There’s A Word for That: Mugwump

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Over the past few decades, every election seems to be “the most important election the country has ever faced” The midterm election on November 8 is no exception: it is appropriately seen by many political observers as a referendum on democracy — the fundamental right to vote and to have fair elections. Consider that in this election more than half of Republican nominees (300+) for Congress, governor, or secretaries of state deny or question the results of the 2020 presidential election. Despite the seriousness and urgency of this threat to democracy, there are some people who are not concerned and remain undecided about how to vote — they are mugwumps.

A mugwump is political slang for an independent voter or a person who is undecided. The word is derived from the Algonguian term mugquomp or muggumquomp, meaning “great chief,” used by the Massachusett Indians in the late1800s. The anglicized term, mugwump, came to mean “leader” or “decision maker.”

Another definition of a Mugwump (with a capital M) is a member of the reform-oriented faction of the Republican Party who declined to support the Republican candidate in the presidential election of 1884. In contrast to modern-day Republicans, Mugwumps were extremely opposed to political corruption of any kind. In that election, characterized by scandalous accusations and bitter mudslinging (see how politics doesn’t really change), voters had to choose between Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland, the governor of New York, and the Republican candidate, James Blaine, who was a Senator. The Mugwumps did not support Blaine due to numerous allegations of corruption and financial impropriety; moreover, they believed that he could not be trusted. Cleveland won by a narrow margin (48.8% vs 48.3% of the popular vote) and became the 24th President of the United States (1885-1889).

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Read related posts: Isaac Asimov: There is a Cult of Ignorance in the United States
Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Again?
What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will Be Governed by Idiots
Is the United States a Democracy or a Republic?

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