Henry A. Wallace was a lot better at growing tomatoes than he was at holding onto the office of the Vice Presidency.
Did you know that FDR was so good at being President, what with being reelected three times, that he ran through three separate Vice Presidents? Because he did. After John N. "the Vice Presidency isn't worth a bucket of warm piss" Garner was ousted, but before Harry S. "Missouri Compromise Candidate" Truman was brought in, America was treated to the reign of Henry A. "farms and Russian cultists" Wallace in the office of Vice President. Henry A. Wallace was born in Iowa, went to Iowa State where he was in what appears to be a less-crappy-than-most fraternity, Delta Tau Delta.* He married a woman named Ilo, edited a farming magazine, and helped found Pioneer Hi-Bred, which is a giant agricultural hybrid-farming conglomerate now owned by DuPont, and second only to Monsanto. Which, if you do enough fucking around on Wikipedia for blog posts and/or the writing of trivia questions, you will realize has a hand in everything and is probably giving us at least 34% of our cases of cancer.** Have I mentioned that I know a DuPont? But this is neither here nor there. You've come to be educated about slightly obscure historical figures! Back to Henry A. Wallace!
H.A. was raised Presbyterian, but shrugged off that boring nonsense pretty early on. Starting in the twenties, he was an adherent of Russian theosophist Nicholas Roerich (Actually Николай Константинович Рерих) who, as far as I can tell, was some sort of awesomely-bearded artist who made up a type of yoga and wrote lots of books with his wife about energies and light and shit. Anyway, Wallace wrote him letters, calling him "Guru," that came back to bite him in the ass later in his political career. You know, after he'd become a respectable Episcopalian.
But so after gaining a reputation as an agricultural expert, Wallace was appointed Secretary of Agriculture under FDR in 1933, which is a job his dad totally used to have a decade earlier! He had been a liberal Republican, but jumped on the Democratic/New Deal bandwagon when he joined Roosevelt's team. And in 1940, he was asked to be FDR's new running mate. You know, they won, despite the "Guru letters" surfacing. Wallace was like, "Those are totally fakes. That Roerich guy's a weirdo!" Also, his party threatened to expose their Republican opponent's extramarital affair.*** So, they dropped it. FDR put Wallace in charge of supplies or something during the war, and apparently he didn't fuck shit up too badly, since we ended up winning the war. However, Wallace had a talent for pissing people off. Like conservative Democrats, FDR, Winston Churchill, the Department of Commerce, etc. The Commerce kids didn't like that Wallace went to Latin America during the war and exchanged commitment to the Allied cause by twelve new countries for labor clauses that would, you know, help Latin Americans get paid living wages and shit. It's a good thing we got people like Milton Friedman AKA America's Most Influential Evil (Economic) Genius to reverse that!
Annnyway, Roosevelt & co. were pretty much done with him ruffling feathers as the Vice President, and asked Truman to be the new No. 2. They placated Wallace by throwing him a bone as the new Commerce Secretary (bet his new underlings loved that!), but Truman ended up firing him after only a year or so in office. You know, after FDR died and Wallace should've been next in line. He had said that he would put people in his cabinet that were later exposed as Communist spies, so it's probably for the best that that didn't work out anyway. Wallace spent the next few years criticizing the Truman administration's containment policies as editor of The New Republic. He was drafted as the Progressive Party candidate in 1948, sporting a platform that advocated for voting rights for blacks and the end of segregation. Also, universal fucking health care. If Henry A. Wallace hadn't come in fourth place (behind Strom Thurmond) in that election, we might already have bureaucratic socialized medicine! If only. Not like he was going to win anyway, but those sketchy Guru letters resurfaced and totally creeped the voters out. LESSON TO BE LEARNED: If you want to run for office one day, don't become obsessed with crazy religious leaders who happen to be citizens of one of your nation's greatest enemies.
Much to everyone's surprise, Wallace ended up reversing himself on Cold War issues, becoming an anti-Communist and supporting Eisenhower and the Korean War. Before he died, he helped develop an incredibly popular chicken breed,**** and there's a huge fucking agricultural research center named after him in Maryland. He died in 1965 of Lou Gehrig's Disease. That sucks.
Anyway, Henry A. Wallace was a religiously-confused farmer who helped lead the country through some of its craziest times during the mid-century. He never made it to the top slot, but we can only imagine what kind of shenanigans would have ensued had he succeeded.
*One of the founding members was a Freemason, however. You may say, "Lauren, why are you so obsessed with the Masons?" "Well," I might reply, "Because I want everybody to realize how wrapped up its members are in our country's history. Also, they are secretive and sketchy and patriarchal and HAVEN'T YOU SEEN NATIONAL TREASURE?!"
**The other 66% is divided pretty evenly between cell phones, Nalgenes, and breathing the air around us.
***I hope these weekly history lessons emphasize at least one thing to each of you: politics has always been populated by lying scumbags. This is the nature of the beast.
****"Popular chicken breed." Haha.