Fixing Florida; Tech's Dark Shadow; Problem Solvers; Wilson, War and Women

Good morning, it’s Friday, November 16, 2018. On this date 100 years ago, Woodrow Wilson issued a Thanksgiving proclamation to a grateful nation.

“This year we have special and moving cause to be grateful and to rejoice,” the 28th U.S. president told a war-weary nation. “God has in His good pleasure given us peace.”

He continued: “Complete victory has brought us, not peace alone, but the confident promise of a new day as well in which justice shall replace force and jealous intrigue among nations.”

Wilson’s 1918 optimism would prove to be misplaced in all respects. Yes, Armistice Day had brought an end to what was then called the Great War. But its terms were so punitive toward Germany that it set in motion events that would lead to a second worldwide conflagration even more destructive and gruesome than the first. World War I led directly to the rise of Nazism, a totalitarian Communist takeover of Russia, and the exporting of a virulent form of anti-Semitism to the Arab world. 

The institution that Wilson foresaw as replacing “force and jealous intrigue” — the League of Nations — never really took hold in his lifetime. In large part, this was because the deadly horrors of European politics caused Wilson’s own country to retreat to an isolationist “America First” posture that was appealing, if unsustainable.

If the First World War can be said to have had any positive effect, however, it was here in the United States. I’m talking about how the war shaped the suffrage movement, an idea I’ll explore in a moment.

First, I’d direct you to our , which aggregates an array of columns and stories spanning the political spectrum. We also offer an array original material from our own reporters and contributors this morning, including the following:

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DeSantis Has Two Years to Fix Florida Voting. A.B. Stoddard that the problems plaguing the state’s major races this year could mar the presidential election if the new governor does as his predecessor did and ignores them.

Problem Solvers on Cusp of Breakthrough. Joe Lieberman the election of Democrats and Republicans committed to a House rules reform package that could ease the dysfunction and tribalism in Congress.

Perils to Democracy Posed by Big Tech. Kalev Leetaru the challenges to free speech posed by social media policies intended to rein in fake news and hate speech.

Mark Zuckerberg Meets the Press. In RealClearLife, Diana Crandall the Facebook CEO’s press conference yesterday in response to a scathing New York Times report.

McCain Didn‘t Kill GOP Health Plan. In RealClearPolicy, James C. Capretta the history of failed Republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Could Be Game Changer for 5G. Also in RCPolicy, Pranjal Drall the benefits of the acquisition and responds to its critics.

RCP Book of the Week: “The Rise of Andrew Jackson.” In RealClearBooks, Max Diamond this new account of the outsider president and his contemporary significance.

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Woodrow Wilson, like every presidential candidate who preceded him, was elected in 1912 almost exclusively by men — women could vote only in a handful of Western states. When he arrived in Washington for his inauguration, the throng he expected to find at Union Station hadn’t materialized. “Where are the people?” he inquired.

Watching the parade, he was told.

Remember the Women’s March the day after Donald J. Trump’s inauguration? Suffrage leader Alice Paul did the feminist leaders of the 21st century one better: She organized a march along the presidential parade route the day before Wilson’s inauguration.

It set up a competition between these two strong-willed Americans that lasted through most of Wilson’s presidency. By mid-1917, Alice Paul and her platoons of suffrage activists were picketing the White House daily. At first, Wilson was chivalrous; encountering a female protester, he’d tip his cap and say hello. Today, many would consider this patronizing, but what came next was much worse.

Wilson had won his second term on a promise to keep the United States out of World War I. This was a pledge he could not keep, and as American boys began dying on the battlefields of France, Wilson’s attitude toward the women picketing his residency hardened. With democracy on the line in the lethal trenches across the Atlantic, the president believed these women were missing the big picture. But this is exactly what Alice Paul thought about Wilson.

“There will never be a new world order,” she proclaimed, “until women are a part of it.”

In any event, with the president’s imprimatur, Washington, D.C., police began arresting the protesters and taking them to jail. When they went on hunger strikes, these women were force-fed, a procedure that generated increased sympathy for them. I can’t cite public opinion polls that would prove this to the satisfaction of a political scientist — such surveys did not exist in 1918 — but what seems to have happened was this: As American public opinion turned against U.S. involvement in Europe’s war, it turned in favor of the suffragists.

Woodrow Wilson certainly detected this shift. It appears to have occurred inside his own mind.

He helped turn the tide on September 30, 1918, when he finally came out in favor of what would become the 19th Amendment.

“We have made partners of the women in this war,” the president said in a speech to a joint session of Congress. “Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right?”

The midterm elections of 1918 solidified the suffragists’ momentum. Republicans captured both houses of Congress from the Democrats that year, a vote that was widely seen as a repudiation of Wilson’s foreign policy. But suffrage was a strong undercurrent that year, and on that issue, the GOP was more progressive than Democrats — and had been for many years. 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter .