With the 2016 presidential primary boiling down to a battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it's easy to make jokes (half-jokes, at least) like how the winner will be determined by the number of Republicans unwilling to vote for Donald Trump versus the number of Democrats unwilling to vote for Hillary Clinton. Among other unscientific arguments is the common remark, "Since World War II, only once has a party controlled the White House for three consecutive terms." However, New York Magazine's Ed Kilgore is here to set the record straight.
The argument excludes the first post–World War II election, in 1948, since that was an election that gave Democrats control of the White House for afifth consecutive term. There are five elections that meet the definition: 1960, 1968, 1988, 2000, and 2008. As Hohmann noted, the incumbent party won one of these, in 1988. But then the incumbent party also won the popular vote in 2000; I imagine Democrats this year would settle for that precedent, given how incredibly unlikely it is that the Supreme Court will again step in to award the presidency to the popular-vote loser. So we're now up to 40 percent of the elections defying "history," even if you don't count 1948.
Democrats won in 1960 and Republicans in 1968 in two of the closest presidential elections in history. And neither victory was the product of a straightforward election following some iron law of political science. Republicans lost in 1960 in no small part because JFK attracted a very high percentage of the Catholic vote — a classic onetime event. And you may recall many crazy things happened in 1968, including assassinations, riots, and the turning point of an unpopular war.
Head over to New York Magazine to read more.
Feature image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore