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History Of The Superdelegate

What is a Superdelegate in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination? What is the history behind the awarding of these delegates?

A  “superdelegate” is a party leader, an elected official or otherwise, who is made an automatic delegate at the party nominating convention. This person is not required to win his or her place in a primary or in a caucus. They have a spot at the convention no matter what. 

The so-called superdelegate was created as a “reform” within the Democratic nominating process for the 1984 elections. Party leaders felt that the process had gotten away from them and was overly geared to primary voters and caucus-goers. 

According to Congressional Quarterly’s Guide To U.S. Elections

“This reform had two main goals. First Democratic leaders would participate in the nomination decision at the convention. Second, they wanted to ensure that these uncommitted party leaders could play a major role in selecting the presidential nominees if no candidate was a clear front-runner.”

Isn’t is great that Democratic party leaders had to be given a free pass instead of earning a place to take an active part in the nominating process?

The superdelegate idea was in in many ways a roundabout response to a process set in motion by liberal party activists who felt shut out at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Vice President Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota in 1968 was the last major party nominee to win the nomination without entering most of the primaries.

A commission was set up led by Senator George McGovern of South Dakota that led to an opening of the process and to more primaries. This openness was the trend in the 1972 and 1976 nominating races for the Democrats and Senator McGovern benefited from these new rules in his own successful 1972 nomination bid.    

For 1984, the party leadership reasserted some authority with superdelegates. It was a “reform” that was really a step backwards.   

Superdelegates in 2008 are Democratic members of the House and Senate, Democratic Governors, and members of the Democratic National Committee. Al Gore and Bill Clinton are also superdelegates. 

There are approximately 800 superdelegates of the 2125 delegates needed to win the nomination.

In 1984, four of five superdelegates supported Walter Mondale of Minnesota (photo below) over Senator Gary Hart of Colorado. This despite the fact Vice President Mondale won 37.8% of all primary votes in 1984 against the 36.1% won by Senator Hart. The party establishment was beyond Mr. Mondale regardless of how people were voting in the primaries.

 

Since 1984, the percentage of superdelegates has increased. It was 14% of all delegates in 1984 and is nearly 20% today.

As I write this in February, more superdelegates are pledged to Senator Hillary Clinton of New York than to Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.   

Superdelegates can change their minds if they wish. They can do anything they want.

It’s like some sort of House of Lords. ( Illustration below.)

This process is undemocratic. Delegates should be elected by rank-and-file members of the party. If a sitting Governor or Senator can’t win a spot in a primary or a caucus, what type of legitimacy as a popular leader does such a person have?   

I hope that at the least, superdelgates will reflect the wishes of the district or state they represent, or, for those not currently holding any political office, the state or local area they come from. 

2008 Democratic Convention Watch is a blog doing a good job tracking who superdelegates are supporting.  

Texas Liberal is leading the way in politcal history blogging in 2008.

February 7, 2008 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Louisiana Primary Is February 9—Facts, History & Links About Louisiana Politics & The Primary

The Louisiana primary will be held for both parties this upcoming Saturday, February 9.

Democrats will award 56 delegates and Republicans will have 20 delegates at stake. (Though some of these Republican delegates have already been spoken for in an earlier caucus.)

For Democrats in the South in 2008, Senator Barack Obama has so far won the Deep South states of South Carolina,( Here is a Texas Liberal history of the South Carolina primary.) Alabama and Georgia. Hillary Clinton has won Arkansas, where she lived for many years, and the border state of Tennessee.

Mrs. Clinton was the winner of the Florida poll, but due to a dispute over the date of the primary, a full campaign was not fought in Florida.  ( Here is a Texas Liberal history of the Florida primary.)

Senator Obama does well in states where much of the primary electorate is black.

For Republicans, Mike Huckabee has been the strongest candidate in the South. Though John McCain’s wins in South Carolina and Florida have been very important to his campaign.

( Satellite image of New Orleans.)

In November, Louisiana has gone Republican in the past two elections. Going back a bit further, after many years as a “Solid South” one-party Democratic state, Louisiana has mostly voted for Republicans for President beginning with Barry Goldwater in 1964. Southern Democrats Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 were able to carry the state.

Louisiana has not played a large role in the recent history of the presidential nominating process with one positive exception. In 1996 the forces of the far right-wing Texas Senator Phil Gramm  arranged for early caucuses in Louisiana to help the Gramm campaign. That was a bad move. Turnout was low and Pat Buchanan won the most delegates.

Louisiana did not hold its first Presidential primary until 1980. Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter were the winners.

Indicative of the strength of black voters within the Democratic Party there, Jesse Jackson was the Louisiana Democratic primary winner in both 1984 and 1988.

The Obama campaign must be aware of that fact.

( Photo below of Bald Cypress Swamp in Louisiana.)

Here is an excerpt from the Louisiana entry in the 2008 Almanac of American Politics—-

Louisiana often seems to America’s banana republic, with its charm and inefficiency, its communities interfaced by family ties and its public sector sometimes laced with corruption, with its own indigenous culture and its traditions of fine distinctions of class and caste. It is a state with an economy uncomfortably like that of an underdeveloped country, based on pumping minerals out of soggy ground and shipping grain produced in the vast hinterland drained by its great river, an economy increasingly dependent on businesses typical of picturesque Third World countries—tourism…. and gambling…..Louisiana has a hereditary rich class and a large low-wage working class. It has conservative cultural attitudes….but Louisiana also has a lazy tolerance of rule-breaking.

Louisiana has a lower population today than it did in 2000. This is because, of course, of Hurricane Katrina. The 2000 population was 4.468 million. The 2007 estimate was 4.293 million.

Here are some basic facts about Louisiana.

The population of Louisiana is around 30% black. The Hispanic population is much smaller. If it has gone up since Katrina, it is unlikely that many of the Hispanics involved in rebuilding New Orleans are registered to vote. Hispanic voters have been supporting Hillary Clinton so far in the Democratic race.

It was not just New Orleans proper that lost population after Katrina. Strongly Republican Jefferson Parrish in the New Orleans suburbs has also lost people and this fact may offset at least some of the black population decline.

Here is the Louisiana progressive blogger Moldy City.

Here is the Louisiana progressive blogger CenLamar.

Here is the Louisiana progressive blogger Library Chronicles.

Here is the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper.

Here is the Louisiana Democratic Party.

Here is the Green Party of Louisiana.

Here is the Louisiana Republican Party.

(Texas Liberal is leading the way in political history blogging in 2008. )

(Does this unique Louisiana cuisine make up for years of poverty and racism?)

February 6, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Books, Campaign 2008, Hurricane Katrina, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Clintons Get What They Want And We Get The Damage

  

 Hillary Clinton and, also, the Clintons as a team make me mad.

They get what they want and others deal with the damage.

In 1992 Bill Clinton was elected President. This brought relief among Democrats after 12 years of Reagan and the first Bush.

Okay so far.

President Clinton put Mrs. Clinton in charge of health care reform. She did not get the job done despite the fact Democrats controlled both branches of Congress at the time.

Because of this and other political missteps early in the Clinton Presidency, Republicans in 1994 won control of both Houses of Congress for the first time since the election of 1952. 

It would not be until 2006 that Democrats would win back full control of Congress.

Republicans did an immense amount of harm to the nation in those 12 years.

In 1996, President Clinton was re-elected.

In his second term, Mr. Clinton decided to engage in a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Much of what Mr. Clinton might have been able to accomplish in the second term, even with the Republican Congress that was in large part his doing, was lost because of this avoidable scandal.

In 2000, Al Gore was uncertain how to make use of President Clinton politically because of the scandal. This cost Mr. Gore votes in one of the closest Presidential elections in American history.

America got 8 years of George W. Bush.

Hillary Clinton got a Senate seat from New York.

Now we are looking at the prospect of Mrs. Clinton winning the Democratic Presidential nomination and, possibly, facing John McCain.    

Given the history and Mr. McCain’s strengths, I’m concerned Mrs. Clinton will take the nomination and lose the General Election. Mrs. Clinton is just the candidate who can mobilize Republicans to support even the slightly more moderate by Republican standards—but still conservative—Mr. McCain.

I’ve said before that if Mrs. Clinton is the nominee, I’ll vote for her. I feel our problems are so great that we can’t have another Republican President. I want to give our political system one more chance to prove it is up to the challenge of climate change and the global economy.

I’ll vote for Mrs. Clinton, but it does not have to come to that.

The Clintons get what they want and others get the damage. 

Giving Mrs. Clinton the nomination and looking at the prospect of yet another Republican Presidency is a chance we can easily avoid taking by supporting Barack Obama for President.             

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Reminder That Democrats Don’t Have 2008 Locked Up

In his Sunday column from January 27, Frank Rich of The New York Times talks about the risks for Democrats in nominating the Hillary and Bill team.

Here is the full column.

Here is an excerpt—

In a McCain vs. Billary race, the Democrats will sacrifice the most highly desired commodity by the entire electorate, change; the party will be mired in déjà 1990s all over again. Mrs. Clinton’s spiel about being “tested” by her “35 years of experience” won’t fly either. The moment she attempts it, Mr. McCain will run an ad about how he was being tested when those 35 years began, in 1973. It was that spring when he emerged from five-plus years of incarceration at the Hanoi Hilton while Billary was still bivouacked at Yale Law School. And can Mrs. Clinton presume to sell herself as best equipped to be commander in chief “on Day One” when opposing an actual commander and war hero? I don’t think so.

We can do better than Hillary Clinton.

Click here for Barack Obama for President

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History Of California Presidential Primary

Texas Liberal live blogging of Super Tuesday  results is up and running. 

The California Presidential nominating primary, which will be held for 2008 on February 5, has a history that goes back to the Progressive Era. The first California primary was held in 1912.

The Presidential nominating primary, however regressive it may seem at times today, was a Progressive reform. It was step away from the smoke-filled rooms.

California was a big part of the Progressive Era. Progressive Bull Moose candidate Teddy Roosevelt carried California in the 1912 general election and the great Progressive Hiram Johnson was Governor of California from 1911 until 1917 and Senator from 1917 until his death in 1945.  Johnson was Teddy Roosevelt’s running mate in  1912.

(Here is an article from USA Today about the 2008 primary.)

(Here are some basic demographic facts about California.  )

Over 36 million people live in California. John Kerry won California 54%-44% in 2004.

In that first 1912 primary, Roosevelt defeated incumbent President William Howard Taft of Ohio among Republicans by a 2-1 margin. That gives you a sense of where the Republican electorate of California stood at that point in time.

For Democrats, House Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri beat Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey 72%-28%.

1912 was long before primaries had the decisive role they do today. It would be 1972 and the years after 1972 that primaries took on the role they play today.

In 1920, California Senator Johnson took the Republican primary over Herbert Hoover.  Hoover also has California connections as a Stanford graduate. Senator Johnson objected to Hoover’s position in favor of U.S. entry into the League of Nations and worked hard to deny Hoover the nomination.

Senator Warren Harding of Ohio won the 1920 nomination at a deadlocked Republican convention.

Senator Johnson was asked to be Harding’s running mate. He said no. Harding died in 1923 and Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts became President.

Incumbent President Coolidge beat Senator Johnson in the California republican primary of 1924.

The Democratic primary of 1932 was of some note. Reflecting the Southern origins of many California Democrats, House Speaker John Nance Garner of Texas won the primary over New Yorker’s Al Smith, the 1928 Democratic nominee and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Very different from the results you would get today.

Roosevelt selected Garner as his first of his three Vice Presidents.

In 1936, Democratic voters gave the novelist Upton Sinclair 11% of the vote against FDR. Mr. Sinclair had run a left-wing campaign for governor in 1934 and almost won.

Mr. Sinclair is most famous for writing The Jungle.

(San Diego is closely contested between the two parties.)

In 1936, 1948 and 1952, Earl Warren was the winner of the California Republican primary.

Try to imagine Mr. Warren as  a Republican today!

The future liberal Chief Justice was Governor of California from 1943 until 1953, He was also the running mate of Thomas E. Dewey of New York in 1948.

Warren never won the Republican nomination. Though arguably he got the only job better than President.

For all this time and beyond—from 1912 until 1992— the California primary was held late in the process. Often favorite son candidates, such as Mr. Warren, were the winners.

A favorite son candidate is a  statewide figure who runs in the primary and then passes on his delegates at the convention in exchange for an office or for influence.

The 1964 Republican primary brought a clear test of ideological strength within the party. Much like in 1912.

This time though, the right-wing won.

Conservative Senator  Barry Goldwater of Arizona defeated Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York. Rockefeller was a liberal Republican and the party was badly split in the early 60’s between these competing wings of the party.

The future was with the conservatives as the 1966 election of Ronald Reagan as Governor of California established.

It was on the night of his California 1968 Democratic primary win that Senator Robert Kennedy of New York was assassinated.

The 1972 California democratic primary was significant. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota defeated former Vice President Humbert Humphrey by 44%-39%. Mr. McGovern’s win gained him delegates and momentum that made a difference in taking the nomination.

(The Sacramento area is inclined towards Democrats.)

In 1976, home state candidate Ronald Reagan won a big victory over President Gerald Ford. But the 65%-35% win was not enough for Reagan to win the nomination.

California Democrats in 1980 voted for a slate of delegates committed to liberal Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts over incumbent President Jimmy Carter of Georgia. This provided a sense of what ideological tint held sway among California Democrats.

In 1992, California was the only one of 7 states voting on June 2 that came close to rejecting Bill Clinton of Arkansas. Former California Governor Jerry Brown, fighting to the end, lost 45%–40%. Mr Clinton had pretty much wrapped up the nomination before California.

In 1996, California finally moved its’ primary up to March. ( Please click here for a Texas Liberal history of Super Tuesday Primary Day.) Though all voters did was ratify the foregone conclusions of Bob Dole of Kansas and President Clinton.

California moved up its primary to March 7 for 2000 and March 2 in 2004.

In neither case did the California result make a difference.

(Texas Liberal is leading the way in political history blogging in 2008. Please click here for much more. Thanks for reading the blog! )

(No voting in Death Valley)

January 29, 2008 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, Elections, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History Of Super Tuesday Primary Day

Texas Liberal live blogging of  Super Tuesday results is up and running.

The Super Tuesday Primary Day has a relatively modern history. The first Super Tuesday took place in 1988.

(Above is a person voting in Poland. It would be fun to have such a big tall ballot box where I voted. Please also note the ballot box is decorated with a plant and that the voter seems quite happy. Voting can indeed be fun. )

Super Tuesday resulted from concerns about the nominating process before 1988, and has evolved—if we take the word “evolve” to not mean the same as “improve”—from smaller regional primaries held in the 1970’s and 80’s.

And whatever it’s process-driven roots, the real purpose has been to enhance the influence of the states taking part in Super Tuesday.

(Look at all the choices the people have in whatever election is represented on the ballot sheet below. Still, having many choices does not mean folks have true alternatives).

In short, there is a good measure of silliness and state-against-state competition in the Super Tuesday concept.

Objections to the way the nominating process took place before Super Tuesday were the long gap between New Hampshire and other primaries in which candidates fell out of the daily news, the expense of the nominating campaign, the physical strain on candidates, and the length of the campaign with the primaries extending into May and June.

Objections to the current process are that the nomination is locked up before voters know the candidates, the money it requires run in many states at once and –of course–that the campaign season is so long.

( If you see Fred Thompson’s name on your ballot, please recall he has quit the race. Nobody wanted him.)

In 1980 and ’84, Alabama, Georgia and Florida voted on the same day in the second week of March. That smaller regional primary day is the foundation of the current Super Tuesday.

On March 8, 1988 16 states, 10 from the south, all held primaries.

Voila! Super Tuesday was born.

(People value the ballot all across the world.)

In 1992, Super Tuesday was termed “March Madness” with an 8 state primary on March 3 and an increasing number of states holding primaries in March.

In 1996, March brought on successive Tuesdays a “Junior Tuesday” of ten states—including five in New England—, a Super Tuesday with seven mostly Southern states and, finally, a “Big Ten” Tuesday of ten states with a focus on the industrial Midwest. There was also a three state western primary that included California on March 26. ( Please click here for a Texas Liberal history of the California Primary.)

In 2000, 11 states held primaries on March 7. This was the earliest date allowed by Democrats for states other than Iowa or New Hampshire to hold a primary or caucus. On March 14, another big Southern-dominated  primary day was held.

In 2004, a national Super Tuesday was held with California, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Georgia and five other states voting on the first Tuesday in March.

( Sometimes voting forces us to view a complex world in black and white.)

For 2008 the dam has broken. 24 states will be holding a primary or caucus on the very early date of February 5.

In each election cycle Super Tuesday, or one of its close cousins, has basically ended the race.

For Republicans, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole and George W. Bush wrapped it up on the big day(s). The same has been true for Democrats Mike Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry.

Will the nomination fight in at least one of the parties survive past Super Tuesday 2008?

For the sake of blog traffic, I very much hope so.

(Please click here for other Texas Liberal political history posts. Texas Liberal will lead the way in blogging political history in 2008.)

(This person cared about voting and thought Woodrow Wilson should support the right of women to vote.)

January 25, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

History Of The South Carolina Primary

Republicans and Democrats are campaigning hard in South Carolina.

Republicans vote in that state on January 19. Democrats vote on January 26.

Above is the state seal of South Carolina. In the first circle the words mean–“Ready in soul and resource.” In the second circle the words mean–“While I breathe I hope.”

Here is a link to some basic facts about South Carolina. The population of South Carolina is roughly 4.4 million.

Beginning with 1980, South Carolina’s Presidential nominating primary has played an important role in selecting Republican nominees.

Every winner of the Republican primary in South Carolina since 1980 has gone on to win the nomination of his party. In a number of these instances, the South Carolina win played a direct role in the nomination victory.

In 2008, this primary is important for both parties.

The origin of South Carolina as a force in Republican Presidential politics can be traced back to the political consultant Lee Atwater. In 1980, Mr. Atwater helped get the South Carolina primary scheduled early in the campaign season to help Ronald Reagan. (Photo below.)

Mr. Atwater was an architect of the first George Bush’s “Willie Horton” strategy against Mike Dukakis.

Governor Reagan won the 1980 primary with 55% of the vote in a test against former Texas Governor John Connally. Mr. Connally ran a distant second at 30%.

In 1988, Mr. Atwater again used South Carolina to aid his candidate.

This time it was Mr. Reagan’s Vice President, George H.W. Bush.

South Carolina voted three days before much of the rest of the South did on so-called “Super Tuesday” March 8.  Bush scored a convincing win in South Carolina over his main Republican challenger, Robert Dole of Kansas. (Photo below) This helped set the tone for a Bush sweep of the South on the big primary day 72 hours later.

The timing of the South Carolina primary has been critical to it’s influence. Scheduled as the first primary in the South and conducted a few days before Super Tuesday, candidates have seen the state as a springboard to subsequent primary tests.

In these years, Democrats were holding a South Carolina caucus instead of a primary. Intended or not, this fact denied Jesse Jackson likely primary victories in 1984 and 1988. Reverend Jackson was South Carolina caucus winner in 1988.

Jesse Jackson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina.

South Carolina has a substantial black population and a majority of South Carolina’s Democrats are black.

In 1992, a strong showing by President Bush over Pat Buchanan (photo below) helped dash Mr. Buchanan’s hope of winning strong Southern support for his White House bid.

For 1996, while the slightly more moderate Mr. Dole might not seem a total fit for South Carolina Republicans, two former GOP governors of  South Carolina helped orchestrate a convincing Dole win over, again, Pat Buchanan. This win helped solidify Mr. Dole’s status as the frontrunner.

By 2000, Karl Rove (photo below), was running the Republican dirty tricks operation. Mr. Atwater died in 1991.

George W. Bush’s campaign questioned the sanity of rival John McCain. False rumors were spread about Senator McCain’s health. Leaflets were distributed calling McCain the “fag candidate.” This apparently because Senator McCain had met with the gay Log Cabin Republican group. (logo below)

Democrats have held a South Carolina primary in 1992 and 2004.

Bill Clinton was the easy winner in 1992.

John Edwards, who was born in South Carolina, was the 2004 winner. The win did little to help Senator Edwards take the nomination.

Al Sharpton (photo below) had hoped that black voters would rally to his candidacy.

They did not.

Below is a picture of the Sabel Palmetto tree. This is the state tree of South Carolina.

Texas Liberal is going to be your leading source for political history blogging in 2008. Please click here for a variety of political history posts including a history of the upcoming Florida primary.

January 14, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Elections, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Senator Clinton’s Comments Seek To Diminish M.L. King & The Civil Rights Movement

Senator Hillary Clinton made comments in New Hampshire last week that sought to diminish the role of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement.

(Please click here for a Texas Liberal Martin Luther King Reading and Reference List. It is the best list of its kind on the web.)

Mrs Clinton said—“Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a President to get it done.” 

Mrs. Clinton’s comments were part of her effort since the Iowa caucus to belittle the optimism felt by many over the campaign of Senator Barack Obama.    

Along these lines, former President Bill Clinton described the Obama theme of hope as a “fairy tale.

It’s no surprise that the Clintons would play down the work done by the Civil Rights movement and the idea that we can do more than settle for the least bad option.

Clintonism has always been about settling for the least bad option in a conservative era.

Now that the conservative era may be coming to an end, what strategy is left but to ridicule the idea that people believing in anything more than the imagination-killing pragmatism of centrist politics can make America better?  

For the record, Mrs. Clinton’s reading of history is simply wrong. As well-detailed in Carol Polsgrove’s Divided Minds–Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement and David L. Chappell’s excellent  A Stone of Hope—Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, many white liberals and white intellectuals were  slow to embrace the cause of Civil Rights.

From Stone of Hope—“It is hard to sort out whether liberals cared a great deal about racism, but lacked the power to challenge it, or simply cared too little about racism, until black voters and protesters forced their hand…in the 1960’s.”  

While many whites did take personal and political risks to aid the cause of Civil Rights, if Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement had waited for someone other than themselves to bring about freedom, they might well still be waiting.  

And if in 2008 we look to Hillary Clinton to inspire us beyond the mess we find ourselves in today, we will also have a very long wait.

January 11, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Martin & Malcolm, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Youngest Presidents And What They Did Before Reaching The White House

 

With much discussion of the relative youth of Senator Barack Obama, who is 46, here is a list of U.S. Presidents who have taken office in their 40’s with their age and year they were sworn in. Also included are the more notable aspects in the careers of our youngest Presidents before reaching the White House.

The links are to the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. The information on the Presidents is first-rate and well worth taking time to review and study 

James Polk, 49, 1845

Polk served  two years in the Tennessee House, two years as Governor of Tennessee and 14 years in the U.S House. For four years Polk was Speaker of the U.S. House.

Polk was an aggressive President in terms of territorial expansion of the United States. He acquired Oregon by treaty and much of Mexico by force in the Mexican-American War. He was not very helpful if you were a slave or a Native American. Some say Polk was too quick to go to war with Mexico.

(The picture above is of Polk’s Tomb in Nashville. Youth is fleeting.)    

Franklin Pierce, 48, 1853

Pierce served four years in the New Hampshire House, four years in the U.S. House and five years in the U.S. Senate.

Pierce is considered one of our worst Presidents for his inability to deal effectively with the tensions between the North and South. 65 year old James Buchanan did little better as Pierce’s successor.

Ulysses Grant, 46, 1869

Grant spent 15 years in the army and led the Union army in the Civil War. Grant was also Secretary of War in 1867 and ’68 under Andrew Johnson.

The common view of Grant is that though Grant was not personally corrupt, he led a corrupt administration.  

James Garfield, 49, 1881

Garfield spent 17 years in the U.S House from Ohio. He was the chairman of a number of House committees over that time. Garfield saw combat in the Civil War and reached the rank of Major General.

Garfield was shot and killed nine months after becoming President.   

Grover Cleveland 47, 1885

Cleveland had been an Assistant District Attorney of Erie County New York, Sheriff of Erie County and Mayor of Buffalo. He was Governor of New York for two years.

Cleveland , in my view, should be known best for his refusal to aid struggling farmers and for his allegiance to Gilded Age politics. 

Theodore Roosevelt 42, 1901

The youngest President, Roosevelt had the experience of two years in the New York House, six years on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and two years as Police Commissioner of New York City.  He was also an Assistant Secretary of the Navy under William McKinley, Governor of New York for two years and Vice President for McKinley for just over six months before McKinley was assassinated.    

Roosevelt was our first “progressive” President. He expanded the reach of government into health and safety regulation. He also was a major behind-the-scenes player in a revolution in Panama that allowed the United States to acquire the land for the Panama Canal.  Roosevelt was always doped up on his own testosterone so it is hard to know if he ever matured at any point in his life.        

John Kennedy 43, 1961

Kennedy served in WW II, was elected to three terms in the U.S. House from Massachusetts and was a member of the U.S. Senate for 8 years. 

Kennedy’s Presidency was cut short. In at least some respects, Kennedy, based on reports in the years since his death of risky relationships with women after reaching the White House, does not seem to ever fully grown up.

Bill Clinton 46, 1993 

Clinton had been Attorney General of Arkansas for two years and Governor of that state for ten years.

Everybody has their own view of Bill Clinton. 

Our youngest Vice President was John Breckinridge of Kentucky. Breckinridge was 36 when sworn-in in 1857 to serve with President Buchanan. After his one term in office, Breckinridge served as a General in the Confederate Army. Before the Vice Presidency, Breckinridge had been an officer in the Mexican-American War and a member of the Kentucky House and the U.S. House.  

William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska is the youngest major party nominee for the Presidency. Bryan was 36 when he won the Democratic nomination in 1896. Bryan had served two terms in the U.S. House.  

Senator Obama would be 47 on Inauguration Day 2009. He served eight years in the Illinois Senate and by 2009 would have four years in the U.S. Senate.  

A few observations—

It’s interesting that six of the eight Presidents who assumed office in their 40’s, were sworn in between 1845 and 1901.

Since 1901, life expectancies have gone way up. A man born in 1900 had a life expectancy of 47. Senator Obama’s 47 is not the 47 of Grover Cleveland in 1889. Milestones in life and other accomplishments now often come later in life.

That said, Mr. Obama might help you when you are down-and-out while President Cleveland did little for people in his day who needed help.   

Bottom line? I don’t think the record shows a great deal of difference between older and younger Presidents. George W. Bush, now 60, is not mature and does not make wise decisions even after seven years as President.         

I don’t view Senator Obama as being either young or inexperienced for the job. Beliefs and ability are what matters. 

December 19, 2007 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments