Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
Posts tagged "Elections"
Asker kray814 Asks:
This is a two part question: In the 1976 Republican Primaries , after Ford barely beat Reagan, why did he not select him as his VP? I understand they weren't necessarily fond of each other, but wouldn't having Reagan as his VP would've almost guaranteed Ford being re-elected. Also, is it true that after his loss in the 1976 election, Ford was deeply depressed and almost suicidal?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Even though Reagan came close to beating out President Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976, he continued to focus on becoming President and I think Reagan would have seen the Vice Presidency as a major step in the wrong direction. If Ford had asked Reagan to be his running mate, I don’t think Reagan would have accepted. I don’t think Nancy would have allowed him to. Nothing could be gained for Reagan by serving as Ford’s running mate. The Vice Presidency was finally gaining influence and significance in the 1970s, but it wouldn’t have done anything to actually further Reagan’s Presidential prospects.

A Ford/Reagan ticket might have resulted in a victory, but Reagan wouldn’t really gain anything from that, either. Ford wouldn’t have been able to run for re-election in 1980 because of the 22nd Amendment (Ford had served more than two years of Richard Nixon’s unexpired term, so he would have been ineligible to be elected again had he won in 1976). But if Ford and Reagan had been elected together in 1976 and the Ford had a rough four years in office, Reagan would have been intimately connected with that Administration, giving his potential 1980 opponent something to strongly use to campaign against him with. He would have been pegged as the successor or as the continuation of that hypothetical Ford Administration. Anything like that would have been a huge risk for Reagan because part of the reason he challenged Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976 (besides believing that Ford wasn’t Conservative enough) was that Reagan was already 65 years old. In 1976! He was older than Nixon and Ford and a full six years older than John F. Kennedy. People forget about that — Reagan was worried, even in the 1970s, about whether his age would be an issue. Even if he had beaten Ford out for the GOP nomination in 1976 and been elected that year, Reagan would have been the second-oldest President ever inaugurated — and that was a full four years before he actually be did become President!

More than anything else, though, President Ford was pissed off in 1976 by the fact that Reagan challenged him (Ford), an incumbent President of the same party, and required Ford to expend energy and much-needed campaign funds just to get a nomination that is usually an automatic for an incumbent President. When Reagan notified Ford that he was going to seek the nomination that year, Reagan said he hoped it wouldn’t be divisive and Ford responded, “How can you challenge an incumbent President of your own party and not be divisive?”. The Ford/Reagan battle in the 1976 primaries really hurt Ford more than anything — even more than Ford’s controversial pardon of Richard Nixon or Ford’s big mistake in the second Presidential debate with Jimmy Carter when he stumbled and suggested that there was not Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. But the GOP primary battle allowed Carter to begin the general campaign with a huge lead over Ford and Ford came extraordinarily close to closing that gap and winning the election — with another week of campaigning, he likely would have beaten Carter. Ford genuinely believed that Reagan (and Reagan’s advisers) were to blame for the fact that Ford had to fight from so far behind against Carter. In interviews embargoed until after his death, Ford admitted, “It burned the hell out of me that I got the diversion from Reagan that caused me to spend an abnormal part of my time trying to round up individual delegates and to raise money.” Ford was also bothered by the fact that even after Ford clinched the Republican nomination, Reagan did very little to help him out during the general election. Recognizing that the focus of Reagan and his team immediately turned towards 1980 following the 1976 Republican National Convention, Ford said, “They didn’t give a damn whether I won or not because they were already planning to run in 1980.”

Gerald Ford was, by all accounts, one of the most good-natured, mild-mannered, polite, reasonable, and loyal politicians in American history. That’s one of the reasons that Congressional Democrats all but demanded that Nixon nominate Ford to fill the vacancy caused by Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation in 1973. Ford also knew that he needed a more Conservative running mate in 1976 because he and the Vice President that he had appointed, Nelson Rockefeller, were too moderate for his increasingly Conservative party. Ford dumped Rockefeller in favor of the more appealing (to the far right of the GOP) Bob Dole and, later in life, frequently mentioned that the biggest regret of his life was dumping Rockefeller from the 1976 ticket — not because of any disrespect towards Senator Dole, but because Rockefeller had served him well and Ford was ashamed that he had pandered so much in taking that action. But before he chose Bob Dole at the 1976 Republican National Convention, many Republicans pushed for Ford to choose Reagan as his VP and there was nothing mild-mannered or good-natured about President Ford’s response. When Reagan’s name was mentioned, he bluntly said, “Absolutely not. I don’t want anything to do with that son-of-a-bitch.”

So, to answer the rest of your question, yes, Ford likely would have been re-elected if Reagan had been his running mate. However, he likely would have been re-elected if Reagan hadn’t forced him to spend the spring of 1976 fighting for the Republican nomination even though he was the incumbent President.

And, yes, Ford was extremely depressed about losing the 1976 election, but he wasn’t suicidal. It was an understandably devastating defeat — George H.W. Bush has spoken of how devastated he was, too, upon losing the 1992 election to Bill Clinton. General Colin Powell recalled a conversation with Bush at Camp David after the 1992 election where Bush 41 was nearly in tears while telling General Powell, “Colin, it hurts. It really hurts. I just never thought they’d elect him.” It’s an unimaginable sadness for anyone who hasn’t actually been the most powerful person in the world and then had hundreds of millions of people decide, “No, we don’t want you anymore.” But Ford was not suicidal. Some people have suggested that he was in a dark place because it was his wife, Betty, who read Ford’s concession speech in 1976, but in actuality, Ford had been making non-stop campaign swings during the last days and hours of the ‘76 campaign and had completely lost his voice, so that’s why Betty Ford gave the speech as he stood nearby.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What do you think of the Super PAC system?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Our entire campaign finance system is a joke.  With Super PACs, I think we should just drop the stupid games and acknowledge what they really are and what really happens with them.  I don’t think anybody truly believes that there is no direct coordination between Super PACs and candidates, especially when Super PACs are directed by people with extremely close connections with specific candidates.  It’s ridiculous.  Just stop insulting our intelligence and acknowledge it for what it actually is. If you’re already doing what you want to do, why do you need to try to trick us into thinking that it’s not what we know it is?

Listen, imagine if Kermit the Frog was running for President and there was a Super PAC called “Building a Green Future" that Miss Piggy was in charge of.  Everyone would probably say, "Hey, I bet they are totally coordinating their campaigns", right?  And no matter how many times Kermit denied any collusion between his campaign and Miss Piggy’s Super PAC, we probably wouldn’t believe him if he kept showing up on MSNBC with Miss Piggy’s lipstick marks all over his stupid face, right?

Well, that’s basically the charade we get with campaigns and Super PACs nowadays, except the candidates aren’t nearly as appealing as Kermit the Frog and there is cash in the place of Miss Piggy’s lipstick.

Asker ebojla Asks:
If 2016 is indeed Hillary vs. Jeb, do you think it'll threaten the 1988 election's record for lowest turnout?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No way!  The turnout is low in Presidential elections when it’s an unappealing matchup or the election isn’t close.  A Hillary vs. Jeb matchup will be appealing to both political bases and it should be a close election, so I think the turnout would be very high if that’s the case.

Also, I’m just going off the top of my head, so I could be mistaken, but I think the 1996 election (Clinton vs. Dole) is actually the lowest turnout in a Presidential election.  Not only was ‘96 was a re-election campaign, but it was an unappealing matchup and Clinton was clearly on his way to a victory, so a lot of voters stayed home on Election Day.  If 1988 still has the lowest turnout, it’s not by much more than ‘96.  The 1988 campaign between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis was hotly contested, but it got so negative that a lot of voters were turned off and stayed away, especially once Bush pulled away from Dukakis in the fall and it became clear he would win the election. 

How do you think The Senate Games will play out in November?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I think it is going to be close.  Very close — probably 51/49 or possibly even a tie.  But I think the Democrats will hold on.  To me, the Senate seats that are the major toss-ups which will go down to the wire are Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Alaska.  All four of those seats are held by Democratic incumbents and it’s going to take everything they have to hold on to their seats and save the Senate for the Democrats.

Of those four races, I think Senator Pryor (Arkansas) and Senator Begich (Alaska) will hold on to their seats, Senator Landrieu (Louisiana) will lose, and the North Carolina seat is almost too close to even guess at, but if forced to, I’d say that Senator Hagan barely squeaks out a victory.  Assuming everything else goes as expected, that would put the Senate at 51-49 in the favor of the Democrats (there are two independents in the Senate but they both caucus with the Dems).  Fortunately for the Democrats, even if there is a tie in the Senate, they’ll remain in control because Vice President Biden would be responsible for breaking any ties.

By the way, if the Republicans gain control of both the House and the Senate on November 4th, Barack Obama becomes a lame-duck President on November 5th. 

When it comes to modern presidential campaigns, when speculation arises of who the VP nominee will be, pundits and analysts usually point to candidates in swing states in order to secure their vote (in theory). My question is, did this strategy/thought process occur in the 19th and early 20th century? I know that most people point to the fact that Kennedy picked Johnson as his running mate back in the 1960 campaign to secure Texas. Was that the first time that happened?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

After issues in the 1796 and 1800 Presidential elections, the Twelfth Amendment was passed and set forth the method of electing the President and Vice President that we have today.  Before 1804, the President was the candidate who received the most Electoral votes while the Vice President was the candidate who finished second in the Electoral College results, no matter what party they belonged to or what their relationship was with the President.  It didn’t take long for that method to become a problem.  So, after the Twelfth Amendment was passed, the nomination of a Vice Presidential candidate became an important part of the election process and political parties recognized that nominating a Vice President required some strategic thinking.  The 1804 election was the first contested under the Twelfth Amendment and, really, ticket balance has been an important consideration of nearly every Presidential election since that time and had been for a long time when JFK chose LBJ as his running mate in 1960.   

There are many different aspects to balancing a Presidential ticket, though.  Of course, finding a balance that might put a swing state into play or give a ticket an added bounce in the Electoral College is important, especially in recent decades.  However, there are different variables in consideration when balancing a ticket.  The most dominant one over the past 200 years has been a regional balance between the principal candidates.  In the 19th Century, this was especially important because of the sectional crises that led to eventual Civil War.  Other usual considerations include experience (think Obama/Biden or G.W. Bush/Cheney), age (G.H. Bush/Quayle or McCain/Palin), nominating a President or Vice President who come from different wings of their party and balance each other politically (Ford/Dole in 1976 or Dukakis/Bentsen in 1988), and, more recently, race/sex/religious background (Mondale/Ferraro; McCain/Palin; Obama/Biden).

What’s more rare is when there isn’t a significant balance on the ticket between a Presidential candidate and Vice Presidential candidate — such as in 1992 when the Democrats nominated Bill Clinton and Al Gore — young, progressive candidates from the South who had a similar level of experience.  The only major difference between the two was that Clinton’s experience was largely as an executive at the state level while Gore’s experience was as a Member of Congress and U.S. Senator.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Florida is the 3rd most populated state, but no major party has nominated someone from there. Why is that so?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

1. Because of the Civil War, Americans didn’t elect a President who represented a Southern state from the time of Zachary Taylor’s election (1848) until Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 victory. Major parties nominate candidates they expect to win (with the possible exceptions of Alton B. Parker in 1904 or John W. Davis in 1924, both of whom were nominated by the Democrats because there was seemingly nobody else in the United States belonging to the party at the moment), so major parties largely stayed away from Southern candidates for a century.

2. Florida is third in population now, but there weren’t more than 2 millions people living in Florida until after World War II. Oh, and a sizeable chunk of those people who did live there before then had problems voting because of that whole Southern thing, again.

3. There really hasn’t been a cavalcade of superstar Floridian politicians. (Possibly due to the fact that Florida has proven itself to be pretty terrible when it comes to holding elections and/or counting votes. See: Election, 2000 U.S. Presidential.)

4. If Jeb Bush decides to run in 2016, Florida will probably finally get themselves a major party Presidential nominee.

On November 8, 1960, millions of Americans went to the polls in what would become one of the closest Presidential elections in American History:  John Fitzgerald Kennedy versus Richard Milhous Nixon.

That morning, Kennedy voted in Boston and Nixon voted in Whittier, California.  The candidates had spent months canvassing the nation, working to get every last vote — and every last vote was needed.  For the past several weeks, Kennedy and Nixon had criss-crossed the country, debated one another, and been working non-stop to be elected the 35th President of the United States.

After they voted that day, there were results to monitor, precincts to watch, election day problems to take care of, and many other things to worry about.  Imagine being on the cusp of the Presidency — with a 50/50 chance of being elected the next President of a superpower in the grip of the Cold War, with the threat of Communism and nuclear weapons hanging over your head, and the hopes of hundreds of millions of people pinned on either your victory or defeat.  Imagine being in the position of John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon on November 8, 1960.  What would you do? 

John F. Kennedy put the control of his campaign in the hands of his younger brother, Bobby, and then took a nap.

And Richard Nixon took a road trip to Mexico.

Once Nixon voted that morning at a private home in a quiet Whittier neighborhood, he had been scheduled to head to the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles (where Bobby Kennedy would be assassinated eight years later) for the Election Day vigil and the long wait for the returns which would indicate whether he would be moving into the White House or facing an early retirement. 

Nixon was finished voting by 8:00 AM and hopped into his black Cadillac limousine to be driven to the Ambassador.  Several blocks away from the polling place, Nixon ordered the limousine to stop.  Along with a military aide and a Secret Service agent, Nixon jumped out of the limo and into a white convertible follow-up car driven by an officer from the Los Angeles Police Department.  Nixon took the LAPD officer’s place, got behind the wheel and ditched the press which had been following him.

Driving to La Habra, California, Nixon made a quick visit with his mother, making sure she had voted for her son in the Presidential election.  Nixon drove south along the Pacific Coast Highway, with no specific destination.  He stopped for gasoline in Oceanside and told a gas station attendant — startled to see the Vice President of the United States on a joyride on the very day that he stood for election as President — “I’m just out for a little ride.”  Nixon confided that it was his only source of relaxation.

As the group of four men, with Nixon in the driver’s seat, reached San Diego — over two hours away from Nixon’s campaign headquarters at L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel — Nixon pointed out that he hadn’t been to Tijuana in at least 25 years.

As David Pietrusza wrote in his recap of Nixon’s road trip, “Richard Nixon — the ultimate control freak — was winging it on the most important day of his life.”  Not only that, but the sitting Vice President of the United States and the man who many Americans were choosing to become the next President, impulsively decided to leave the entire country while those voters were still at the polls.

In Tijuana, Nixon and his party headed to a restaurant called Old Heidelberg.  Despite the fact it was owned by a German, Border Patrol agents told Nixon that it was the best place in Tijuana for Mexican food.  Joined at the last moment by Tijuana’s Mayor, Xicotencati Leyva Aleman, Nixon, his military aide, a Secret Service agent, and an average LAPD officer ate enchiladas in Mexico while John F. Kennedy took a nap in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

When Nixon’s press secretary Herb Klein was asked about the missing candidate, he had to tell reporters that Nixon often took some private moments on hectic days such as Election Day.  Really, though, Klein had no clue where Nixon was, eventually admitting that the Vice President was “driving around without any destination”. 

After lunch in Tijuana, Nixon and his companions headed back north towards the United States border crossing.  The LAPD officer took over driving duties as Nixon sat in the convertible’s passenger seat.  A shocked Border Patrol guard shook hands with the Vice President and asked the man who was currently on the ballot for the Presidency, “Are you all citizens of the United States?”.

Nixon and company drove to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, which Nixon called “one of my favorite Catholic places” on the day he faced the only successful Catholic candidate for the Presidency in American History.  Nixon took his three companions on a quick, informal tour of the Mission.  “For a few minutes, we sat in the empty pews for an interlude of complete escape,” Nixon later recalled.

The missing candidate and his three road trip buddies arrived back in Los Angeles before the election results started rolling in.  Nixon had to explain his trip to reporters who had been searching for him all day.  “It wasn’t planned.  We just started driving and that’s where we wound up.”

In his Memoirs, Nixon didn’t go too far into explaining why he escaped on Election Day, but a paragraph about that day is pretty illuminating:

After one last frenetic week, it was over.  Since the convention in August I had traveled over 65,000 miles and visited all fifty states.  I had made 180 scheduled speeches and delivered scores of impromptu talks and informal press conferences.  There was nothing more I could have done.

Except escape to Mexico while JFK slept.

I disagree.  First of all, even if that were the case, I think the fact that it requires 60 votes to get ANYTHING done in the Senate has been disastrous, no matter which party is in control.  If the Republicans are in control, I still want a government that works.  It doesn’t work in a legislative chamber where 60 votes are required just to bring something to an actual vote.  Plus, it strengthens the Presidency, and I’m for that.  With everything going on in the world, the President shouldn’t be sending months and months on simply getting his judicial nominees confirmed.  It’s ridiculous.

As for the redistricting and population shifts, I think the Senate is a different animal when it comes to elections.  Incumbents hold a significant advantage over challengers because of the six-year-long terms, unlike the House where members are up for reelection every two years, meaning they are basically fundraising and campaigning for half of their term, and they don’t even have high name-recognition in their own districts.  It’s easier to challenge a member of the House.  Plus, the Republican Party is facing a civil war — I would not be surprised to see the GOP split into two parties within the next four or five years.  I doubt it would happen before 2016, but if a Democrat is elected President in 2016 (and I don’t think a Republican can win an Electoral College victory in 2016), that party could dynamite itself.  If it does — it’s a 1912 situation with the Republicans splintering into two parties and drawing votes away from each other.  That’s trouble when it comes to Presidential and Senate elections.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Might have been asked before: If the electoral college ties, the Presidential election goes to the House. What if the House has an even number of Republicans and Democrats and goes down the partisan middle?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

If no candidate receives the required majority in the Electoral College to become President and the election is sent to the House of Representatives, the first thing to understand is that the votes are not cast individually.  Instead, the vote is decided by state delegations (whose individual members of Congress vote as a block), and resolving the undecided election would require an absolute majority of states (at least 26) in order for a candidate to be elected.

So, to break it down more:  there are 435 individual members of the House of Representatives, but in the case of an undecided election of the President that is thrown into the House for a resolution, the members don’t cast individual votes.  Instead, they gather in their respective state delegations and cast their votes within their state’s caucus — the candidate who wins the majority of votes within the state delegation, “wins” that state.  Once a candidate wins an absolute majority of state delegations that candidate is elected President.

Now, there are, of course, 50 states, so what happens if the votes of the state delegations are split 25-25 and we still have no winner?  We simply take another ballot.  And, if necessary, another and another and another…  The voting in the House of Representatives continues on-and-on until a candidate finally wins a majority of state delegations.  It’s like a Papal Conclave — we must have a winner! —  without the world’s most low-tech method of excitement: the fumata bianca.

A few more important particulars to note if a Presidential election is thrown into the House of Representatives because nobody won a majority of Electoral votes:

•The House must choose between the leading Presidential candidates who received Electoral votes, they can’t just plug anyone that they want in there.  Of course, this is usually just two candidates.  However, the last time the election was decided by the House (1824), there were four candidates who split the Electoral vote: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay.  In such a case, the House is limited to deciding between the top three vote-getters in the original Electoral College tally.
•Advances in technology and transportation has all but eliminated the possibility of state delegations being absent from the proceedings, but it is mandatory for at least 2/3 of the state delegations to be present in order for the House to decide the election.
•All other Congressional business takes a backseat to an undecided Presidential election thrown into the House.  The House begins voting as quickly as possible and continues until there is a winner who qualifies.
•If we reach Inauguration Day and still don’t have a President-elect, the person who won an Electoral College majority as Vice President becomes President.  If there is also no Vice President-elect, the House how and who to choose the person who will become Acting President until somebody qualifies as President.  (An undecided Vice Presidential election is resolved by the U.S. Senate.)

The House of Representatives has decided two Presidential election — most famously the aforementioned 1824 election in which Andrew Jackson won a plurality of Electoral votes against John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay, but lacked the required majority necessary to clinch the Presidency.  The House ended up electing John Quincy Adams, a result that Jackson and his supporters chalked up to a “Corrupt Bargain” between JQA and Henry Clay, who became Secretary of State under President Adams.  

The first election decided by the House was the 1800 campaign.  At the time, the top vote-getter in the Electoral College was elected President and the person who finished second was elected Vice President.  While there was no official designation between the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, going into the 1800 campaign, Democratic-Republicans unofficially saw Thomas Jefferson as the Presidential candidate and Aaron Burr as the Vice Presidential candidate.  When Jefferson and Burr ended up tied in the Electoral College, Burr saw an opportunity to snatch the Presidency up for himself, decided not to step aside for Jefferson, and the election was thrown into the House.  Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist leader, had issues with both Jefferson and Burr, but he hated Jefferson just a little bit less than Burr.  Hamilton influenced the Federalist support in Congress that Jefferson needed to clinch the Presidency and Burr ended up as Vice President.  As we all know, Burr never forgot Hamilton’s role in costing him the Presidency and he ended up killing Hamilton in a duel while still Vice President of the United States.

Incidentally, just in case anybody was wondering, a Vice Presidential election has only been thrown into the Senate for a decision on one occasion — 1836.  Richard Mentor Johnson had been a staunch supporter of Andrew Jackson and the outgoing President Jackson wanted to reward him.  While Jackson had almost seemingly handpicked Martin Van Buren as his chosen successor in 1836, Old Hickory definitely chose Johnson as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate that year, insisting that the Democratic National Convention nominate Johnson as VP.  The Democrats nominated Johnson as Van Buren’s running mate, but Johnson was extremely unpopular in the South.  Despite being from Kentucky, Johnson openly kept a former slave as his common-law wife and raised their mixed-race children as white, free, and legitimate.  Many Southerners of his own party steadfastly refused to support Johnson’s candidacy for Vice President even as they supported Van Buren for President.  This led to four candidates splitting the vote for Vice President in the Electoral College — Richard M. Johnson, John Tyler, Francis Granger, and William Smith.  While Johnson had a solid plurality of Electoral votes for VP, he lacked the majority required for election that Van Buren had won as President.

In the case of a Presidential election deadlocked in the Electoral College, the House settles the dispute by a vote between the top three vote-getters, at most.  When a deadlocked Vice Presidential election is decided by the U.S. Senate, only the top two contenders in the Electoral College are considered.  So, the undecided election for Vice President in 1836 came down to Johnson and Granger, and Andrew Jackson was happy to see the Senate elect his choice for VP, Richard Mentor Johnson, to join his chosen successor as President, Martin Van Buren.

(Four years later, neither President Van Buren or Vice President Johnson were as lucky.  The Democrats renominated Van Buren, but Southerners were no longer the only opposition to the scandalous Richard Mentor Johnson.  At the Democratic Convention in 1840, Democrats refused to renominate Johnson, Van Buren refused to nominate another VP, and Van Buren headed into the general election season without a running mate.  Still hoping to continue in the job, Johnson simply campaigned for VP on his own and ended up as President Van Buren’s de facto running mate.  Johnson’s presence or absence had no discernible impact on the campaign — no matter who his running mate was, the incumbent President Van Buren was trounced on Election Day by Whig candidate William Henry Harrison.) 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
so you voted no to recall gray davis but who did you vote for as a possible sucessor?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Okay, well first, let me note that I am not usually a proponent of throwing your vote away.  I think it’s a silly form of protest.  However, I was very frustrated and angry about the 2003 recall campaign against Governor Gray Davis because I really liked Governor Davis.  His 1998 campaign was the first campaign I ever worked on and he had been reelected less than a year earlier.  He wasn’t corrupt and nobody ever accused him of corruption.  It was a partisan hijacking of the political process, financed by the man who is now chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa (who was hoping to become Governor himself but stepped away when Arnold Schwarzengger jumped in).

I used to take my daughter with me when I would vote so that she could see the process and hopefully it would resonate with her and encourage her to vote when she got older.  So, she went with me on the day of the recall election.  I voted “no” because I was against recalling Governor Davis, but it was very obvious that the recall was going to succeed, Governor Davis was going to be recalled, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to win.  So, I explained everything to Sabrina as best as I could, and let her vote because she wanted to fill in the bubble.

If it were up to me, I would have voted for Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, the top Democrat in the election.  (Bustamante had to run a weird, confusing campaign that said, “No on the Recall, Yes to Cruz!”)  Sabrina had other ideas.  She voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger — and here’s the great thing — because she’s been a smart-ass since she was five years old she didn’t vote for Arnold because she liked him; she voted for him because she thought it would be funny to have him as Governor and because she knew it wasn’t who I would vote for.  What a sweet little child — not her, everybody else’s kid.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Canadian here. Why is it that that when an election is held in the US, every jurisdiction seems to have theirs at the same time? Does everything show up on one ballot paper?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Wait a second…where’s the bouncer?  There’s no Canadians allowed here.  (Before a bunch of people from Saskatchewan announce that they are unfollowing me, I’m kidding.)

Honestly, Election Day is the first Tuesday in November for most positions because it makes sense financially.  I believe that Presidential and Congressional elections are the only ones actually mandated by law to take place on the first Tuesday in November, but for state-level positions and local-level positions it just makes sense to hold elections on the same day because elections are expensive events to have.  Plus, ideally, it would be awesome to have as many voters get out to the polls as possible, so it’s less confusing to have all elections take place on the same day every year.

Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t elections that take place on other dates.  Even if you take away primary elections, which normally take place early in the year of the general election (and those primary election dates differ from state-to-state), state and local elections can also be held at different times of year.  It’s up to the state or local municipality that has jurisdiction over the election.  (And that’s not even taken into consideration early voting or absentee balloting, which also differs throughout the country depending on your location.)  

As for the ballots, well, that can be confusing, too.  There is no uniform ballot for federal, state, or local elections.  That’s usually different from county-to-county, depending on the state.  Not only that, but the means for registering differs from state-to-state.  And the actual WAY that you vote is different from one locality to another.  In California, where I voted for 12 years, there are counties that have computer stations to fill out ballots, punch cards, manual ballots where you fill in a bubble like you’re taking a test, and other types of voting equipment.  It all depends where you live.

You want to know what a crazy Election Day was?  In 2003, when I lived in California, there was an election to decide whether to recall Governor Gray Davis — the election that resulted in Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming Governor.  So, the first decision on the ballot was to vote “Yes” or “No” on recalling Governor Davis (I voted “No”).  The second decision was to vote for a candidate for Governor to replace Governor Davis if the recall succeeded.  Now, even if you voted “No” to recall Davis, you could still choose a potential successor.  Because the recall was a goddamn circus there were 135 candidates for Governor to choose from — all on one ballot.  That’s right…ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE candidates.  Take that, Canada.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Stupid question: why are they called the mid terms if its elections for congress?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

That’s not a stupid question.  There are often phrases or words relating to government, or certain mechanisms of the government that we hear frequently, but that are never clearly defined.  It’s important to share that information.  Neil deGrasse Tyson frequently talks about the importance of expanding “science literacy”, and I think “history literacy” or “civic literacy” is something that also needs to be improved upon.

The Congressional elections are called midterms when they happen in the middle of a Presidential term — Obama was elected in 2008, so the 2010 Congressional elections were midterms.  His 2012 reelection makes the 2014 Congressional elections midterms.  Biennially (every two years), all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 1/3rd of the Senate is up for reelection, but midterms only take place every four years.

"Midterms" is a good word for those elections, too.  Midterm elections are really the first chance — a test, of sorts — for Presidents to get a clear understanding of national acceptance for their policies and an opportunity for their performance to be graded by the American people.  A President whose political party loses a significant amount of seats in a midterm election can be in serious trouble.  If it’s their first midterm election, it could warn of a major challenge in their bid for reelection.  If it’s their second midterm election, failure can accelerate their status as lame ducks going into their final months in office.

I’m not one of those people who say that there are no stupid questions.  There are A LOT of stupid questions.  I see them everybody in my inbox.  But this wasn’t one of them!

I’m pretty sure that I don’t remember what it’s like to not live in the midst of an all-encompassing political campaign.  Then again, considering how campaigns seem to begin earlier and earlier in 21st Century American politics, I wouldn’t be surprised if the midterm cycle kicks off this afternoon.

(P.S.: I better not see stories about potential 2016 Presidential candidates until AT LEAST Inauguration Day.  In a perfect world, we’d be safe from starting that discussion until late-2014.)