Oregon Magazine
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How To Pick the Next President of the
United States of America

February 23, 2005 -- It was in the late Nineties, before this incarnation of Oregon Magazine existed.  At the time, I was "fishman" on the gigantic political forum, Free Republic.  Folks were debating who would be the next president of the United States. 

I decided to do some research and see if I could find any recurring political patterns.  I did, and when I posted the piece, it created a storm of discussion postings. It also turned out to be right.

I'm not saying this was the first time anybody had hit upon this theory.  I didn't run across anything like it while I was digging out the information, but surely somebody has to have noticed it before me.  Anyway,  since I don't have a copy of that Free Republic piece, it will now be recreated, here, with modifications for events which have taken place since, plus some ominous future possibilities.

History is the key

The following will make a good guide for you.  You can print it out and pin it to your office wall so that when the action begins in a couple of years, you will be thinking the way you should if you're going to predict the name of the person who will take up residence in the White House during the winter of 08/09.

In the text below, "replaced" means that a Vice President has taken over for a U.S. President who for some reason could not complete his current term of office.  "Succeeded" means the fellow who next won the White House in an election.  Truman replaced FDR.  Ike succeeded Truman.  And, while I'm talking terminology, "former" can below refer to somebody still in office -- as in a sitting governor who exchanges a state office for the White House. 

Okay, off we go. 

I was born in late October of 1941.  The president of the United States was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  His last political job before he won the presidency was as governor of New York.  When he died in office, he was replaced as president by his Vice President, Harry Truman. Truman later won the office on his own when he just barely beat a governor, Thomas Dewey.   Truman was succeeded by two-termer, Dwight Eisenhower, a former five star general.  Ike was succeeded by John F. Kennedy, a U.S. Senator.

And, now, though you don't know it, you know the secret.  I'll carry it a bit farther.

When JFK died in office, he was replaced by his Vice President, the former U.S. Senator from Texas, Lyndon Johnson.  LBJ was succeeded by Richard Nixon, a former representative and senator in Congress and candidate for governor of California, though he lost that last one.  However, he was Vice President to Ike.  Nixon resigned and was replaced by his vice president, Gerald Ford, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Ford lost his bid for election on his own.  He was beaten by Jimmy Carter, the former governor of Georgia.  Carter failed to win a second term when he was beaten by Ronald Reagan, the former governor of California.

Have you got it yet?  I'll do some more.

Reagan won a second term and was succeeded by G.H.W. Bush, his Vice President.  Bush the First then failed to win a second term against Bill Clinton, the former governor of Arkansas.  Clinton's two-term Vice President, Al Gore (a former U.S. Senator), ran for the presidency against G.W. Bush, the former governor of Texas, and lost.   Bush won a second term running against John Kerry, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.

It's an executive job

There, I've given it away.  To flesh it out, I'll name some other names who also failed to make the grade during those decades.  Gary Hart, a U.S. Senator.  George McGovern, a U.S. Senator.  Bob Dole, a U.S. Senator.

Here's how this works, in sufficient detail to allow prediction.  Put simply, the American people historically choose top executives to be their top executives..

In the history of this nation if the last office you held before running for the presidency was as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, it was a miracle if you won the White House.  Next, if your last job was as a U.S. Senator, while all hope wasn't lost, your actual chances were the same as surviving a walk across a six lane freeway during rush hour with your eyes closed.  Third, if your last job was as Vice President, your chances were not bad, but you could be taken out by a governor.  (Because VP, while being an executive job, isn't a top executive job. Being a governor is a top executive job. This constant, choosing top executives to be top executives, is why when we're talking White House, it was such a shocker that JFK beat Nixon -- a former VP.  Kennedy was the only federal senator to beat a VP, or anybody else, in living memory.)

The reason why Washington, Grant and Ike won, since they had never been elected to a top executive job?  Being a general of high enough rank is not like being a legislator. Not at all a job which involves much in the way of public negotiating, compromise and so forth.  A military general has a job where very important executive decisions are made.  In the General vs. Governor ranking, incidentally, only famous, many-starred generals trump the state executive.

It's as simple as that

I told the readers of that Nineties Free Republic posting that when you compared G.W. Bush's executive job to Al Gore's executive job, the supposedly lower ranking position, state executive, in the minds of American voters would trump the supposedly higher ranking position of Vice President of the United States.  And, the proof was in the pudding.

And, now you know the rules.

As we run up to the general election of 2008, do some simple research about the backgrounds of the primary candidates, and you will be able to select from the crowds which ones have the potential to win the presidency if they get their party's nomination.  (And, now you know how I bet on the last general election.  I knew the Democrats were going to lose the day they picked Kerry because the only person who can beat an elected top executive running for a second term in the White House is a governor.)

In a nutshell, congressmen almost never win, federal senators win about once a century, at best.  Vice Presidents often win, but are at great risk against a governor because a governor (best but not necessarily) from a big state can even topple a sitting president!  The odds of the latter are long, but not all that long.  Dewey damn near did it to Truman in '48, Reagan did do it to Carter in the Eighties and Clinton did it to Bush the First in the Nineties.

A governor, then, is the most dangerous opponent to have in a race for the presidency.

If you've got a governor against a governor, that's when a zillion other, normally less important, factors slide into play.  The size of their state, the location of their state, their VP candidate, impending or existing war, the economy, social attitudes, political ideology and all the rest.  Close races like that can be affected by a passing floating feather.  And, to be fair, the elements which you might choose to represent key indicators of future results may not be among these I have just listed, and assembled in the right way might be superior to my method.  The Kennedy defeat of Nixon, if it wasn't, as is widely believed, the result of votes by dead union members from Chicago, certainly suggests this theory isn't 100% correct. 

All you can say about my method is that for some reason, it almost always works, and that the one time it didn't work the circumstances were such that one could come to the conclusion that the failure may be ignored, since voter fraud changed the election parameters.

The Hillary Factor

Recently, I have heard media pundits envision a Hillary Clinton/Condy Rice race in 2008.  Just using the rules I've set up here, Hillary, though she is only a federal senator (a long longshot, normally) wins in a runaway against an opponent who has never been elected to any kind of office, legislative or executive, in her life.

And, if the race turns out to be Hillary against a Republican federal senator?  I hope to God it doesn't come to that, because with the ideological balance (left vs. right) in America today, and the absolute certainty that the old media would be with Clinton, it would be her race to lose.  For those of you who buy the Southern Strategy, bear in mind that while she has never been a southern state executive, she has New York in her pocket, yet comes with a definite flavor of magnolia and mint julips. She wouldn't need more than a couple of them down there to take the prize from even a southern senator.

So, if my theory is valid, the G.O.P. candidate in this case absolutely must be a governor.  Contrary to widely held belief, he or she wouldn't have to be a southernor.  The South is conservative, these days, so would support even a northern governor who clearly represented these beliefs.  A governor from either California or Texas could do it, too, of course.  But, Arnold can't legally become president and we'll have to see who might be available at the time from Texas.  As things stand now, it is possible that the next governor of Texas may be the leader of a band named Kinky and the Texas Jewboys. If memory serves, he's a Democrat, but even if he isn't, after that, his political registration is irrelevant. 

In the end, based on my theory, if Hillary, or some other very PC senator, is the Democrat candidate and the G.O.P. fails to find a dynamite governor to run, it's all over but the marketing of transplantable body parts from political prisoners living in the future New American Gulag.

With Bill in charge of the U.N., by then, and Hillary in charge of the White House, you can put your head between your legs and kiss your glutamus maximus goodby. Or is it glutius maximus?

Well, rear end will do.


2005 Oregon Magazine