Time Capsule: Prohibition Party’s 1948 Candidate for President Barred From Voting for Himself

Claude A. Watson, the Prohibition Party’s candidate for president, was unable to vote for himself in 1948.

Watson and his wife had requested that absentee ballots be mailed to them in Winona Lake, Indiana, where they were attending a church convention, but had decided to return to their home in Highland Park, a suburb of Los Angeles, sooner than expected.  It wasn’t until they landed in Los Angeles that Mrs. Watson discovered that she had inadvertently placed their absentee ballots in a suitcase that was being returned to the couple’s home by automobile.

An ordained Free Methodist minister and longtime lawyer who once played minor-league baseball, Dr. Watson — not to be confused with the companion and chronicler in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes novels — was determined to cast his vote in the presidential election.

“I’m going down to my precinct and swear out an affidavit that I haven’t voted today,” he told reporters after arriving back in Los Angeles.  “Under the election laws, they must then permit us to vote.”

Unfortunately, local election officials disagreed, telling the dry standard-bearer that he and his wife wouldn’t be allowed to vote without first surrendering their absentee ballots — an impossibility considering the car carrying their absentee ballots wasn’t expected to arrive in Los Angeles for a few more days.

The dignified Prohibitionist quietly acquiesced rather than cause a scene in front of his neighbors at his local polling station.

Competing against a field of much better-known rivals, including former Vice President Henry A. Wallace, nominee of the left-wing Progressive Party, and marble-mouthed Dixiecrat J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the little-known Watson’s colorful style of campaigning drew considerable media attention that autumn.

Furious that Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson had refused to grant him a permit for air travel during the 1944 presidential campaign — a privilege reserved exclusively for the two major-party candidates that fall — Watson obtained his pilot’s license and purchased a new airplane shortly before the 1948 campaign began.

Crisscrossing the country in his single-engine Stinson Voyager, the ubiquitous Watson made up for his virtual anonymity by seemingly appearing everywhere, logging more than 100,000 miles by air during the ’48 campaign.

Small towns and big cities throughout the country received a visit from the pink-cheeked presidential hopeful who wanted to reduce teen pregnancy and passionately believed that national prohibition had failed only because of the “disgraceful and scandalous failure of enforcement.”

Unlike his party’s previous nominees for the Oval Office, the biographically-neglected Watson — a man who liked to defy the odds and once surprised everybody by garnering a remarkable 332,173 votes in a hopelessly long-shot bid for Los Angeles district attorney — knew how to get attention.

In one widely-reported publicity stunt, he even managed to send his wife, Maude, on a tour of the White House to prepare a list of alterations she would make when he became president.  “We’ve already planned for a redecorating scheme when the Democrats move out,” he told reporters in late July.

Claude and Maude couldn’t wait to take up residence in the grand, but neglected mansion.

Though prevented from voting for himself, Watson garnered a relatively impressive 103,489 votes in 33 states that year — the party’s strongest showing in a presidential election since 1920, shortly after the enactment of national prohibition — while finishing sixth nationally, barely 36,000 votes behind the Socialist Party’s widely-recognized Norman M. Thomas who was waging his sixth and final bid for the presidency.

It was the last time a Prohibition candidate for the presidency surpassed the 100,000-vote threshold.

It was also a noticeable improvement over the nearly 75,000 votes cast for Watson as the party’s nominee in 1944 — a year when he and the Socialist Party’s Thomas easily fended off little-known Pennsylvania steelworker Edward A. Teichert, the Socialist Labor Party’s nominee, in their battle for third-place bragging rights.

Watson, then nearly an octogenarian, briefly sought the Prohibition Party’s presidential nomination again in 1964.

32 thoughts on “Time Capsule: Prohibition Party’s 1948 Candidate for President Barred From Voting for Himself

  1. Traditionalist

    He may have had a point, perhaps the failure of prohibition was a failure of enforcement. That’s certainly been the case in the unnecessary and disastrous surrender in the ostensible war against drugs, which is very much winnable, as President Duterte is once again proving in the Philippines. Likewise, Vietnam could have and should have been won.

    But, in retrospect, if I had been old enough to vote in 1948, Strom Thurmond would be my choice. As with 1968, when we came a lot closer to actually getting it done, enough votes in the upper south to win their electoral votes could have sent the election to the House, which could have allowed Thurmond, or even more plausibly Wallace 20 years later, to extract enough concessions from the eventual winner to end the disaster of forced desegregation and federal overreach along with all the tremendous harm they have done our nation in all the decades since.

    In 1968, victory was well within sight. Wallace ignored the advice of all his advisors and neglected the winnable “border states” in favour of reaching the White working class in the North and West, and although he did well in the early polls there – for example winning a plurality of White steelworkers in Chicago – Nixon clawed them back with the stick of the wasted vote and the carrot of some watered down law and order rhetoric. Wallace could have gone all the way in 1972, as well, winning both the primaries and general election, but for a would be assassin who maimed him. He was never the same since.

    None of those near misses in 1968 or 1972 could have happened except for Strom Thurmond in 1948. Thurmond’s role in giving our people a fighting chance isn’t appreciated enough these days. The Reagan and Trump Democrats, the Buchanan Brigades…we all owe him a great deal, looking back on it.

  2. Richard Winger

    Strom Thurmond wasn’t on the November 1948 ballot except in southern states, plus North Dakota. Does Tradionalist live in the south?

  3. Traditionalist

    I’d rather not discuss what states I lived in or when. It could have been that it would have been a write in vote, or he may have been on my state’s ballot. I will say that I did cast a write in presidential vote once, for Buchanan in 2004, despite his weak performance in 2000 and even weaker return to the Bush led GOP of the time. I was aware who Peroutka and Badnarik were, vaguely, but practically no one I knew had heard of them. That seemed like it would have been a more meaningless protest vote than Buchanan, even though they were on the ballot and he wasn’t.

  4. Andy

    “Traditionalist
    January 6, 2022 at 10:31
    He may have had a point, perhaps the failure of prohibition was a failure of enforcement. That’s certainly been the case in the unnecessary and disastrous surrender in the ostensible war against drugs, which is very much winnable, as President Duterte is once again proving in the Philippines. Likewise, Vietnam could have and should have been won.”

    If people want drugs, or alcohol, which is a drug, they will find a way to get it, even if it means they have to grow it or make it in their own home. Prohibition just creates a black market, and also a forbidden fruit syndrome, and the more draconian the prohibition, the greater the black market, and the greater the forbidden fruit syndrome, becomes.

  5. Andy

    “Traditionalist
    January 6, 2022 at 12:36
    I’d rather not discuss what states I lived in or when. It could have been that it would have been a write in vote, or he may have been on my state’s ballot.”

    You claimed to remember when FDR was President. Given that FDR died in 1945, I think you’d had to have been at least 3 or 4. I’ve got a good memory, and my earliest memories are from when I was 2, but I did not know who or what a President was back then. How old was I when I knew who the President was? I know I knew at age 5, but maybe age 4. I am not sure if I knew at age 3 or not.

    So how old were you when FDR was President?

  6. Traditionalist

    A little older than any of the ages you mentioned. Barely not old enough to vote for President in 1960, when the voting age was still 21. Old enough to remember FDR and wartime rationing. Thank you for your persistent concern as to my age, name, and whereabouts, but I’d prefer to discuss issues.

    The drug war is winnable. See Dutetre today, or China in the 19th century opium wars.

  7. Traditionalist

    I should read a bit more carefully. Andy did mention age 5, which I somehow missed until I read it again just now. But far more importantly, if your forbidden fruit theory is correct, how do you think China won its war against opium?

  8. Andy

    “Traditionalist
    January 6, 2022 at 12:58
    A little older than any of the ages you mentioned. Barely not old enough to vote for President in 1960, when the voting age was still 21. Old enough to remember FDR and wartime rationing. Thank you for your persistent concern as to my age, name, and whereabouts, but I’d prefer to discuss issues.”

    I’d be more interested in only discussing issues if you came out from hiding behind a fake name.

    “The drug war is winnable. See Dutetre today, or China in the 19th century opium wars.”

    If the drug war was winnable, it would have been won a long time ago. Also, you assume that there’s no government corruption, like government officials using and dealing drugs themselves, or acting as enforcers for drug cartels who pay them off.

  9. Andy

    “Traditionalist
    January 6, 2022 at 12:58
    A little older than any of the ages you mentioned. Barely not old enough to vote for President in 1960, when the voting age was still 21. Old enough to remember FDR and wartime rationing.”

    So you are 82 or 83 years old. Not too many people your age posting on message forums online. A lot of people your age don’t even use computers.

    This of course assumes that you are not BS’ing us.

  10. Traditionalist

    The drug war has never really been fought in this country. It was declared as a goal, but never truly pursued seriously. I’m not assuming anything, but again, see the Chinese war against opium in the 1800s. They faced government corruption and every other problem we face today. They won the war through widespread use of the death penalty.

    Instead of letting 100,000 plus people a year and growing die from overdoses, why don’t we execute that many smugglers, growers, manufacturers, dealers, and users? At that rate, I don’t believe it would take many years to win this war, and many more lives would be spared in the long run. Again, if it were impossible no matter what we did, how did those Chinamen do it?

  11. Traditionalist

    Perhaps Andy’s difficulty with logic is related to his difficulty with arithmetic and memory. To be 83 today, I would have had to been born on or before January 6, 1939. That would have made me eligible to vote in November, 1960.

    As we already discussed in the last few days, a higher percentage of people aged 82 use computers and computer message forums than the percentage of all voters who voted for Jorgensen, yet I don’t doubt that Andy actually did vote for her. If I were to tell you what month and day I was born, which I won’t, it would turn out that well over 99% of people my age were not born on that day of that month. Likewise, if Andy revealed the month and day he was born, which I’m not asking for. As we also discussed, I bought my first personal computer in 1978, and first used Usenet in 1982 or 1983.

    I don’t particularly care if you believe me or not. I’m not going to prove any of them, or tell you my name or where I live, and it doesn’t matter how many times you ask. I only point out our amateur executive’s lapses in arithmetic and memory to further underscore the logic problem he is having difficulty with: he says a war against drugs can’t be won, even in the face of historical and present day counterexamples. At least, I certainly hope he is an amateur detective. If he’s a professional, he should be fired immediately, and his employer or clients should demand a full refund!

  12. Traditionalist

    Correction: amateur detective, not executive. Although, were I a corporate board member, I’d be wary of an executive with such poor arithmetic, memory, and logic skills, as well.

  13. Andy

    ” Traditionalist,” you must be a coward. You are too chicken to come out from hiding. This shows a lack of courage in your convictions.

  14. Andy

    How many of those drug overdoses were from legal drugs prescribed by a doctor?

    Lots of people die every year from unhealthy diets, and/or not getting enough exercise. Way more than die from drugs. Should the government mandate what foods people eat and force people tp exercise?

    It sounds to me like you want a nanny state.

  15. Sammy H

    This makes a good case for modern voting reforms that make it easier to cast a ballot. I disagree with everything this man stood for but he and his wife should have been allowed to cast a vote.

  16. Traditionalist

    Andy, I’m not a coward in the least. Your uncharitable guessing aside, there are many reasons someone may wish to protect their privacy, many of which are entirely legitimate. You don’t have to like it, but I have legitimate reasons to protect my privacy, and I shall do so. I don’t need to, and won’t, discuss what those reasons are. My opinions either stand up to logical examination, or they do not. Anything else is a distraction.

    The drug overdoses I mentioned are from illegal street drugs. The legal prescription overdoses are a separate category. I don’t support a nanny state. The problem with drugs and addiction goes far beyond mortality. It has to do with the destruction of the American and Western mind, character, family – in short, it’s a wholesale chemical and biological war waged on this country and a nerve agent attack on our people.

    It destroys our neighborhoods, law and order, schools, workplaces, and quality of life. The normalization of drugs, along with family breakdown, obscenity, and sexual perversion of all kinds, and their promotion through popular “culture” and even what passes for highbrow art these days, is an Integral part of the cultural Marxism attack on American and the West, our heritage and values.

    Did you read the essays I posted in the open thread, particularly about the decline of bourgeois family values? It didn’t happen by accident. We have real enemies, and drugs are one of the most insidious ways they have been breaking us down and destroying us.

  17. Traditionalist

    It’s already far too easy to cast a ballot. Rampant cheating is making elections meaningless theater.

  18. Jared

    National elections are meaningless theater not because of voters cheating, but mainly due to ridiculously unfair ballot access restrictions and an outdated, unrepresentative electoral system that favor the establishment duopoly at every turn. If you aren’t a sucker for American retail politics, then you have no real options. If you are, then you’re just a fraction of a pawn in a friendly game between the DNC and its donors and RNC and its donors.

  19. Andy

    “Traditionalist
    January 6, 2022 at 17:49
    Andy, I’m not a coward in the least. Your uncharitable guessing aside, there are many reasons someone may wish to protect their privacy, many of which are entirely legitimate. You don’t have to like it, but I have legitimate reasons to protect my privacy, and I shall do so. I don’t need to, and won’t, discuss what those reasons are. My opinions either stand up to logical examination, or they do not. Anything else is a distraction.”

    Tanslation: “I’m not a coward. I just post online under different fake names because I’m afraid to say anything under my real name.”

    LOL!!!

  20. Andy

    “Traditionalist” said: “The drug overdoses I mentioned are from illegal street drugs. The legal prescription overdoses are a separate category. I don’t support a nanny state. The problem with drugs and addiction goes far beyond mortality. It has to do with the destruction of the American and Western mind, character, family – in short, it’s a wholesale chemical and biological war waged on this country and a nerve agent attack on our people.”

    So you said that 100,000 people overdose on illegal drugs every year. Out of a country with over 331 million people, that’s really not that many people.

    Did anyone force them to take drugs, or did they make their own choice to do this? I mean, somebody must have forced them to swallow or inject these illegal drugs, right? These people have no agency, and certainly they did not make this choice themselves?

    It sounds like Social Darwinism to me.

    So you want to build up a big nanny state to prevent a relatively small group of people from making bad choices about what they put into their own bodies.

    ” I don’t support a nanny state. The problem with drugs and addiction goes far beyond mortality. It has to do with the destruction of the American and Western mind, character, family – in short, it’s a wholesale chemical and biological war waged on this country and a nerve agent attack on our people.

    It destroys our neighborhoods, law and order, schools, workplaces, and quality of life. The normalization of drugs, along with family breakdown, obscenity, and sexual perversion of all kinds, and their promotion through popular “culture” and even what passes for highbrow art these days, is an Integral part of the cultural Marxism attack on American and the West, our heritage and values.

    Did you read the essays I posted in the open thread, particularly about the decline of bourgeois family values? It didn’t happen by accident. We have real enemies, and drugs are one of the most insidious ways they have been breaking us down and destroying us.”

    You act like drugs are some kind of new invention, that only came around in the 1960’s, and that it is drugs that are responsible for moral decay. Drugs have been around for thousands of years (and this includes alcohol, which IS a drug). They are nothing new.

  21. Traditionalist

    Good morning, Andy.

    My interest in privacy has nothing to do with fear, no matter how many times you mischaracterize it. I also don’t want a nanny state. I do want a real war against chemical and biological war against our nation and its people.

    Yes, drugs existed before the 1960s, but in that decade cultural Marxists began to peddle promotion and tolerance of dangerous illegal drugs on a widespread basis. Along with forced secularism, demographic transformation, federal overreach and destruction of states rights, the expansion of the welfare state in LBJ’s “great society,” the widespread promotion of obscenity and sexual immorality of all kinds, the breakdown of the family – it’s transformed our country, much for the worse. Had you seen it before, you’d see what I mean.

    Drugs have been a huge part of that, and Nixon promising we would wage war against it was empty rhetoric. It’s past time we do fight back, and start executing those who side with the enemy. Wars against drugs have been won, and are still being won now. We can, should, and must win ours.

  22. Andy

    “Traditionalist” said: ” I do want a real war against chemical and biological war against our nation and its people.”

    Then you ought to focus on stopping vaccine mandates, and taking fluoride out of the drinking water.

  23. Andy

    “Traditionalist” said: “Yes, drugs existed before the 1960s, but in that decade cultural Marxists began to peddle promotion and tolerance of dangerous illegal drugs on a widespread basis. Along with forced secularism, demographic transformation, federal overreach and destruction of states rights, the expansion of the welfare state in LBJ’s “great society,” the widespread promotion of obscenity and sexual immorality of all kinds, the breakdown of the family – it’s transformed our country, much for the worse. Had you seen it before, you’d see what I mean.

    Drugs have been a huge part of that, and Nixon promising we would wage war against it was empty rhetoric. It’s past time we do fight back, and start executing those who side with the enemy. Wars against drugs have been won, and are still being won now. We can, should, and must win ours.”

    So you admit that drugs existed for a long time, thousands of years, yet they really were not that big of a problem until AFTER the government declared war against them and created a welfare state.

    The war on drugs itself, which creates a lucrative black market, and the welfare state, are bigger problems than the drugs themselves.

    I agree that drug abuse CAN be a bad thing, but the drug war and the welfare state make it worse than it would be otherwise.

  24. Andy

    “Traditionalist” said: ” but in that decade cultural Marxists began to peddle promotion and tolerance of dangerous illegal drugs on a widespread basis. ”

    The CIA actually pushed drugs.

  25. Traditionalist

    Andy, you got the timeline wrong. The cultural Marxists started openly celebrating and promoting drug use along with sexual perversion and obscenity on a wide scale in the mid 1960s. Nixon declared, deceptively, that we would fight back in 1969. He never really meant it, and never followed through. If he had, once he abandoned Vietnam – another winnable fight which should have never been abandoned – instead of mass immobilization, we would have had a real war against drugs.

    I’ll agree with you that the welfare state makes the problem much worse. So does the culture of widespread sexual immorality, irresponsibility, and family breakdown. So does the coddling of criminals and weak law enforcement. And widespread drug use is part and parcel of all this, destroying the national character and work ethic, and eating away at the support columns and foundations of our civilization. The drug culture helps keep the welfare recipients lazy, and it helps dull the minds of university students and policymakers and bureaucrats and everyone around and in between. The cultural Marxists couldn’t destroy our civilization nearly as fast or to the extent they have without their popularization and promotion of dope.

    What kind of war is it where you don’t shoot those fighting on the side of the enemy? The air force and navy should have been shooting drug planes and boats out of the sky. The Army should have been at the Mexican border. The Marine’s should have done counterinsurgency warfare on college campuses, ghettoes, hippie communes, drug labs and landing strips. The war was, and still is, winnable. The problem is that it’s not being fought.

  26. Traditionalist

    Andy, I’ve opposed vaccine mandates. As for fluoride, I’ve been involved with the JBS since its early days. We’ve sounded the alarm on that, most likely since before you were born. But you are mistaken if you don’t realize that dope is also a wholesale nerve agent attack on our nation and civilization by the Marxist enemy.

  27. Traditionalist

    The cultural Marxists push the message of hedonism ; “free love ” , filthy speech, “sex, drugs, and rock and roll, ” “if it feels good, do it.” They have led our culture to abandon faith, duty, family, tradition, patriotism, responsibility, honor, and all the things which made us great. Dope has been an Integral part of that process. To make America, and the West, great again, we must cut out the cancer of dope from our body politic.

  28. Andy

    “Traditionalist
    January 8, 2022 at 08:02
    Andy, you got the timeline wrong. The cultural Marxists started openly celebrating and promoting drug use along with sexual perversion and obscenity on a wide scale in the mid 1960s.”

    Yes, this is true, but drugs and alcohol (which is a drug) existed long before the Cultural Marxists of the 1960’s came along. These things existed for thousands of years.

  29. Andy

    “Traditionalist” said: ” If he had, once he abandoned Vietnam – another winnable fight which should have never been abandoned – instead of mass immobilization, we would have had a real war against drugs.”

    The Vietnam Conflict was totally unconstitutional and unnecessary. The USA entered it based on a lie, which was the Gulf of Tonkin incident, where it was falsely claimed that the Vietnamese attacked US Navy ships on the Gulf of Tonkin, which was a complete lie.

    The War on Drugs is also completely unconstitutional, and has only made things worse.

  30. Traditionalist

    I’ve already addressed the fact that the war against drugs is completely constitutional in past discussions. Do you have attention deficit, to where it has to be constantly copy and pasted repeatedly? The conflict in Vietnam likewise was constitutional. We can analyze that some other time, but at the moment I’d rather concentrate on arguing that it was necessary. The domino theory proved correct. The communist victory in Southeast Asia resulted in millions of violent deaths, millions of refugees, and many millions enslaved for decades. It also strengthened the hand of the communist cancer globally, which was by then already at a very advanced stage.

    You’re stuck on the fact that drugs existed, but fully fail to appreciate the fact that they were not promoted, celebrated, and spread widely throughout society until the cultural Marxists did that. I didn’t know one person who had to my knowledge used or even tried illegal drugs until well into my 20s. They were something which were known to be a problem among some musicians, beatniks, and in the ghettoes, and a source of revenue for organised crime. They were not something which was destroying the character and morale of our young people, students, troops, professionals, working men and women, parents and grandparents, families and neighborhoods in every part and social stratum of the country. That was deliberately engineered, and needs to be fought back against.

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