Archive for the ‘History’ Category
As with all systems that aren’t manufactured, for instance casinos, sports is a highly unpredictable arena. But littered with experts from former players to journalists eager to give you their arrogant self-predictions for future seasons.
Every season for every sport, these experts publish their predictions in newspapers, magazines, and television shows(the latter particularly prone to bombastic proclamations of arrogance). The experts put on record every year(and every week) their elevated knowledge in the sports domain. Take a quick look at just how much these so-called professionals really know, and you’ll find that sports is as unpredictable as most everything in life. That guy on ESPN whose studied football for twenty years is probably no better at predicting the final NFL standings then you or me.
Take a look at ESPN’s preseason power ranking for the NFL. The error rate is astounding. Of the 16 bottom ranked teams, 5 of them made the playoffs this season. Two of the supposed three worst teams ended up with records 11-5 records(Atlanta and Miami). The Titans were ranked 16th and ended up with the best record in the league. The Jaguars, Saints, and Seahawks were all ranked in the top ten, but not one ended with a winning record.
So, you want to be President of the United States of America? Well, I’ve got your sure fire ticket to the Oval Office. Run for President against an incumbent party that presided over either an unpopular war and/or an economic recession. Getting on the ticket is your problem.
I alluded to this previously in a post and the issue resurfaced in the comments section for a post at The Blog At The End of the Universe. I thought it would be appropriate to track every major war and economic recession the United States has had post industrial revolution and how the subsequent Presidential Election evolved.
Pre-Industrial Revolution elections don’t qualify for one reason – exposure. The US economy prior to the Industrial Revolution was a localized economy centered around agriculture. It was not dependent upon trade or capitol investments. When one area of the country would enter into a recession, it did not predicate other areas to suffer likewise. In addition, the populace was not readily connected to ongoing wars and economic downturns occurring in other parts of the country and world. Simply, our economy and the population was not exposed to the ill effects of the economy and war.
The Industrial Revolution is widely considered to have fully transformed the US economy into a capitalist based one by the 1830-40s. It is here we will look at every major US war and recession, and what occurred during each Presidential Election during these events.
Recession 1837: Widespread bank failures due to speculation as to the strength in US paper currency sends the country into a 6 year recession. Democratic President Martin Van Buren presides over the beginning of the recession and loses in 1940 to Whig candidate William Harrison. Incumbent loses.
Mexican-American War: In 1845 President James Polk orders US troops into Mexico and begins a war that lasts until 1948. Democrat Polk loses his reelection bid to Whig Zachary Taylor. Incumbent loses.
Recession 1857: Democrat President James Buchanan is in office when the a railroad bubble in the United States bursts causing massive bank failures. The Republicans win the Presidential election in 1860. Incumbent loses.
American Civil War: Democrat Abraham Lincoln uses military force to prevent the South from seceding. War last until 1864 with Lincoln unifying the country and Lincoln is reelected. Incumbent wins.
Recession 1873: When the largest bank in the nation failed, the country was sent into a 6 year recession. Republican Ulysses S. Grant was the President at the time. In 1876, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes won the Presidential race in what is widely considered the most contested race in American history. Losing the popular vote and electoral vote to Democrat Samuel Tilden, the Republicans disputed the award of 20 electoral votes for Tilden. Eventually the Electoral Commission was formed to resolve the dispute as inauguration day was quickly approaching. With one more Republican on the commission then Democrat, Hayes was deemed the winner. Incumbent wins or did he?.
Recession 1893: The railroad industry takes a downturn causing investment to plummet sending the US into a recession until 1896. Democrat Grover Cleveland was in office during the recession and in the 1896 election Republican William McKinley wins. Incumbent loses.
Recession 1907: Late in 1907, the economy begins a long contraction. It persists until 1908 seeing production, imports, employment, and immigration all decrease. Bankruptcies increased to the second highest level of all time. Republican William Taft has the unfortunate luck to take office as soon as the recession hit. By 1912, Democrat Woodrow Wilson was residing in the Oval Office. Incumbent loses.
World War I and Recession 1918: Democrat Woodrow Wilson promised not to send America into the war raging in Europe. In 1917, he sent troops overseas and officially declared war on Germany. Following the end of the war, inflation in Europe drastically effected the US economy causing a recession that lasted for several years. Wilson lost his bid for a third term in 1920 to Republican Warren Harding. Incumbent loses.
The Great Depression: 1929 sees the stock market crash and the worst economic recession in American history grips the country. Democrat Franklin Roosevelt unseats the Republican party in 1932. Incumbent loses.
World War II: Democrat Franklin Roosevelt enters the US into war against Germany and Japan after being provoked with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Franklin dies in office and in 1948 his successor Harry Truman wins the election. Incumbent wins.
Korean War and Recession 1951: Mired in a stalemate in Korea and high inflation, Democrat Harry Truman loses to Republican Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. Incumbent loses.
Recession 1957: The US sees it’s first budget deficit in history and it continues to grow threw the next several years due in part to the downturn in American exports. The Republicans lose control of the White House in the 1960 Presidential election to Democrat John F. Kennedy. Incumbent loses.
Vietnam War: While the US had some presence in Vietnam since 1959, Democrat President Lyndon Johnson escalates the war with large troop deployments and an official resolution to conduct combat operations in 1964. The war becomes a polarizing issue in the country. So unpopular, Johnson decides not to run for reelection in 1968, and the Democrats lose control to Republican Richard Nixon. Incumbent loses.
Recession 1973: Rising oil prices caused the country to spend the latter part of the decade suffering from high inflation and interest rates along with low economic growth. Democrat Jimmy Carter was in office for the majority of the economic downturn, and in 1980 lost his reelection bid to Republican Ronald Reagan. Incumbent loses.
Gulf War and Recession 1990: While President George H. Bush’s approval ratings were at an all-time high following the resounding success of the Gulf War, he could not escape the recession the country found itself in 1990. Bush lead early polls against Democrat Bill Clinton, but as the economy worsened Clinton closed the gap. He eventually defeated Bush in the election. Incumbent loses.
Iraq War and Recession 2001: Following the attacks of 9/11, Republican George W. Bush sent American troops into Afghanistan and Iraq. The military scored quick tactical victories overthrowing both governments. Victory was declared. The economy also entered a minor recession due to the attacks and the dot-com bubble burst. Republican Bush won reelection in 2004. Incumbent wins.
Iraq War and Recession 2007: The Iraq war under President George W. Bush drags on for years and becomes widely unpopular. The housing market crash ripples to Wall Street sparking a major crash. Prior, the economy was slowly contracting and experts predict a recession to last at least into 2009. Republican John McCain is trailing Democrat Barrak Obama in polls by as much as 10% with only two weeks until election time. Undetermined.
Based on the historical link between war and recessions to past Presidential elections, two things become evident. One, a wars perception has a direct effect on the incumbents party reelection chances. A war which is perceived as necessary and victorious does not have the detrimental effect as a war that is perceived as unnecessary and a stalemate. Two, an economic recession is assurance that the incumbent party will be unsuccessful in retaining the White House.
And so we enter the 2008 election with an incumbent party having presided over an prolonged and unpopular war in Iraqi alongside a potentially severe recession. Judging from history, the Democrats are, in all probability, going to win this Presidential election. It is common thought to dissect each and every election for their various unique circumstances, and to attribute these characteristics as to why one party or another won the race. I contend that Presidential elections are an elementary exercise in war and economics with greater weight given to the economy. For all the nuances we might find within this race, there are these two undeniable and basic elements that will shape the future of our country. The debates, the vice presidential selections, the speeches, the policies, and the television advertising are all secondary parts that have a minimal effect compared to war and recessions.