Some food for thought on President's Day ... the last and only time our country has had three Presidents in a row be elected to and serve two full terms prior to Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama was Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe (our founding fathers). Why is it that nearly 200 years has passed since we have seen three consecutive Presidents each serve 8 years in office? Usually when a President serves two or more full terms (or close to two full terms), he is considered to have had a successful administration and brought stability to the country as in the case with our founding fathers or more recent Presidents like Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan. However, hardly any historians will rank Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama in the top 10 and even the top 20 is questionable. All three of those Presidents definitely come with some baggage.
Reflecting on the Presidential elections since 1992, it seems that the party that wins is usually the party that puts someone up for nomination who is a DC outsider and represents some sort of change. On the flip side, it seems that the party that loses usually goes with someone who happens to be "on deck" or "it's his or her turn" to run for President. Here is a quick rundown of all Presidential races since 1992.
- 1992: Bill Clinton beats George H.W. Bush. Clinton is a young, energetic governor from Arkansas while Bush was the incumbent. Bush did win an election in 1988 as it was "his turn" to run after serving 8 years as VP for Reagan but his popularity took a huge nose dive with the recession and backtracking on "read my lips, no new taxes."
- 1996: Clinton is re-elected when he beat Bob Dole in a landslide. It was Dole's "turn" to run but didn't represent someone who can truly unseat Clinton. The strong rebound in the economy helped Clinton tremendously and this was before the Lewinsky scandal began to boil over.
- 2000: George W. Bush beats Al Gore in an epically close election. It was Gore's "turn" to run as he served 8 years as VP. Seems that serving 8 years as VP doesn't mean much in terms of Presidential election success considering that Nixon lost in 1960 to JFK, Bush Sr. lost in his re-election bid, and Dick Cheney and Joe Biden have faded into obscurity after leaving public office. George W. of course had ties to DC with his father as POTUS but the younger Bush was still a DC outsider by spending time as owner of the Texas Rangers and governor of Texas before becoming POTUS.
- 2004: George W. wins again but this time against John Kerry who happened to be "the next one up" for representing the Democrats for the Presidential election.
- 2008: Obama becomes the first person of color to become US President by defeating John McCain. McCain was a strong candidate in 2000 but of course didn't win the Republican nomination back then. It was McCain's "time" to run in 2008 but Obama ran a very successful campaign and a majority of Americans wanted to see change in the White House after the economic meltdown and housing crisis that began to surface right before the election.
- 2012: Obama beats Mitt Romney, who like McCain, was "up next" for running for POTUS. The Republicans clearly lacked creativity in their choice for nomination.
- 2016: Hillary Clinton can be put in the same category as Dole, Gore, Kerry, McCain, and Romney as someone who happened to be "on deck" for POTUS considering that Hillary came close to being nominated in 2008 and had a lot of experience in public service. Donald Trump represented someone far different than what most people are used to in a Presidential candidate: no public service experience and a DC outsider.
Consider all of those who lost: Bush Sr., Dole, Gore, Kerry, McCain, Romney and Clinton. All of them had been lifelong politicians in DC and were considered viable candidates well before it was "their turn" to run. To me this seems like a big mistake if a party wishes to win the White House. Now consider who won: Clinton twice, Bush Jr. twice, Obama twice, and now Trump. Obama was a senator before becoming POTUS but was still quite green. All of them represented something different than the usual DC politician and promised some sort of change.
The point I am trying to make is that if the Democrats wish to win the White House in 2020, it will be tough to do so given that the last 3 Presidents were all re-elected even though their 1st terms were not considered very successful by any means (economy was strong with Bill Clinton but you have to credit the tech boom and dawn of the Internet for that). Basically the Democrats cannot just settle for whoever is "up next". Unless something really egregious happens (like the economy collapsing or something like Watergate coming to surface) and unless the Democrats find a candidate who is a DC outsider with a lot of charisma, Trump could very well serve two full terms as POTUS.
Would love to hear opinions on this analysis from my US History teacher friends on Facebook or anyone else that loves this kind of presidential geekdom! Happy President's Day!