At last, the end is near. At this point, I am sure that, like me, you are fed up with the 2016 presidential campaign. After more than two years of lies, deceit, insults, exaggerations and half-truths, we all just want it to end. Well, next Tuesday, for better or for worse, we will all get our wish. Polls have demonstrated repeatedly that Trump and Clinton are the most disliked candidates ever. Both have demonstrated traits that make many of us extremely uneasy. That said, one of them will become our next president.
In the meantime, below please find some little-known presidential election facts, which , hopefully, you will find interesting and informative. First, two quiz questions. They are not particularly difficult. In fact, those of you who have been reading my blogs regularly will likely know the answers.
- Who was the only person to run for president without being a member of a political party?
- Who was the only person to serve as both president and vice-president without having been elected to either office?
The answers appear at the end.
Now, some little-known facts:
- We all know that Election Day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. But, why? In a nutshell, the reasons are weather, harvest, worship and travel. In the 1700s the country was mostly agrarian. The harvest was crucial. Early November was viewed as a good time of the year, because the harvest was in and the weather was not yet too cold and inclement to travel. Moreover, most people attended church on Sundays and had to travel some distance to reach their polling place, usually the county seat or a large, centrally-located city, and they did so by horse and buggy. Monday was needed as a travel day.
- Voters do not elect the president directly. They vote for electors. These electors are “pledged” to a certain candidate, and in January, they formally vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged. Technically, these electors may vote for whomever they want, although these so-called “faithless electors” are very rare.
- Originally, the Constitution stated that the second place finisher would become the vice-president. Therefore, the president and vice-president could be from different political parties. This provision was changed by a constitutional amendment after the 1800 presidential election ended in an electoral college tie between Jefferson and Burr. (The House decided the winner.) Burr always thought that Alexander Hamilton unduly influenced the vote in the House. Many historians feel that this was one of the major causes of the bad blood between the two, which eventually culminated in their famous duel.
- On four occasions the winner did not receive the most popular votes (John Quincy Adams – 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes – (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888), and Bush 43 – 2000).
- With respect to prior experience, 16 presidents served in the Senate, although only three, Harding (1920), Kennedy (1960) and Obama (2008) went directly from the Senate to the White House.
- Many presidents served in the House of Representatives, but only James Garfield (1880) went directly from there to the White House. Incidentally, it was not a lucky move for him as he was assassinated just a few months into his term.
- Many view the office of vice-president as the primary stepping stone to the presidency, but only 14 of them have become president. Nine of those did so due to the death or resignation of the president; only five (John Adams – 1796, Thomas Jefferson – 1800, Martin Van Buren – 1836, Richard Nixon -1968, and George H. W. Bush – 1988) won election in their own right.
- 26 presidents were attorneys; 22 had military experience, including nine generals.
- What do ex-presidents do, besides write books and give speeches? Howard Taft served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; John Quincy Adams served in the House; and Andrew Johnson served in the Senate.
- The states with the most presidents are NY, Ohio and Virginia with six each.
- Five presidents were related to former presidents. John Quincy Adams was John Adams’ son; Benjamin Harrison was William Henry Harrison’s grandson; FDR was Teddy Roosevelt’s fifth cousin; Bush 43 was Bush 41’s son; and Bush 43 was the fourth cousin five times removed of Franklyn Pierce.
In my opinion, this will be a watershed election. Due to the possibility of five Supreme Court vacancies over the next few years, it will determine how America will be governed for a generation. Putting personal issues aside, the two candidates have vastly different visions of America.
In addition, a substantial amount of animosity and division has developed among the people, more so than I can ever recall in my lifetime. Therefore, regardless of who wins, approximately one-half of the populace will be extremely unhappy. The winner will have to deal with this matter as well as various serious issues abroad, and, perhaps, a hostile and divided Congress.
Quiz answers: (1) George Washington and (2) Gerald Ford.