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September 12, 2012 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Who would you vote for in historical American presidential elections and why? Jeremy Young writes: I’m making my calculations based on a combination of which candidate I like the most and what I think candidates’ chances are of winning. I’m also not counting strategic voting (voting my conscience for a minor candidate in a state where my vote doesn’t matter). Nor am I considering regional “favorite son” status (i.e., the 1836 election).

To play along, check out the US Election Atlas.
posted by Cash4Lead (20 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd vote for Debs every chance I got.
posted by absalom at 9:17 AM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


As is my usual practice, I would write in Jello Biafra. Easy peasy.
posted by The World Famous at 9:22 AM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bull Moose forever.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:25 AM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


strategic voting (voting my conscience for a minor candidate in a state where my vote doesn’t matter)

Isn't this definition backwards? Voting anything other than your conscience is "strategic".
posted by DU at 9:31 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the record, this a very weird, circumscribed, counter-factual exercise.. It's not really establishing an alternate history, just positing that you're a voter in historical elections with all previous elections having come out the way they actually did.

Not having Thomas Jefferson as our third president would shake things up quite a bit, to be sure, but I'm talking about far more specific problems, i.e., the makeup of the ballot is significantly dependent on the outcome of the previous election. Is John Q. Adams the D-R candidate in 1828 if he loses in 1824? Does Bryan lose the Democratic nomination in 1904 if he wins the presidency in 1900? Is Reagan the presidential candidate in 1984 if he loses in 1980? Is Bush, Sr. the candidate in 1988 if he isn't VP under Reagan? Etc. The only way of coming up with a list like this one is to assume that history is as it really is up until the election in question. It might actually be easier to work backwards.
posted by valkyryn at 9:38 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


DU: it can be strategic in that it can help minor candidates in future elections -- many debates, for example, have eligibility cutoffs with votes in past elections as one possible qualifying measure. Beyond that, showing that people actually did vote for you can help with fundraising, motivating campaign staff, getting on ballots, etc (all of this debating on where you live). It's certainly not strategic for the election in question.
posted by cjelli at 9:41 AM on September 12, 2012


Good ol' John Adams, signer of the "who cares how clearly it contradicts the first amendment? we're still working out the whole judicial review thing" Sedition Act. (Yeah, Jefferson is obviously problematic, too, and I'd whinge about that pick, too.)
posted by Zed at 9:43 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


1888: Grover Cleveland (Democrat). An even easier choice, since I’d have no love at all for the taciturn and pro-tariff Benjamin Harrison.

Reasonable people can disagree on the Protectionism question, but after reading Adam Cadre's piece on the Cleveland and Harrison administrations, Harrison is now up there among my favorite presidents. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, a stimulus package that warded off a recession, the second Morrill Land-Grant act, the first meat inspection act, the banning of lotteries - all pushed through in the first year and a half of his administration. Cleveland, on the other hand...
Look at the platform of the Bourbon Democrats as embodied by Grover Cleveland:

1) The government should do as little as possible. The job of the president, as one of Cleveland's obituaries put it, is to "speak the everlasting No."
2) To keep the government from being tempted to do anything, whether it be bailing out struggling farmers or buying battleships, taxes should be slashed.
3) The U.S. should avoid overseas adventures. (Cleveland was not an expansionist, and when he returned to office to find that the Harrison administration had left him a treaty to annex Hawaii, he tore it up.)
4) Absolute fidelity to the gold standard is essential.
5) 95% of blacks are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.

Where have we seen those positions before? Isn't that basically a capsule summary of your typical Ron Paul newsletter? It's close enough that I started to wonder why Paul's fanbase hadn't adopted Grover Cleveland as a folk hero.
posted by Iridic at 9:43 AM on September 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


One of our local community organizations is staging a mock debate, on the 15th, between the four candidates in the 1912 Presidential election...Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft, and Debs. It actually sounds interesting, as long as the performances don't hew to our modern stereotypes of the men and, instead, actually reflects their real policies and views.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:44 AM on September 12, 2012


What's that on your ballot? A Whig!

Guy sure loves his Whigs. Which is surprising to me, as I'm currently reading Schlesinger's "The Age of Jackson", and he has almost nothing good to say about them.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:49 AM on September 12, 2012


DU: it can be strategic in that it can help minor candidates in future elections...

I get that there can be future benefit a candidate based on how many votes they get now. But if I'm voting for A because I think A is the best candidate ("voting my conscience"), the fact that they get future benefit from that is not a "strategic" move on my part.
posted by DU at 9:51 AM on September 12, 2012


Or put another way: Even if voting my conscience is also strategic, voting for any other reason than my conscience is even more so.
posted by DU at 10:00 AM on September 12, 2012


Dear Dr. Farnsworth,
What if I had voted in each USA elections between 1789 and 2008? Would history change?

Dear MBlue,
Good news! You'd have no effect.

posted by Mblue at 10:04 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The weirdest part is where he picks a different candidate for 2012 than the candidate he'll actually be voting for. Counterfactual is one thing, schizophrenic is another.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:29 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


> The weirdest part is where he picks a different candidate for 2012 than the candidate he'll actually be voting for. Counterfactual is one thing, schizophrenic is another.

Not weird at all. Did you miss where he said he's not "voting my conscience for a minor candidate in a state where my vote doesn’t matter"? In this exercise, that is; in real life, he's doing that. Not sure what about that strikes you as the least bit strange, let alone schizophrenic.

What bothers me is the unabashed presentism of it. He makes no effort to put himself in the frame of mind of an actual voter of the day, he simply imports all his progressive 2012 ideals: "I’d also be one of those voters who was actually disturbed by the allegations of slave-rape leveled against Jefferson." It's like those historical novels where the lead character has all the proper modern ideas (yay women! boo slavery!) no matter how unlikely/impossible that is for the period in question. But it's his blog.
posted by languagehat at 10:40 AM on September 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's like those historical novels where the lead character has all the proper modern ideas (yay women! boo slavery!)...

Future historical (i.e SF) stories do this as well. So maddening and really dates the work.
posted by DU at 10:48 AM on September 12, 2012


Gregory Peck?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:50 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd vote for Debs every chance I got.

Convict No. 9653 For President!
posted by homunculus at 4:48 PM on September 12, 2012


Dukakis? Mondale? Man, this is so predictable it's silly.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:14 PM on September 12, 2012


A liberal blogger letting us know that he would have always voted for the Democratic presidential candidate, or the otherwise most progressive/left-leaning candidate, is the best of the web? OK...
posted by John Cohen at 8:40 PM on September 12, 2012


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