George McClellan

Six And A Half Months To Most Crucial Presidential Election Since 1940

We are facing this November the fifth most crucial Presidential election in American history.

Every Presidential election matters, of course, and in the midst of each campaign, there are those who will think it is the most important event ever to occur.

But in reality, the number of times that an election has been truly “crucial” is limited to what this author and blogger believes are only a few times.

Those few elections that have been crucial to the extreme would include, chronologically the following:

Election of 1860, a four way race, with the Civil War seen as on the horizon, and Abraham Lincoln winning with only 39.8 percent of the vote, over Stephen Douglas, John C. Breckinridge, and John Bell.

Election of 1864, in which Lincoln defeated former General George McClellan, at a crucial time in the Civil War.

Election of 1932, in which the nation was at its lowest economic point in history, with the failure of Herbert Hoover, and the alternative of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal.

Election of 1940, when America faced the danger of Fascism in the world, but isolationism reigned, and Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a businessman with no government experience, Wendell Willkie, as the world was engaged in World War II.

Now, in 2020, we face a CoronaVirus Pandemic; a collapsed economy worse than any time since the Great Depression; and a crazed, dangerous President who should have been removed from office for abuse of power, and instead is, effectively, taking the nation over the brink of the cliff that it is facing at this time!

So just as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt came to the rescue, each of them twice, now Joe Biden and his female running mate face the challenge of the greatest crisis in 80 years, and we have to hope he can gather the strength, courage, and decisiveness of Lincoln, FDR, and other great Presidents, including Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama in difficult moments in their Presidencies!

“Non Politicians”–Presidential Winners And A Few Presidential Nominees

With three Republican Presidential candidates for 2016 being “non politicians”, people who have never served in a government position on the city, state or national level, the issue arises: have there been any other such candidates in the past?

It turns out that we have had several military generals who never served in a civilian position, that could qualify as “non politicians”.

This includes the following:

Zachary Taylor 1848 (Mexican War)

Winfield Scott 1852 (Mexican War)

George McClellan 1864 (Civil War)

Ulysses S. Grant 1868, 1872 (Civil War)

Winfield Scott Hancock 1880 (Civil War)

Taylor and Grant were elected, while Scott, McClellan, and Hancock were defeated in their attempts to become President.

McClellan did serve as Governor of New Jersey from 1878-1881, AFTER running for President against Abraham Lincoln.  But Taylor, Scott, Grant and Hancock never ran for public office.

Additionally, Horace Greeley, the New York Tribune publisher, ran for President in 1872, as the candidate of the Democratic Party and the breakaway group in the Republican Party opposed to Grant’s reelection, known as the “Liberal Republicans”.  He served very briefly as an appointed member of the House of Representatives, but not by vote of the people, but rather a choice of Whig Party leaders to fill a short term replacement before the election for the next term in Congress.  He served a total of only three months from December 1848 to March 1849, and did not run for the New York City seat.  Technically, one could say he had that political experience, but so little in time, that he could be seen as basically a “non politician” when he ran for President 24 years later, although being the editor of the New York Tribune was certainly “political” in nature.

Then we have Wall Street industrialist and businessman Wendell Willkie, who ran against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, after stirring the Republican National Convention and overcoming much better known Presidential candidates, but while running a good race, he lost, and then supported the World War II effort and cooperated with FDR until Willkie died in late 1944.

And finally, we have billionaire Ross Perot, who ran for President as an independent in 1992 and as the Reform Party candidate in 1996.

So only Zachary Taylor and Ulysses S. Grant were “non politicians” who were elected President.

The odds of Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, or Dr. Benjamin Carson being elected President in 2016, therefore, are astronomical!

Ten Other Presidential Elections That Transformed American History For Better Or Worse

In addition to what are considered the ten most important Presidential elections in American history, there are also ten other elections that transformed our history, as history would have been different had the results been the opposite of what they were.

In chronological order, these elections are as follows.

Presidential Election of 1844—If James K. Polk had not won over Henry Clay, the likelihood of gaining the Pacific Northwest by treaty with Great Britain, and gaining the Southwest by war with Mexico, together the greatest land expansion since the Louisiana Purchase under Thomas Jefferson, would have been far less likely. But also the Civil War might have been delayed without the battle over freedom or slavery in the Mexican Cession territories gained from the war.

Presidential Election of 1864—An election often ignored, if Abraham Lincoln had not won over General George McClellan, who he had fired from Union Army military leadership, the Civil War, in its late stages, might have ended differently in some form, hard to determine.

Presidential Election of 1876—If the Electoral Commission and Compromise of 1877, giving Rutherford B. Hayes victory over Samuel Tilden, had not occurred, after a disputed election result in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, there might have been civil war erupting all over again.

Presidential Election Of 1896—If William McKinley had not defeated William Jennings Bryan, there might have been no Spanish American War, no Filipino Insurrection, and no gaining of overseas colonies, as Bryan opposed the idea.

Presidential Election Of 1916—If Woodrow Wilson had not squeaked out a victory over Charles Evans Hughes, he had readied plans to hand over the Presidency to Hughes early, with the Secretary of State resigning, Hughes being named Secretary of State, the Vice President resigning, and then Wilson resigning. Wilson left behind a hand written memorandum to this effect, concerned about the transition of power as the dangers of World War I came closer to the possibility of American participation.

Presidential Election Of 1928—If Herbert Hoover had lost to Alfred E. Smith, the likelihood of a very different reaction to the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 might have led Smith to being the equivalent of Hoover’s successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his New Deal.

Presidential Election of 1968—If Hubert Humphrey had defeated Richard Nixon, it is likely that the Vietnam War would have ended earlier, and that there would not have been a Watergate scandal, and instead a continuation of the Great Society begun by Lyndon B. Johnson.

Presidential Election of 1976—If Gerald Ford had defeated Jimmy Carter, it is likely that after 12 years of Republican control and growing economic and foreign policy challenges, that the Democrats would have retaken the White House in 1980, and there would have been no Ronald Reagan Presidency.

Presidential Election Of 1992–If George H. W. Bush had not had to deal with an economic recession and the third party challenge of Ross Perot, the second highest popular percentage third party effort in US history, it is very likely that Bill Clinton would never have been President.

Presidential Election of 2000—If the popular vote recount in Florida had been continued, and the Supreme Court had not intervened to declare the election over, then Al Gore would have become President instead of George W. Bush, and there might not have been a September 11 terrorist attack, the resulting war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and likely not a tremendous growth in the national debt from $5 trillion to $10 trillion

How much history would have been different if only the results of these elections had been other than what they were!

Political Experience, Public Office, And The Presidency

One would think that to be President of the United States, one should have political and governmental experience, and have been voted into office by American citizens. That is, the Presidency is NOT a place to learn how government works, and experience of some type electorally is essential!

And yet, Herman Cain is running without ANY government credentials, and having never been elected to any office by any part of the American population!

What gall to think that he is qualified because he is a businessman, when government is NOT a business, and business experience is greatly overrated, and does not train one to run a government, on the scale that being in elective office DOES qualify someone to lead the American people!

The question arises as to how many Presidential candidates or Presidents have had no government electoral experience.

There have been two businessmen who ran for President–Wendell Willkie in 1940 as a Republican and Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 as an Independent candidate for the White House. Both had a much more distinguished business career than Herman Cain could ever even dream of!

We have also had military generals who have run for office without political experience, with three being elected President–Zachary Taylor in 1848, Ulysses Grant in 1868 and 1872, and Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956, with only Eisenhower rated highly by scholars of the Presidency.

Three other generals ran and lost the Presidential race–Winfield Scott in 1852, George McClellan in 1864, and Winfield Scott Hancock in 1880.

Also, there were two cabinet members who never served in elective office, other than the Presidency–William Howard Taft in 1908 after serving as Secretary of War; and Herbert Hoover in 1928, after serving as Secretary of Commerce. But neither is rated very high among the Presidents.

So the best way to look at it is: If you wish to run for President and lead our nation, you MUST have electoral experience, particularly in the modern era when the job requires political experience as crucial, not business experience as head of a corporation whose only aim is PROFIT!