Bush’s Odds in 2004 Depend on the Economy

By Gus Tyler

Published January 09, 2004, issue of January 09, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

At this moment, one of the hottest political questions is: Who will be the Democratic candidate for president? Right now, Howard Dean appears to be the frontrunner. But he is not necessarily the only candidate who could fare well in a contest with President Bush. Almost any one of the serious present aspirants has a good chance to win come Election Day 2004.

This is not to say that personality — charisma, character and clout — are unimportant. They do count. But much of American history — especially political history — tells us that the individual and his charm are less important than the condition of the country. Let’s consider a few cases:

In 1832, when the popular war hero Andrew Jackson was running for re-election, he chose Martin Van Buren of New York to be his running mate. Van Buren was known as “the little magician” because of his acknowledged skill in playing the political game. In 1836, Van Buren was elected president.

But when he ran for re-election four years later, he was defeated by the Whig candidate William Henry Harrison, known as “Tippecanoe” for his 1811 victory over Native Americans at Tippecanoe Creek — hardly a good reason to be elected against a man who carried the mantle of Andrew Jackson.

What decided that election, however, was not a matter of who but what. In 1837, the country was hit with a depression. The people who turned out to vote for Harrison and his running mate, John Tyler — a ticket known as “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” — were really voting against the incumbent president because of the financial disaster that took place on his watch.

Another case: In the election of 1896, the Republican candidate for president, William McKinley, had formidable opposition from the “silver-tongued orator” William Jennings Bryan, who was running on the merged tickets of the Democratic and the then-powerful Populist Party. Bryan lost.

The reason was the same as in the 1840 election. In 1893, the country slid into a profound depression. That misfortune happened when Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, was president.

In 1920, the Democratic Party under whose leadership the country had won the world war against the Central Powers was ousted by an ignominious unknown, Warren G. Harding, who was followed by Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge and then by Herbert Hoover — all Republicans. How come? People were not happy with the wartime experience — with its rationing, its draft, its loss of husbands, brothers and sons in battle. The GOP ran on a simple slogan: “Back to normalcy.”

A more memorable example: In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his race against Hoover, ran on a platform that called for “balancing the budget” — hardly a way to cope with The Great Depression. There was nothing he proposed that would even remotely solve the country’s distress. But he was elected anyhow. Why? Because the people who turned out to vote wanted to “dis-elect” the Republican Party.

There are 11 months between now and Election Day. The export of the American economy means rising unemployment. The spinsters around the White House will continue to doctor the figures as they have been doing. But what they allege will not convince the millions who, from personal experience, know the truth. And on Election Day they will turn out and “the truth will out” to make the 2004 election result much too close to call, no matter who the Democratic candidate may be.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.