Chris White has five bobbleheads on his desk: Steve Carlton, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, and Franklin Pierce. What? Franklin Pierce? Ah, the rest of the story is told in this fun to read essay. Teaser excerpt here:
Most of history is people mired in mediocrity or tragedy—those who tried to live up to a father’s example, or couldn’t control their drinking, or were paralyzed by grief. Most of history is people who were products of their time—Franklin was nobody’s first choice in 1852, but he fit a profile Democrats wanted: young Northern guy who tolerated slavery, had decent hair and could claim some military experience. He was bland by design. (Plus the name “Pierce” allowed for campaign knives, and if poll workers are sporting machetes, that’s good for a few votes.) Was he wrong to reach for the brass ring? Wouldn’t you?
It’s easy to care about a Lincoln or a Washington—they give us so many mattress sales. But greatness is a relative condition. There is no Lincoln without Pierce, and when you ignore those who failed, you miss out on the humanity of the past. You miss out on the reassuringly universal stories that will play out again in our future.