Thursday, October 24, 2013

Losers in Brief: The Age of the Blowout

(part 10 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.

Adlai Ewing Stevenson II (Governor, Democrat-IL) Lost to Eisenhower-1952, 1956

Stevenson was Truman’s hand-picked successor. His friends dragged him kicking and screaming into the race, but everyone knew he was the man to carry the New Deal torch.

So why’d he lose? He was kind of a dork. Compared to the charismatic and popular Eisenhower, he didn’t have a chance. In 1956, no one could beat Eisenhower, so he just ran to make sure the smartest, most articulate Democrat was the one out there getting the message across.

Barry Morris Goldwater (Senator, Republican-AZ) Lost to Johnson-1964

Lyndon Johnson was the most aggressive liberal since FDR, so the Republicans fired back with the most aggressive conservative they could find. At the height of the Cold War, an anti-Communist this extreme seemed like the man to lead us.

So why’d he lose? He was too extreme. He decried the popular Eisenhower as not conservative enough. It didn’t take a whole lot of leg work to paint him as an extremist who would probably start WWIII, just 'cause. He won in the Deep South, and AZ. Yes, AZ has always been crazy.

George Stanley McGovern (Senator, Democrat-SD) Lost to Nixon-1972

It was time to end the Vietnam War and McGovern was the man to do it. He overcame intense Southern hatred by going after the youth vote, like Kennedy before him. Compared to Nixon, anyone would seem electric, but McGovern was outright exciting.

So why’d he lose? A lot went wrong in a short period of time. Ted Kennedy turned down his VP offer. The Democratic Convention was a zoo. His running mate, as it turns out, was a clinical depressive. Oh yeah, and fucking Watergate. He won MA and DC; that’s it.


The electoral process is pretty imperfect. A few times, “faithless electors” have broken from their duty and nominated whoever the hell they wanted. Starting here, they go a bit over the deep end. And just for fun, a couple more third party candidates.

Judge Walter Burgwyn Jones (1 vote-1956)- An AL elector felt Stevenson wasn’t racist enough to be president. Supposedly refusing to give his vote to a pro-black rights liberal, he voted for a judge from his home town.

Senator Harry Flood Byrd, Sr. (15 votes-1960)- The poster child for Southern racism, Byrd managed to lock down 15 faithless electors in OK, MS, and AL, despite not even running.

AL Governor George Corley Wallace, Jr. (46 votes-1968)- Remember back when I said the danger of the third party candidate is that if a candidate didn’t break 50%, the House would have to decide? That was precisely Wallace’s (unsuccessful) plan. Knowing there is no way the American people would elect segregation's last big hero, he tried to game the system and failed.

John Hospers (1 vote-1972)- The first Libertarian Party candidate (and Ayn Rand buddy), Hospers managed to lock down one VA elector and steal himself a vote. Fun side note: this makes his female running mate, Tonie Nathan, the only woman to receive an electoral vote.

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