September 6, 2016

The electoral pendulum: What does history suggest about a third term for the Democrats?

Time for some big picture stuff that I've been researching over the past week or so. There will be more data-filled posts later -- with a new model of what drives the electoral pendulum -- but to break the ice on this topic, let's take a look at how hard it is for the same party to win three or more elections back-to-back.

That is one of the most under-reported aspects to this election, both in the media and among internet observers. The only coverage it's gotten has been due to Helmut Norpoth's "primary model," which predicts a Trump victory in 2016 on the basis of the difficulty for the incumbent party to win a third consecutive term, and Trump's stronger showing in his primary than Hillary in hers. Here is a summary of the model in the present context, to appear in a peer-reviewed journal.

The goal now is to see whether the current climate, and Hillary Clinton in particular, look similar to the other times when the same party won three or more elections in a row. Spoiler: it does not. There has to be increasing popularity for the party from the first to the second elections, to carry it into the third term. And the candidate for the third term has to be high-ranking (President, VP, etc.) and incumbent. None of these conditions is true for Clinton's run in 2016, with '08 and '12 as the background, and Hillary as a non-incumbent Secretary of State.

The last time that the incumbent party won a third term was 1988, after wins in '80 and '84. Reagan was not only popular, but gained in popularity from his first to second election. Bush was the sitting VP.

In 2000, the incumbent party won three popular votes in a row, although it failed to win the Electoral College, due to shenanigans in Florida that favored the opposition party. Still, the pattern looks like 1988 -- Gore was the sitting VP, and Clinton was fairly popular, and became more so from his first to second election. (Note: not necessarily his second full term, which became plagued by scandal, but between his wins in '92 and '96.)

During the New Deal era, FDR won third and fourth elections, but that is no longer a possibility. Who knows whether the Democrats would have won those elections if the candidate had to be some one other than FDR. They could well have, but we can't study what conditions favored those third and fourth wins -- did the successor to FDR have to come from within the administration, what role did they play, etc.? Truman did win on his own, and he was the sitting President who had been VP before FDR died in office.

Before the New Deal era, Hoover managed to win a third term for his party in 1928. He was the sitting Secretary of Commerce, for two terms, and was regarded as successful at his job. Hillary is not sitting, was Secretary of State for just one term, and is regarded as a failure at that job. And unlike the Democrats during Obama's rule, support for Republicans had grown from 1920 to 1924, suggesting that it was still popular in '28.

In 1904, Teddy Roosevelt won a third term for his party. The previous two terms showed growing support, from the 1896 to the 1900 elections. And like Truman, Roosevelt was the sitting President who had been the sitting VP when McKinley was assassinated.

One election later, in 1908, Taft won a fourth win for the Republicans. The momentum was on his side, since the 1904 election showed even greater support than 1896 and 1900. Like Hillary, Taft was a one-term Cabinet leader (Secretary of War), although he was the incumbent rather than the next-to-last holder.

Before the Progressive era, Grover Cleveland won the popular vote three times in a row from 1884 to '88 to '92, although he lost the Electoral College in '88. He got roughly the same support in '84 and '88, rather than sagging momentum. And in the '92 election, he was a recent former President.

During the Civil War and Reconstruction era, the Republican Party was dominant because the Democrats were so closely tied to the defeated South. In 1868, Grant won a third term for the Republicans, but largely because in the wake of the Civil War, there was no real competition from the Democrats. He was a military general who people saw as the real leader that ended the Civil War, not the incumbent President, who was actually from the opposition party.

Lincoln and his VP Johnson were from opposite parties, but ran together in 1864 to ease tensions during the Civil War. When Lincoln was assassinated, the Democrat Johnson took over, so in '68 perhaps the voters were already considering the election one of changing parties rather than continuing the run of Republican victories. Grant's third, and fourth, wins may not be such great examples of consecutive third and fourth wins, in the minds of voters.

After Grant's two terms, in 1876 Hayes won yet another election for the Republicans, but he lost the popular vote. Even the Electoral College win is among the most controversial, and it's still not clear he legitimately won that. This makes 1876 a non-example of continuing the incumbent party's run.

Before the Civil War, a third consecutive term was won for the Democrats in 1836 by Van Buren, who was the sitting VP. From 1828 to '32, the Democrats increased their Electoral success, and in the popular vote either stayed even or slightly increased -- Jackson got a slightly smaller share of the vote in '32, but it was a more divided field than the two-way race in '28.

At the beginning of the 19th century, America was a one-party nation at the Presidential level under the Democratic-Republican Party, with Electoral College wins from 1800 to 1820, and a victory in 1824 despite losing the popular vote and Electoral College. This was the Era of Good Feelings, totally unlike today's highly polarized partisan environment, where the same party is not going to just coast on because people don't want to have contentious party battles.

From 1800 to 1804, the Democratic-Republicans increased their showing in the popular vote, meaning the momentum was on their side for a third win in 1808, which they did get. The winner, Madison, was the incumbent two-term Secretary of State -- back when that role was more prestigious than the VP in planning a run for President. In 1812, the momentum was not on their side, since their share of the popular vote declined from '04 to '08. Sure enough, it declined in '12, but it had been so sky-high that even with this decline, it was still just over 50% in '12. The winner was Madison, the incumbent President.

At the same time, 1812 was more of a primary election since both candidates were from the same party, albeit one from a dissident wing. Either way, the party won. This lack of competition would propel the party forward in 1816, whose winner was Monroe, the incumbent Secretary of State. He won with more of the popular vote than the mainstream candidate did four years earlier, in the "general as primary battle," which suggested positive momentum for the next one in 1820. Sure enough, the party won yet again under the incumbent President, who ran unopposed.

The final case of consecutive wins is 1824, although it was really more of a bitter primary battle again, with four candidates running from different wings of the same party. The favored Establishment choice, John Quincy Adams, actually lost the popular vote and the Electoral College. However, the candidate with the plurality of both the popular and EC vote did not get a majority in the EC, and it went to the House of Representatives, who chose the Establishment favorite over the challenger Andrew Jackson, in the infamous "corrupt bargain". Adams was the incumbent Secretary of State.

Do any of these examples match the background conditions in 2016, and the candidate of Hillary Clinton in particular? No.

Already by his second election, Obama and the Democrats were less popular than in the 2008 election, whose purpose was to purge the country of the Bushies and neo-cons for good. Four years after 2012, they are even less popular.

And Hillary Clinton is not the incumbent anything -- she hasn't been in the administration since the previous term. She was also the Secretary of State, not VP -- and in a climate far removed from the founding of the nation, when it was Secretaries of State rather than Vice-Presidents who were considered as the next-in-line for President.

Being an out-of-office Cabinet member makes a real difference to most people about how well and how naturally she could continue the incumbent party's presidency -- if that were truly desired, and judging from the flagging momentum, it is not.

Had Joe Biden run in the primaries, he would have been a more attractive choice for the voters and the states that Crooked Hillary won as the Establishment candidate, and would have become the nominee instead of her. As the sitting VP, he would have been better poised for the difficult task of winning a third consecutive term, although the downward momentum from '08 to '12 would still be working against him.

It's fortunate for the Trump movement, then, that the Clinton machine must have threatened Biden in some way or another into not running in the primaries -- the same way they have clearly threatened Bernie Sanders into shutting the hell up and becoming a ventriloquist for the Wall Street warmonger.

Aside from being in a weaker position to win the third term, Crooked Hillary is much more hated on a personal level than Biden, and is a passive-aggressive woman, rather than the Irishman who would have given Trump more of a fight. Biden would also have been a better protector of blue-collar votes in Rust Belt states, whereas Her Royal Highness cannot conceal her contempt for ordinary Americans. And Biden is not obviously at death's door like Hillary is, despite being older than she is. Not even to mention her failures in office, and her epic levels of corruption, compared to Biden.

The fact that our opposition is Clinton rather than Biden is another major example of how elite hyper-competitiveness has made it easier for the outsider populist candidate to triumph. We saw that in the GOP primary, where the Establishment candidates refused to drop out and unite behind a single challenger to Trump, and where the voters themselves refused to pool their votes into a single non-Trump candidate.

As much as we may hate Hillary Clinton, we ought to be thankful for the deep divisions and internecine Establishment wars that have made her rather than Biden our main opponent.


  1. True, but I can only imagine the joyous fun Trump and Roger Stone would have had with Hairplug Joe as the opponent. The gaffes that man spits out when he feels intellectually inferior are just hilarious. Trump and Stone would have had him gaffing pre-debates about once or twice a week, just from crowd plants and Trump mocking him.

    And while I excitedly expect Trump to trigger Hillary's Parkinson's symptoms (especially freezing her) during the debates (maybe even causing her to full scale pass out), it would be an utter joy to watch the Trumpenator get Biden to repeatedly gaffe himself to death in a live debate. Honestly, I'm betting Trump could have gotten Biden into a full-scale word salad of nonsense by the end of the second one.

    Of course, Hairplugs would have had to have beaten Commie Bernie first, and I don't see that as having happened. Hairplugs has been horrible at national elections; he's much safer in one-party state like Delaware, where he only had to become the big chief of the Dems through basic corruption and his sadly fake-sounding charm. Hairplugs sucks at reaching out to people who aren't into Amtrak subsidies and neo-liberalism. The hilarious Commie B. would have trounced Hairplugs, given how he put the scare into Sick Hillary the Seahag.

    Bring on the debates!

  2. Anyone who would be turned off by gaffes and lack of gentility would find Biden the lesser of two evils on that score.

    That stuff doesn't matter much in the big picture anyway, however entertaining it is during election season. Just look at Dubya by '04 -- and remember how much working-class whites vote against the side that tries to score points by insinuating that the other side is inarticulate low-brows with no PC filter.

    I don't think Biden would have done worse against Bernie -- if anything, it would have allowed lots of Dem partisans to vote for the Establishment while feeling guilt-free. Not even they have any illusions about Crooked Hillary Clinton. Everybody hates Hillary.

    Biden, as the wingman for the First Black President, would have as good or a better lock on the black block. And without the grating schoolmarm tone and wicked stepmother demeanor, he wouldn't have turned off young voters as much as Hillary.

    Bernie wouldn't have been able to score such easy points about being bought and paid for by Wall Street (relatively speaking), although Biden did vote for the Iraq War.

    After Bernie lost the nom, it would have been easy for his former voters to line up behind Biden than Clinton. I remember Sanders supporter Nomiki Konst saying something to that effect at the Convention. He wouldn't have hemorrhaged so many Dems and Indies as Clinton is, post-Convention.

    He still would've lost against Trump, but he has stronger fundamental factors going in his favor in an attempt for a 3rd consecutive term for the party -- sitting VP for two terms, and not obviously compromised by scandals, hatred of his personality, etc.

  3. Biden voted for the Iraq War. And had a son serve in it. Who has since died. Even Trump would struggle to turn that into a winning hand. Sanders of all people would likely have ended up apologising for even bringing it up. Don't know if he would have done quite as well as Clinton with blacks though, in turnout anyway. She has the better surname and has presumably invested heavily over the years in bribing pastors, activists and so on to ensure their bloc support.

  4. Random Dude on the Internet9/6/16, 9:49 PM

    Trump ran because he knew that he could defeat a terrible candidate like Hillary Clinton. If Joe Biden was even somewhat serious about making a run in 2016, I doubt Trump would have even entered into the race in the first place. Nevertheless everyone knew that it was "her turn" and I'm sure she did whatever it took to keep any fresh faced ambitious Senators and Governors (like Cory Booker) from running.

  5. "The fact that our opposition is Clinton rather than Biden is another major example of how elite hyper-competitiveness has made it easier for the outsider populist candidate to triumph. We saw that in the GOP primary, where the Establishment candidates refused to drop out and unite behind a single challenger to Trump, and where the voters themselves refused to pool their votes into a single non-Trump candidate."

    Boy, isn't this the truth! Interesting that both candidates are so old; seems only a billionaire (or old-school-regular-joe-without-a-prayer) could be a populist in this climate and most people that rich are old so...

    BTW, how did things end up with that journalist?

  6. Oh that was Udolpho / Pleasureman. Anytime you see an alias like "GangRapedByGayAdoptiveDads," it's him.

    1. Oh, ok. I thought it was a journalist who was mimicking MPC slang and wondered who on earth would have ventured this far out from the Jared Taylor/Richard Spencer center of the alt-Right universe, lol! And knew that much about you? Like, Lord have mercy, this journalist is **good**!

  7. Biden's public reason for not running was the death of his son but I can't imagine that being the real reason. If anything I imagine his children would have loved for him to have ran.

    No, there has to be something on him that Hillary or her puppetmasters could use against him. He's shown some signs of creepy behavior over the years, his real depravity could just spill over into his public image a little bit.

    Of course I'm just theorizing a bit here, I have no real evidence.


    Some thoughts: one really dumb PC bit ("blacks aren't innately violent). Lotsa hay made from yutes and negligent courts. E.G., the crime explosion of the 60's was caused by a huge teenage cohort and pansy judges. Well.....

    Middle aged people of all races began committing a lot more crime in the 60's and 70's. Anyone who grew up in the high crime 60's-early 90's remembers middle aged Silents/early Boomers forming crime rings, child molesting, raping, serial killing, etc.

    The author just doesn't get cocooning cycles that nearly parallel crime rates. People are more spontaneous and more bold in outgoing periods. Alas, this translates to anti-social/maladjusted/psychopathic people being more likely to cause trouble. Furthermore, they have a greater pool of victims from which to draw cause in outgoing periods the average person is more likely to be out and about. More trips to the movies, the bar, restaurants, the park, the mall etc. and more loitering in these locations means a greater chance that you will be accosted by a psycho.Your home and whoever/whatever happens to be in it will be more vulnerable too. Houses are less likely to be amply inhabited at night in outgoing periods, thus making them more attractive to robbers/home invaders. Kids are less protected, too, making them more vulnerable.

    I guess ideologues don't really have anything to gain from unavoidable cycles that are a result essentially of natural processes. Blaming some politicized issue is more appealing than just shrugging your shoulders and accepting that we go through eras that have their pluses and minuses. For example, people have a much weaker grasp of morality in cocooning periods since they don't frequently encounter the effects of evil and perversion and violence. Note that disapproval of gays was fairly weak even in the initial crime spike of the late 60's/early 70's. Subsequently it grew with each passing year finally plateauing in the late 80's/very early 90's which was the last outgoing period.

    Of course, we've already tackled the stupid judge myth. Crime soared in the late 80's/early 90's in spite of very tough sentencing policies that were widespread by that period. Only to suddenly decline after 1994. There's no question that weak sentencing made the crime epidemic of the 60's/70's worse, but it certainly isn't the main reason all hell broke loose. Linking gang turf wars and bellicose migrants to sudden crime spikes has some merit, but it also obfuscates the fact that, for example, in the 60's-early 90's people of all demographics were more likely to perpetrate or be victims of crime then in the previous or subsequent era, on account of outgoing behavior increasing criminal opportunities and decreasing self-control.

  9. There is one more factor that needs to be considered in the upcoming election: the likely massive voter fraud in Hillary's favor.

    1. No it doesn't. Trump just needs the broad-based support he already gets. It works the same way with turnout. Contrary to the failure-addiction daydreams of a lot of the right wing's commentariat, voter fraud is an urban machine phenomenon and can only move the needle a little.

      If Trump gets 50-55% across both red and many non-red states (obviously his plan), that he ran 52/48 in Georgia is no big deal because he wins Wisconsin, PA, etc. Likewise, this plan undercuts fraud because so what if they "find" an extra 100k votes when turnout's at 500k above 2012 in states like PA (which Romney lost by about 300k votes)?

      WA state, which like its sister state OR votes entirely by mail and thus has the easiest path to fraud, is an example of the limitations of fraud. Even though 1/3 or so of the state's population lives in one county out of dozens, that one county can't seem to get all the blue-state high taxes passed that the people in it really really really want. But when the governor's election was within a few thousand votes, then fraud worked just fine. Democrat voter fraud is only really effective if it's already very close. It's not effective if you really do have +5 or greater support. In an ultrablue state like WA, fraud is maybe worth 2 points in the general. For a historic machine state like Illinois, maybe 3 points, but that's a maximum and even then both estimates are assuming the kind of all-out effort people seem to think will happen for Hillary. But broad-based support nationally means sister states that run closer would flip to Trump even if super-blues stayed with Hillary.

      More to the point, people have to care, and that means ultimately it's just moving the needle to secure a slightly better margin. Obama didn't win in 2008 because of fraud, he won because people wanted to vote for him and help him flip states. If there was some fraud at the margins, it was in places that were already going to vote for him. Same for 2012, support for the incumbent was depressed, but there were still loyalists, and again, a zero-fraud election wouldn't have given Romney the states he needed to win.

      Hillary has no loyalists at the grassroots level. There's no organic stumping for Hillary happening. Believe me, we'd all have heard about it precisely because the loyalists for her are all media hacks. And without that energy, the fraud centers will do their usual levels of fraud and not exert themselves. Trump's basic plan is to try to get 52-53% or more in every state. Even 50.1% is a winning strategy if it's in every state. Some fraud would come out then, but nowhere near enough to swamp such an EV victory. He's obviously happy to get "only" 55% in say Utah if he can snag wacky (to us) states like OR, WI, MI, PA, ME, NH, IA with 51%.

      Trump can win with turnout, so turn people out instead of making up some idea that the D's have 10 million fraud votes to fix the election with. They simply haven't got it or they would have cashed it in on Obama to give him a truly historical Reagan-level win.

  10. Random Dude on the Internet9/7/16, 9:55 PM

    I'm sure voter fraud was a thing for Brexit as well but the enthusiasm was strong enough to overcome it. The same can easily apply here. Just make sure everyone you know who supports Trump is able to vote. An absentee ballot registration form takes just a few minutes to fill out. Knock on some doors. Call up some people. No excuses, now is the time for action.


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