Third term curse: Obama's victory in perspective

Lost in all the punditry about the "impressive" Obama victory is how 2008 compares to other elections where one party had served two consecutive terms.

In 2004 Bush won re-election with about 2.5% of the vote. In 2008 Obama won by somewhere around 7.0%, producing a "swing" of 9.5%.

For comparison:

In 1904 Republican Theodore Roosevelt won by 18.83%. In 1908 Republican Taft won again, but only by 8.53%--a swing of 10 points even though Roosevelt was popular.

(1912 was complicated by a three-way race that hurt the Republicans, so direct comparisons with 1908 are impossible.)

In 1916 Democrat Woodrow Wilson won by 3.12%. In 1920, after an unpopular war and an economic recession (sound familiar?) Republican Harding won by 26.17%. The swing amounted to 29.29%.

(Another third party ticket sabotaged a party in 1924, making comparisons with 1928 impossible.)

In 1936 Roosevelt won re-election by 24.26%. He ran for a thrid term in 1940 and won by 9.95%--a swing of 14.31%.

(1944 was a war year and Harry Truman essentially served that term.)

In 1948 Truman was elected by 4.48%. In 1952 Eisenhower beat Stevenson by 10.85%. The swing was 15.33%.

In 1956 Eisenhower was re-elected by 15.40%. In 1960 Kennedy beat Nixon by 0.16%. The swing was 15.56% even though Eisenhower was popular.

In 1964 Johnson crushed Goldwater by 22.58%. In 1968 Richard Nixon barely won by 0.70% but it amounted to a 23.28% swing.

In 1972 Nixon won by 23.15%. In 1976 Carter beat Frod by 2.06% and the swing was 25.21%.

In 1984 Reagan won re-election by 18.22%. In 1988 Bush won a Republican third term by 7.73% but that still amounted to a 10.49% swing in spite of Reagan's popularity.

In 1992 Bush lost to Clinton by 5.56%, marking another 13.29% swing.

In 1996 Clinton was re-elected by 8.51% and in 2000 Gore won the popular vote by 0.51%. The Swing was 8.0% even though most thought the country was going in the right direction.

Barack Obama's 9.5% swing is thus smaller than the 16.5% average swing. In fact, only in 2000 was the swing less than 9.5%--and then not by much.

If we only average the unpopular administrations (1920, 1952, 1968, 1976, 1992), we get a swing of 21.28% on average.

Once again, the question that should be asked is why we didn't lose by more, not why we lost.

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Comments

that's an easy question to answer: Culture War

at some point we used to judge ideas more based on how well they could help us, and not based on which party, or which region of the country they came from.

I for one want the nonsense about "there's no need for government" and "there's no need for free markets" to be driven into the ground for once and for all.

But to do that takes more courage than certain people are willing to stomach. Here's glaring at you, Bill Buckley!

Also, I'd be interested to see how the voting patterns of Authoritarian personalities have changed over the years. I know currently they tend to be bush-loving republicans... but what are the historical patterns?

At a guess, I'd say they might have voted for LBJ or Roosevelt, and then gone Republican thereafter. This is not to say that they're at all congruent with those who switched over Voter Rights Act.