Monday, February 25, 2013

Losers in Brief: Compromise or Die

(part 2 of 12)

Since 1789, 112 men have won at least one electoral vote. Of that group, 65 never became President or Vice President. Of them, 30 were a bunch of ambitious losers who tried for the most powerful office in the country and failed. The other 35, you’ll have to read to find out. These are their stories.

Henry Clay, Sr. (Speaker of the House / Secretary of State / Senator, National Republican / Whig-KY) Lost to Adams-1824, Jackson-1832, Polk-1844

This “Great Compromiser” held the Union together just long enough for Abraham Lincoln to be born, grow up, idolize Henry Clay, and save the country. That’s right, Clay was Lincoln’s hero. From the War in 1812 to just before the Civil War, Clay set the tone in Washington and defined the debate. No man tried harder and was more deserving to be president. Look him up. He fucking rules.

So why’d he lose? Called “The Great Loser” by a guy in my college history class, Clay had the unfortunate luck of running against Andrew Jackson and the newly formed Democratic Party machine. In 1824, he handed John Quincy Adams the presidency in exchange for a cabinet post. From that point on, Jackson made it his mission in life to destroy Clay. I am not over-selling his. According to stories, Jackson claimed on his deathbed just two regrets. One of them was his failure to shoot Henry Clay.

Lewis Cass (Senator, Democrat-MI) Lost to Taylor, 1848

Everyone was scared shitless of the looming Civil War, so their ideal candidate seemed like a guy who viewed slavery very callously. Lewis Cass once wrote, "If the relation of master and servant may be regulated or annihilated... so may the relation of husband and wife, or parent and child..." Perfect. It would be a decade before the people of Kansas realized his brain child “popular sovereignty” was less a compromise and more a call to violence. He was known as the guy who had served every Democratic president since Jefferson before rising to the top of the dangerously competitive Democratic party.

So why’d he lose? Martin Van Buren sucks.


As the two party system came together, there were a few speed bumps. Along the way, a few guys managed to snag up a few electoral votes:

Treasury Secretary William Harris Crawford (41 votes-1824)- There weren’t really parties yet, so he just sort of ran as a Southerner. The stroke he suffered right before the election kind of killed his chances. He did, however, win more votes than Henry Clay.

VA Governor John Floyd (11 votes-1832)- This Nullification Party candidate ran on one simple idea. If Andrew Jackson gets re-elected, we’re going to fucking secede. He didn’t win his home state, but he did win South Carolina. Hmmm... Foreshadowing...

Former Attorney General William Wirt (7 votes-1832)- The Anti-Masonic Party was created with one goal. That’s right, to get rid of Masons. In their infinite wisdom, they nominated a guy who was very and openly proud of being a Mason. Somehow, he won Vermont.

Them Crazy Whigs (1836)-
In maybe the dumbest political strategy ever, the Whigs nominated four different guys: General William Henry Harrison (73 votes), Senator Hugh Lawson White (26 votes), Senator Daniel Webster (14 votes), and Senator Willie Person Mangum (11 votes). Combined, they still didn’t hit Van Buren’s 170 votes. Idiots.

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