What is a Mugwump?
Wikipedia states that The Mugwumps were Republican political activists who bolted from the United States Republican Party by supporting Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, in the presidential election of 1884. They switched parties because they rejected the financial corruption associated with Republican candidate James G. Blaine. In a close election, the Mugwumps supposedly made the difference in New York state and swung the election to Cleveland. The jocular word mugwump, noted as early as 1832, is from Algonquian (Natick) mugquomp, "important person, kingpin" (from mugumquomp, "war leader") implying that they were "sanctimonious" or "holier-than-thou" in holding themselves aloof from party politics.
There is now some disagreement with this definitive definitition as a result of the first hand account of one of the prime mugwumps of his day, Mark Twain...
In his autobiography, Mr. Twain states, "We, the mugwumps, a little company made up of the unenslaved of both parties, the very best men to be found in the two great parties - that was our idea of it... Our principles were high, and very definite. We were not a party; we had no candidates; we had no axes to grind. Our vote laid upon the man we cast it for no obligation of any kind. By our rule, we could not ask for office; we could not accept office. When voting it was our duty to vote for the best man, regardless of party name. We had no other creed. Vote for the best man-that was creed enough!"
Twain, goes on to state later in other writings that instead of being disloyal to a party, Mugwumps were being loyal to America.
In a more recent work, historian David Tucker (1998) attempts to rehabilitate the Mugwumps. To Tucker, their eloquent writings speak for themselves, and are testament to a high minded civic morality.
Once again, we are in a political climate where the hyperpartisanship of the parties hase become an impediment to process. Now, more than ever, we need Mugwumps. I suspect we have many in our midst. Likely, they neither know they are Mugwumps nor recognise how to bind others in this philosophy. One is thing is for certain, once they hear of the term and its history they know them when they see them and recognise the desparate need to propogate the philosophy and increase our numbers.