Blogs > Cliopatria > Before We Discuss the Debate

Oct 14, 2004 12:20 am

Before We Discuss the Debate

I just have to get this off my chest.

The other day the WSJ ran a piece saying that US voters have never defeated an incumbent during wartime. And then USA Today said the same thing in a piece we excerpted on HNN:

"Up to now, no American president who sought another term during a time of war has been defeated."

Is there a more useless observation?

No, wartime presidents haven't been voted out of office. When the wars were going badly they had the good sense not to run again. Truman in 1952 and Johnson in 1968 both knew their chances of victory were nil.

If Bush is counting on the fact that no incumbent has been voted out during wartime he better start preparing to return to Crawford for a long rest.

Yes, Americans are reluctant to swap horses in the middle of the stream. But they turn sour on bad wars fast and presidents know this.

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Jonathan Dresner - 10/14/2004

Interestingly, the examples of voluntary one-termers you offer did not preside over declared wars, but in the post-WWII limbo wars. Perhaps there's some virtue in having Congress declare war, if you're a president contemplating running for reelection.

I wonder what the post-war turnout rate is? After all, the war is over (who won?), unless you count the unending "war on fear and loathing."