In this, the 100th (and by far the longest) post of my blog, I will go into the dimension of time in regards to Political Science. This essay will begin by categorizing US history into manageable chunks based on the rise and fall of ideas and their supporting factions. Then I will discuss the most significant political parties in US history. Finally I will end with a few noted lessons gleaned from past Presidential election strategies.
The Six Party Systems of US History
Traditionally, US history is divided into 6 periods colloquially referred to as the Six Party Systems. These are determined by recurring voting patterns in the electoral college, with breaks marked by dramatic shifts in the electoral coalitions during key Presidential elections. These are referred to as “realigning elections” and they tend to coincide with the rise of a new paradigm shift in national politics because of emerging new issues, a shift in the overton window, and/or the emergence of a new dominant party. The 6 realigning elections are said to be:
1800 Democratic-Republicans take over, Federalists cease to be relevant in National politics.
1828 Dem-Republicans split, new parties form. The rise of Jacksonian Democracy. The question of slavery in the new western colonies divides the two parties internally and eventually leads to the creation of the Republican Party.
1860 (Republicans become the dominant party, Democrats will become associated with the South after the war — the so-called ”Solid South”
1896 Beginning of the Progressive Era and modern campaign tactics, Republicans remain dominant, with only two Democratic Presidents between 1860 and 1932. But the ideology of the Republican presidents in this era are very different compared to what came in the previous system.
1932 Republicans are blamed for the Great Depression due to their holding the Presidency for the previous 3 cycles. Start of the New Deal & subsequent New Deal coalition of FDR. Liberal ideals dominate, even in the lone Republican’s terms. (Eisenhower would be considered a liberal Democrat by today’s standards.)
1968 The signing of the Civil Rights Act dooms the Democratic “Solid South.” Nixon’s Southern Strategy brings them firmly into the Republican camp. Rightwing Neoliberal and Neoconservative ideals dominate even in “Third Way” Clinton and Obama’s terms. (Either would be considered a rightist Republican by ’40s-’60s standards.) I should make a personal note that in my opinion, the true realignment actually came in 1972 when the new Republican coalition was more firmly asserted.
These maps indicate the general voting trends in each state and therefore the country as a whole. The darker the shade the more often they voted in favor of that particular party. (Maps courtesy of Wikipedia.)
The Ten Eras of US History
I think a more detailed and helpful look at American history may be gleamed by pinpointing not only the shifts in the electoral map but also in the dominant ideology or issue of the day in succession. With this in mind, I came up with the Ten Eras of US History. A brief description of each are as follows:
Federalist Era (1789-1801) “Transition from Monarchy” Washington and Adams governing under the Hamiltonian school of thought, according to the principles of the Federalist Party. The “American School” system Hamilton pioneered would later influence the Whigs and Republicans.
Jeffersonian Era (1800-1828) “One Party Dominance” The Revolution of 1800, the first peaceful transition of power between two ideologically opposed factions in modern history, and the start of the longest chain of peaceful transitions in world history. The Democratic-Republicans overtake the Federalists and briefly become the sole Party in National Politics. The later part of this era is known as “the era of good feelings.” Named after Thomas Jefferson, the victor in the 1800 election and the man whose ideals most shaped this period.
Democratic Era (1828-1846) “New Popular Sovereignty ” With the election of Jackson and overthrow of the Adams Dynasty, you have two new political parties, renewed opposition to both Centralized Banking and corporate protectionism, as well as a sense of empowerment of the common man against the elites. This ended with Polk (also a Democrat) and the Mexican Cessation.
Expansionist Era (1845-1865) “Manifest Destiny & Slavery” The Presidency of Polk opened up the West and renewed tensions about slavery and whether it should expand into the new territories or not. The paradox of this era is that while the expert statesmanship of Henry Clay put off the Civil War as long as possible, his Whig party itself was unable to survive the issue and died. The Democrats briefly split into Northern and Southern factions. Republicans emerged towards the end of this period as the sole party willing to take a hard-line stance on the slavery issue (against). This era endured the longest stretch of objectively terrible presidents in history, from Taylor, to Fillmore, to Pierce to Buchanan. All of whom are regularly listed among the bottom 10~15 Presidents, largely for doing little to quell tensions and allowing the issue to build towards civil war.
Republican Era (1865-1895) “the Gilded Reconstruction” The nickname comes from Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, both of which occurred in this time-frame. After the war, the Republicans dominated national politics and used the North as their base of support, while the South catered to Democrats. Here we have the beginning of the Democratic Solid South, the height of cronyism and political bosses, unfettered political corruption, and a string of average-to-mediocre Presidents mostly forgotten to the public.
Progressive Era (1896-1920) “the Great Reforms” The Progressive Era of American politics, so named for the emergence of Populism/Progressivism as a major political force, as well as the opening of the west in the electoral college making for a more dynamic electoral map rather than the North/South divide from up to this time. Now, it became the more familiar Right-wing vs Left-wing ideological battle as opposed to a sectional one. Socialism emerged as an ideology, forcing reforms in Capitalism and industry. A great string of leaders from the overlooked McKinley, to the deified Roosevelt, to the partially underrated Taft and partially overrated Wilson led us through some great social, corporate and economic reforms. The 1896 election saw the birth of modern campaign strategies and issues.
Conservative Era (1920-1932) “the Roaring Twenties” A brief, overlooked realignment in itself that is not given its own “Party System” because the same Party remained dominant both during and before this time (the Republicans.) But despite the same party enjoying prominence, the ideology of the Twenties was one of Government restraint and conservatism as opposed to the activism and reform of the previous 24 years. While the Republican Party has dominated American politics more often than not, and Right-wing (pro-business) ideas have been the norm since Hamilton with only brief periods of falling out of favor, I believe this ten year span represents perhaps the one brief moment when actual, true restraint and small-government principles reigned in American history. Conservatism in this case meaning a hands off yet still functional (and well meaning) government, not one that’s activist for the sake of business and/or deliberately sabotaging and obstructing itself to “prove” that it needs to be privatized. Ended when the Great Depression hurled the Republicans out of power for the first time since their inception and demanded more active government programs.
Liberal Era (1932-1972) “the New Society” The nickname here comes by combining the New Deal with the Great Society. The New Deal ushered in the idea that government should be more benevolent to its citizens against corporate interests, a way to somewhat even the playing field and make sure no one is left without the means to succeed. Even the Republicans from this era, from failed candidates like Wilkie to elected Presidents like Eisenhower would be more at home in today’s modern left. Even as FDR built the New Deal and LBJ signed Civil Rights and enacted the Great Society, the Republicans built on what their peers created instead of tearing it down in power. Eisenhower for his part created the highway system and Nixon the EPA, which would be unheard of in a modern Republican administration.
Watergate Era (1972-1980) “Scandal and Stagflation” The breakup of the Old Left coalition due to backlash against Civil Rights and Labor Unions losing sway meant that the Democrats were less viable nationally. Nixon capitalized on this with the Southern Strategy of appealing to the disaffected Southern States. Watergate shocked the public consciousness and left Nixon’s successor politically crippled. Then the Democrats elected a lame duck President who was able to accomplish little. No real ideology or agenda took reign in these years, it was mostly a reorganization after the tumultuous ’60s and the backlash against Washington itself in the wake of Vietnam and unprecedented corruption in the Nixon administration.
Dynastic Era (1980-2016) “Two Entwined Duopolies” Nixon and Reagan created a new winning Right-wing coalition using the Southern Strategy and the Moral Majority, appealing to racism and religion. Since this realignment, the Bush/Clinton families and entwined ideologies of Neoconservatism and Neoliberalism (in foreign and economic policy, respectively) have taken over and dominated. Despite campaigning against it, Clinton continued Reagan’s Supply Side “Trickle Down” Economics and Obama (despite campaigning against it) also continued the hawkish foreign policy of Bush II. Three presidents out of five in this period where Clintons or Bushes and from 1980 until 2016 there was always a Bush or a Clinton in the upper echelon of government and/or gearing for a Presidential run.
Chaotic Era (2016-Present) “Trump and TEA Parties” When I originally conceived of this alternate Ten Era model of American history, it was during the 2016 election. Now that I see Trump has actually won and is destroying both our domestic government infrastructure as well as our goodwill and integrity abroad, I find it hard to argue against the idea that we’ve entered a new era in American Politics. A frightening era of unapologetic corruption from the President himself, isolation abroad, the end of the Pax Americana, hostile foreign intervention into our electoral process, consolidation of the media, as well as an end to net neutrality, distrust of mainstream outlets and a full blown constitutional crisis. However, despite his sucking all the air out of the room, the true key figure of this era is none other than Mitch McConnell and his systematic dissolution of our fundamental government procedures and norms. With the destruction of basic political functionality and the powers that be not catering to the needs of an increasingly poor, unhappy and aimless electorate, the end result was following demagogues like Trump himself. The situation will continue to get worse before it gets better.
The 5 Major Parties of American History
Federalist Party: the first American political party. It existed from the early 1790s to 1816, and was spearheaded by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams. It appealed to business and to conservatives who favored banks, national over state government, manufacturing, and (in world affairs) preferred Britain and opposed the French Revolution. The Federalists called for a strong national government that promoted economic growth. Federalist policies called for a national bank and protective tariffs according to the Hamiltonian Economic Program. Alexander Hamilton developed the concept of implied powers and successfully argued the adoption of that interpretation of the United States Constitution. The Federalists left a lasting legacy in the form of a strong Federal government with a sound financial base. After losing executive power they decisively shaped Supreme Court policy for another three decades through the person of Chief Justice John Marshall.
Democratic-Republican Party: an American political party formed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison between 1791 and 1793 to oppose the centralizing policies of the new Federalist Party. Republicans saw France as more democratic after its revolution, while the UK represented the hated monarchy. The party denounced many of Hamilton’s measures as unconstitutional, especially the national bank. The party was strongest in the South and weakest in the Northeast. It demanded states’ rights as expressed by the “Principles of 1798” articulated in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions that would allow states to nullify a federal law. Above all, the party stood for the primacy of the yeoman farmers. Republicans were deeply committed to the principles of republicanism, which they feared were threatened by the supposed monarchical tendencies of the Hamiltonian Federalists. The party splintered in 1824 into the Jacksonian movement (which became the Democratic Party in 1828) and the short-lived National Republican Party (later succeeded by the Whig Party).
Whig Party: a political party that emerged in the 1830s as the leading opponent of Jacksonians, pulling together former members of the National Republican (one of the successors of the Democratic-Republican Party) and the Anti-Masonic Party. It had links to the upscale traditions of the Federalist Party. Whigs supported the supremacy of the United States Congress over the presidency and favored a program of modernization, banking and economic protectionism to stimulate manufacturing. It appealed to entrepreneurs, planters, reformers and the emerging urban middle class, but had little appeal to farmers or unskilled workers. The party fell apart because of the internal tension over the expansion of slavery to the territories. The Northern voter base mostly gravitated to the new Republican Party. In the South, most joined the Know Nothing Party. Whig ideology as a policy orientation persisted for decades and played a major role in shaping the modernizing policies of the state governments during Reconstruction. The two politicians most associated with this party were Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, although neither was ever elected president.
Democratic Party: one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s Democratic-Republican Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world’s oldest political party. The Democrats’ dominant worldview was once social conservatism and economic liberalism while populism was its leading characteristic in the rural South. Since Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal coalition in the 1930s, the Democratic Party has also promoted a social liberal platform, supporting social justice.
After the racial turmoil of the 1960s, most Southern whites and many Northern Catholics moved into the Republican Party at the presidential level. The once-powerful labor union element became smaller and less supportive after the 1970s. White Evangelicals and Southerners became heavily Republican at the state and local level in the 1990s. Racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, such as Jewish Americans, Hispanic Americans, Arabic Americans and African Americans, tend to support the Democratic Party much more than they support the rival Republican Party, giving the Democratic Party its current membership lead over the Republicans.
The party’s philosophy of modern liberalism advocates social and economic equality, along with the welfare state. It seeks to provide government intervention and regulation in the economy. These interventions, such as the introduction of social programs, support for labor unions, affordable college tuitions, moves toward universal health care and equal opportunity, consumer protection and environmental protection form the core of the party’s economic policy.
Republican Party, also referred to as the GOP (abbreviation for Grand Old Party), is one of the two major political parties in the United States. Founded by anti-slavery activists, economic modernizers, ex National Republicans, ex Free Soilers and Whigs in 1854, the Republicans largely dominated politics nationally and in the majority of northern states between 1860 and 1932. Currently, their ideology is American conservatism. The GOP’s political platform supports lower taxes, free market capitalism, free enterprise, a strong national defense, gun rights, deregulation and restrictions on labor unions. In addition to advocating for conservative economic policies, the Republican Party is socially conservative and seeks to uphold traditional values based largely on Judeo-Christian ethics.
Originally, the GOP subscribed to what is referred to as classical liberalism with ideological stands that were anti-slavery and pro-economic reform. The party was usually dominant over the Democrats during the Third Party System and Fourth Party System. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt formed the Progressive (“Bull Moose”) Party after being rejected by the GOP and ran as a candidate. He called for many social reforms, some of which were later championed by New Deal Democrats in the 1930s. He lost the election and when most of his supporters returned to the GOP, they were at odds with the new conservative economic stance, leading to them leaving for the Democratic Party and an ideological shift to the right in the Republican Party.
The GOP was strongly committed to protectionism and tariffs from its founding until the 1930s when it was based in the industrial Northeast and Midwest. Since 1952, there has been a reversal against protectionism and for free trade. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the party’s core base shifted, with the Southern states becoming more reliably Republican in presidential politics. The party’s core support since the 1990s comes chiefly from the South, the Great Plains, the Mountain States and rural areas in the North as well as from Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons and Evangelicals nationwide.
Notable Third Parties in American History
In this section I will post some brief descriptions of Third Parties that made notable showings in Presidential elections. (The reason for this stipulation is that if I were to list all Third Parties, this essay would be far too long). I’m also leaving out several independent candidates such as John Anderson in 1980 and Ralph Nader in 2000, but I implore you to check them and their campaigns out for yourself. Probably the most notable party exclusions are the Socialist Party under Eugene Debs and Socialist Labor Party under Daniel de Leon, who gives his name to the aforementioned ideology of DeLeonism, described in the third essay of this series. There was also a third iteration of the Progressive Party in 1948 with Henry Wallace as its nominee which is worth checking out.
Free Soil Party: a short-lived political party in the United States active in the 1848 and 1852 presidential elections as well as in some state elections. A single-issue party, its main purpose was to oppose the expansion of slavery into the Western territories, arguing that free men on free soil constituted a morally and economically superior system to slavery. It also sometimes worked to remove existing laws that discriminated against freed African Americans in states such as Ohio. The party originated in New York after the state Democratic convention refused to endorse the Wilmot Proviso, a proposed law that would have banned slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico in the Mexican–American War. A faction of New York Democrats known as the “Barn burners” objected to slavery in the territories and opposed the 1848 Democratic nominee Lewis Cass.
Native American Party, renamed the American Party in 1855 and commonly known as the Know Nothing movement, was an American nativist political party that operated nationally in the mid-1850s. It was primarily anti-Catholic, xenophobic and hostile to immigration, starting originally as a secret society. The movement briefly emerged as a major political party in the form of the American Party. Adherents to the movement were to reply “I know nothing” when asked about its specifics by outsiders, thus providing the group with its common name. The Know Nothings believed a “Romanist” conspiracy was afoot to subvert civil and religious liberty in the United States and sought to politically organize native-born Protestants in the defense of traditional religious and political values. In the South, the party did not emphasize anti-Catholicism, but was the main alternative to the dominant Democratic Party. The American Party nominated former President Millard Fillmore in the 1856 presidential election, although he kept quiet about his membership. Fillmore received 21.5% of the popular vote in the 1856 presidential election, finishing behind the Democratic and Republican nominees. The party declined rapidly after the 1856 election.
Constitutional Union Party: a political party in the United States created in 1860 which ran against the Republicans and Democrats as a fourth party in 1860. It was made up of conservative former Whigs who wanted to avoid secession over the slavery issue. These former Whigs (some of whom had been under the banner of the Opposition Party in 1854–1858) teamed up with former Know Nothings and a few Southern Democrats who were against secession to form the Constitutional Union Party. The party’s name comes from its simple platform, which consists of the resolution “to recognize no political principle other than the Constitution of the country, the Union of the states, and the Enforcement of the Laws”. The party hoped that by not taking a firm stand either for or against slavery or its expansion, the issue could be pushed aside. The convention nominated John Bell of Tennessee for President, Bell took 12.6% of the popular vote and won three slave states. Most of Bell’s support came from former Southern Whigs or Know Nothings.
The People’s Party, also known as the Populist Party or the Populists, was an agrarian-populist political party in the United States. For a few years, from 1892 to 1896, it played a major role as a left-wing force in American politics. It drew support from angry farmers in the West and South. Established in 1891, as a result of the Populist movement, the People’s Party reached its peak in the 1892 presidential election, when its ticket, composed of James B. Weaver and James G. Field, won 8.5% of the popular vote and carried five states, and the 1894 House of Representatives elections, when it took over 10% of the vote. Built on a coalition of poor, white cotton farmers in the South and hard-pressed wheat farmers in the Plains states, the Populists represented a radical combination of agrarianism and urbanism with hostility to banks, landowners, Eastern elites, railroads, and the gold standard. In the 1896 presidential elections the Populists endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan, adding their own vice presidential nominee. By joining with the Democrats, the People’s Party lost its independent identity and rapidly withered away.
Progressive Party (1912): a party in the United States formed in 1912 by former President Theodore Roosevelt after he lost the presidential nomination of the Republican Party to his former protégé, incumbent President William Howard Taft. The new party was known for taking advanced positions on progressive reforms and attracting some leading reformers. After the party’s defeat in the 1912 presidential election, it went into rapid decline, disappearing by 1918. The Progressive Party was nicknamed the “Bull Moose Party” after journalists quoted Roosevelt saying that he felt “fit as a bull moose” following an assassination attempt on the campaign trail shortly after the new party was formed. The party’s platform built on Roosevelt’s Square Deal domestic program and called for several progressive reforms. The platform asserted that “to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day”. Proposals on the platform included restrictions on campaign finance contributions, a reduction of the tariff and the establishment of a social insurance system, an eight-hour workday and women’s suffrage. In the 1912 election, Roosevelt won 27.4% of the popular vote compared to Taft’s 23.2%, making Roosevelt the only third party presidential nominee to finish with a higher share of the popular vote than a major party’s presidential nominee.
Progressive Party (1924): was a new party created as a vehicle for Robert M. La Follette, Sr. to run for president in the 1924 election. It did not run candidates for other offices, and it disappeared after the election. The party advocated progressive positions such as government ownership of railroads and electric utilities, cheap credit for farmers, the outlawing of child labor, stronger laws to help labor unions, more protection of civil liberties, an end to American imperialism in Latin America, and a referendum before any president could lead the nation into war. The Progressive Party was composed of La Follette supporters, who were distinguished from the earlier Roosevelt supporters by being generally more agrarian, populist, and midwestern in perspective, as opposed to urban, elite, and eastern. The ticket enjoyed support among many farmers and laborers and was endorsed by the Socialist Party of America and the American Federation of Labor. The ticket won 16.6% of the national popular vote and carried many counties in the Midwest and West with large German American elements or strong labor union movements. It won the state of Wisconsin.
The States’ Rights Democratic Party (usually called the Dixiecrats) was a short-lived segregationist political party in the United States. It originated in 1948 as a breakaway faction of the Democratic Party determined to protect states’ rights to legislate racial segregation from what its members regarded as an oppressive federal government. Supporters assumed control of the state Democratic parties in part or in full in several Southern states. The Party opposed racial integration and wanted to retain Jim Crow laws and white supremacy in the face of possible federal intervention. The party did not run local or state candidates, and after the 1948 election its leaders generally returned to the Democratic Party. The Dixiecrats began the weakening of the “Solid South” (the Democratic Party’s total control of presidential elections in the South). Their nominee, Strom Thurmond won 39 electoral votes and 2.4% of the popular vote.
American Independent Party: a far-right political party in the United States that was established in 1967. The AIP is best known for its nomination of former Governor George Wallace of Alabama, who carried five states in the 1968 presidential election running on a segregationist platform. The party split in 1976 into the modern American Independent Party and the American Party. George Wallace won 13.5% of the vote, and remains the last third party or independent candidate to carry any electoral votes (at 46.)
Reform Party: a political party in the United States, founded in 1995 by Ross Perot. Perot received 18.9% of the popular vote as an independent candidate in the 1992 presidential election and 8.4% of the popular vote in 1996. Perot made a splash by bringing a focus to fiscal issues such as the federal deficit and national debt; government reform issues such as term limits, campaign finance reform, and lobbying reform; and issues on trade. A large part of his following was grounded in the belief he was addressing vital problems largely ignored by the two major parties. In around the year 2000, infighting and scandals led to a major decline in the party’s strength.
Lessons in Campaigning From Other Significant Elections
Besides the six realignment elections that changed the makeup of the electoral map, there’s much we can learn from the less famous presidential elections. Here are a few examples:
1832: Consolidate Support Behind a Single Candidate
The Whigs in this year tried the very unusual strategy of running 4 different candidates, with the hope that they would split the vote enough that it’d be thrown to the Electoral College and then they’d have a better chance at electing one of their own. Instead it split the Whig vote four ways, giving the Democrats a clear majority. This has never been attempted again, for good reason.
1788, 1828, 1840, 1848, 1868 & 1952: Successful Military Commanders Win
Every time a party has offered a distinguished general from a successful war, they have won. The only exceptions to this are 1824, 1852 and 1864 with Jackson, Winfield Scott and George McClellan. (However even these exceptions are questionable since Jackson won the popular vote, Scott’s challenger also had a distinguished career in the same war, and McClellan was an unsuccessful general, whose possible “military advantage” was superseded by wartime incumbent advantage. )
1844, 1884, 2016: You Cannot Win on a Purely Negative Campaign
It’s not enough to just dump on your opponent for their inexperience or personal scandals. Clay’s campaign slogan was “Who is James K Polk” to mock his perceived irrelevance. Blaine’s was “Mama Where’s My Pa?” to mock Cleveland’s personal life. Hillary’s convention, every commercial I saw, and her major talking points at the debates were all about Trump’s scandals and abrasiveness. She and her running mate devoted at least half of their speaking time at the convention to their opponent, which is unheard of, and nearly all the guest speakers did the same. There was nothing about exciting promises or a vision for the country, just “I’m not Trump.” That kind of message doesn’t cut it. These elections show it’s not enough to just be better than the other guy, you have to make people excited to vote FOR you not against him.
1864, 1944 & 2004: Exacerbated Incumbent Advantage During War
The Incumbents tend to win over challengers far more often than not, but this effect is strengthened in wartime. It was even the basis of Lincoln’s 1864 campaign slogan.
1900 & 1956: Rematches Almost Never Work
With a few notable exceptions like Nixon, candidates who’ve lost in the general once typically don’t win a second time and with the exception of Cleveland, never against the same opponent. The conventional wisdom is “once a loser, always a loser” and the most common examples given are Bryan, Dewey, Humphrey, Stevenson and Clay, each of whom tried multiple times.
1912 & 1968: Splitting the Vote
The two times where a notable third party branched off from one of the two major parties, it handed the election to the candidate most diametrically opposed to both. Under a first past the post ballot system (as opposed to alternatives like Approval Voting, Instant Runoff Voting and Range Voting) there can only be two major parties due to this phenomenon. Rather than splitting off into a separate party, the way to enact your policies is by leading an insurgency within either of the established parties.
1936, 1948, 2004 & 2016: The Candidate Must be *About* Something
Anytime a moderate has been pitted against an ideologue who rallies their own base, the moderate loses. Landon was not even against the New Deal in principle, he just thought it should be reigned in a bit. Dewey was famously wishy washy in ‘ 48 for fear of alienating anyone; while a purely negative campaign is prone to failure, he wouldn’t attack his opponent at all. Kerry had the same problem in 2004, where he seemed largely in favor of continuing Bush’s wars and subversion of our domestic civil liberties. While Trump was promising his supporters their wildest pie in the sky desires, Hillary refused to offer real economic reform or legal weed or any other hot button progressive causes. Her campaign promised status quo mediocrity and nothing else. In cases like these, the opposition is already rallied behind their ideologue, and by alienating your own base with wishy washy moderation, you have no path to majority. This seems to be the one lesson that hasn’t sunken in as much as the others at least not yet. You have to excite your own base rather than try to be a “Me too!” off-brand moderate counterpoint to your opponent.
All Modern, Video-Recorded Elections (1948-2016): The Most Charismatic Candidate Always Wins
As someone who took the time to watch primary as well as general election debates, campaign stump speeches, convention nomination speeches and victory/concession speeches…this is a trend I’ve noticed. The most charismatic candidate, the one with the most exciting presence and gravitas always wins. Not always the primaries, but the general. The only possible exception to this hard and fast trend might be 1972. Personal charisma wasn’t a factor in the 1800s because the decorum of the time required that candidates not be seen as actively campaigning on their own behalf; they had to put on a show of reluctance to accept a role thrust upon them by others. Since 1896 it began to be a major factor, and with the inventions of radio and visual media it has only magnified in importance. Now I would argue it is the single most important factor in winning a national election–more than credentials, more than intelligence, and possibly more than policies. Hardliners on both sides will vote for the candidate who best represents their interests of course, but independents can and are swayed by confidence and excitability.
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