I’m Sorry To Have To Do Again This So Soon, But I Promised…Unethical Quote Of The Week: NYT Book Reviewer Jennifer Senior

I’m going to kill this fake history if it’s the last thing I do…

“But one thing we know for certain: History conspired against Clinton. No non-incumbent Democrat has succeeded a two-term Democratic president since 1836, and 2016 was a year when voters were pining for change.”

—-New York Times book reviewer Jennifer Senior, spinning for Hillary in her review of “What Happened”

I promised. I promised myself and Ethics Alarms readers that every time Presidential historian Doug Brnkley’s false election night statement that voters seldom elect the same party into the White house 12 years running is quoted as an explanation for Hillary Clinton’s loss, I would point out that this is a lie, and an especially awful one when issued on national TV by a supposedly-credible historian

Based on today’s New York Times review of Hillary Clinton’s excuse-and-blame fest in the wake of her defeat last November, I, and the truth, are making a little joint headway. Reviewer Jennifer Senior has refined Brinkley’s false history and now has a technically accurate but equally misleading version.

Yes, it is true: No non-incumbent Democrat has succeeded a two-term Democratic president since 1836. There is a threshold problem with even this reduction: why does the “rule” only apply to Democrats? Apparently Democrats can use the excuse that voters never vote in non-incumbents of the same party after 8 years, but Republicans can’t. Sorry, John McCain! Tough luck, Richard Nixon!

Democrats are so comfortable with the concept of double-standards when it benefits them. It’s scary.

The larger problem with this factoid is that it is deceitful. Using 1836 sounds impressive: Wow, this hasn’t happened for almost 200 years! No wonder Hillary lost! It’s not so impressive when one points out, as Senior doesn’t have the integrity to do, that there have been only three elections before 2016 when a non-incumbent Democrat had a chance to succeed a two-term Democratic President. Three. 3. III. I can flip heads with a coin three times in a row (or tails) any time I want to, in less than five minutes. The fact that in just three elections cheery-picked for certain similarities (though they were anything but similar) the same party lost proves, or even indicates, nothing. Suggesting it does is either ignorant or dishonest. (In Senior’s case, I vote dishonest, but I could be wrong.)

Woodrow Wilson was the first Democratic President to serve two terms since 1836. He was elected in 1912: well, so much for about half of that impressive 200 hundred years. He had led us into World War I, agreed to a terrible peace treaty, and been incapacitated for the last part of his term by a stroke. Wilson was never especially popular either; he won his first term only because the Republicans ran two candidates against him, and won his second term on the slogan, “He Kept Us Out Of The War!” Oops. It would have taken a miracle for the Democrats to win after Wilson, but the problem was Wilson, not the beginnings of some historical curse.

The next two-term Democrat was FDR. He kept succeeding himself. Then, after he died, Harry Truman, another Democrat—but he wasn’t a “non-incumbant,”  see, because he had become President after FDR died in office, so even though he won, it doesn’t count. Then a Republican was elected, although Ike wasn’t really a Republican or a Democrat. He almost ran as a Democrat, and surely would have won, as the most popular man in America after WWII, if he had.

Luckily for Hillary, Eisenhower won as a Republican, so he didn’t make Senior’s refinement of Brinkley’s lie unworkable.

Finally, Bill Clinton was a two term President. It wasn’t “history” or any anti-Democrat curse that defeated Al Gore, it was Monica Lewinsky, a butterfly ballot, and a couple hundred votes in Florida. The 2000 election was a fluke, and lumping it with any other election to make a statistical point is intellectually dishonest.

Then came Obama, elected President twice substantially because he had an unmovable voting block that would support him based on his race even if he had decreed that the official language of the U.S. was Swedish. Take away that race-based vote, after 8 years of weak and divisive leadership, and any successor promising to follow Obama’s policies, as Hillary did even though she probably wouldn’t have, faced a tough road.

History didn’t conspire against Clinton, any more than history conspires against any Presidential candidate. No previous U.S. President was elected with no elected office or military experience. History conspired against Trump! No President had ever been black. History conspired against Obama! No Governor of Texas had ever been elected President.  History conspired against Bush!  No actor had ever been elected President. History conspired against Reagan!  No President had ever been elected after  being defeated the first time he ran for the office. History conspired against Nixon! No Catholic had ever been elected POTUS. History conspired against Kennedy! No handicapped man had ever been elected before. History conspired against Roosevelt!  No Quaker had ever been elected President before.  History conspired against Hoover! 

And so on.

Strong and deserving candidates make history, and don’t need contrived “historical patterns” to blame when they lose.

24 Comments

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24 responses to “I’m Sorry To Have To Do Again This So Soon, But I Promised…Unethical Quote Of The Week: NYT Book Reviewer Jennifer Senior

  1. Rich in CT

    “No non-incumbent Democrat has succeeded a two-term Democratic president”

    This sentence is grammatically and logically absurd. Since 1951, impossible, if I am reading it correctly.

    • Rusty Rebar

      I know right? So what we would need to see is an Incumbent Democrat (so someone who is president currently — unless we have changed the definition of incumbent) who gets elected to the presidency after serving 2 terms? Presidents are only allowed to serve two terms, so no one can do this.

      • Rusty Rebar

        Ok, I see I was all mixed up there. Non-incumbent… could this be any more confusing of a statement?

        • Rich in CT

          Basically, they created an arbitrary definition that excludes FDR getting elected four, FOUR times in a row, to make it artificially rare that Democrats served in three consecutive terms (never mind that Truman made it FIVE consecutive full terms…..

      • Rich in CT

        Missed a critical bit when copying the quote, making it IMPOSSIBLE to read it correctly (if possible at all), lol.

    • I agree. Awkward and very clumsy, and logically confusing.

      jvb

  2. I’m noticing a cyclical pattern of excuses.

    I suppose we’ll again have to hear moaning about the Electoral College in a week or so.

  3. Rusty Rebar

    No two term male president with prostate cancer has ever succeeded a female president with green hair and a tattoo of a octopus on her right foot who was elected on a Tuesday afternoon with 273 Electoral college votes all cast by midgets with sparklers in their hands who were drinking banana daiquiris.

  4. Other Bill

    Wait. Wasn’t Bernie Sanders in favor of making Swedish the national language? It was Obama?

  5. Other Bill

    If out of power parties always win after a two term incumbent wanders off the stage, why didn’t Hillary win in 2008? Didn’t she run then?

  6. Jeff

    That last paragraph really highlights how U.S. presidential elections are each quite unique events. Trends and statistics are almost impossible to extract, since each election involves (usually) radically different circumstances than all the previous ones. But you can’t milk much cable news airtime from that observation, and the beast must be fed, so we get bobbleheads like Brinkley making shit up on TV.

  7. A couple interesting tidbits that I don’t think I knew: Was 1892 the only election we had where two Presidents ran against each other? The current incumbent lost to the previous incumbent.

    1884: The election was decided by New York, where Grover Cleveland won by only 1047 votes out of over 1.1 million cast. I wonder if they had hanging chads in that election?.

  8. luckyesteeyoreman

    Considering how President Trump has recently thawed some ice between himself and Democrat Party big shots in Congress, I can’t help wondering…

    For the 2020 election, what if…

    What if Trump decided he has had enough of the Republicans in Congress (both for now, and then again especially for when there are fewer Republicans in Congress, come 2019), switched parties while in office, and ran for the Democrat Party nomination for President in 2020?

    I am suggesting in all seriousness that that is possible – even desirable to Trump (and perhaps oddly, even desirable to the Democrat Party).

    Considering that he is a man who likes to win, and who knows how to negotiate to win, I would not, could not, be a bit surprised if Trump did something like that. Talk about a maverick! John McCain, you’re just a flop; in Trump, the nation has a flopper who flips, and a flipper who double-flips.

    Now, Trump, as we know, is not a conservative. His Vice President is a conservative. Trump is no dummy. He can see the waning of conservatism as a winning ideology for presidential candidates – even though he won a winning number of votes in 2016 by running for President with a mouth (if not a heart) that spewed conservative talking points. He can see a benefit to himself by distancing himself from the top-ranking conservative Republican. He also sees a way to escape the fractious Republican party so that a “final conflict” for the soul of the party can be waged between conservatives and non-conservatives. He knows that such a conflict will ultimately cause conservatives (well, many if not most of them) to leave the Republican party, thus splitting up the more rightist voting populace even further and rendering Republican candidates ever less competitive in future elections.

    Trump drives a hard bargain. As a Democrat, he might actually win back some Democrats who either did not vote at all in 2016, or who literally switched to vote *against* Hlary. The Democrat Party wants to win more races at the state and Congressional levels; having Trump aboard with them just might turn that tide. Surely Democrat strategists see this. Perhaps Schumer and Pelosi see it now. Perhaps Trump also sees an easier path with wooing the Democrats’ progressives than with wooing the Republicans’ conservatives. Just watch him “evolve” – even return to Paris climate talks. With two hurricanes having just pummeled the nation, heck, even a brand new, modest, but “comprehensive,” national sales tax will catch on…

    And, the Democrat Party is more suited to Trump. That party lets its presidents rule like royalty, unlike that stodgy, stingy, puppet-string-pulling Establishment Republican Party. Democrat administrations expand the powers of the Executive Branch like beans expanding gas in a bowel. Trump, like a good Democrat, only wants more and more power, only wants less and less opposition, less obstructionism, fewer obstructionists. Schumer and Pelosi are the devil’s archangels, promising a bonanza of victories for his agenda in Congress. Who, being President, would NOT want to have a second term marked by unprecedented Congressional cooperation and presidential agenda fulfillment? Trump can do just that. What’s to stop him? Certainly flip-flopping by Trump will not hurt him; how much have his spoken inconsistencies of his views hurt him so far? How conservative is he, really?

    I submit that only bad timing can stop Donald Trump from being re-elected President in 2020. Bad timing, that is, in switching parties. My guess is that he’ll switch immediately after the 2018 Congressional elections. Republicans are in for a real thrashing and marginalization over the next few years.

    • Steve

      Lucky- I think he would switch if there was an advantage but I don’t think there will be any. I could also see democrats welcoming him with open arms and then forgetting every vile thing they told everyone about him, the big lie party.

      I think 2018 will be a thrashing for democrats, not republicans. Republicans seem disjointed, they never really have been the party that destroys dissenting opinions so it should be expected, but part of what makes it appear so disjointed is that there is so many of them, which provides more voices, one can always be found to play up the “dysfunction” narrative.

      Democrats seem to have decided to disenfranchise as many voters as possible. The credibility of the democratic party and media is gone, they love to poke fun at all the dumb trump “supporters” who continue to stand by the “Nazi” without realizing that same disdain which they show towards the voters and President is exactly how we ended up with him. They should be fucking terrified that so many of them are standing with him, I cant imagine any other organization on earth that having been hit with such a large clue stick would not only stay on the same road but go full throttle down it. Idiots

      If the above is not reason enough to believe democrats are in real trouble for 2018, consider that the voters have decided most states need republican legislators and although they tend not to be as flagrant at gerrymandering as the democrats they will end up with significant advantages.

      • luckyesteeyoreman

        I just think the demographics – I don’t mean racial, or age, or economic, or educational, or even large urban vs. not-as-urban-plus-rural, put purely the ideological demographics – have passed the tipping point in permanent favor (for the next few generations, at least) of pro-authoritarian socialists.

  9. Jennifer Senior is an idiot.

    Nuff said.

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