December 19, 2015

A return to "back East" Presidents, whether Trump or Clinton wins

As the laissez-faire norms of the status-striving era found political expression, it was only natural that our Presidents should hail from farther out West, where the prevailing political ideology is libertarianism, a result of the rootless frontier heritage and lawlessness from the Wild West era.

The harbinger during the Great Compression was the 1964 Republican campaign of Barry Goldwater, a libertarian from Arizona. That was not yet in the anything-goes era, so his appeal was minimal. And yet the victor was also from out West, Johnson from Texas.

During the transition period, Nixon divided his time between California and New York. By the time the striver libertarian zeitgeist got going, we began to only have Presidents from out West. Reagan from California, Bush Sr. from Texas, Clinton from Arkansas (as far west as the South gets, unlike Jimmy Carter who was from Georgia), Bush Jr. from Texas, and Obama from Illinois by way of Hawaii and Indonesia.

Several challengers also came from out West -- Perot from Texas, Dole from Kansas, McCain from Arizona. Generally the challengers from back East got creamed -- Dukakis, Kerry, and Romney all from Massachusetts.

A similar shift took place during the last period of competitiveness-and-inequality, roughly 1830 through the Gilded Age. There were no states far out West, of course, but some were relatively farther west and more recently settled. Right on cue with Andrew Jackson, Presidents began to come from Tennessee, the Old Northwest (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois), and even Louisiana. During the initial period of falling competitiveness and growing equality, from Washington through John Quincy Adams, Presidents were all from the original colonies of Massachusetts or Virginia.

The present-day western trend is about to reverse itself in the 2016 election, where both frontrunners are East Coasters. Hillary Clinton has been part of the DC-NYC axis for over 20 years, and Trump is a lifelong New Yorker. Only a series of major upsets could result in the next President hailing from the laissez-faire Sun Belt -- major sabotage of the GOP nomination in favor of Rubio or Cruz, who would then face an uphill battle against Clinton.

Although the popular images of American life during the Great Compression do not involve urban East Coasters, that is in fact who was behind the Presidential wheel. The sense of national stewardship is more likely to flourish closer to where the nation was founded, among founding stock people who have roots there (not recent transplant strivers). Back East, regulating disorder trumps chaotic experimentation.

Teddy Roosevelt was a New Yorker, with Wilson nearby in New Jersey (after being raised in the Southeast). Taft and Harding came from Ohio, technically Midwestern and Appalachian, but settled early and as far east as the Midwest gets. Coolidge was a lifelong New Englander from Massachusetts. Hoover was the only Western President of the period, having been raised in Iowa and making a living around the Pacific Rim. FDR was a New Yorker. Truman was Midwestern, from Missouri. Eisenhower may have been raised in the Midwest, but had spent most of his career life with the East Coast military establishment, as well as being President of Columbia University in New York City. JFK was another lifelong New Englander from Massachusetts.

Johnson from Texas was the shape of things to come, although Nixon was only part Californian (and part New Yorker). Ford was from the eastern border of the Midwest, Michigan, and he only lucked into the Presidency. If Nixon had kept Spiro Agnew as his VP for his second term, a Marylander would have become President after his resignation. And Carter was from the southern portion of the East Coast, Georgia.

God willing, Trump will score a victory for the Archie Bunker Americans, beginning the slow healing process after excising the cancer of Sun Belt country club Republicans.

A Clinton Presidency would represent the interests of striver transplant East Coasters rather than ones rooted there, but even that worst-case scenario would be an improvement over the Pacific-raised Obama who only transplanted as far east as Chicago.

Either way, it looks like political power is beginning to shift back toward the stable eastern part of the country, and away from the rootless and lawless West.


  1. It should be noted that Bush Sr was originally from New England and didn't move to Texas until after W was born, and W in turn went to prep school & university in New England. Of course, an Ivy League education is fairly normative for U.S presidents, with Reagan being the most recent without one. Rubio is from Florida, which is technically east coast, although not one of the original thirteen colonies. He and Cruz are both Cuban, although Cruz was born in Canada before his family moved to Texas (I don't know if that makes him eligible for the presidency, although I'd rather he get it among the frontrunners).

    I mentioned earlier that I didn't expect a hypothetical president Trump to reverse any legal changes wrought by the pro-gay movement, but at the time I hadn't been aware that he came out in favor of a number of them before those were even mainstream Dem positions. Of course, I consider immigration policy to be of vastly greater importance.

  2. Hillary Clinton became a senator from New York in what was basically a carpetbagger arrangement. When she was ready to start her political career in 2000, New York happened to have an open Senate seat which she knew she could win. Had there not been an open seat in New York she might well have run from another state.
    While Donald Trump is a New York native, IINM he is a legal resident of Florida.

    Under federal law Ted Cruz is a native born citizen because his mother was a US citizen when he was born and she had lived in the US for a specified number of years. His father was not then a US citizen, and in fact became one just a few years ago, but only one parent has to qualify.


  3. Trump spends approximately 100% of his time in New York, wherever his legal residence may be.

    He's shaped by the political and economic climate of New York, just as Bush Sr. was by Texas, or Eisenhower by the East Coast.

  4. "(I don't know if that makes him eligible for the presidency, although I'd rather he get it among the frontrunners)."

    Yeah, why win transforming changes when we can make an empty symbolic sacrifice?

  5. Transforming changes come in situations like FDR or LBJ winning overwhelming majorities. They had large blocs in Congress on board. Trump has no background in politics, much of the leadership of the party he's running under hates him, and he's not going to get the support of the Democrats either. Nor do I think Trump would be that transformative even if he did have supporters in Congress. Your ideas about Trump changing the legal status of the media are a fantasy.

  6. You're unaware of how little traction Trump will need in Congress because so many big problems have been brought into effect through executive order -- all Trump has to do is counter-sign the old order, and it's donezo.

    Where he does need Congress, he'll be positioned to shame the Republican majority in both houses from his ultimate bully pulpit. They do face re-election, remember, and when Trump sails into the Oval Office, they'll know how fed up their constituents are with the same old traitorous selling out of our country.

    Trump will make it very clear: get on board the Trump train, or the voters will boot you out, now that they know something better is possible.

    The cabinet, ambassadors, the military, nominating perhaps 4 Supreme Court Justices... Trump will be able to seal up half of the wound by the time his eight years are through.

    Not to mention the broader impact on the social and cultural norms -- bye-bye to political correctness, multiculturalism, whining about 75 cents on the dollar, bla bla bla.

    It's going to be 3000 days of constant shitlording. Look how much he's changed the climate so far, and he hasn't even faced a vote!

  7. Why do you fetishize powerlessness, btw?

    Indecisive? Want to always remain the underdog? Feel unethical influencing the world?

  8. BTW, as recently as late July, you dismissed Trump's campaign by saying that he "pretends to run for President every four years".

    You turned out to be completely wrong from the get-go. Why pay attention to you now? (rhetorical question, don't respond)


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