I was born in the year of somebody else’s lord, 1956.
Since I arrived in this crazy, mixed-up world 66 years ago, this holy land has staged some 17 presidential elections. I was too young to be aware of the first three. The fourth (1968) grabbed me and got me hooked on the quadrennial ritual ever since. Here are the winners and losers:
- 1956 Dwight D. Eisenhower; Adlai E. Stevenson II
- 1960 John F. Kennedy; Richard M. Nixon
- 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson; Barry M. Goldwater
- 1968 Richard M. Nixon; Hubert H. Humphrey, George C. Wallace
- 1972 Richard M. Nixon; George S. McGovern
- 1976 James Earl Carter, Jr.; Gerald R. Ford, Jr.
- 1980 Ronald W. Reagan; James Earl Carter, Jr., John B. Anderson
- 1984 Ronald W. Reagan; Walter F. Mondale
- 1988 George H.W. Bush; Michael S. Dukakis
- 1992 William J. Clinton; George H.W. Bush, Henry Ross Perot
- 1996 William J. Clinton; Robert J. Dole, Henry Ross Perot
- 2000 George W. Bush; Albert A. Gore, Jr.
- 2004 George W. Bush; John F. Kerry
- 2008 Barack H. Obama; John S. McCain III
- 2012 Barack H. Obama; Willard M. Romney
- 2016 Donald J. Trump; Hillary Rodham Clinton
- 2020 Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; Donald J. Trump
Four of those elections were historically tight.
In two of them, the eventual winner actually lost the popular vote.
Two of the elections are thought by many to have been won unfairly.
One of the elections was not decided until the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the eventual winner in a state recount case more than a month after the vote.
In every one of those 17 elections, save one, the tens of millions of people who voted for the eventual loser quickly forgot about their chosen candidate.
That’s because there was always someone else coming down the pike, a comer, a bright shining star, perhaps a savior or a favorite son. Someone new for the electorate to fall in love with.
Hell, the population of the United States in ’56 was 168,078,000. In 2020 it was 329.5 million. No matter how dumb you may think the citizenry of this self-described democratic republic is (or was; and, hell, do I think they’re dumb as bricks!), the voters always at least had the basic smarts to grasp the fact that, there being so many of us, surely someone among us was capable enough, determined enough, good-looking enough, likable enough, and free-enough of closeted skeletons to be worthy to take the Oath of Office in the next election.
Perhaps your book club needs a new leader. You may call that person “president.” But probably not. In any case, you may feel certain no one else among you has the stuff to lead the club into the next year. Or month. Or what in the hell ever span of time you have between books.
That’s because there are six or so members, total, in your book club. One of them is going through a divorce. Another has been diagnosed with cancer. Two are annoying as all hell. Then there’s you and you surely don’t want the job. So that leaves Sharon. She’s the only one who can do the job.
No one else.
As indicated above, there are more people in the United States of America than there are in every other country on this planet, except for China and India. It’s a safe bet there are, perhaps, thousands of people in this nation capable enough, determined enough, good-looking enough, likable enough, and free-enough of closeted skeletons to be worthy to take the Oath of Office in the next election.
That’s why, when our guy or gal loses a presidential election, we quickly start scanning the horizon for the next fabulous candidate.
Even after Nixon lost the 1960 election amid rumors of hanky-panky in Illinois and Texas, Republicans who flipped the lever for him that year swiftly started scouting around for their next candidate. Even Nixon himself attempted to wipe the memory of that loss from his mind, reasoning that making a stink about it would be too expensive and potentially unsuccessful, and the process would throw shade on the entire American electoral system.
I repeat: even Richard Nixon. He was a fellow who forgot no slight and forgave no insult. He was the original eternally aggrieved Republican and even he said, Forget it, let’s move on.
Forty years later, Al Gore won the popular vote and then Bush-loving hoodlums stormed the Miami-Dade County vote counting center, delaying the process and intimidating the counters enough to cast doubt on the veracity of the Sunshine State totals. Nevertheless, Gore sucked it up and said, Forget it, let’s move on.
The rules of the game may be wacky, both Nixon and Gore might have figured, but rules is rules.
Not only did Nixon and Gore figure that, so did all the millions of people who dug them enough to vote for them as president. They, too, by and large, said, On to the next election.
In all the years after the elections from 1956 through 2012, never was there the phenomenon of people waving flags, displaying banners, carrying placards, or otherwise caterwauling about the person who’d run second. Their person. The person they thought was best to lead the country. Who they rooted for, who they agreed with, who they donated money to.
Their guys lost and they moved on. Even in 2016, their woman lost. And they moved on.
Except for all the people who, to this day, wave flags, display banners, carry placards, and otherwise caterwaul about the person who’d ran second in the 2020 election. A man who lost the popular vote both times he ran for president. A two-time loser usually gets relegated to history’s dust bin. Like Adlai Stephenson (he’d also lost in 1952, four years before I came on the scene).
But the 45th President of the United States of America continues to run around the country telling anybody who’ll listen the election was stolen from him — and conveniently neglecting to provide any solid evidence of it.
Tens of millions of Americans are listening to him. Including all those people with Let’s Go, Brandon bumper stickers. Or waving Fuck Joe Biden flags. Or the guy down the road from me who has a huge banner attached to his garage with the words Miss Me Yet? superimposed over the mug of the man who lost the 2020 race.
Do me a favor: look up the word cult.