world based on independent, self-determining nations under the rule of international law.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal established firewalls and safety nets against a future Great Depression, and led the nation to victory in war against the Axis.

The Republicans had their Lincoln Day picnics, and listened to speeches in praise of the Great Emancipator.

As I grew older and read more history, I came to realize the importance of what was left out.  The first two were white Southern slaveholders and racists, the third was a white Southern segregationist and racist, and the fourth accepted white Southern racism as a permanent reality which he had to deal with.

The great humanitarian reformers that we Unitarian Universalists honor – Horace Mann, creator of the public school system; Theodore Parker, the abolitionist; Susan B. Anthony, the advocate of women’s emancipation; Samuel Gridley Howe, the champion of the blind, and so on – were almost all Whigs and Republicans.

The 19th century and early 20th century Democrats were the champions not of  all the people, but of the white working man and often of white supremacy.  They opposed a hierarchy of wealth, but not of race.  There was a difference.  But the great New England Unitarians and transcendentalists had blind spots, too.  They favored emancipation of black people in the South, but most of them were indifferent to the struggles of the Irish immigrants in their midst.  If some of them sought to erase distinctions based on race, most of them insisted on distinctions based on social class and formal education.