« Dishes left on the Countertop of Life | Main | A Known Entity »

First!

Eight years ago (or so) I wrote about how presidential elections are always exceptions. How the next president, whoever it would be (from that point of view) would be the first black president, or the first female president, or the first Mormon president, or it would be only the second time in a hundred years that we elected a president older than the previous one, or whatever. All presidential elections are exceptions, I wrote: If present trends continue, that will be the first time that present trends have ever continued.

This year (and I’m writing this on the day of the Iowa Caucus) we will elect the first female president, or the first Jewish president, or the first Latino president, or the other first Latino president, or the first president to have neither served in political office nor the military, or the first presidential sibling to be elected, or, I dunno, but I suspect that Chris Christie would be an exception, too, somehow, if I thought about it.

We are electing a successor to a two-term president, and of course usually the incumbent’s Party doesn’t win those elections, except it turns out that’s not true: going back a hundred years (for no good reason) James Cox lost for the incumbent’s Party in 1920, sure, and Nixon in 1960, but Poppy Bush won in 1988 and Al Gore won in 2000 (with an asterisk) before John McCain lost in 2008. Do any of those elections seem to have great similarities with 2016? And those five are the only times in a hundred years—going back to the disputed 1876 election doesn’t help much. And the time before that was Martin Van Buren in 1836, when the Whigs ran regional candidates for some reason. I don’t think either current Party will do that.

My point is, as it always is, that we don’t have enough presidential elections to build up a pattern that you can trust.

Somewhat of a Digression: The XKCD comic is illustrative (heh) but Mr. Monroe succumbed to the temptation for silliness. The problem with the Party’s-third-term kind of pattern is that they are persuasive. The business of left-handedness or middle-names or whatnot isn’t. His final fork, that either Barack Obama would be the first incumbent to beat a taller challenger or Mitt Romney would be the first challenger to beat an incumbent with a first name containing a k are designed to be ridiculous. And no-one with the surname Clinton has gone on to win the nomination without first losing the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. But in fact there are real and persuasive patterns at play, here, that are also not as predictive as we would like them to be. End Digression.

On the plus side, and this is the thing that I keep forgetting to enjoy, the odds are very good that Our Next President with be either a woman or a Latino. Tho’ not, alas, both.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.